￼by Robert D. Nicoson
“I’m challenged and motivated where I am, and I like the company. You know that. But I’ve got to say I’m interested in the opportunity you’re describing because of the money and the equity position. For those reasons alone, it’s tough to pass by. Let me think about it some more and call you in the morning. Thanks, Les.”
That was the extent of the conversation Cyrus Maher, CEO of Waterway Industries, overheard when he came around the corner just outside of Lee Carter’s office. She must have been talking with Les Finch, Maher thought. Here’s trouble.
Of course, it didn’t necessarily mean any- thing, Maher told himself as he passed the of- fice, waving to ...view middle of the document...
harvard business review • july–august 1996
COPYRIGHT © 1996 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Growing Pains•••HBR CASE STUDY
￼￼Robert D. Nicoson is the director of human resources for the Pioneer Group, a financial services and natural resources company based in Boston, Massachusetts. He is responsible for all domestic and international human- resources services, including executive compensation design and administration.
had said that kayaks were the next big trend and that Maher would be a fool not to sign on. Maher had done some checking and found the prospects promising. So by the end of 1992, Waterway had begun selling its own line of compact, inexpensive, high-impact plastic kay- aks. Within one quarter, Maher had known that the move had been a smart one. Almost all of Waterway’s existing canoe customers— mostly wholesalers who then sold to liveries and sporting goods stores—had placed sizable kayak orders. A number of private-label enti- ties had also inquired about Waterway, and Maher was considering producing private- label kayaks for those companies on a limited
For the most part, the staff had adjusted
easily to the company’s faster pace. The ex- panded business hadn’t changed Waterway’s informal work style, and people seemed to ap- preciate that. Maher knew that most of his em- ployees were avid outdoor types who viewed their jobs as a means to an end, and he re- spected that perspective. On days when the weather was particularly good, he knew that the building would be pretty empty by 4 P.M. But he also knew that his employees liked their jobs. Work was always completed on time, and people were outspoken with new ideas and with suggestions for improving current designs and processes. There was no mistaking the genuine camaraderie.
Maher walked through the design room, stopping to talk with one of the two designers and to admire the latest drawings. Then he headed for the administrative suite. His thoughts returned to the company’s recent history. Until 1990, Waterway’s sales and revenues had in- creased with the market, and Maher hadn’t been motivated to push any harder. But when he had decided to venture into kayaking, he also had thought he should gear up marketing— get ready for the big trend if it came. Until then, there had never been a formal, struc- tured marketing department at Waterway. He had thought it was time. That’s why he had hired Lee Carter.
Carter had gotten her M.B.A. when she was 31. To do so, she had left a fast-track position in sales at Waterway’s major competitor in the canoe market to devote her full attention to her studies. Finch, who was something of a mentor for Carter, had told her that she would hit the ceiling too early in her career if she
didn’t have the credentials to compete in her field.
In her final term at business school, which had included a full course load plus a demanding internship with the Small Business Administra- tion,...