Mark Pigott has worked at Paccar for 35 years, the last 17 as CEO. During his tenure he has steered the company -- the world's third-largest maker of medium- and heavy-duty trucks -- through many ups and downs. In fact, the fourth-generation Paccar boss says the key thing his career has taught him is that the ups and downs never stop and your legacy is defined by how well you navigate them.
"The world is cyclical: That's what I've learned," Pigott says. "When things go well, there will be a time when they will not go so well. And when things go badly, at some point they will improve. It's a key point and it's easy to forget. Even our top people -- business leaders, the financial press, political leaders -- often have to be reminded about it."
Pigott was reminded about it five years ago when the economy crashed and Paccar's business -- like that of many American companies -- almost went over a cliff. Revenue plunged from $15 billion in 2008 to $8.1 billion in 2009. Pigott and his team battened down some hatches but courageously kept investing in the business in order to keep Paccar's Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF brands ready to snap back fast when the markets recovered.
"We said, 'Yeah, it's challenging right now,'" Pigott remembers, "'but it will get better, so let's keep investing for our customers.'"
The bold moves paid off. Paccar recovered fast, pushing revenue to $10.3 billion in 2010, $16.4 billion in 2011, and $17.1 billion last year.
In the long view, Pigott's sure-handed leadership has help Paccar sustain a remarkable run of 74 straight years of net income. Since he took the helm in 1997, the company has delivered 1,300% total return to shareholders. At the same time, Paccar has embraced Six Sigma and thereby realized cumulative savings of more than $2 billion. And the company has become a global force during Pigott's tenure: It is now the No. 2 truck maker in Europe and No. 1 in Australia and Mexico.
Pigott attributes this success to stability, consistency and knowing how to ride the truck sector's cyclical ups and downs.
"We've had a very consistent approach to our business," he says. "We've constantly reinforced our message of quality, customer-first, high integrity, technology and innovation. That has been at the forefront for all 108 years of Paccar's existence."