Guide Great Leaders: Alfred Sloan

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Great American Business Leaders of the 20th Century

Sloan, Jr. He outsmarted the legendary carmaker Henry Ford, essentially invented marketing as we know it today, and pioneered the very concept of corporate management. Despite these accomplishments, Sloan remains an elusive and tantalizing figure. Here, in this Quick Read, is his surprising story, with lessons for every businessperson. Get A Copy.

Alfred P. Sloan - Wikiquote

Kindle Edition , 21 pages. More Details Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Great Leaders , please sign up. Its biggest competitor was another Detroit — run operation, the Ford Motor Company , and under Sloan's direction GM surpassed Ford in just a few years. Sloan's talent for running a thriving financial enterprise is one of the most significant success stories in twentieth century American business.

GM was so financially sound that it was barely affected by the Great Depression ; despite the Wall Street crash of , its stock continued to pay shareholder dividends. In Sloan was elected board chair, and continued as both chair and CEO until ; he remained chairman of the board of directors until , when he officially retired.

Drucker on Alfred P. Sloan

Sloan's restructuring of GM earned him a reputation for excellence both as a practical manager and as a management theorist. Automobile management theory before Sloan was most strongly influenced by Henry Ford. Ford was reported to have said that the customer could have any color Model T that he wanted, as long as it was black. Sloan encouraged diversity in product choices. But diversity did not mean chaos.

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His management accomplishments involved shaping the company rather than allowing the separate automobile companies that GM owned to go off in their own directions, guided by their own autonomous decisions in design, engineering, and production. Thus, Sloan transformed GM from a conglomerate of different companies overlapping each other in price range, technology, and product into a company guided by a single intelligence applied to five separate but interlocked divisions, each producing and marketing cars aimed at a particular segment of the market.

On the low end was the affordable Chevrolet.

The Sloan legacy

In the middle range were Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick. On the high end were the elegant Cadillacs. The divisions were able to share development, production, and engineering costs among themselves, which added greater profit to the higherpriced luxury models. And the design feature of automobile manufacture became an important generator of car sales through the institution of annual model changes. When Sloan became chair of GM's board of directors in , he was the highest-paid executive in the country.

The mammoth size and economic success of General Motors led to labor unrest and the founding of the United Auto Workers union. Sloan's refusal in to meet with its representatives to address grievances over job security, wages, and safety resulted in a sit-down strike at GM plants, and the eventual legal recognition of the United Auto Workers a year later, a significant moment in American labor history.

Sloan, Alfred Pritchard, Jr.

Not surprisingly, Sloan was a staunch supporter of Republican politics. Sloan would also be remembered as a great philanthropist. At the height of the Great Depression in , he founded the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The auto executive also endowed the Sloan School of Management at his alma mater , the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At its founding in , it was one of the first graduate programs of its kind for executives already established in their careers.

See also: Walter P. Forbes, B. New York: B. Forbes Publishing Co.

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Sloan, Jr. In New York City he attended the Brooklyn public schools and the Polytechnic Institute, where he passed the exams to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , but he was refused admission because he was too young. At the age of 17 he did matriculate there and received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in By this time he had married Irene Jackson of Boston.

At the age of 26 he became president and general manager of the rapidly failing firm when his father and one other man bought control. Sloan quickly resuscitated the firm by moving into the manufacture of steel roller bearings for the mushrooming automobile industry. Instead, William C. In he became a vice president and member of the GM executive committee. Durant lost control of GM in to the Du Ponts, but Pierre Samuel du Pont, the new president, knew nothing about automobiles and made Sloan vice president in charge of operations.

In GM held a 12 percent share of the market; by , when Sloan retired, the market share stood at 52 percent. He accomplished this not only by innovations such as four-wheel drive, crankcase ventilation, and knee-action brakes but, more importantly, by adopting the staff principle of management. He centralized administration and decentralized production and put each product in its own division and eliminated intracompany competition. Sloan made a great philanthropic contribution in , when he endowed the Alfred P.

He died Feb. The only full-length works on Sloan are autobiographical. Sloan's My Years with General Motors is an illuminating book on business history and his role in it. Sloan, Alfred P. Weaver, Warren, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr.