Adonis Diaries

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Biography of this Citizen of the Word: Carlos Ghosn (ex chairman of Nissan-Renault)

Note 1: This is a re-edit of my post of 2008 unter the title “Carlos Ghosn: Citoyen du Monde” by Philippe Ries; (Reviewed on September 27, 2006)

Note 2: Carlos Ghosn was harassed by the biased Japanese judiciary system for 3 years, until he was whisked away to Lebanon a couple of months ago in 2020. You may read the petition after Ghosn was arrested and denied communication with anyone https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/why-this-petition-to-release-of-carlos-ghosn-chairman-of-nissan-renault-since-1998/

We are going to have a quick overview of the professional path of Carlos Ghosn, his upbringing, which is similar to thousands of Lebanese,  his professional training at Michelin, and then focus on the problems and solutions of the institutions he handled to guide them into profitability, especially Nissan.

Of Lebanese descent, Carlos was born in Brazil and repatriated to Lebanon at the age of 6, after a serious gastric sickness that he contracted at age two which prompted his Lebanese mother to settle in a more clement weather.  (I was also repatriated to Lebanon from Mali at age 6 after contracting Typhoid fever and barely survived).

He lived his youth in Beirut with his mother and older sister, and finished his secondary education in the Jesuit institution of Notre Dame Jamhour.

He transferred to Paris where he did higher math studies and joined the Polytechnic School and continued at the engineering University of Mines with high distinctions.

He lived in a very limited perimeter for 7 years around these Universities and most of his courses were highly abstract concepts in mathematics.

Carlos mentioned that when he took a course in economics his professor defined rent as a triple integral function and then focused on the mathematical processes.

The French pneumatic manufacturer Michelin hired him because he was from Brazil and had plans to bolster its faltering businesses there.

Carlos rose quickly in the hierarchy and was promoted director of a new factory at the age of 27, then was dispatched to Brazil where inflation was rampant and managed to turn the Michelin branch in South America around to profitability within 3 years.

Carlos was transferred to the USA and did an excellent job restructuring the merger with the faltering pneumatic company Uniroyal-Goodrich.

By the time he left to join the car manufacturer Renault, the multinational Michelin was doing 60% of its profit from the USA branch.

Carlos was 41 years old when he decided on his second major move; chiefly because, as Michelin is primarily a family business, he was not ever to become the number one man and no further promotion to be expected.

He was working for 3 years at Renault when it acquired 36% of the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan.

Nissan was a multinational company and was experiencing certain death after years of losses. Carlos was dispatched to Japan to take the helm of the board of directors of Nissan. And he was successful within 3 years, and Nissan was back into profitability without any dept.

Carlos Ghosn is expected to take over Renault in 2005 when Louis Schweitzer goes to retirement.

What struck me in the first part of Carlos’ autobiography is the parallel in the genesis of Carlos Ghosn life with thousands of Lebanese, and particularly mine.

The grandfather of Carlos, Bichara , was from Kesrouan and a Maronite who immigrated to Brazil because of the famine, which  killed over 200,000 Lebanese in WWI, when he was 13 years of age.

Bechara was penniless and illiterate and left from the port of Beirut during the Ottoman Empire, thus a ‘Turco’, as the Syrians and Lebanese had Turkish passports.

The trip lasted 3 months and ended in Rio de Janeiro. Bichara traveled to the region of Guapore with Capital Porto Velho, in the Amazon and close to Bolivia. Bechara died at the age of 53 from a minor surgery after establishing 3 industries: commerce in cereals, rubber and airline travel and begetting 4 boys and 4 girls. (My grandfather also succumbed from an appendix surgery)

Ghosn’s father Jorge took over the airline business and visited Lebanon where he married Rose, nicknamed Zetta, who studied at the French school of Besancon and whose father worked in Nigeria.

Carlos suffered a gastric illness and was taken to Rio and then shipped to Beirut with his mother at the age of six in 1960 where the climate was fairer and the water cleaner.

Jorge visited his family one summer every two years. (The same pattern with my family who worked in Africa and had us living in a boarding school)

Carlos did his primary and secondary education at a Jesuit institution called Notre Dame of Jamhour. Carlos was multilingual, Portuguese, Arabic, French, English, and lately some Japanese.  He struggled continuously with his primary language as he moved around and settled for a while in a country.

Carlos had passion for history and geography and secondly literature.

In 1971, Carlos finished his secondary schooling and had no definite specialty in mind.  He left to Paris to continue his higher education.  At the instigation of one of his teacher, Carlos was directed to study higher math and he enrolled in the college of Polytechnic and on to the University of Mines.

During Lebanon civil war that started in 1975, Carlos’ mother and sister in Lebanon traveled to Paris and then continued to Brazil where they settled with his father.

When Carlos, at the age of 27, was assigned as director of operations for the Michelin businesses in Brazil he decided to marry Rita, a 20 years old Lebanese student in pharmacy in Lyon.  They have 3 daughters and one son.

It is necessary to dwell on the training program in Michelin that enriched Carlos and offered him the opportunities to learn the management and financial skills and progress.

It is his formation at Michelin that provided Carlos with a wide spectrum for tackling general and particular problems in faltering enterprises.  Michelin hired Carlos in 1978 and he travels to Clermont Ferrand.

In the first 3 months, the new recruits for all types of functions follow the same program consisting of conferences given by the main directors on the different aspects of the business and backed up by small real operational problems to find simple solutions for them.

The new recruits lived together and they learn to go through the transition between a student life and the active one.  This training program also offered management a profile of the new recruits and their potentials in different sectors of the business.

At the end of the training period, Carlos is affected to work for another 3 months in a factory preparing the rubber that will be turned into tires.  His work consists of cutting the rubber, rolling it up, inserting it into moulds and then transporting it, but the best part is the fraternity that is created among the workers and the future bosses.

Carlos is promoted foreman for a group of workers in a new factory at Puy-en-Velay.  Six months later he is dispatched to Karlsruhe, Germany, to get training on quality control, then training in industrial organization at the factory in Tours.  He is promoted group chief of production for a year at the factory in Cholet.

In 1981, Carlos is 27 years old and director of the new factory where he worked as foreman and will stay 2 years and three months.

Carlos is summoned to headquarter to meet with the ‘Boss’ Francois Michelin; the Boss assigns him the task of investigating the troubles of the straggling affiliate Kleber-Colombes.

Carlos works with the director of finance Behrouz Chahid-Nourai and discover the concept of “cross manufacturing” for utilizing the same tools of production for several products under different brands.

After offering his recommendations to revitalize Kleber-Colombes he is affected to the research department for a year, the job that Michelin initially contemplated that he might fit better in the company.

In June 1985 Carlos is promoted director of operations in Brazil.

In February 1989, Carlos takes over the operations in the USA and settles in Greenville South Carolina.

This training formation at Michelin is at the foundation of Carlos concept of forming leaders in any enterprise.

The primary task of the ‘Boss’ of any institution is to send everyone with potential to the hot fronts, on the fields (terrains) where difficulties are observed and then offer them chances to fail sometimes.

It is by providing opportunities to learn and prove leadership that the ‘Boss’ can insure the survival of his enterprise when he decides to retire.

The leaders of tomorrow are formed from the challenges of today and the clever ‘Boss’ should end up with a wide choice of alternative leaders when the time to retire is near.

When a general director is hired he had to assume and embrace the responsibilities of the past, present, and future status of the enterprise; he is not allowed to dwell on excuses from past failures as if they were not of his doing.

A general director has to first gather all the current facts and information on the institution and base his theory on this intelligence. The boss has to feel the enterprise and the clients by frequent visit to the different sections of the business and proffer the same message everywhere; the boss does not have to comprehend in depth every facet of the business, that is the job of the specialists whose task is to adequately summarize the topic so that the boss is in apposition to take decisions.

The boss should not forget for a moment that the crux of the matter is to produce quality products and be able to sell them, otherwise, if diversification into other businesses is undertaken without close supervision to the core business then the enterprise will suffer ultimately.

The next part will focus on the professional aspects of Carlos when he was selected to head the operations of reviving Nissan from certain death in 1999 and the successive performances and the systemic failures in Japan culture for running an enterprise.

 

 


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

May 2020
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