Education: Bachelor of science and MBA degrees from Cornell University
First job: Delivering newspapers, mowing lawns and shoveling snow. I worked from a very young age; it gave me spending money. I think it’s just kind of who I was. I always expected to work hard at whatever job I was in.
Career moves: Began his career in 1966 with Procter & Gamble; joined H. J. Heinz in 1968, where he was product manager for several brands. In 1972, joined Hanes Corp. as product manager for the expansion of L’eggs hosiery, named vice president of marketing for L’eggs in 1975. From 1979-1993, was president and CEO of several divisions of Sara Lee Corp. (the acquirer of Hanes); appointed senior vice president of Sara Lee Corp. in 1992 and CEO of Hanes Group of companies in 1993.
Boards: Executive committee, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; past chairman of the board of directors, American Apparel and Footwear Association and a current member of its executive committee; member, advisory board, Robert C. Goizueta Business School at Emory University; board of governors, The Southern Institute for Business and Professional Ethics; member, Atlanta Action Forum, the Forward Atlanta Cabinet and the Workforce Development Task Force for the Commission for a New Georgia; chairman, Ivan Allen Society Campaign of the United Way 2003 Campaign; 2002 honorary chairman of the Georgia Trust Preservation Ball; previously served on the board of directors of Burlington Industries and Lanier Worldwide
Residence: Sandy Springs
What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?
The greatest business lesson is to thoroughly evaluate and assess, and don’t jump to quick conclusions, whether it’s about a problem or about how you assess an individual. Often times you’ll find your first reaction may not be the correct reaction.
What is the greatest business challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?The greatest business challenge was dramatically changing in a competitive market, where you have to create revolutions sometimes in order for companies to survive and to grow. In Russell, we had to dramatically change the whole company where we operated, which meant we had to eliminate a number of plants.
You have to go forward knowing it’s the absolute right thing to do and that you are saving a lot of jobs because if you don’t, you won’t be in business. At the same time, you have to figure out how to do the right thing for the people.
We put in a very extensive transition plan for the people severance, education funds; we brought in people to retrain. We even had incentives for others to come into our facilities and hire our people.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
It’s not just one person. I’ll tell you the characteristics someone that is successful but it’s not just profit, is very successful in the community, has very strong values and Is really involved in doing the right things for the right reasons. Profit has to be one of those reasons because you have to be successful as a business, but it’s much more than driving for pure profit. It’s respect for people of all backgrounds, races, and it’s high integrity and involvement in trying to get the community to be a better place to work and to live.