A CEO can either make or break a company, making leadership an important aspect for investors to consider. In November 2011, William "Bill" Brown took over as Harris' (NYSE:HRS) CEO, and since then, he's definitely had a positive impact on the 118-year-old communication and information technology company. What's more, this impact comes in the middle of one of the most tumultuous times for companies that rely on government customers. I interviewed Brown to see what he's like as a CEO, and where Harris is going in the future
The following is the first segment in a four-part series that'll tell you everything you need to know about Harris' CEO, its future, and why it may merit your investing dollar.
A look at Bill Brown
Before Brown became Harris' CEO, he'd already shown considerable business savvy at United Technologies (NYSE:UTX). For example, according to UTC's press release: "under Brown's leadership, UTC Fire & Security completed over 40 acquisitions to improve product offerings and expand the company's geographic reach, culminating in the 2010 acquisition of GE Security. Since Brown became its president in 2006, UTC Fire & Security grew sales from $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion while tripling operating profits and becoming a global leader in the fire safety and electronic security markets."
Obviously, this type of record is great news for Harris, but it's not the only thing Brown brought to the table.
When I asked him about transitioning into the role as Harris' CEO, Brown said:
I t was and still is an exciting and challenging opportunity. I joined Harris knowing that it was a terrific company with dedicated employees and a solid future. My experiences since then have reconfirmed my first impressions about the company. The environment that we operate in has changed during that time, and the company is now in the midst of a multi-year transition to adapt. I am excited about the opportunity that lies ahead.
Perceptibly, Brown isn't afraid of challenges, and pushes himself and his employees.
More pointedly, when I asked what drives him as a CEO, Brown said:
If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be winning. I want us to grow market share, outperform peers, continue to exceed internal and external expectations, and be recognized across a broad spectrum of companies as a premier developer of talent. That involves continuous improvement for the company and myself. It means getting better every day – recognizing the accomplishments of today and stretching to achieve even more tomorrow. It also involves motivating people to perform at a higher level than they think they can, and building lasting capability that survives your time in a position or with the company.
This drive for excellence, to win, and to outperform peers led to the launch of Harris Business Excellence, or HBX, which Brown describes as a "companywide operational excellence platform" that's "designed to establish a culture of continuous improvement and a commitment to excellence in everything we do."
To put it simply, HBX is a companywide training program that's designed to improve overall business function. So far, it's led to more than $75 million in savings. (I'll cover HBX in more depth in the next part of this series.)
Brown stated that "HBX already has helped increase productivity, eliminate waste and optimize processes, and we are reinvesting the savings in the company or returning them to shareholders. HBX has been embraced by our employees and the enthusiasm continues to build."
And that's not just his opinion. When Florida Today interviewed a Harris employee, she said that HBX would save jobs, and that Brown is "making things happen."
Competition drives share price
Clearly, Brown is a competitive CEO, unafraid of a challenge. Plus, he has a reputation of increasing profits and striving for excellence -- a winning approach for Harris shareholders.
Since November 2011, Harris' share price has increased 57.01%. It now sits at $58.10 a share -- not far below its 52-week high of $58.50. Additionally, in fiscal 2013, Harris posted record free cash flow, increased its dividend, and upped its share-repurchasing program.
Better yet, Brown has a clear picture of where Harris needs to be in the future, and how he plans to take it there. Please check back soon for part two of my exclusive interview with Bill Brown, covering Harris' positive transition.
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