Henry Juszkiewicz – CEO of Gibson Guitar

The Texas Union frequently brings CEO’s and other speakers to UT, and this Thursday night was a speech given by Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson Guitar who took the company from small and unprofitable to the most recognizable brand of guitar in the world.

He claims his passion for music coupled with his love for electronics since he was a kid helped him excel at running Gibson. He strongly emphasized that true success is best accomplished with passionate leadership.

In his third year at Harvard Business School he became curious about buying/selling companies. His professors told him, “Just find a good lawyer.” Not satisfied with this answer, he went into investment banking for a few years to learn about buying and selling companies. He later tried buying several at-risk companies and restoring them. Like most successful people, he failed at some and succeeded at some.

A while later he was informed that Gibson Guitar Corp was for sale, but no one would buy it because it was a financial disaster. He moved to the Kansas to live near the company headquarters and observed the operation for a full 6 months while drawing up a concrete business plan. Once he purchased it, the company became profitable within 30 days because of his hard work and research. Since 1987 he has grown the business 20% every year.

Some of the main pieces of advice he gave were:

  • Have the tenacity and boldness to do things others won’t.
  • What’s possible is only what you think is possible. He said he wanted to grow the company to impossible levels. He has now far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
  • Only allow people in your company who believe in your vision. If they don’t believe in the company, they must go.
  • Constantly grow and innovate.
  • Give back to the community that helped build you.

Of course I had to get a picture with him. I actually brought my own guitar I’ve had for over 10 years to the speech to take a picture with:

The pictures came out….interesting. He covered the head of my guitar in both pictures because it wasn’t a Gibson!