HBS-NEO Harvard Business School Club of Northeastern Ohio HBS-NEO

Membership: Member Interviews

Roy Gentles

(Interview continued from e-mail newsletter.)

Q. Of what business achievement are you most proud?
A. I think I'm most proud of how we used other, global Alcan facilities and made acquisitions to get off to a flying start and grow the business. When I took over sales, we were $800MM, and by time we left, sales were $2.3B. Early on in that growth, we were out of capacity in a lot of lines. For instance, we ran out of capacity here in the States for supplying can sheet for soft drinks. But, there was capacity in other Alcan group companies, and we were able to use that to keep sales growing. We also made a big acquisition of Atlantic Richfield and brought on five plants. Overall, being CEO down here in Cleveland was the most fun. It's nice to be able to get some of your own ideas to work, and this gave me that opportunity. I had a great team.
Q. In general, is there a notable difference between CEOs today versus twenty or thirty years ago?

I think compensation has gotten way out of whack. Also, we've had some people recently who haven't had any integrity. But, overall, it seems to me that CEOs have the same responsibilities as they had back in my day, which is leadership. And the qualifications for leadership are the same today as they were back then, namely: integrity; skill at delegating, and then providing authority to the people you delegate to; good vision with plans for achieving goals; good communicator with effective system for communicating; decisive; and effective at monitoring the entire system.

Q. How do you remain involved with the business world?
A. When I retired in 1985, I started a retirement office with some other former executives. Between Brad Jones (former CEO of Republic Steel), Al Whitehouse (former CEO of Sohio), and Julien McCall (former CEO of National City Bank), we're a very cohesive group, but we each do our individual things. I spend most of my time on my investments.
Q. Any investments advice for club members?
A. I don't make recommendations, but the company I've invested in is Hummer Whole Health, right here in town, and I think it's about to break loose. Jim Hummer (also an HBS alumnus) is a very good friend of mine. We met when we were on the boards of a couple not-for-profit organizations: Town Hall Cleveland and the Golden Age Centers. When he became the chairman of Golden Age Centers, I told him if he ever needed more money in his venture to let me know. I didn't hear anything for a while. And then two or three years later he said he needed to raise more money for Hummer Whole Health.

"How much?" I said.

"Seven million dollars," he said.

"You're a little out of my league," I said.

But I believed in it, and so I invested and helped put together a group to provide a portion of the funding. It's a great company.

See other Member Interviews.