A Visit from an All-Powerful Oz

On Wednesday, October 5, General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt was on campus for the “Leading from the Middle” National Middle Market Summit and took the time to speak with Fisher students. Just as a little added bonus, GE Capital Chairman and CEO Michael Neal also came along. Wow. Not bad for a Wednesday afternoon. That means that we’ve had Jamie Dimon and Jeffrey Immelt visit us for talks in the last year or so.

In keeping with the Fisher tradition, Mr. Immelt did not want to meet in an auditorium or huge lecture hall. He wanted the intimacy of a classroom. This meant that about 100 of us were able to sit in a room with two men that actually help shape the world we live in. While it was daunting to sit there and listen to them speak it was also inspiring. Mr. Immelt spoke for about 5 minutes (maybe 10) and then opened the floor for questions as he didn’t come to Fisher to give a lecture. He actually was interested in hearing our concerns and our questions.

I’ve often wondered “Why?” when I look at someone in Mr. Immelt’s position. By that I mean why is this person still working? Jeffrey Immelt can do anything he wants. He is one of the masters of the universe. Yet he still will wake up tomorrow and go to work. I wonder why that is. Why doesn’t he retire and do whatever he wants? Why keep this up any longer? I think I may have an answer to the question now.

The point that came across the clearest from Mr. Immelt’s talk is that he likes what he does. He enjoys running GE and having the ability to bring its resources to bear on some of the world’s biggest problems. He believes GE can actually make the world a better place. Just because he is beholden to GE’s shareholders, it doesn’t mean that the company cannot also “do good” for the planet. By using its size and resources, GE can attack some of the most pressing concerns that the U.S. and the world are facing, such as health care and alternative energy. I came away from the talk thinking that Mr. Immelt genuinely believes these things.

All in all, it was a great time. To be able to listen to how Mr. Immelt views his and GE’s roles was an amazing opportunity. It was even better since there were not 500 of us crammed into an auditorium. One more “plus” from the intimate program we have here at Fisher.