One of a Kind CEO, one of a Kind Company
Recently a politician made a statement during a campaign speech: "Corporations are not people, people are people." I wish to respectively submit that this person is incorrect in his assessment of the business world. People make up corporations. The success of corporations depends on the quality of people they employ.
A few weeks ago I was on my way to New Orleans looking forward to PaperCon2012. I was wondering if all the hard work of TAPPI's volunteers and staff would again pay off for our industry. I had great expectations. I am proud to say that yes, PaperCon2012 was a success. We had nearly 1,500 people registered for this years' conference. This number represented a 7% increase over 2011. Our post conference surveys showed very high approval ratings with a combined score of 84%. With all the anticipation and success, my mind kept going back to a letter I received on Friday April 20, 2012 from Mike Jackson. I have included this letter below.
During my 5-1/2 years with TAPPI, I have had the opportunity to spend some one on one time with many of our industry's greatest leaders and their employees. Mike Jackson and the rest of the VERSO team rank right at the top of the list of outstanding individuals. They represent a lot of what is right with our industry.
On May 14, 2012 Mike Jackson will retire as President & CEO of Verso Paper Company. He is truly one of a kind leader and gentleman. I have come to know, appreciate and respect Mike over the past several years. His style and humbleness have permeated the entire Verso organization.
He has the unique style, missing from so many, that commands the attention and loyalty of those he comes in contact with. He practices what I call the Platinum Rule: "treat others like they want to be treated."
Mike encourages his suppliers to not only tell us what we are doing right in our mills but also let us know one thing what we can do better.
David Patterson will take over the reins from Mike. He will have some big shoes to fill and I wish him well. He has a great team behind him.
With Mike's permission, I have included his letter to the employees of Verso Paper Corporation.
Mike, I and thousands of others wish you and your family the best that life has to offer.
You will be missed.
Verso Paper Corp.
6775 Lenox Center Ct.
Memphis, TN 38115
President and CEO
April 20, 2012
Dear Verso Employees,
My FIRST comment in this monthly letter will not surprise you as it is about safety. The SECOND comment may be a bit more of a surprise, but hopefully not.
Our safety record through today is fantastic! That means before there was a Verso and after the sale of the coated paper business to Apollo. Pick a time, any time. This result is the best ever for the first third of any year. Our total incident rate is .74 and our lost workday rate is 0. That is terrific and you should feel so proud of that performance. I know I am! Those numbers happen because more and more people are engaged and care about what happens to their peers. This is your performance.
Now for the second comment. Sometime ago I spoke with our Board of Directors that my intention was to retire within a certain amount of time and that succession planning, which of course is always part of the Board's duty, would be an important element of continuing the progress that Verso has made over the past number of challenging years. At my age, this notice to the Board may not be a surprise to you!
Verso and you and your respective teams have done an incredible job against great odds, including surviving the worst depression in 80 years. I have been so proud of all of you, including my Lead Team, who have faced so many obstacles but never flinched. We have lived the Verso Foundation Document that we developed, taken the company public, improved and refined our core product strategy, introduced a significant amount of new products, developed a name called Verso that has high recognition and respect in the halls of federal, state and local government, and developed and executed an energy strategy that few in the coated paper business could have executed and that will have a lasting positive impact on our company. To me it was always about your ability to execute. While many in the coated paper business have raised the white flag, we have moved forward.
Recently, many segments of our financial balance sheet have been addressed, which include a new revolver and an improving debt maturity schedule, and that is all good. Verso is now poised to go to another level. This will take time and effort and will be beyond my personal commitment. Trust me that my replacement will have both the ability and experience to take us to the next level.
I have loved this challenge and have so much appreciated all the wonderful work you have done and all the friendships I have gained over these past years. This is the correct time for my wife of 42 years and me to go to that next chapter in our lives. It also takes our company to a new chapter.
My last official duty will be on May 14th at our quarterly earnings call. Thank you for all you have done and, as importantly, my thanks to your families and partners that have put up with all the hours you have worked. Until we meet again.