Live from Yokogawa-- Gordon Bethune "From Worst to First"

Bethune was the CEO of Continental Airlines and rescued the airline from bankruptcy. I worked for Boeing, he said, which was a real company-- the checks clear! Continental ranked tenth out of ten airlines-- had been in bankruptcy twice and it was a really bad company. We had no ability to implement, because disfunctional companies can't execute. In October 1994, we developed a plan to turn around Continental. Unlike most business plans, this one has four parts and we gave the plan the name "go forward plan" because you can't look back. We had a Product plan, a Financial plan, a People plan and an Implementation plan. "Why don't we fly to where people want to fly to?" We cut the flights that were cash-negative, and built to our strengths. Continental not only put their product where people wanted to buy it -and- produces a product that people WANT to buy. We started honoring our commitments to our suppliers. We worked out business plans and debt for equity and we honored ALL our commitments. Continental now has the most cash in the airline business, the most modern fleet with the lowest fuel cost in the industry, and we're positioned to survive this economic situation very well. What do customers want? Airline passengers want to get where they want to go, on time, with their underwear. Reliability is the cornerstone of the automation business as well. So they started incentive pay for customer satisfaction--and customer satisfaction improved. "Our success is your success." We showed each other that we could do this--and we still measure success that way. Do you know of any successful company that has people who don't like working there? You have toi invest in your employees the same way you invest in advertising. Sick leave is a great measure of employee satisfaction--work sucks so you call in sick. What you reward and measure is what you get! We weathered the 9-11 storm by keeping our employees informed. We believe that everybody wins--or nobody wins. We implemented profit sharing--a flighjt attendant works harder on a full flight, but that profit sharing makes them happy to work that hard. "I own the lake where I fish, but I have to use bait anyway..." The difference between winniong and losing is very very small. All airlines are not alike. We are very proud of what wew accomplished, Bethune said. "Win together, lose together--it is fun." Bethune fielded questions. He discussed hub-and-spoke arrangements, the battle between Airbus and Boeing, He discussed Aloha, ATA, Skybus and the rest.. Bigger is the only way to win. Con Lau asked why Singapore Airlines is number one internationally. It's a different market. It's a long way to Singapore and there are lots of opportunities to get pampered--but back and forth to Corpus Christi six times a day is a little different.