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Massachusetts Governor WIllard Mitt Romney looks back at his three years as CEO of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee for the 2002 Winter Games
1 review about Mitt Romney - TURNAROUND: CRISIS, LEADERSHIP,...

"... talented people actually like to be asked to do something very, very difficult" (Mitt Romney)

  • Mar 19, 2012


From early 1999- March 2002 Willard Mitt Romney (born 1947 in Michigan) was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the 2002 Winter Olympics. In the fall of 2008 SLOC was in big trouble. Federal indictments might come down at any minute against both two former officials and against the ongoing Comittee itself for dubious actions to persuade overseas Olympics officials to vote for Salt Lake City to host the games. A friend of Mitt's asked Mitt's wife Ann to help talk him into stepping in to save Salt Lake City's bacon. 


Ann, married in 1969, mother of their five sons and suffering severely from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), knew her man. Mitt came around to turnaround. As Ann Romney later  told the Boston GLOBE, her husband tackled only big messes: "He loves emergencies and catastrophes" (TURNAROUND Ch. 3 "Strategic Audit"). Or as Mitt himself said: " "... talented people actually like to be asked to do something very, very difficult" (TURNAROUND Ch. 5).

By 1998 Mitt Romney had made himself fairly well known inside the Massachusetts where he had studied at Harvard, lived and worked for three decades -- not as arcane financial turnaround wizard, but as Republican candidate for the US Senate in 1994, soundly squashed by incumbent Ted Kennedy. He knew that he would lose, but expected to make citizens think about alternative principles of governing. He confessed that he failed, for Ted Kennedy's campaign brilliantly put him on the defensive as Mormon, money-maker and more. No time for big issues debating.


A half-hearted Mormon through high school, Mitt Romney grew passionately convinced as missionary for two years in France and later bishop-equivalent for Boston). In 1998 Mitt Romney was not a household word even in Mormon-dominated Salt Lake City that ancestors of his had pioneered. He had fortuitously, just built a nearby ski lodge for his family and lived there during the run-up to the Olympics.

But Salt Lake City was to launch Mitt Romney as a figure of US national prominence and also as a man known worldwide to sports lovers and to the leaders of the international Olympic Games movement. It is striking that "the turnaround kid" flew three days after the Winter Games closed back to Boston to mount his successful run for Governor of Massachusetts. Four years later, February 2007, he launched his first run for President, losing the Republican Party nomination to Senator John McCain. 


Throughout his 1994 Senatorial campaign against Kennedy, during his turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympics, his governorship and in his first run for President, Mitt Romney applied (or against Kennedy and McCain failed to apply, to his detriment) again and again the methodology for success that he had first learned earning law and business degrees at Harvard. The five hundred data-driven "cases" that Romney studied at Harvard Business School fitted right in with a new international consulting firm Bain & Company, founded by dynamic young BIll Bain.

In 1977, aged 30, Romney joined Bain & Company. Romney internalized "the Bain Way" of immersing a team of consultants inside a company both during and after "Strategic Auditing" of problems. Some of the team would then stay on after reports had been written to assure a successful turnaround. 


All this and more appears in TURNAROUND: CRISIS, LEADERSHIP, AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES by Mitt Romney with Timothy Robinson. The dustcover of the original 2004 edition describes Romney, accurately, as the sitting Governor of Massachusetts. Reissued in 2007, to coincide with his run for President, TURNAROUND's author was no longer Governor of Massachusetts. But he remained the Turnaround Kid. He was the man who could convert red ink into black ink -- losses into profits.


Mitt Romney without doubt turned around the 2002 Winter Olympics. From an anticipated deficit the SLOC ended with a $56 million surplus. He had applied the ideas and practices of mentor Bill Bain:


-- (1) Form a team of very bright people;


-- (2) Give that team the vision of where they are going ("serving people" in the Olympics, for instance);


-- (3) Use the Vision to make the team co-operative, united, not backbiting and self-seeking;


-- (4) Do a Strategic Audit of the organization spewing red ink;

-- (5) Focus on important things, not trivia -- don't, for example, waste time trying to improve a strong team member's weaknesses, find someone else strong where he/she is weak;


-- (5) Turn the client organization around into profitablilty.


As a certified "Bainiac," Romney had proven himself in his two decades in business as risk-averse, reality-rooted and determined to succeed. As CEO of SLOC and a co-author of the 2002 Olympics, Mitt Romney demonstrated skills that arguably qualified him to be first a State Governor, then a National President, especially of a nation spewing red ink.




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March 23, 2012
Nice review, if he wins the election there will certainly be a lot more to write about him. I had heard that he also had a hand in launching Staples?
April 05, 2012
I am not entirely clear about his relation to Staples. Whether he helped found or just helped "turn around," he invokes Staples, is proud of whatever the relation was and cites its onetime CEO for an insight or two. Patrick K
March 23, 2012
I'm certain that the electorate will start focusing on these things during the Fall campaign.
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