HUMAN RESOURCES

Sumner and His Discontent

Did the 83-year-old tycoon cross the line by firing Tom Cruise with so much fanfare? Or did he demonstrate strong leadership?
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Short of saying "you'll never work in this town again," Sumner Redstone held little back in August when announcing that Paramount Pictures had severed ties with Tom Cruise after a 14-year business relationship. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the 83-year-old chairman of Viacom (NYSE:VIA), Paramount's parent company, said, "We don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot." Since few bosses discuss a firing with such candor, we asked entrepreneurs whether they found Redstone's comments refreshing or unprofessional.

What goes around…
"If I were Redstone, I would keep in mind that Tom Cruise had once been a valuable asset. Even though he is no longer going to be part of my organization, I would still want him to have as good a feeling about the company as possible. Cruise made Viacom a lot of money, and the last thing you want to do is burn bridges in a small industry."

Todd Palmer, president of Diversified Industrial Staffing, a staffing firm in Troy, Michigan

Courage
"Saying that Cruise's erratic behavior was the reason for firing him was very courageous. Essentially he is saying we as a company won't stand for this kind of behavior."

Rose Wang, CEO of Binary Consulting, an IT services company in Bethesda, Maryland

A bashing is forever
"You never really know if a business relationship is truly over. Things change, people come back, and you might even have a better relationship with them next time because of the things you learned when you parted. But once you bash people, that's what they are going to remember, even if you had a great relationship with them for years. That's what sticks."

Sandra James, president of Private Eyes, a Walnut Creek, California, company that handles background checks

Bad word of mouth
"While it may be good for the ego, it does not seem like a good business practice to publicly air dirty laundry. Negative word of mouth is the single most detrimental situation a company can encounter over the long term, and anything that contributes to negative word of mouth-- like a big firing--should be avoided at all costs."

John Ratliff, CEO of Appletree Answering Services, a Wilmington, Delaware, company that provides telephone answering services

Stay above the fray
"As chairman, Redstone's job is to provide a significant return on investment for shareholders and make sure the business is run effectively. When there's a problem with a star, a company spokesperson should comment--not the chairman."

Christopher Rosica, CEO of Rosica Strategic Public Relations, a Paramus, New Jersey, PR firm

It's his business
"I think it's great that Redstone didn't sugarcoat it. Too many people hide behind political correctness. It seems as if gone are the days when you could make decisions based on what is right for your company; there are so many firing guidelines. I think it's your business and you should be able to make whatever decision you want."

Zak Brown, president and CEO of Just Marketing International, a Zionsville, Indiana, company that puts together motor sports sponsorships

Last updated: Nov 1, 2006




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