In his first appearance in North America since becoming CEO as well as CFO of ABB, Michel Demaré, who has a long history with Dow Chemical Company, talked about ABB’s commitment to collaboration. Of course, ABB’s most famous collaboration is with Dow, which added gravitas to Demaré’s remarks.
“And that is what I want to talk to you about today―the power of successful collaborations to drive prosperity,” Demaré said. “I want to explain what I mean when I say that ABB is committed to collaboration, which is a key engine of our success.”
“Most real innovations are not the product of a few geniuses―they spring from the interaction of human networks and the exploration of ideas freely expressed in an atmosphere of openness and trust.” ABB CEO and CFO Michel Demaré on the Power of Collaboration, speaking this week at ABB Automation World.
And evidence of success there is.
“Operational discipline, strong markets and ongoing expansion of our business in emerging markets made 2007 a record year for ABB, despite the turmoil in the financial sector which began last summer,” he went on. “Our order book increased by 19 percent (in local currencies) to $34 billion in 2007. Our revenues grew by 18 percent to $29 billion. And for the first quarter of 2008, I can say we continue to be on the right path. We reported only last week that orders rose 16 percent in the period and exceeded for the first time the milestone of $10 billion dollars in a quarter. Revenues increased by 17 percent.
“Last year, we conducted a comprehensive review of our strategy and came to the conclusion that we are, obviously, in the right businesses,” he cracked.
On a more serious note, he continued, “The outcome of this review does not mean we are standing still, of course. We intend to make targeted acquisitions so that we can add certain technologies and close geographic gaps, and we intend to strengthen our service capabilities and continue working to improve business processes, but I would mainly like to reassure you that at ABB, there will certainly be no wholesale changes.”
He went on to talk about the beauty and the power of collaboration.
“To go online is to experience one of the greatest technical collaborations of all time,” he noted. “The interconnection of people, computers and vast networks of knowledge that is the Internet has changed the way we do business forever, opening up huge new markets and many exciting opportunities. Today more than one billion people are online, and their shared knowledge, contacts and computing power are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power.”
He went on to talk about a new collaboration with TetraPak on a global basis. “Ladies and gentlemen, would it not be strange if ABB did not find a way to collaborate with customers like Tetra Pak? For us, it is an essential business principle to become deeply involved in our customers' businesses, to make their challenges our challenges, to help support and grow their success. That is our business. And your success is our success,” he said.
Demaré went on to talk about R&D and collaboration between ABB, private research centers and universities and with Dow. “It has worked over the years,” he said of the Dow collaboration, “thanks to two key elements: a shared vision and mutual trust. That is worth thinking about. Mutual trust means respect and transparency. These must be present before you can truly collaborate with a partner. They give us the freedom to confront each other and use the conflict constructively. They are the foundation of a collaborative relationship.”
Demaré went on to discuss collaboration with other companies, with R&D partners and with customers in ABB’s service and outsourcing business. He also spoke of the fount of innovation in collaboration. “Most real innovations are not the product of a few geniuses. They spring from collaborations, from the interaction of human networks and the exploration of ideas freely expressed in an atmosphere of openness and trust.”
He referred many times to a study done by Frost and Sullivan for Verizon and Microsoft that found that companies who collaborate are better performers. Conversely, he noted, the study showed that poor collaborators are poor performers.
“So,” he concluded, “let me answer the question I asked early on, ‘Why is ABB committed to collaboration?’ It is because we are committed to success―our own and that of the people who rely on us.”