Samsung North America CEO On How to Lead in a Crisis: Be Honest, Be Transparent

August 21, 2018, 7:47 PM UTC

If you want to know how to manage successfully through a crisis, just ask Tim Baxter.

Soon after he became CEO of Samsung’s North American operations in 2017, he had to deal with a botched product rollout of the company’s new smartphone. Customers reported that their Galaxy Note7 smartphones overheated, exploded and caught fire. It led to a massive recall. On top of that, the son of Samsung’s Chairman, and the designated heir to the CEO job, was convicted in a bribery scandal in South Korea and sentenced to five years in jail. It was a highly publicized setback for the world’s largest smartphone maker.

“It was really the most difficult 120 days in my career”, Baxter tells Fortune. “The most important thing I learned is to own it. Speak to the consumer. Be honest. Be transparent.”

That’s exactly what he did. Baxter reached out directly to consumers. He appeared in town halls. He held video chats with thousands of customers. And, he apologized.

Reflecting back on the experience, Baxter says Samsung pulled through the crisis by getting everyone in the company to focus on one thing. “Once we anchored around safety and consumer safety as being the issue, it made a lot of the decision-making much much easier,” he explains.

Watch video above for more on our interview with Baxter.

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