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Don’t fear failure: Robb Recommends Risks

Don’t fear failure: Robb Recommends Risks

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A 42-year veteran of General Electric who climbed the ladder to ultimately work directly for Jack Welsh, Dr. Walter Robb says that all of his successes have come from taking risks – starting with his first lemonade stand as a young child. Robb, author of a new book called “Taking Risks: Getting Ahead in Business and Life,” detailed some of his many career triumphs during a keynote presentation at the September 30 NSTC Business Breakfast held in Peabody, MA.

Robb started at GE as a bench engineer and advanced steadily in management positions to senior vice president, eventually growing the company’s medical systems division from a $200,000 to a $1 billion operation. Robb detailed key business decisions and accomplishments including, his division’s development of the fastest CT scanner on the market and the first digital ultrasound machine, as well as a profit-boosting strategy to manage silicon pricing. The CT scanner project “saved” GE’s x-ray business, he said, and today the medical systems division sees approximately $18 billion in revenue.

“Every time I took a risk in business I can point to the sales that came from it,” Robb said. “Don’t fear failure. Learn everything you can before committing to a decision, then have a schedule and know that it means something. Be conservative and then beat your estimate.”

Robb emphasized the importance of knowing your competition and taking risks to go beyond what others are doing. “There’s no question that you have to know what the competition is doing and you have to assume they will succeed at some of what they are doing. If you match them, you’ll get average results – so don’t do it. Find something that gives you an advantage.”

Currently, Robb is a management consultant, serves on the Boards of six start-ups, and is CEO of a small fuel cell company. A chemical engineer with a B.S. from Penn State and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Robb holds 12 patents and is a published author in multiple professional journals.

The September 30 breakfast event was sponsored by Pepper Hamilton.