The Reese File Featured

8:24am EDT February 23, 2005
Born: 1953, Columbus, Ohio; I grew up really in Michigan.

Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration, a major in marketing

First job: Loan officer in a credit union in General Foods

Boards: Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Partnership for Education -- "I have a heart for education," he says.

Residence: Atlanta

What is the greatest business lesson you've ever learned?

I don't know if it's a lesson, but I'll tell you: Don't ever underestimate what people can do once they set their mind to it.

What is the greatest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?

The greatest business challenge I've ever faced was probably when I was in Jacksonville, Fla., running the Maxwell House coffee plant. There were two plants, and we were going to close either Hoboken, N.J., or Jacksonville, Fla., so I had six months to put together a plan on keeping that plant open and convincing the company it was the right one.

So I had to do two things. I had to know what it was really like for the company, and then I had to know what it was really like for the people. I really had to know both. So that was probably the biggest challenge I ever faced because every day I had to face 700 people who absolutely were depending on me and the team I put together on whether we would stay open or not.

So it was truly a huge challenge for me, having to deal with the political arena, the union arena, the corporate arena, the community, everything and all of it, everything at once.

At the end of the day, it was still a sad day because we closed the plant; Jacksonville ended up being the one chosen.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

For me, I don't think I could say -- you know, Jim Collins' book Good to Great, the leaders that ran those great companies I admire the most. Because you don't know about them, but they did a fantastic job of leading companies and allowing people to be as good as they can be.

So as far as whom I admire, that's what I would say. I admire the people who took those companies from being good companies to being great.