Born: St. Louis
Education: Bachelor of science degrees, marketing and psychology, Southwest Missouri State University (now called Missouri State University)
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
Sam Walton. Not Wal-Mart today, but Sam Walton. I think he was truly a leader. Sam Walton tried to do something to improve people’s lives, and I think he did it. What’s the optimal legacy of an individual? That’s to be a positive influence on the lives of others. He completely changed the landscape for so many small towns. You talk about painful and touch love. These people say, ‘Yeah, but Wal-Mart comes in and they put the small businesses out of business.’
But they also employ all the people that worked at small businesses and now they have health care and now they have the availability of all the different products that people have in the cities, including prescription drugs and technology tools and everything else. Sam Walton did that.
Fleming on letting someone go: Talk to them and say, ‘Look, we want to find another place for you. Can we redeploy you?’ You try to find a position that fits their personality. If that doesn’t work, you have to realize the best thing you can do for you and for the company is to let them go. You are doing them a disservice by letting them stay on. You have to be very generous in your severance package. If you did nothing, they’d be working for you for another six months. Why not give them six months severance? Why not say, ‘Look, we want to help you get a job. You can use us as a reference. But you really need to find something that fits you better than this.’