Has The Goods
November 15, 2007
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
would you like to have one of the world’s top brand builders,
operating executives, turnaround experts and corporate deal makers
as your personal mentor?
University of Chicago
MBA student, Ashwin Chandramouli, 26, has what the rest of us
can only dream about. He has Jim Kilts as his personal mentor
and study partner.
“I am very fortunate,”
says the understated Chandramouli, who is also a Fellow at the
Kilts Center for Marketing at the University of Chicago Graduate
School of Business.
Why is a successful
executive like Kilts tutoring Chandramouli and investing his hard
earned fortune in establishing a world class marketing education
center at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business?
Kilts feels traditional
marketing education efforts do a good job with basic marketing
training, but they fail when it comes to melding marketing fundamentals
with general business management skills. “They fall short
on providing a good grounding on the basics and fundamentals of
good management,” says Kilts.
a need to educate people on how to identify what matters, what's
important and what can be ignored when you're in a business situation,”
says Kilts. “Young managers confront so much information.
They need training on how to know where to focus,” he adds.
studies help but you really need to think practically about how
to prioritize because there is so much information,” says
Kilts. Kilts’ feelings inspired him to write a book, “Doing
What Matters,” which was recently published by Crown Business,
a division of Random House.
“I was an Executive
in Residence at the University of Chicago,” says Kilts.
“In my office hours I saw a lot of students who wanted unvarnished
advice. They asked, ‘When there is so much information,
so many strategic alternatives, how do you prioritize and decide
what is important? How do you decide what you're going to do and
what you're going to ignore,’” says Kilts.
there are three focal points in turning around a business.
“One, you work
on growth and innovation. Two, you work on productivity and costs.
Three, you work on developing a high performing organization.
Those are the three activities that encompass business,”
says Kilts. “Sometimes you're working on all three; sometimes
you're working on one.”
Kilts is best known
for turning around the troubled Gillette Company from 2001 to
2005 and selling the company to Procter & Gamble in 2005 in
an all stock deal valued at $54 billion. As chairman of the board,
president and CEO of Gillette, Kilts took a floundering organization
and transformed it into a winner.
According to the Wall
Street Journal, after Kilts’ first year on the job, Gillette
sales rose 5% and rose 10% the year after. He cut costs, improved
margins and increased Gillette’s share price 20% from 2001
to 2004. In a move to diversify risk, he architected the merger
with P&G. When the P&G deal was announced, Gillette shares
were up over 50 percent from the day Kilts was named CEO in January
2001. Kilts became vice chairman of the board at P&G.
Kilts is no one hit
wonder. Before digging Gillette out of the ditch, he transformed
the Nabisco Company from a smashed cookie back to an enduring
market leader. As president and CEO of Nabisco, Kilts took the
debt ridden, disorganized and demoralized biscuit maker and guided
it to health, selling the company to Philip Morris (now Altria)
in 2000 for $14.9 billion.
Before that, Kilts
was EVP of the $27 billion worldwide food group responsible for
integrating Kraft and General Foods. He was president of Kraft
and supervised the Kraft and Oscar Meyer merger.
greatest turnaround was in the early 1970s at General Foods where
he helped revitalize the Kool-Aid brand and launched Country Time
Lemonade. Under his leadership Kraft Lunchables were introduced.
Kilts is truly a hands-on
marketer. Despite his success as a deal maker, if he had it to
do over again, he would start in branded packaged goods, not on
might like retailing. Other people like pharmaceuticals. I love
consumer-packaged goods because of the feedback mechanisms and
the nature of the products. They are part of people's everyday
lives,” says Kilts.
“We had a problem
with our macaroni and cheese business at Kraft. I went home and
asked my son what he thought about the product. He said the product
had a specific problem. Six months later the research data bore
him out. I love to get feedback on our products. I love consumer
products. For me it's the most interesting part of business. That's
why my private equity firm is focused on consumers, consumer businesses
and relationships,” says Kilts.
of advice did Kilts get as a young man?
“My father gave
me some great advice. He said, ‘Find something you like
to do and get someone to pay you for it.’ I've done that
my whole life.”
between people who are really successful, and others,” says
Kilts, “is the depth of understanding they develop of their
customers.” Kilts’ MBA training taught him how to
ask the right questions, deal with piles of data and turn it all
into action. “That combination can make a difference in
business,” says Kilts.
saved her son’s marketing career before he attended business
“I was a planner
ordering materials for the old Kool-Aid plant,” says Kilts.
“My mom got a call at home. The foreman said, ‘Jim
forgot to order the cartons. We're out of cartons, what do we
do?’ My mom got a hold of me and said, ‘Jim, you're
going to get fired. They’ve got 100 people on the line and
they're not going to have anything to do unless they get some
Kilts picked up the
phone, tracked down his supplier and got a truck loaded with cartons
delivered to the plant. He helped them unload it and kept the
line running. It’s a story Chandramouli has heard many times.
When he’s not
mentoring aspiring MBAs, Kilts remains active. He’s a Founding
Partner of Centerview Partners, a private equity firm. He serves
on the boards of MetLife, The New York Times, MeadWestvaco and
Pfizer. He also serves on the boards of Knox College where he
was an undergraduate, and the University of Chicago, where he
received his MBA.
Where will Kilts’
mentoring lead Chandramouli?
be working at Kraft Foods in brand management,” he says.
After being mentored by Jim Kilts, that seems like a wise choice.
Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group, based in Chicago,
and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Mkt-strat.com