THE CORPORATE DREAM: Making It Big in Business by Hank Johnson

THE CORPORATE DREAM: Making It Big in Business

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Johnson is the man primarily responsible for making a silk purse of the sow's ear that was Spiegel. As one consequence, his memoir-cum-guide offers uncommonly sensible and practicable management advisories. The son of Norwegian immigrants, Johnson grew up in Depression-era Chicago. Lacking funds for college, he took a job in the Montgomery Ward mailroom. Then, following a WW II stint as a B-17 pilot, Johnson returned to Wards as a buyer, a post he parlayed into a career opportunity at a smaller catalog house named Aldens. Barred from gaining the presidency, Johnson left after 25 years to head Avon's direct-marketing arm. When he joined the company during the mid-1970's, however, it was muddling through hard times and unwilling to commit to his recommendations for radical change. Accordingly, when the even more troubled Spiegel came calling, he accepted its offer to become CEO. Once in charge at the downscale catalog retailer, Johnson began a thoroughgoing makeover that transformed it into a lucrative upmarket fashion leader by the early 1980's. In the course of the conversion, he instituted innovations that have become standard operating procedures in the mail-order business--toll-free call-in numbers, liberal return policies, stylish product lines, and splashy promotions. Drawing on his own career for object lessons, Johnson offers executives a wealth of sound counsel. A big-picture man, he believes those nominally at the top of any organization should keep subordinates informed as to where they hope to take it. The author also favors flat-line (as opposed to hierarchical) management structures for their adaptability and responsiveness. Not too surprisingly, he is convinced as well that democracy endures, while authoritarian regimes tend to last no longer than the dictators who create them. An engagingly instructive success story--one that comes with down-to-earth instructions for those who aspire to run their own shows.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1990
Publisher: Lyle Stuart/Carol