In the annals of corporate history, few names resonate as powerfully as Jack Welch. The former CEO of General Electric is a figure both revered and reviled, a hero to some and a villain to others, largely due to his controversial policy of annually terminating the bottom-performing 10% of employees. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, there’s no denying that Jack Welch has left an indelible mark on the world of business leadership.

For me, Jack Welch’s influence came at a critical juncture in the growth of my company, McIntosh Engineering. I was attending an inspiring leadership event in New York City when Welch took the stage and delivered a message that would change the trajectory of my business. He emphasized the importance of having the head of Human Relations (HR) report directly to the CEO, rather than the traditional approach of reporting to the VP of administration and finance. Welch referred to his head of HR as the “Head of People Development,” highlighting the critical role of employee development in a company’s success.

At that point, McIntosh Engineering had about 100 employees, and we were in dire need of someone to fill the HR role. Taking Welch’s advice to heart, I hired a VP of People who reported directly to me as CEO. This decision proved to be a game-changer, as it allowed us to create a major employee development focus that propelled our company to rapid growth. We expanded to over 250 employees, generating about $50 million in annual recurring revenue, before being acquired in 2008.

What’s truly remarkable is that not a single employee lost their job following the acquisition. Instead, we rallied the troops, held career conversations with everyone, and in some cases, trained people to do productive jobs in the acquiring business. This approach not only preserved jobs but also fostered a culture of employee development and loyalty that paid dividends in the long run.

As Jack Welch once said, “The most important job you have is growing your people, giving them a chance to fulfill their dreams.” This philosophy has been a guiding principle in my own leadership journey, and it’s one that I believe is essential for any successful business.

Looking back, I can’t help but wish that Heroic, a premium app designed to help anyone be their best self every day, had existed during my time at McIntosh Engineering. The app’s focus on integrating employee development into the fabric of a company’s culture is something that I would have embraced wholeheartedly. After all, what leader wouldn’t want all their employees to be their best selves every day?

In conclusion, Jack Welch’s influence on my business cannot be overstated. His advice to prioritize employee development and growth directly contributed to the success and resilience of McIntosh Engineering. As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of business leadership, it’s worth remembering the words of Jack Welch and the transformative power of investing in the growth and development of our people.

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