What’s the biggest mistake Jeff Immelt has made in his 14 years at the helm of General Electric (GE)? “We just got too slow,” he says.
Speed–or the lack of it–may be the biggest curse of the Fortune 500. Today Fortune revealed its 2015 ranking of America’s largest companies. GE, with $148 billion in annual revenue, is No. 8. And, as is the case with other Fortune 500 giants—from No. 1 Walmart (WMT), with $486 billion in sales, to No. 1000 E-Trade Financial (ETFC), with $2 billion in revenues—operating a company that brings in billions in revenue makes it really hard to turn on a dime.
(Yes, the Fortune 500 actually lists 1,000 companies—a bonus for readers.)
In this interview on Fortune‘s new video show, The Chat, Immelt talks in detail for the first time about GE’s giant restructuring, which involves dramatically reducing the company’s finance assets and reclaiming its historic profile as an industrial company. “We were 50/50 industrial-financial when I became CEO,” says Immelt, recalling the moment in 2001 when he took over from Jack Welch. “That wasn’t what I wanted the company to be. So it just could have moved faster. “