Extraordinary Grit

Excerpt from Memoirs of a Fortune 200 Business Executive

by Jack Murray

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a successful business executive for a Fortune 200 company?

Meet Art Murray, an ordinary man with extraordinary grit, who was President and Chief Executive Officer of one of the largest cookie manufacturing companies in the United States. Before hearing his inspiring story of his fast-paced career spanning 40 years, from 1959 to 1999, walk with him as he describes an ordinary typical day in his extraordinary life.

The alarm blares at 4 a.m., signaling Art to wake up and start his day. He briefly catches up on business news while drinking his trademark half cup of coffee. “Why only a half cup?”

Art chuckles, “I like my coffee hot, and a full cup gets cold before I finish it.” Then it’s off to the racquetball club for a 5 a.m. match with colleagues. Working up an intense sweat, Art plays to win, just like he plays to win in business.

Arriving at the office at 7 a.m. before any of his coworkers, Art takes advantage of the quiet time before phone calls, meetings and plant tours consume his day. In a mere hour, he reviews a stack of resumes for hiring a new vice president, outlines a proposal for reducing production costs on a core product and prepares an agenda for a business acquisition meeting.

As his coworkers arrive to work, Art walks the halls of the corporate office and makes a point to greet everyone by name. Upon his return to his office, he is met with a half dozen phone calls and over a dozen internal memos requiring his attention. To stay on top of communication, Art addresses them immediately to clear his schedule for the busy day ahead. On this particular day, he discusses ideas for reducing production costs with the plant manager and corporate engineers. Later, he attends a service awards recognition ceremony, and shakes hands with all production personnel as they walk to the cafeteria for a celebration with cake and coffee.

Lunch is never on Art’s agenda; instead, he nibbles on cookies and crackers all dayAlong with his engineering team, Art travels to a vendor’s plant to view new equipment that they’ve determined will reduce production costs. Back at the office, he meets with his senior sales and marketing team to discuss the company’s display booth at the next Food Marketing Institute trade show. Having a little fun with creative ideas adds some levity to their day.

In the early afternoon, Art attends the monthly commodity committee meeting chaired by the purchasing department to review weather and crop conditions affecting the prices of wheat, vegetable oils, sugar and cocoa. It was essential information to know in making future buying decisions for those commodities.

Art then meets with the senior finance and accounting staff, led by the chief financial officer (CFO), to review financial results, cash projections and manufacturing efficiencies, and to analyze the effectiveness of promotional and marketing spending. Art ends his day with a briefing with his administrative assistant to summarize that day’s events, and his schedule for the next day.

Art’s day doesn’t end at work. That evening, he and his wife enjoy dinner out with a few senior managers and their spouses to promote team spirit and camaraderie, mixing a little bit of business with pleasure. Art feels it’s important to know his senior staff and their spouses to foster good personal relationships.

If Art is lucky, he will grab a few winks of sleep before his 7 a.m. flight to the West Coast the next morning, but mostly he will be running on adrenalin. As he sums up himself, “The pace is always fast. The work is always there — the hours are always long. The vacations are always short. The challenges are always motivating, and positive results are always celebrated. Yet, I make it a priority to always find time for my family and for a little fun. It is quite a balancing act that requires extraordinary time and energy. Most people think I am a nut job, but I am loving every minute of it.”