hich consumer news market gave the
most coverage to the intended acquisition of Rosenbluth
International by American Express?
Not Rosenbluth's headquarters city of Philadelphia. Not Amex's
hometown, New York -- The Wall Street Journal didn't even mention
the deal on the day after the announcement. The answer: Bismarck,
Do a Google news search on Rosenbluth and you'll see coverage
from North Dakota media dominating the results. TV stations like
KFYR and KXMC. The Bismarck Tribune.
If you've had a conversation with Hal Rosenbluth recently,
you'll understand why. When he and I spoke toward the end of last
year, all he wanted to talk about was his ranch near Linton, N.D. I
wanted to discuss airlines, he wanted to talk about cattle. We
talked about cattle.
So I wasn't surprised that, as soon as the press conference
announcing the deal had ended, he flew off to Linton to meet with
the 145 Rosenbluth employees at a call center there. He would be
telling them that the center was guaranteed to be open for a
minimum of four years, and that no positions would be cut in that
time period. It was, he said, the only office in the world that he
insisted stay open, because "there's a shortage of jobs in that
Rosenbluth literally has written books about the importance of
maintaining great management/employee relations, and how it's the
key to exceptional customer service and growth. His company (as
well as Amex) is consistently listed as one of Fortune magazine's
"100 Best Companies to Work for in America."
His philosophy regarding employee relationships often surfaced
when he analyzed industry segments that affected corporate travel.
Hal is known for issuing white papers that, a year after they're
issued, seem prophetic. In "A Fare Plan for Airline Recovery,"
which he submitted as an exhibit when he testified before the U.S.
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last
September, he identifies logical airline mergers, and can't help
but note that if Northwest were to join with Continental and
Alaska, it would "prosper from ... the many employee-friendly
policies" of the other two carriers.
Investing in employee morale always has meant more than benign
paternalism to Rosenbluth. He built a management retreat, The
Rivery, in North Dakota, and held training sessions there. The food
was gourmet, but the activities were challenging, both mentally and
physically. The ultimate lessons taught there were that teamwork
and communication -- not top-down directives -- are key to building
Because Rosenbluth International has been family-owned for 111
years, one might assume that Hal walked into an executive position
in a successful company, and could afford to manage it using
idealistic principles. But note: When he joined the company in
1974, it had $20 million in sales. Today its sales are in excess of
I suspect that whatever profit comes his way in the Amex deal,
equally valuable to him will be the sentiment reflected in the July
17 Bismarck Tribune editorial praising -- with Midwestern economy
-- his virtues as an employer: "What a guy."