Brass Down the Hall


A few weeks after he read Batten's critique in Toledo, Maynard received a letter from Herb Schwamb, the personnel director, announcing his imminent arrival for a store visit. After two days of observations and interviews, Schwamb attended Lansing's own management training program, which Batten conducted . Afterward, Schwamb asked Batten if he might go home with him that evening to meet Kathryn and chat. Batten called home, and two hours later, after a light supper and a relaxed visit, the personnel man nodded approvingly at Kathryn and then said, "Mil, we'd like you to come to New York and work for me. On the training program. To fix it. What do you say?"

Batten, who was prepared for the offer, replied with his thanksand concern. "Herb," he said, "what if it doesn't work out? What if you end up not liking me, or I don't like New York?"

"If so," said Schwamb, "what would you want?"

"I'd want to return to a store I could run some day."

"Fair enough. A deal?"

"Deal," said Batten as Kathryn gave his arm a squeeze.

New York was overwhelming for the young couple. They coped by concentrating on work, Kathryn again teaching and Mil immersing himself in the training program problems. Initially, he traveled a lot, visiting many stores. He then began a writing and designing phase supported by a graphics budget and the aid of a secretary and a new assistant (those associated with the former program had been reassigned to the field). Batten worked on the 17th floor of the New York Office building on 34th Street. Down the hall from him were all the Penney brass.

Schwamb was highly pleased with Batten's progress and said so in a memo to Sams and the number-two man, Al Hughes. A couple of months later, Batten requested a brief meeting with Sams and Hughes and, as a courtesy , Schwamb. It was granted.

As the four men sat down, the three senior executives expected a discussion of personnel training matters. They had all come to appreciate the young hotshot's skill at advancing a point. Instead of explaining something, Batten often used a tactful and astute line of questioning. Answers usually led to almost painless accord, even among the older, more entrenched personalities.

Today, however, Batten had a surprise. "Gentlemen, since I've been here I've begun to wonder if in the future the fact that I've never been a store manager would be an impediment or an insurmountable obstacle to promotion. So could you please tell me now, because if that is the necessary stripe for advancement, then after my project is concluded I'd like to go back to a store and become a store manager."

Sams looked at Hughes, who looked at Schwamb, who looked at Sams with a shake of his head. "No," said the CEO, "it would not be an obstacle. Don't worry about that."




Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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