Jeffrey Immelt – CEO of General Electric (GE)

Yesterday I went to see Jeffrey Immelt speak on the UT campus, the CEO of one of the worlds oldest and largest companies, General Electric (GE). Originally founded by Thomas Edison, this company has grown up with America and has been one of the leading innovators in American technology. I fortunately got the chance to meet Mr. Immelt before and after the speech.

Some point of interest from his speech:

Three big trends he says will get stronger: Globalization, larger interaction between government and business, volatility and face paced business.

–He says one of the secrets GE uses is turning their enormous size into an advantage, and not making it a disadvantage. He also says reinvesting so much money in research is a HUGE factor in their success.

–Good Business Leaders Must: Lead with an undying sense of optimism, believe in change, have a healthy disrespect of history, know the difference between confidence and arrogance.

–He reads 4 newspapers a day, 40 journals a week and about 50 books per year. He says he is an avid reader, something I’ve noticed most great business leaders are.

–He says his main job as a CEO is to: Pick initiatives and businesses to get involved in, shape the company culture, pick great people.

–“If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

–He started out at a very lowly position at GE in 1982. He worked his way up over the years, but never really planned on becoming CEO. He was hand picked by Jack Welch.

–He gave the standard spiel about being successful in a company: Make your job fun, have a passion for it, work hard yadda yadda yadda.

–Immelt and Steve Balmer used to share a cubicle at Proctor & Gamble many years ago.

–He is very interested in doing business with Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He also sees much more growth ahead in China and India. He says in 5-10 years half of all business done by GE will be outside the U.S. He constantly stressed that globalization is here to stay and extremely important.

–I asked if he works out, and he said EVERY DAY at 5:30 am for one hour.

Of course I had to take a picture with him. This man is just about one of the most powerful people in the world. He was actually genuinely interested in what all the people who swarmed him after the speech had to say, and a very nice guy in general.

After the speech there was a private session for an hour and half with him which contained about 10 representatives from the business school, 10 representatives from the engineering school, three GE employees…and me (Of which I don’t fit any of those categories). I think the main thing that drew me in however was the free food! No matter how much money I ever have, free food will always lure me in.

At this session Jeff Immelt mainly took a barrage of questions from the curious audience about his daily routines, views, business opinions and personal life. It was great fun meeting him, and I even got a make-shift dinner of finger foods and some free GE bags and other goodies!