• Leadership
  • CFO.com | US

Pushing People Buttons ’til It Hertz

The rental-car firm's CEO offers eye-raising views on CFOs and front-line workers.

(Left unclear was which CFO Frissora was talking about. Company headquarters will soon relocate from New Jersey to Florida, and finance chief Elyse Douglas resigned effective Oct. 1 rather than establish residency in the Sunshine State, as Hertz’s board asked key executives to do. She’d held the post for six years. David Rosenberg, CFO of Hertz International, is an interim replacement for Douglas.)

But here’s the Frissora comment that bothered me most. He spoke of Hertz’s culture being bound up with what the company calls TOM, or “total open mind,” a shorthand for an entrepreneurial, innovative orientation. He said, “We celebrate people who truly have a TOM attitude; we hold them up as examples. By contrast, with people who don’t walk the talk or just don’t have the values, you need to make an example of them as well. You have to make sure that when they leave the company everyone knows why they’ve left.”

I can understand why he feels that way. Still, it conjures an unpleasant image in my mind, perhaps of a medieval-style executioner roaming the aisles at HQ, lopping heads off the closed-minded in graphic public view.

At various employers during my career, I’ve been in meetings where the names of recently departed employees were dragged through the mud. I found that uncomfortable and, worse, unnecessary. The reasons for firings are usually apparent, and even if they’re not they generally get out in the open anyway, one way or another. And if a company strongly promotes a particular cultural attribute, employees who resist should be aware enough to expect consequences. But should they have to witness the purposeful denigration of former, perhaps-beloved co-workers?

Not that denigration is necessarily what Frissora was recommending. I didn’t intend in 1990 to pick on Hertz, and I don’t now. Oh, by the way, in their most recently completed fiscal years, Avis’s $7.4 billion in revenue was about a single coating of paint behind Hertz’s $7.5 billion. The companies will respectively issue 10-K’s for 2013 next February and March. I’ve got butterflies already.

Photo credit: Atomic Taco.

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