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Veteran’s Day

As Carly Fiorina stirs change at Hewlett-Packard, ''old-timer'' Bob Wayman reinforces the company's venerable past.

Carly Fiorina didn’t bring a bevy of lieutenants with her when she headed west to Hewlett-Packard Co. from Lucent Technologies Corp. in July 1999. In the finance area, she counted on CFO Robert Wayman, entering his fourth decade at HP, to reinforce her message that the transformation she envisioned would draw on–and not divert–HP’s essential inventive culture.

But that was only the start of her reliance on Wayman. “He has an excellent understanding of HP’s history, what we have done, what we need to change, and how the changes might be implemented most successfully,” says Fiorina, who also values “his credibility with the senior team.”

Their collaboration has paid off so far at the venerable 61-year-old company, literally started in a garage by William Hewlett and the late David Packard. Revenue growth doubled to 15 percent in its past fiscal year (ended October 31) as the nation’s second-largest computer maker neared $50 billion in annual sales. Meanwhile, Wayman’s asset management has reduced the percentage of revenue that net property, plant, and equipment represents in the past 2 years from 13 to 9, while holding the inventory-to-sales ratio steady at 12 percent.

Against this backdrop, Fiorina, 46, a Stanford University graduate in medieval history and philosophy, has launched a dramatic overhaul at HP. Last year, she sharply reduced the number of separate business divisions, stripping dozens of managers–albeit without layoffs–of the units they once headed. In September, her ambitions for IT services became clearer when HP announced plans to acquire the consulting business of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP for $18 billion. The decision may have been hers, but it will be Wayman’s job to bring the two diverse companies together. And the task must be accomplished as HP battles some of the keenest competitors in the New Economy–companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Dell Computer Corp.

A healthy personal chemistry between the 55-year-old Wayman and his boss–whom he describes as “a CFO’s delight” because of how she blends her vision with a bottom-line sensibility–seems to augur well for the company. Boeing Co. CEO Philip Condit, an outside Hewlett-Packard director who has watched Fiorina and Wayman work together this past year, says their mix of metered experience and boundless imagination represents a real strength. “I believe that a great team is not made up of a bunch of people who are all the same,” Condit says. “There are huge challenges” facing HP, “but the only way to avoid those is to go hide in the weeds somewhere. And they are very definitely not doing that.”

CFO magazine senior editor Roy Harris recently sat down with Wayman at HP’s Palo Alto, California, offices to discuss his working arrangement with Fiorina, HP’s culture, and the plans they are implementing.

You are the senior member among the Hewlett-Packard executives that Carly Fiorina left in place after her 1999 appointment. As such, do you see yourself having a special role here, carrying on some of the corporate culture at HP?

It’s hard to describe yourself as special, at least it is for me. But there is no question that I’m an old-timer. I’ve been with the company for 31 years. But what’s most important, as all of your readers know, is that at good companies, the CFO and the CEO must be joined at the hip, or at the very least the ankle.

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