Nucor: Ken Iverson

To my eyes, two of the most fascinating sights to behold are hot metal in motion and a group of people in headlong pursuit of a shared purpose. Those images are the essence of Nucor. They convey how we turned a confused, tired old company on the brink of bankruptcy into a star player in the resurgence of American steel.

Along the way, we did something that is probably more consequential for you: we showed that many of the so-called “necessary evils” of life in corporate America are, in fact, not necessary. The people of Nucor stand in sharp, even defiant contrast to the status quo. We’re big on informality, caring, freedom, respect, equality, and the simple truth. We have little tolerance for the politics, the pettiness, the fixation on rank and status, and the insensitivity to employees’ legitimate needs that people in most big companies endure as a matter of course.

Since I have no special insight into the forces behind what passes for “business as usual” in most large corporations, I won’t spend much time trying to explain them. I’ll focus instead on presenting an alternative set of assumptions and approaches for running a business. I’ll describe how we raised Nucor from obscurity to its current place as America’s third-largest steel company, and I’ll explore our company’s seeming incongruities.

This is a book about leadership and life, about business and people and honesty and risk-taking and a whole bunch of things that really add up to how to be successful over the long run. The advice I’ll offer isn’t fool-proof. But it is tested under fire.

From Iverson, Ken. Plain Talk: Lessons from a Business Maverick. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998).

This book looks like it’ll definitely be worth further exploration.

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