Maybe a hard rough exterior covered this manager’s caring and concerned heart. Maybe he had learned this as a motivational technique—to get a man’s attention first and then show him that “we” are in this together. Maybe he was just a man who instinctively knew men. Whatever it was, this man exemplified to Tom Watson a core set of values that would lay the foundation for his future success.
On Black Tuesday, the Stock Market plunged 13%. Ugly crowds full of fear, uncertainty and doubt milled about the streets surrounding Wall Street. This wasn’t the first or the last plunge, but it was the beginning of an almost four-year drop in industrial production.
The market would continue its decline to lose almost 90% of its value. Companies hundreds of times larger than The IBM, with deeper financial pockets, with better connected executives, with better diversification, with longer and more prestigious histories and with access to funds that The IBM could only dream about were failing all around him.
At the Great Depression’s trough, one in four people were unemployed. Unlike today, these were single income households; there were no credit cards to carry the family through the month and the loss of that lone income was the supreme financial disaster. The loss of that next paycheck meant immediate hunger, standing in food lines, homelessness and possible starvation. Men committed suicide rather than face their own failure.
Tom Watson felt that pain, and it was a great burden for him as a concerned Chief Executive Officer. He felt the constant need to employ more men.