WIUM Tristates Public Radio

WIU Alumnus Turns Around Companies

May 16, 2018

Western Illinois University's inaugural Business Leadership Symposium, hosted by the College of Business and Technology, featured an alumnus who has earned a reputation for fixing businesses. Bob Nardelli's new firm is XLR-8, LLC, Investment & Advisory Co, which he said follows three basic fundamentals when fixing businesses:

  • Enhancing the core
  • Extending the business
  • Expanding the market

“That strategic view, which you can put on one sheet of paper, has served me extremely well,” said Nardelli.

“When I was at Home Depot we had 330,000 associates, and everyone understood that three-pronged approach to success. And we always said if you’re not working in one of those verticals, you need to raise your hand and tell us because we all agree that’s how we’re going to go from $40 billion to over $90 billion in revenue in five years. We opened 1,000 stores – a new store every 48 hours.”

Nardelli is also credited with helping turn around GE and Chrysler. 

He said success sometimes breeds complacency, which then leads to the need for someone to come in and provide a fix.  He said companies today must innovate; otherwise they will evaporate.

Nardelli earned a degree in Business from WIU in 1971.  He was a three year letterman on the football team and served as its co-captain his senior year.  He said those seasons of playing offensive guard for the Leathernecks taught him lessons he applies to the business world.

“We used to run 60 to 80 plays a game and you had to have instantaneous decision making, almost like muscle memory,” he said, pointing out defensive personnel changes, offensive audibles, and weather conditions all forced players to think on their feet. 

“The ability to make those decisions within seconds really helped me make a quick ‘yes,’ a quick ‘no,’ and you couldn’t survive on slow ‘maybes.’”

Nardelli believes companies have a responsibility to give back to the communities they’re located in and respect those communities.  And he believes brick and mortar stores still have a place in today’s retail world even though many shoppers are turning to the web to make purchases.

“I think (for example) Home Depot is blessed because you could buy some of those things online but you cannot buy the advice and the counsel you get from the associate on the floor to help you with that project,” he said.

"I believe the omni-channel approach of bricks and clicks will be critically important."

WIU’s Business Leadership Symposium also featured two other alumni.  Tye Taylor is a consultant and entrepreneur, and Holly Van Vlymen is WIU’s Assistant Athletic Director for Academics and Student-Athlete Development.