Interviews

Transcript: Jack and Suzy Welch

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," April 7, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Now, do not get me wrong. I loved — loved — Jack Welch's last book, "Straight from the Gut." (search) I guess I was just expecting more stuff from the gut. Thank God Jack got it right this time, and I suspect his new wife, Suzy, had something to do with that.

In "Winning," I think the real Jack emerges. It's something to guide not just those into the corner office but those who aspire in any office, in any field. Arguably the most successful CEO in American history is joined by the person I suspect is the real brains behind this instant Amazon.com top seller, Suzy Welch.

Welcome to both of you.

SUZY WELCH, CO-AUTHOR, "WINNING": Thank you.

JACK WELCH, CO-AUTHOR, "WINNING": Thanks.

CAVUTO: Good to have you. It really is a great book, at the risk of sounding disingenuous. But you're not my boss any more, so I don't have to suck up to you.

But one of the things I think you guys try to point out here is this isn't a book for CEOs or even people who want to be CEOs. It's about just getting along in life beyond just business, isn't it?

J. WELCH: Absolutely. We think that this book is sort of a playbook in a way for people to deal with every situation they encounter and to take control of their lives and to control their own destiny and not be victims.

CAVUTO: But I get this idea that we live in a society where we blame someone for our ills or travails. Both of you seem to be saying get over yourselves.

S. WELCH: Yes. Absolutely. You've got to stop blaming other people. Even if it is someone else's fault, the predicament you're in, they're not going to fix it for you. You have to take charge of your situation, find the solution, face what the problem is. It might even be you. And just move forward.

CAVUTO: OK. It could never be me, by the way.

But let me ask you this, and Jack, you were there in the early days when CNBC was starting, and, you know, you hired me.

J. WELCH: I know where you're going.

CAVUTO: But I thought of this. In those early days, CNBC was awful. I mean, it's awful now, by the way, but it was really awful then. But you, I remember, were a big champion and proponent for CNBC succeeding. You later did that for MSNBC and what have you.

But let's say my boss weren't that way. How can I succeed? I'm just sort of like a cog in the wheel, right?

J. WELCH: You lay out what you think ought to be done, and you really get an understanding with yourself about doing it. And if, in fact, Neil, you don't get the response, you have enough options that if you can't get your boss to change, you look elsewhere. You look elsewhere. And you did.

CAVUTO: But what if my options are thin? You know what I'm saying? You know, you inherited G.E. at a lousy time, in the midst of a recession, double digit interest rates, lousy environment. Where are a lot of your executives going to go in the beginning when you're razzing them and all that?

J. WELCH: No, I think people do, though, have options. There are needs for great people everywhere. And we've got to build self-confidence in people to the point that they're never hunkering down, hanging on. So the job of a manager — we talk about this a lot — the job of a manager is to take care of them. It's about them. It's not about you; today become a leader. And so their job is to build those people.

And if you're in a situation that doesn't or the company doesn't believe that, you've got to be facing into it's time to look elsewhere or it's time to face into my boss and get this straightened out.

CAVUTO: Unlike Suzy — who am I to disparage a book that sold three million copies — it was a few more than mine, I might put out.

But I think you came across a lot more in this book, and I'm wondering whether you sort of toned Jack down and reminded folks this time it's one thing to be zealous about work — you know, he talks about balance and all of that and life — but this was the guy who was holding Saturday meetings with his executives, not even asking if some of them had lives.

S. WELCH: You know, I think it's impossible to tone Jack down, so I did not try to tone Jack down. But I think that Jack is three years out of the job now. So when Jack was writing "Straight from the Gut," he was fresh from the battlefield. Three years out he's spoken 300,000 people.

CAVUTO: Sounds like he's feeling guilty about this.

S. WELCH: Well...

J. WELCH: No.

CAVUTO: Really? So when you would call a bunch of executives together on a Saturday, you didn't think that, "Hey, these guys have kids, these guys have families?"

J. WELCH: Neil, we talk about work life balance as you making your choices.

CAVUTO: Right.

J. WELCH: I made a choice. People say to me you didn't have any balance. Well, that's from their perspective. I had a lot of balance from my perspective.

CAVUTO: The balance — your business, your work-a-day life — was your epicenter.

J. WELCH: And my golf and my friends were my epicenter. But that is my choice.

CAVUTO: So you have no regrets having not spent, let's say, more proverbial time with the kids and that.

J. WELCH: I spent lots of time on my discreet vacations.

CAVUTO: You never took vacations.

J. WELCH: Yes, I did. I did.

CAVUTO: You did? One or two.

J. WELCH: I did.

CAVUTO: Is there something wrong in the work force today when we don't honestly tell the weaker links, "You're a weak link"?

S. WELCH: Yes, there's something wrong. I think that we're not doing anyone any favors when you don't say, "You might actually be much better suited to take what talents you do have and employ them in a place where they really matter. It's not working out here."

And we in the book refer to the lack of candor as the biggest dirty little secret in business.

CAVUTO: So we're not honest. So you don't want the position where someone all of a sudden is being fired. You go through three cases of being fired. One is a choice situation with a downsize and all that.

But there are others that are more problematic for business, being dumped for cause. A lot of people never know that they're being dumped for cause.

J. WELCH: Neil, I just had an interview with a well-known newspaper where the fellow is going through Q and A for me. And we talked about this whole situation. This guy and I were on two different planets. Now, his article is going to be something else, I mean.

CAVUTO: Is it going to be in tomorrow's paper?

J. WELCH: No, it will be in about a week. How can you let anybody go? I was trying to talk about differentiation of being fair. You know, I could have come at that thing — people don't think it. They don't want to talk candidly.

CAVUTO: Yes, but I guess the rap, fairly or not, Jack, with you is that you overdid it. You know, I know you hate the "Neutron Jack" label. You've referred to it a lot. And it bothered you then. But do you feel that you fired first and asked questions later?

J. WELCH: No, I did in the early '80s, because we had to restructure. We had 161 people in strategic planning creating books. We were putting globes on the front of books and getting graded for the covers. You know, stop it. That's just outrageous. Planning is taking over the world.

CAVUTO: Were they nice globes?

J. WELCH: Colored globes.

CAVUTO: But you know, one of the things I find the best part of the book was in the end where you kind of deal with the smattering of questions. And one you referred to yourself, Jack: "I had two marriages, however, that did not work out. Life goes on, and usually for the better, but no one lives through two divorces and feels proud that they happened."

And this is in reference to whether you thought you would go to heaven. Do you think you are going to go to heaven?

J. WELCH: Well, you know, I answered that question recently, and I answered it in a way about friends and caring for people and those things. I got a lot of e-mails and calls, where religious people felt that my answer should have been very clearly that if I believe in Jesus Christ, then I would, in fact, go to heaven. But the idea of talking about my good qualities versus some of my failures was not a measure to get to heaven. So I created somewhat of a firestorm in that.

CAVUTO: But you also talk about chits in life. We all have them. Do you think the good chits that you have acquired in life offset some of the regrettable, maybe personal ones? And that you have a shot at getting into the big game?

J. WELCH: If I go by your definition of getting in — Suzy will get on me on this — if I go by your definition of getting in, I think so without a question. However, there are other people that believe faith is a much bigger...

CAVUTO: Suzy was shaking her head. I don't know whether it was up or down.

S. WELCH: I think if it wasn't for the sort of specific, you know, requirement of faith and getting into heaven, then, you know, if you were just sort of looking at the pile of good things that you've done or people you've helped versus the mistakes you've made, it's no question. Jack is going straight upstairs. I hope in a long, long, long, long, long time. But you know, this is a religious debate that we've stepped into.

CAVUTO: It is, indeed, and this is a business show. I think if shareholders had any say in this, they'd buy him the ticket to St. Peter.

But again, the book is "Winning." Jack and Suzy Welch. Everything going great for you guys?

S. WELCH: Great.

J. WELCH: Really great. Thanks for having us.

CAVUTO: Thank you. Thank you for launching my career. You've got Roger Ailes and everything and the rest. Voila!

J. WELCH: Voila.

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