It’s impossible to turn on the television or pick up a newspaper without hearing or reading about Halliburton. That’s why Chief Executive Officer, Chairman and PresidentÂ David LesarÂ has a very pointed strategy — stay out of the political tussle and focus on effectively communicating with its customers and more than 100,000 employees.
During a recent visit to Mays Business School, Lesar discussed the company’s media strategy and fielded questions from first-year Mays MBA students. While he admits it’s been trying at times to be under such constant scrutiny, he has also kept a sense of humor.
“I’m probably the only CEO of a company in American that reads the front page of the paper to see how we are related to the war, then reads the business section to see how we are covered and then goes to the comics to see if we’re in Doonesbury,” said Lesar, who joined Halliburton in 1993 and assumed the chief post in 2000 when Dick Cheney stepped down to become vice president. “Then I’ll turn on the television at night to see if we pop up on Letterman’s top 10 list.”
Lesar pointed out the very real implications of bad press, particularly in how it affects employee moral. That’s why the company has introduced an intranet where employees can gain information. And Lesar, himself, has written editorials and appeared on all the major television news shows.
“You don’t want to become a punching bag,” said Lesar, who was a partner at Arthur Andersen in Dallas prior to joining Halliburton. “You have to fight back.”
For Lesar, dealing with the media isn’t something he learned during his business school days at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned BS and MBA degrees. That’s why he encouraged Mays MBA students to more fully develop their communication and teamwork skills, as well as to keep an open mind about their future careers.
“I am a big believer in public universities because they help you develop a great work ethic,” he told the audience. “As you enter your careers, let the sky be the limit. I’m perfect proof of what you will go through — you never know which direction your career will go.”