Published 04/15/15

Suzy and Jack Welch at Bryant

Suzy and Jack Welch spoke at Bryant as part of the President's Trustee Speaker Series.

A conversation with Jack and Suzy Welch touches on globalization, leadership, adapting

Former General Electric CEO and Chairman Jack Welch and his wife, best-selling author Suzy Welch, joined Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley Monday afternoon for a wide-ranging conversation about the keys to success.

“What Bryant has done is the way everyone should do it."

During his 20-year tenure as CEO of GE, Welch re-imagined the company, making decisions that transformed industries from financial services to broadcast media to defense, quintupling revenues, and increasing market capitalization from $14 billion to $410 billion. When he retired from GE in 2001, he had positioned the organization as the most valuable company in the world.

Welch, introduced by Machtley as "one of the great leaders when it comes to business," praised GE's recent announcement that it would sell off the majority of its finance and real-estate assets. “Growth is going to be tough to come by in these businesses," he said. "General Electric is the only company that remains from the original Dow Jones. The reason it’s there is because of how good it is adapting to change."

Welch and Suzy Welch, a former editor of the Harvard Business Review, have written a number of books together. Their appearance at Bryant came on the eve of the release of their newest, The Real-Life MBA, a copy of which every student in the audience received

Suzy Welch spoke about the skills needed to become a successful manager.

“You have to be able to manage people’s work you don’t understand,” she said. “I used to be able to manage people whose jobs I had done myself. But today, you can be a manager of a financial institution and manage so many different things.”

A chapter in the Welches’ book touches on globalization, and Jack Welch took time during the discussion to laud Bryant’s recently-announced partnership with the Beijing Institute of Technology Zhuhai to collaboratively educate students on Bryant’s Smithfield campus and in Zhuhai, China.

“That’s the way globalization should be done,” Welch said. “What Bryant has done is the way everyone should do it. They figured out how to make sure their partner wins.”

Many of the Welches' key points were shared via social media by members of the audience: