Meeting Jack Welch

I have numerous special experiences when I study in Bay Area. But the most memorable one should be this one — meeting Jack Welch.

To be honest, although I intend to learn from the best business people in the US, I never anticipate that I could meet Jack, one of the legends in the business world, so soon. After listening to him, I feel that my dream, building a global business, is absolutely achievable. I don’t know why but I just feel confident about that. May be I finally can see a powerful person in reality and he makes me feel that all the things I have learned are not abstract anymore.

First Impression

I saw Jack at a book-signing event in San Jose on Apr 27th. My first impression of Jack is that he is not very tall. To me, his images are always tough, aggressive and competitive. It seems to me that this person is not the same one I have read about on magazines and TV. However, when he starts his talk, I understand why Fortune magazine called him the “Manager of the Century”. When he talks about his past experience in GE, you don’t want to miss anything or, to me, I just don’t want him to stop talking. His sense of humor makes the whole atmosphere full of joy, excitement and admiration.

At last, he answers all the questions from the audience, even some tough ones. He tells us his most serious mistake in GE is that he has invested in a company that is not fit with the culture in GE, making it a very bad investment. This reminds me the importance of the corporate culture, which I have learned from a book.

At first, I expect this event will attract huge crowds from companies and colleges. Surprisingly, my girl friend and I are the youngest in the whole conference room. Are we too mature? Or is Jack not famous enough? I wonder. I really believe people, especially students, can learn a lot in such an event. To me, this is an once-in-a-lifetime experience; I am really excited about it. Unfortunately, when I told my friends about this opportunity, no one was interested about it. They just think that it is too expensive, paying $50 to listen someone speaking. Some of them, majored in business, even ask me, “Who is Jack Welch?” It’s really hard to finding people of like mind sometimes.

Being Kind in Jack's Way

Welch earned the nickname “Neutron Jack” when GE lay off thousands of workers after he became the CEO. In the event, he talked about his exceptional philosophy of “being kind” to the employees. Many people know that, in GE, the lowest 10% people (ranked by performance) will be laid off from time to time. Jack thinks this is good for the workers. Firing the worker lets him know his weakness earlier, so he can do better in another company. For example, if an employee has worked for you for 30 years, then suddenly, you fire him as you think that he is actually a very poor worker in the past 30 years. Because of your kindness, you keep this person in your company for 30 years. By that time, it is too late for him to face the reality and find another job; he just doesn’t have time to correct his mistakes. Or, to most people, they already feel that they are experts in their fields while they are not.

Therefore, in Jack’s point of view, firing them is a good way to ask them to move on. In the business world, the best are reward and the worst will move out. Surprise is not good to the workers; they should know their performance earlier in order to improve themselves. As a result, they can understand their roles, values and positions in the company in an earlier stage.
Business is a Game

Jack also claims that a company is like a sport team. People who can build the best team win the game. A leader should concentrate on growing people if he wants to succeed. But in reality, finding the best people to form a team is really hard. That’s why only few companies can win the game.

Career Advices

He also mentions that people who are not doing well in the current position should not just complain and think that they are victims. People tend to think that they can do nothing to improve their situation so most of them just stay in their comfort zone. We should be able to control our own destination. In Jack’s view, if your job is no fun and no opportunity, then you should leave at once. People should find a working place that can help you to grow and give you an environment to do what you like. “Don’t hang on things that don’t do well”. I always hear this from others when they talk about business and investment. It seems this statement cannot only apply to businesses but also to our own career.

Furthermore, he talks about the issues of MBA classes. He thinks that MBA can help you nothing but build up your own confidence. He believes that the real business world is deal with people, which the classes don’t teach you. Business is all about communication and interaction between people. Jack believes MBA students couldn’t learn about that at today’s business schools.


It seems I have already heard or read about what he has said somewhere else before. But the impression he gives me is so strong and I have really learned that what a true leader should do. Although I don’t have a chance to talk with him personally, I am really glad that I can listen to him so closely and able to shake hand with one of the greatest leader in the business world. Anyway, I believe this experience can help me a lot for my future business.


  • Here is another article about his book signing event in Harvard Business School. I hope this can give you another point of view.
  • Listen to the whole Jack Welch’s speech at SF. (This is another book signing event organized by the same organization on the same day.)
  • If you want to know more about Jack and his new book, I will suggest you to read his latest book “Winning”.

Share this story