HARRY FIGGIE grew up in 1930s Cleveland. He lost his father in 1940 at the age of sixteen, and five years later was fighting in General Patton’s Third Army with an infantry division in Europe. After coming home, he finished his last two years of undergraduate work with a Bachelor’s in metallurgical engineering. Next he received an MBA from Harvard as a member of the Class of 1949, which Larry Shames, in his 1974 book about the Class, called “the most wildly successful batch of MBAs to have shared a campus anywhere, ever.” Along the way, Harry also accumulated a law degree and a masters in industrial engineering by going to night school while working full time in sales and in manufacturing positions.
From 1953 until 1962 Harry worked at the consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, where he became one of the country’s leading cost reduction experts. In 1963, after gaining more operating experience as a group vice president of A.O. Smith, he went out on his own and took over the Automatic Sprinkler Corporation of America, a struggling $23 million sprinkler company, which he turned into the $1.3 billion Figgie International.
Harry Figgie has already written a best-seller, Bankruptcy 1995, in which he warns America of the dangers of high deficits and profligate government spending. It sold more than 300,000 copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for almost a year. He is also the author of the successful Cost Reduction and Profit Improvement Handbook, which has taught a generation of executives the straightforward management techniques that have made dozens of companies so successful.
In his latest book, How to Build a Billion Dollar Company From Scratch, Mr. Figgie uses his personal experiences to show how to build a large company by buying small ones and turning them around through aggressive profit improvement and internal growth.
And in Maximizing Profits Immediately: How to Dramatically Improve Your Company’s Bottom Line, to be published posthumously next year, Mr. Figgie and his two co-authors show that the foundation of profit improvement programs like Six Sigma and lean manufacturing have as their building blocks the tried and true methods that people like Harry Figgie and now this new book’s other two authors have implemented so successfully for more than half a century.
Harry E. Figgie Jr. died July 14, 2009 at the age of 85. He is predeceased by his son, Harry E. Figgie III, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at University Hospitals who died in 1999. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; his two sons, Mark, an orthopedic surgeon in New York, and Matthew, vice chairman of Clark Reliance; and seven grandchildren.