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He Went to Work at Ford for Lee Iacocca... and Got More Than He Bargained For

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 27, 2024 3:04 am

He Went to Work at Ford for Lee Iacocca... and Got More Than He Bargained For

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 27, 2024 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Tim Leuliette began his career at Ford Motor Company under the leadership of Lee Iacocca and Henry Ford II. He got more of an education than he bargained for... and was thankful for it.

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I came across Lee Iacocca at a very young age. Saw what I was doing. Moved me from engineering to sort of the product planning activity. Product planning was one of the greatest educations I've ever had in my life.

Every Friday they have a part one and a part two. You would have five minutes to present your proposal to management and they'd be walking. There may be 30, 40 of these lined up in styling.

Could be as much as a change in the color of the grill to a whole car or anything in between. And you had five minutes to sort of make your stand, make your position known, and things would then work their way up through the process. But you were dealing with senior management. I would sit there and go in and sometimes go to work on a Monday and not come home until like Thursday. I mean, you'd sleep at your desk.

It was an intense place. About 50% of all the vice presidents and executives at Ford had come through product planning. There was only 80 of us in product planning. You'd sit up and the executive would walk in and you'd say, my proposal is as follows. The variable cost is X. The capital cost is Y. Our marketing plan is Z. And this is what our competitive reaction is going to be and we anticipate and we recommend approval. And you'd have to have your story down and your variable cost better be right and your capital better be right. So you'd be working through that and then next Friday it'd be another set of things that you'd be working on. So that was driven by business analysis and your ability to present the elevator speech.

Conveying to an executive a task, an objective in a short enough manner that all the critical factors were translated. I remember once, this is the middle of 73-74 OPEC 1, the energy crisis. And I'm over there and powertrain planning is now a critical thing.

What engines we're going to use, how do we make emissions with those engines, what vehicles are going to be in. And so I'm writing a paper and presenting it and it ended up going to Iacocca and Ford. Henry Ford II. He was the CEO of Ford Motor Company and the son of the Henry Ford. I'm 23 years old and the paper had to do with an overdrive transmission. Bringing back overdrive.

Today all that means is a gear that's less than one to one so that your engine can run very low RPM when you're on the highway. It was $250 million and I put this thing on three pieces of paper and a couple exhibits and all this and all that. And Henry Ford said, if you're only going to spend $250 million, why can't it be on one piece of paper? I mean, that's what Ford focused, is that the discipline of getting the fluff out and getting to the facts so you can make a decision quickly.

And if you're only going to spend $250 million, why can't you do it on one piece of paper? It kind of followed me through the rest of my life. And so Ford's kind of a business school in many respects. You get the philosophy and the concepts when you're in college. This is the real world. We're out there trying to understand if gas was not available, how are we going to sell cars? If gas was going to triple in price, which it did back when I started gasoline was 30 cents a gallon. When it went to a dollar, dollar and a half a gallon, back then, that's the same today as like $8 to $9 a gallon.

I mean, in real terms. The world changed and here we were with all that capital investment in big things. Heavy cars, big engines. All of us, the 70 people and the other executive management of the company, we were putting our pants on one leg at a time and doing the best we could to save Ford Motor Company back then.

Because Ford Motor Company, General Motors, all were fearing bankruptcy back then, which had been a much brutal thing to do back in the 70s because the world stopped. And it wasn't somebody else that's going to take care of this problem. You were now in a position to be part of that group that had to come up with a solution. It wasn't a college test.

This was the real thing. And your job was at risk. And you learn. I've morphed out of corporations to a large degree now and do things on my own. And I've had a lot of entrepreneurial things. And my daughter, one of her daughters, Stacy, has got her own business. And I always told her, I said, you know, there are going to be times like that. And I said, how do you know whether you're an entrepreneur or not? You'll know some Thursday night when you have payroll on Friday morning and at dinnertime on Thursday night, you still don't know yet how you're going to cover it. But you will figure out a way by Friday morning. That's life. You either can do it or you can't.

You can get into that game and play it or you can't. And so that's why Ford was such a great graduate program for me. And not only that, they paid me.

It was great. I didn't have to go pay them. And then the other thing at Ford is we would have to, if we made these big presentations, you would duplicate them. And you would number them 1A, 1B.

And the building we presented them in was like a mile and a half from the glasshouse. But you would put these two packages in separate cars and they would head separate routes. So in case one car got an accident, the other car would still make it. Now, in my whole time at Ford, the other car never did make it.

I mean, you had two young flag planners going Mach 6 down the road as fast as they could to make sure they were the car that was there. But anyway, I was carrying backup books to a meeting with Iacocca. And again, I was at a level that had been moved into planning.

He knew who I was. But I wasn't yet of a sufficient grade to be able to attend that meeting. But I had the books for the meeting. I had assembled the books for the meeting.

And my job was to take them in there, get them distributed and get out of the room. And so the meeting was in styling. And I was leaving.

A guy was driving the car over. And as we were heading from our building, Building 3, over to styling, Iacocca's car was fairly far ahead of ours. And Iacocca had a rule. And that was when he got in the room, the door was shut, the meeting started, and that was it. There was no smoking except for him.

He had a cigar. But when the door shut, the door shut. And he's ahead of us. And I got the books for the meeting. And we're trying to work our way through traffic. And he pulls up the styling. And he jots up the stairs and he goes into the building room. And I get out of the car and I'm carrying these two satchels and these books. And I'm running as hard as I can.

These satchels are quite heavy. And I burst through the door and I'm running down the hallway. He can't hear me because he's about 50 feet in front of me. And he kind of slows down. And I'm kind of, he knows what I've got. And he gets about five feet from the door and he runs in and slams the door.

And I'm sitting there in the hallway knowing that I have probably just lost my career with these two satchels full of books. And he opens the door, looks out and says, I scared you, didn't I? So it was a little, he was an interesting guy. Iacocca saved Chrysler.

Iacocca put products in that made Ford. He was brash. He was loud. He was a loud dresser and he smoked those cigars wherever he went, even where you were not supposed to. But he saved companies, created jobs and made products that America loved. Steve Jobs is not a guy that you probably would have wanted as a neighbor. But no, we all appreciate what he created. So everyone's got assets and liabilities. But we know no one here is the only perfect person on this planet.

We crucified 2000 years ago. Everybody else has got baggage, including Tim. He would have an impressive career overseeing the Jeep Cherokee team at twenty nine years old and leading and turning around several different automotive companies. At his last turnaround with Visteon, he saved the company from bankruptcy, rescued tens of thousands of jobs and quadrupled their stock price. But to avoid paying him the exit package he was due, Visteon looked into his life to see if he had any flaws that would let them out of it.

And they found things that had happened before he had come to faith. Was I involved in the porn? Yeah. I do those stuff?

No. But this may sound curd or crazy. It doesn't bother me in the least. I don't think about it.

They had motivations for which they'll have to answer to later. But it doesn't take away from the fact that there's things I did that I'm repented for and I'm sorry for. But it's interesting that our life hasn't changed. I still probably get one job out for a week and I'm 70 years old and our faith is unchallenged. We've all sinned, some worse than others.

It's a comeuppance, yeah. But I don't live for yesterday, I live for tomorrow. And I wonder, you know, what can I do?

What can I help? It's sad in some respects, I guess, but the point is for the people that matter to me in my life and for the people that know me. How many friends did I lose through this process?

None. I'm very blessed because they know me, I guess. And great job on the piece. A thanks to Alex and Robbie for their great work. And thanks to Tim Luliet for sharing his stories about working for legend.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-27 04:43:30 / 2024-02-27 04:49:36 / 6

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