August 25, 1997
Roberto C. Goizueta
Ours… to mold and shape as we will.
That’s what these two days are about.
This morning, Dr. Thurow has given us a fascinating look into the competitive environment and the future of the global economy. A look that is certainly thought-provoking. And a look that is, honestly, a little sobering.
The harsh reality us that the future will bring tremendous competitive pressures.
Businesspeople have been concerned with competition for thousands of years. But, as Dr. Thurow said, the pace and scope of change in business today are demonstrably greater than they have ever been before.
Change is always unsettling, and chaotic change can be demoralizing. Moreover, in today’s world, the stakes are higher than ever… for any business that fails to manage the multiple revolutions that are taking place right now: revolutions in information and technology, customers and consumers.
That is the harsh reality.
But the good news is that the future will also bring immense opportunities for us – for the Coca-Cola business system – for those of us in this room.
In an increasingly global and sophisticated age of business, who is better positioned to thrive than us… arguably, the world’s only truly global business system?
Who in the world… literally, who in the entire world… is in better position?
I think we all would agree on the answer to that question.
I don’t believe there is any business system, anywhere, that is better positioned to prosper and grow on a global level… to reach consumers in every corner of every country.
This world is full of businesses that vow to become “Number One”… but we are Number One.
This world is full of businesses that promise to become the people’s choice…But we already are the people’s choice… we already have the most popular brand in the world. In fact, we have four of the top five soft drink brands.
This world is full of businesses that want to become a global player… but we are in nearly 200 countries right now.
As I see it, that is a giant head start. I cannot think of one business that is in a better position to succeed than ours.
So as we look forward, I want to share some thoughts on who we are, and what we do – in our separate endeavors, and together as one business system – the Coca-Cola system.
We know that people engage in commerce to make money – to provide for themselves and their families.
But I believe a business… is more than just that.
Davis Packard, the late founder of the technology firm Hewlett-Packard, once put it this way. He said: “A group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company, so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately.”
I believe that is true of each of our respective companies. But what’s more, I believe it is uniquely true of the Coca-Cola business system – a system that works together… for the mutual benefit of our companies, our share holders, our customers and our consumers alike… unlike any other business system in the world.
We – as individuals, and as companies in this system – have come together to accomplish something collectively that we could not separately.
We have chosen to heed what the author Michael Novak calls “The Calling of Business” – doing more together than we ever could apart.
That has been true for decades now. This system grew and prospered on Robert Woodruff’s idea that everyone connected with this Coca-Cola business should benefit. Today, that idea still works, more than ever, to the benefit of our organizations – and to the benefit of our colleagues, and our communities.
We, personally, all have been enriched by the success of Coca-Cola. So have many others in our organizations. But just as important are the external benefits that are generated by business systems such as ours.
We can be proud of this system… and proud of what it has done. In a day and time when it is fashionable to criticize and condemn business… we can and should be proud of what this 111-year old enterprise means… to employees of our companies, to suppliers, to customers, to consumers, to investors and to communities.
And we should not be shy about spreading that message.
Think of the billions and billions of dollars our system spends in salaries, equipment, marketing, operations… that spending cascades through the economies of thousands of towns in nearly 200 countries.
We know that for every job inside our companies, as many as 10 more jobs are created in the industries that supply us and the customers that sell our products.
And the profits from an enterprise with the size and scope of ours… fuel not only further investment but also charitable and community efforts.
Because of that… because of our size and scope… many millions of people are counting on us.
But the size and scope of our business mean something else, too. They mean vast opportunity. They mean real, actionable potential that truly is unique in the business world.
In a time when trade barriers are tumbling… in a time when democratic capitalism is the economic system of choice, worldwide… every company with more than a dozen people is wondering how to tap the ascending consumer economies of Latin America… Eastern Europe… Asia… Africa.
Every business system would like to capitalize on the global future that Dr. Thurow spoke of.
But if you look around this room… you will see the leadership of one of the few business systems… that truly can.
This business system is something special. None of us created it… but we are the stewards of it.
And that’s a weighty job. The privilege of being associated with the finest business system in the world carries with it a great responsibility.
It is a responsibility that is easily stated… but not easily fulfilled. It is the responsibility each of us has – to our investors, to our colleagues, to our companies, to our communities.
It is our responsibility to make this the premiere business system in the world… not just in 1997, but in 2007… and beyond.
It is our responsibility to leave this business… which has been so good to us… stronger than we found it.
One system… with one future.
These two days are about the responsibility we have – and the steps that our business… and our changing world… demand of us.
Three years ago, here at Monte-Carlo, we said the challenges before us were two tangible business activities: marketing, plus production and distribution. Also, two less tangible concerns: skills and commitment.
Those concerns, of course, are still our concerns. They are too important to address once and put aside. They are not areas we can ever fix once and for all.
As well as we have done since the last time we met… 1994’s solutions are not good enough for 1997. And they certainly won’t be enough for the next century.
We must continue to elevate our marketing… our production and distribution. Those things are our business. And we will talk at length this morning about one new tool for driving our business, Project Infinity.
Yet, we know we must also have new skills and renewed commitment – and that goes to people…a topic so important to this enterprise that we will devote much of tomorrow’s session to the discussion of it.
I realize that this development of our people, … this education of our people will be an expensive activity. But if you think that education is expensive, just wait till you see what ignorance costs you. The most dangerous employee we can have around is an articulate incompetent.
And so, in short, this is really our agenda for this meeting – how our business will function, and the people who will make it happen.
Many good things have taken place since we last met here. In many ways, it has been the greatest three years in our history. Our performance in 1994 pales in comparison to today.
That is cause for celebration, of course. But that should also serve to remind us of our responsibility – the responsibility we have to surpass even today’s performance and set the next standard for the Coca-Cola system.
If this system is to remain the great business venture, that it is… then the work of building it, improving it… can never really be finished.
Over these two days, we will talk a great deal about what each of us can do to take this business system to an even higher standard… to increase our case sales volume, raise our market share, and build an even greater legacy of success.
You will hear about some things the Company is doing… and we want to hear from you, about what your companies are doing. I hope we can have honest, open discussions of the issues and opportunities before us.
We will not – and should not – agree on everything.
But I hope we can agree on some very bold aspirations – and on some very bold steps to take. And I hope we can all leave here and begin putting the thoughts that come from these two days… into action.
I believe all of us really do feel a special calling… as part of the Coca-Cola system.
We know what leadership is… in our industry, and in our communities.
We know the challenges that leadership brings… and we know the opportunities.
We know the pride of being a part of this magnificent enterprise… the Coca-Cola system… 111 years in the making. We know the responsibility that this association brings.
And I do not believe that a single one of us… would have it any other way.
This is a great time to be a part of the Coca-Cola system. The chance to refine a system like this… to add to the success we have created and nurtured and enjoyed together… to invent our own future… is something and businessperson would envy.
And we will accomplish this by being neither critics nor cheerleaders of each other, but by being loyal players in the same team, … by fighting side by side in the same arena.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts – not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again… who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
On behalf of everyone at The Coca-Cola Company, we appreciate your partnership. We’re thirsty for the opportunity to work with you, truly as one system, toward one future.