I believe that if you're going to have someone running a shoe company, they better know a lot about shoes. The same goes for toothpaste, steel, automobiles, tires and other products you'd care to name. In a manufacturing company, it's so important to have the right products that it is inconceivable to me that an executive in charge of a huge com-pany wouldn't have an interest-a passion-in the business at hand.
Look at the founders of most successful businesses. Many founders were the people who invented, developed or otherwise created the product that got the company going in the first place.
Today, I think that basic premise gets lost in the shuffle. As companies get bigger and older, folks decide that what they really need is a ``manager.'' And that doesn't make sense to me.
We have all these big, successful computer companies that obviously were started and run by people who really knew all about computers. But as the companies matured, people who knew less about computers began to lead them. These managers have delegated to the product-planning department the function of creating new and innovative products for the next generation of customers.
So what got the company going in the first place is now relegated to a department that has institutionalized what made the company great in the first place. It's not the central focus anymore. And in this process, more than one company has fallen by the wayside.
When you turn a company over to professional managers, you eliminate a lot of the oddball characteristics that used to go along with the older founder. The new management will turn the company into a finely honed machine.
But my concern is that as more and more companies become involved in making this second-generation management change, many of them start to lose their fire and excitement-the ingredients that were there at the beginning.
There has to be something to this concept of succession. But I'd like to see the founder turn the company over to an executive who has just as much passion for the product as does the original owner. Otherwise, no one will be able to convince me that the next generation of management will perform as well as the first.
Mr. Crain is vice chairman of Crain Communications Inc. and editorial director of TIRE BUSINESS.