As a culture, we love to try to determine how successful someone will be in a huge job based on the first 100 days. We do it regularly with the President of the US and now there is the same examination occurring with Tim Armstrong, the recently minted CEO of AOL. Much like our struggling economy AOL needs some real help and Armstrong was brought in to get the once high-flying Internet giant back among the ranks of the heavyweights. So how’s it going thus far?
The Wall Street Journal reports some of the information that has been given out during the AOL / Armstrong Summer Tour ’09. Interviews appear in Ad Age and paidContent.org and tell the tale of the new AOL. The AOL that is being sent into its own orbit from Time Warner and the AOL that is determined to get over its past to look forward to its future. While all of the talk is nice, it remains to be seen just whether or not AOL can get anywhere near where it was during the go-go days when it actually set the pace rather than breathing in others’ exhaust fumes like they do now.
The details or even the specific business areas that are being focused on, are not nearly as important to turning things around at AOL as the company’s morale is.
One of the first items on the to-do list for Mr. Armstrong, a 38-year-old former Google ad-sales executive who joined AOL in April, is to revive morale. The company’s base of about 7,000 employees is less than half its peak during the dot-com boom.
Mr. Armstrong spent the first 100 days of his tenure hosting meetings with more than 6,000 employees at AOL offices in 16 cities across the globe, from Bangalore, India, to Denver. Last week, he played in a baseball game with other AOL employees against pop stars the Jonas Brothers at the company’s Dulles, Va., campus. Mr. Armstrong says he also used his tour to survey the company’s operations and determine strategy.
The culture at AOL has taken a significant beating during its fall from grace. While it was not revealed just how many of the remaining employees have been at the company for an extended period that kind of upheaval takes a toll. It is a toll that will take more than just a strong first 100 days to get past. Have you ever been at a company when the new guard is brought in? Even if you have the most dynamic person in the world coming in (like an Armstrong) there will be a significant number of people who will be hearing the Who singing “Meet the new boss, it’s the same as the old boss!”. That takes time to either surgically remove or radically reshape.
All of this change is taking place during one of the worst downturns of recent memory as well, so Armstrong certainly has his work cut out for him. Rather than me listing what the company is focusing on what would you, the potential user / customer of a new AOL want to see? What would entice you to consider AOL a viable alternative again in the new world order of Google, Facebook, Twitter and the rest? Do they have a chance?
Have a great rest of your Monday.