You're Not a CPA or MBA, Are You?

“When Kerrii Anderson won the permanent chief executive post at Wendy's International Inc. last November, she called the 71-year-old widow of Wendy's founder Dave Thomas with the news.

"’Can you handle this?’ Lorraine Thomas recalls asking her. She doubted Ms. Anderson, an accountant by training, was the right person to revive the hamburger chain that has struggled since Mr. Thomas's death five years ago.

“Ms. Anderson insisted she was up to it. But nine months later, the CEO's turnaround plan is floundering. Franchisees accuse her of mismanaging the chain's menu expansion and launching quirky ad campaigns that have alienated some loyal customers. Big shareholders complain that the Duke University MBA's lack of operating experience should have precluded her from the top job. And now her board is shopping for a buyer…

“Wendy's ‘was all driven by Dave,’ says Gary Rozanczyk, a Wendy's franchisee who began working for Mr. Thomas more than 30 years ago. ‘You just trusted this man that he was going to do the right thing.’

“One Saturday morning in 2000, Mr. Thomas answered the front door of his Columbus home wearing a golf shirt, shorts and tennis shoes. His invited guest was a woman sporting a black dress with a jacket. Kerrii Anderson had come to interview for a job as Wendy's chief financial officer…

“Talking with Mr. Thomas in his living room, Ms. Anderson says she was struck by how down-to-earth he was. ‘Dave’ wasn't the kind of executive who prized fancy degrees over hands-on experience -- even for high-level posts. During the interview, Ms. Anderson recalls being grilled about her credentials. ‘You're not a CPA, are you?’ Mr. Thomas asked. She told him she was. ‘You're not an MBA, are you?’ he followed up. She said she was. ‘Kerrii,’ he told her, ‘you cannot think like an accountant. You have to take care of your customer’."

(“After Dave: How Wendy's Faltered, Opening Way to Buyout; New CEO Sought Return To Founder's Values; Peltz Waiting to Pounce.” Janet Adamy. Wall Street Journal: August 29, 2007. pg. A.1)

"DOWN TO EARTH" and "in touch" sound remarkably linked, don't you think? And, doesn't the question, "Can you handle this?" take on depth and importance as we try to get our hands around something that is so much bigger than a matter of degrees?

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