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 user 2008-04-07 at 11:42:26 am Views: 38
  • #19526

    Departures threatening turnaround,INKJET PRINTER BUSINESS BEING RETOOLED
    senior and mid-level managers have left Lexmark International in recent
    months, leading some to ask whether the struggling company can complete
    an ambitious turnaround plan.Gone are vice presidents in marketing and
    finance, taking with them decades of experience at one of Lexington’s
    largest employers.Those who left and agreed to talk said their
    decisions were personal, but industry observers and one who left said
    they can see why some might be compelled to move.

    inkjet printer division has struggled since the latter half of 2005, as
    customers weren’t buying enough of the highly profitable ink
    cartridges. The company has decided to tailor its marketing and sales
    to countries where customers print the most. To adjust to its shrinking
    demand, the company has shuttered two plants and eliminated or shuffled
    thousands of employees worldwide.”I’ve always believed in Lexmark, and
    they’ve had a lot of challenges,” said Ben Smith, who left Lexmark in
    2006 for a job in Washington, D.C., and has since relocated to rival
    Kodak’s Atlanta office. “The things they’re doing now … if they had
    been doing them say four years ago, they wouldn’t be in the hole
    they’re in today.”Those leaving Lexmark haven’t had trouble finding
    jobs. Along with Smith at Kodak’s Atlanta offices are more members of
    Lexmark’s marketing team. And a recruiter for industry leader
    Hewlett-Packard recently posted job openings on an Internet message
    board frequented by some Lexmark employees.

    The departed
    those who left were the leaders of an advertising campaign aiming to
    resuscitate the company’s inkjet printer division.Jeff Willard helped
    orchestrate the campaign promoting the wireless inkjet lineup but left
    last October for Helen of Troy, where he now helps pitch products under
    the Vidal Sassoon and Dr. Scholl’s brands. He had worked at Lexmark for
    nine years.

    Also gone are:
    • Jeff Meredith, Willard’s replacement. He could not be reached.
    • Vince Young, another marketing employee who left for Kodak.
    • Marketing’s Matt Franz, who also went to Kodak.
    • Finance executive Scott Lannum, who had worked for Lexmark for 12 years and declined to say where he now works.
    • Finance executive Dave Saunders.
    who agreed to talk, like Willard, complimented Lexmark and said their
    decisions were personal.”At the end of the day, I just needed to do
    something different,” Willard said. “If I had been working at HP for
    nine years doing printers, I would have been ready to do something
    different from there.”Another factor on the minds of some could be the
    company’s poor stock performance, said Tom Carpenter, vice president
    and senior equity analyst at Hilliard Lyons in Louisville.”The stock
    price is roughly the same as it was 10 years ago,” he said. “And
    similar hardware companies have seen their stocks rise by 50 or 100
    percent or more over that same timeframe.”

    Jobs for the taking
    looking to leave aren’t finding it hard since expanding rivals are
    snatching them up.”There’s some aggressive companies out there like HP
    and Samsung, and Kodak’s trying to come on strong,” said Larry Jamieson
    of industry tracker Lyra Research.”I think in some cases, people might
    want to say, ‘I would like to stay here, but how many times do I get
    the possibility of moving to a company that’s expanding?’”HP took its
    efforts public when a recruiter posted on a Yahoo Finance message board
    earlier this year, inviting Lexmark employees to apply for a variety of
    job openings. An HP spokesman declined to discuss the post.And
    Lexmark’s shrinking revenue, Carpenter said, might make employees,
    particularly those on the struggling inkjet side, “stop and think,
    ‘Will my job still be here five years from now?’”"And that’s a question
    that’s very hard to answer.”Lexmark executives said in a written
    statement that they could not comment on any particular employee’s
    departure but that “as at all companies, people leave Lexmark for a
    variety of reasons.”"Clearly, these are difficult times for the
    company,” the statement added. Executives said the company has “the
    necessary talent to execute our core strategic objectives.”But industry
    observers said the departures will make it tougher to quickly convert
    those strategic ideas into practice. After all, the upper-level and
    mid-level managers are the ones tasked with carrying the top team’s
    message to the rank-and-file, Jamieson said.

    And the company’s struggles make it tough to bring in people from outside.
    got to convince them that they can come in and help turn it around, and
    people have to risk their future on that,” Jamieson said.Carpenter said
    Lexmark is more likely to promote from within, “which is good because
    you have people who have experience with the company.” Carpenter’s firm
    owned at least 1 percent of Lexmark’s stock on behalf of clients at the
    end of February.Lexmark noted just that in its statement, writing “each
    departure we’ve experienced recently has created opportunities for
    internal candidates, which reflects the overall quality of the talent
    pool available to us.”But Carpenter warned that internal candidates
    might not always be the best to execute a new plan.”Sometimes you might
    keep trying a similar strategy over and over again,” he said.