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Lessons from a Business Maverick


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

No hierarchy. Extra money for achievement. No exec perks. It turned around Nucor. The CEO says it will work for you.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Perhaps the highest praise for this refreshing little memoir is this: if certain other captains of industry had read Ken Iverson’s book when it was published in 1998 and heeded its advice, investors would have been spared billions in losses and a slew of corporate scandals would have been averted. Iverson, head of steel maker Nucor Corporation, injects much-needed common sense into the often-bureaucratic, hierarchical world of corporate boardrooms and corner offices. This persuasive text, written in the sort of clear, muscular prose you’d expect from a steel man, will make you want to give up your executive parking space and embrace an egalitarian corporate structure. recommends this engaging work to managers who want to look at their jobs a new way.


Common Sense Management

Steel maker Nucor is a throwback to the United States' old economy, yet it's a company that has become almost revolutionary in American business simply by sticking to common sense values. Nucor offers a tangle of surprising contradictions. Although its 7,000 workers are compensated generously by industry standards, Nucor boasts labor costs well below those of its rivals. Nucor's hourly wages and salaries are much less than competitors offer and a big chunk of employees' compensation comes from performance-based bonuses. Nucor is a Fortune 500 company with billions in sales, but it has only 22 employees at its corporate headquarters and a mere four layers of management between the chief executive officer and its line workers.

Nucor has been a consistently profitable technological innovator, although it has neither a research and development division nor a corporate engineering department. While it operates in a tired, shrinking industry that has laid off thousands of people in recent decades, Nucor has never downsized an employee or closed a plant for lack of work. This last paradox is at the core of Nucor's corporate culture. The company...

About the Authors

Nucor Chairman Ken Iverson earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Purdue. He joined Nuclear Corp. of America in 1962. When it faced bankruptcy in 1965, the company’s board promoted him to president. The company, which changed its name to Nucor, became the nation’s third-largest steel maker. Iverson has served on the boards of Wal-Mart and Wachovia Corporation. Tom Varian is a principal at Strategic Communications Services in North Carolina.

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