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Plain Talk: Lessons from a Business Maverick [Hardcover]

Ken Iverson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 24, 1997 0471155144 978-0471155140 1
A visionary, maverick, and genuine American business hero, Ken Iverson is one of the most closely-watched business leaders in the world. Credited with single-handedly rejuvenating the rapidly declining American steel industry to the status of world-class producer, Iverson is one of the most successful and, as he likes to point out, one of the lowest-paid CEOs in the U.S. In his long-awaited book, Ken Iverson shares his ideas, observations, and the lessons he's learned about what it takes to grow a super-competitive, world-class organization.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ken Iverson is a leader whose vision shaped an industry and the future, a leader whose character, values, and ethics merge seamlessly with the mission and values of a successful, innovative business." -Frances Hesselbein, President and CEO, The Peter F. Drucker Foundation

Ken Iverson taught us that America could compete in a tough global economy. He did it in an industry where being a maverick was the only way. His accounting of Nucor's story should serve as a blue print or us all. -David Glass, President and CEO, WalMart Stores, Inc.

No theory; just important, practical ideas proven by Ken Iverson in the furnace at Nucor.-Peter Larson, Chairman and CEO, Brunswick Corporation

It is a masterpiece! Plain Talk provides a penetrating analysis of why Nucor has performed so well for so long, full of insights and solid conclusions. The book is easy to follow, very well written, and a 'must' read for every executive...a major contribution to business. -Vijay Govindarajan, Earl C. Dum 1924 Professor of International Business, Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, DartmouthCollege

This is a story about Ken Iverson, a man who built a major steel company from ground zero, much of it during a period when the U.S. steel industry was losing 25% of its capacity. But most of all, it's about motivating people to a level of remarkable accomplishment. You will enjoy reading this book as much as the people who work for Nucor enjoy being there.-James F. Collins, President, Steel Manufacturers Association

From the Publisher

A visionary, maverick, and genuine American business hero, Ken Iverson is one of the most closely-watched business leaders in the world. Credited with single-handedly rejuvenating the rapidly declining American steel industry to the status of world-class producer, Iverson is one of the most successful and, as he likes to point out, one of the lowest-paid CEOs in the U.S. In his long-awaited book, Ken Iverson shares his ideas, observations, and the lessons he's learned about what it takes to grow a super-competitive, world-class organization.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (October 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471155144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471155140
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful portrait of a titan of industry at work April 3, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Ken Iverson is unlike any big businessman and his company, Nucor Steel, is unlike any large corporation. As chairman of America's third-largest steel company, he is a champion of individual initiative and an outspoken opponent of bureaucratic management. At a time when naysayers were predicting the death of American steel, he lifted Nucor out of near bankruptcy: Nucor has turned a profit almost every year since he took the helm, while his employees are among the best paid in the industry.
In his new book, Plain Talk, Iverson shows how he achieved his amazing success and offers constructive advice for managers and workers alike. Contrary to popular opinion, Iverson believes that the interests of workers and managers are-and should be-harmonious. Both are after their own ends. Both want to be successful. There is no reason, in Iverson's view, to drive an artificial wedge between the two. The main focus of Plain Talk is on maintaining and nurturing the virtue of productivity in all employees.
Unlike other books on business success, this one is free of jargon and quick-fix schemes. Moreover, the book's advice is well grounded in Iverson's spectacular successes at Nucor.
In the early 1980s, the American steel industry was in dire straits. As the number of steel workers plummeted from 400,000 to 200,000, some predicted the demise of the industry. But not Ken Iverson. While Nucor's production was down by nearly 50%, he did not lay-off his workers. Rather, he cut hours and salaries-for workers and managers, even including his own. Iverson explains that, "No employee was being asked to carry more than his or her share of the burden." Far from acting altruistically, his decisions were in the long-term interest of Nucor.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Headlong Pursuit of a Shared Purpose... February 23, 2001
Format:Hardcover
Ken Iverson has truly earned the right to be called a "Business Maverick". In this book he explains how the culture he created at Nucor became "60% of their competative advantage". He explains how breaking down hierarchy and opening the lines of true communication in all directions can propel a business to success.
His unique, but successful, techniques at time agree with, and at times flies in the face of, McGregor, classical management theorists, and others who have studied management, communications and human resources.
In chapters entitled, "A Higher Cause", "Trust Your Instincts", "Destroy the Hierarchy", "A Simple Stake in the Business", "The Virtues of Smallness", "Ethic Over Politics", and others Mr. Iverson relates how you too, if you are willing to work hard enough at it, can "turn a confused, tired old company on the brink of bankruptcy into a star player...", while learning that "many of the so-called 'necessary evils' of life in corporate America are, in fact, not necessary".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packed With Knowledge! September 16, 2004
Format:Hardcover
Perhaps the highest praise for this refreshing little memoir is this: if certain other captains of industry had read Ken Iverson's book when it was published in 1998 and heeded its advice, investors would have been spared billions in losses and a slew of corporate scandals would have been averted. Iverson, head of steel maker Nucor Corporation, injects much-needed common sense into the often-bureaucratic, hierarchical world of corporate boardrooms and corner offices. This persuasive text, written in the sort of clear, muscular prose you'd expect from a steel man, will make you want to give up your executive parking space and embrace an egalitarian corporate structure. We recommend this engaging work to managers who want to look at their jobs a new way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "must read" for businessmen and managers May 2, 1998
Format:Hardcover
This isn't some ivory tower guru spouting wisdom. Ken Iverson explains the philosophy that makes Nucor a growth company in a non-growth industry. Many things worth emulating.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simple, effective framework for a profitable company January 16, 2001
Format:Hardcover
Ken details the mechanics of a simple, effective, decentralized framework that aligns the goals of the employees, management, and customers. Base salaries are below industry median. The bonus of a manager depends on the return on equity (capital + equipment + human) that s/he generates. Each team's bonus is tied directly to what they produce.
The higher up the manager (there are four layers including CEO), the higher the proportion of of paycut during down times.
Has simple effective metrics to monitor the health of each decentralized unit (half a dozen including sales, productivity, expenses).
A good mechanism to set goal and measure performance for a business generating tangible goods. Not sure how this could be applied to more intangible value added activities such as IT and software engineering
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why is this the exception? September 7, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I love when people and companies decide to keep things simple. Iverson and Nucor obviously made that choice. The no-brainer is that when you keep systems simple, they are easier to sustain. The other obvious notion is that when you give people the whole story (what we're trying to do, why it's important, here's how we're doing currently)they will self-organize, self-correct and self-maintain because they know what's at stake. Unfortunately, what Nucor knows and what has always seemed to me the best way to run and sustain an organization, seems to be the exception out there rather than the rule.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Just perfect!
Simple and amazing book.
Essential reading for managers at any level.
The best book for managing production company I have ever read.
10/10!!!
Published 3 months ago by Boris Karul
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book...
So simple, yet so profound. I really love Nucor's style and culture. They have been a customer for years and now I have a greater understanding of who they are at the core.
Published 4 months ago by jtgavigan
5.0 out of 5 stars Should have cloned him
Business and society need more leaders like Ken Iverson, who is now deceased. Ken was a businessman and altruistic at the same time. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Rhinin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Entertaining read, easy to digest, creates a lot of good food for though. I'm buying a copy for all my general managers
Published 8 months ago by Jim Winn
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas
Book is like an easy chat with Mr. Iverson as he explains his philosophy and how he implemented it. Very powerful and something I am applying to our family business.
Published 10 months ago by Leonardo
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and Simple Leadership
I was originally given this book right after a class discussion with Air Force Col Noel Zamot, the Commandant of the Air Force Test Pilot school. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Link4707
5.0 out of 5 stars Only wish I had found this book sooner!
I've read a lot of books on management and leadership, but what Ken Iverson did with Nucor is unbelievable. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jack Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and enlightening
I love this book and tell many people about it. I even quote it in my own writing. Ken Iverson's approach to guiding organizations is the wave of the future--empowering the... Read more
Published 21 months ago by J. Raye
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read Even for a Class!
This book was a required reading for a manufacturing course I took at the University of Minnesota. It was also the topic of our final paper in the class. Read more
Published on May 3, 2011 by Kyle J. Chadek
5.0 out of 5 stars Management Wisdom.
Ken Iverson imparts what really matters in business in clear concise language. Every company and prospective enrtrepreneur will be enriched by his wisdom. Read more
Published on November 25, 2007 by William J. Varrichio
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