From his home office, new HP CEO Enrique Lores is trying to
reinvent the hardware maker; a push into 3-D medical printers
By John D. Stoll
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (March 28, 2020).
Every chief executive in America sits on a hot seat right
For Enrique Lores, the seat has been on fire since he took HP
Inc.'s top job in November. An electrical engineer who joined the
company as an intern in 1989, the 54-year-old Spaniard was barely
in charge when turmoil started.
Four days after his start date, news broke that Xerox Holdings
Corp. was cobbling together an offer to buy the 81-year old
computer-hardware maker. In the months that followed, Mr. Lores
swatted away hostile salvos from Xerox. In a letter sent to
shareholders Wednesday, he wrote that pursuing a megadeal during a
pandemic isn't prudent.
"The key thing I need to do right now is prioritize my time,"
Mr. Lores told me Thursday morning during a Zoom chat. HP
manufactures and sells gadgets in markets all over the world, many
of which have been rattled by the coronavirus outbreak. If Mr.
Lores doesn't keep production lines moving, management teams
talking, and customers buying during a crisis, there will be no HP
left for Xerox or anyone else to pursue.
"Right now is when we show the value and culture of HP," he
said. The hardware giant is known for its printers, desktop
computers and laptops; Mr. Lores thinks now is the time to write a
"new chapter." Two things he wants the company to be more
associated with are 3-D printers and any product that helps America
work from home.
Like many CEOs I've talked to this month, Mr. Lores is spending
way more time in his northern California home office than ever
before, using the tiny portal on a smartphone or webcam to talk
with people he used to grab in hallways or informally congregate
with in a conference room. He regularly checks in on operations in
hard-hit nations, including Italy and China, and is monitoring
liquidity like a hawk.
The tone of conversations is changing. "I think what we're
seeing broadly is people opening themselves up." He's sat through a
lot of stories recently, including during his calls with those who
keep HP's coffers full. "We not only talk about the business, but
we use the time to engage with our customers on a different
Mr. Lores is the latest in a line of people whose jobs I've
profiled during these unprecedented times for the Journal's special
"Making it Work" series.
I've learned how a funeral home director advises mourners how to
say goodbye in an era of social distancing. How a mail carrier
spends as much time washing his hands as delivering mail. How a
nurse figured out a sanitary way to reuse a disposable gown.
The CEO's role in making it work? Point people to the light at
the end of the tunnel.
Mr. Lores took the HP job with an eye on transforming a culture
in need of a refresh. He began his 31-year HP career on a team
developing a graphics printer called the DraftMaster. He went on to
run various company units, including imaging and printing. He was
instrumental in the split of the Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2015, which
separated the personal computing division from the division selling
corporate services and hardware.
Four weeks before officially taking over for his predecessor,
Mr. Lores started shaking things up. He announced up to 9,000 job
cuts and said services and new technologies, such as HP's nascent
3D-printing unit, needed to be a higher priority going forward.
Crafting this new strategy and battling Xerox's takeover attempt
consumed a substantial amount of time at the start of the year when
HP's management began hearing about coronavirus. Mr. Lores tapped
heads of four different HP units to monitor the situation and build
a continuity plan while the rest of the company focused on growth,
cost cutting and strategy.
"The world has radically changed in these last two or three
weeks," Mr. Lores said.
HP's capital strategy shows how quickly things can change. In
late February, Mr. Lores announced a $15 billion share buyback plan
designed to stave off Xerox. That included $8 billion in
repurchases committed within a year. That seems like a pipe dream
A month later, Mr. Lores is spending time evaluating the scale
of that plan. The economy has nosedived; HP's stock -- like almost
every Blue Chip in America -- has tanked; and credit availability
is fragile. "Right now, cash is king," he said Wednesday.
Rather than fast-track new guidance to appease Wall Street, Mr.
Lores is preaching prudence. "We need to say the right thing at the
right time." Spending all his time with finance executives and the
treasury staff to address one issue would limit his
Because casual encounters can't happen in virtual workplaces,
Mr. Lores has bumped up his meetings with senior executives from
one a week to three, and is calling on three or four major
customers a day. He has changed the digital background on the Zoom
app to the Palo Alto, Calif., garage where Bill Hewlett and Dave
Packard started the company.
There are people who Mr. Lores regularly checks in with: Two of
his sons have returned from New York to California during the
self-isolation era; his predecessor at HP, Dion Weisler; HP's
Chairman Chip Bergh (who is CEO of Levi Strauss & Co.). And he
regularly talks to his sister and brother in Spain, where both are
He also meets regularly with a group of CEOs in similar
industries. An avid runner, Mr. Lores tries to squeeze in running
or cycling time. When not on conference calls or reviewing company
estimates, forecasts and plans, he pores over emails from
Workers share stories and express eagerness to pitch in any way
they can. "The problem is not to find people who want to
participate, it's trying to choose the people we want to do it." He
wants the workforce to pace itself. "We need to realize this is not
going to be a very short-term thing."
On Wednesday, Mr. Lores hosted a video Q&A with 1,200
company leaders. His message to them is that while HP is weathering
the same storm every other company is, it has unique opportunities.
The trick is to find them, analyze them, and seize them.
Many of the startups disrupting older, established companies did
exactly that during the financial crisis. Companies such as Airbnb
Inc. and Spotify Technology SA were created during or immediately
after the last major downturn. Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and
other tech companies, meanwhile, experienced exponential growth
then, following years of tinkering with unprofitable business
Mr. Lores has told his employees to use this current crisis to
The most immediate initiative that shows they are listening
directly relates to combating the pandemic. HP has ramped up its
printing of mask adjusters, face shields, and hands-free door
openers on 3-D medical printers, and has already supplied more than
5,000 of these products to hospitals.
"It's not only about protecting ourselves," he said. "It's about
Write to John D. Stoll at firstname.lastname@example.org
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