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Biography of John Flannery – Chairman & CEO

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Born in 1962 John L. Flannery is an American business executive. He is currently the CEO and chairman of General Electric, as appointed in August 2017.

EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION:

John L. Flannery was born in 1962 in Alexandria, Virginia. He completed his graduation from Northwest Catholic High School in 1979. It was after this that Flannery received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Fairfield University Dolan School of Business in 1983. He later went to business school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 1987. Flannery is married, and has three children.

CAREER AT GE:

John Flannery is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GE. He is GE’s eleventh CEO and the company’s tenth Chairman. He led the turnaround of GE Healthcare, establishing technology leadership in core imaging, creating digital platforms and solutions, and expanding its Life Sciences and cell therapy systems businesses before his appointment as the CEO. He also launched extensive solutions in Sustainable Healthcare, bringing disruptive technologies to healthcare providers across emerging markets.

Beginning his career at GE in 1987, he has spent over 20 years at GE Capital holding various leadership roles in the United States, Latin America, and Asia. He was named as a Company Officer in 2005. In 2009, he was appointed President and CEO of GE India, and in 2013, head of Business Development for all of GE. Flannery helped oversee significant portfolio transformation including significant acquisitions and divestitures in GE’s financial services and industrial portfolios.

On his first day as the new chief executive of GE, John Flannery sent an internal letter to the company’s 300,000 employees to ensure that the directions were clear. “I have a relentless focus on three things,” Flannery stated in the letter. Those three things are: “Customers, team, and execution/accountability.” Flannery said every employee should focus on the customer as their “guiding principle.” He said a great team is one that welcomes transparency and candor. And finally, Flannery said he met with 100 investors who expect “better execution on cash, margins, and…costs.”

Flannery understands an essential rule of business communication — people can only carry about three or four key messages in short term memory. Offering too many action items at once will result in what researchers call ‘cognitive backlog. Flannery is a fan of using the rule of three. In a 2015 conference, Flannery—then CEO of GE Healthcare— took to the stage and said, “I can talk about a number of different aspects, but I’d say there are three basic things that keep coming back to me from my customer interactions…passion, rate of change, and trusted partners.”

STRATEGY AHEAD:

In the press conference when Flannery was named the new CEO to replace Jeffery Immelt, he was asked to talk for a few minutes. Flannery stood up and spoke briefly about the “three reasons” he felt humbled to accept the position:

  1. Humbled to follow in Immelt’s footsteps.
  2. Humbled to lead a company that has transformed life around the world.
  3. Humbled and proud to have worked for the company for thirty years. Flannery is a skilled communicator.

In addition, to help pay for the remaking of the company, G.E. announced that it would cut its dividend, only the second time it has done so since the Great Depression. The quarterly payout will be sliced in half, to 12 cents a share. Flannery following his reoriented strategy to build GE stated that he aimed at the future with a view of having a smaller company with fewer but highly profitable business. The goal is to make G.E. “simpler and easier to operate,” Mr. Flannery said. “Complexity has hurt us.”

G.E. has lowered its earnings target for next year and reiterated that 2018 would be a “reset year.” And the outlook for 2019, while improving, is expected to be challenging as well for its big power-turbine business, which fell off sharply this year. The complexion of the company will also change in the years to come. G.E., the country’s largest manufacturing company, had nearly 300,000 employees worldwide at the end of last year. The impending sales of several businesses and other cost-cutting initiatives will undoubtedly leave it with far fewer in the coming years, in more focused areas.

“John Flannery is generally saying and doing the right things,” said Scott Davis, chief executive of Melius Research, an independent financial analysis firm.

Mr. Flannery had previously given broad outlines of his strategy, including that the company would shed at least $20 billion in assets over the next two years. What then came were details that confirmed a shortlist of businesses that are up for sale, like lighting, which has quietly been on sale for months. He also emphasized his belief in the vitality of a smaller G.E., and nodded to products like electric generators, jet engines and medical-imaging equipment. Because of those products, Mr. Flannery said, the company will continue to “power the world,” “transport people safely” and “save lives.”

He also described other parts of the businesses as “fundamentally strong,” including wind turbines for renewable energy, and the company’s railroad-equipment unit, which is expected to be sold off.

Mr. Flannery’s strategy will accelerate the streamlining job begun by his immediate predecessor. Mr. Immelt described the company he inherited as a “classic conglomerate.”

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