2013 Hall of Fame : Bill Fitzgerald - It Was Love at First Sight
Along the way, Fitzgerald has been fortunate to come across a number of great minds in the industry. When Fitzgerald broke into sales in 1988, he was fortunate to work alongside Bill Sullivan, an industry veteran 40 years his senior who constantly reinforced the importance of the customer. And, in the last 10 years, Fitzgerald has developed a solid friendship with Jim Bailey, another staunch advocate of the "Thought to Distribution" mindset.
Fitzgerald's tenacity has enabled him to develop the reputation for being driven. He freely refers to himself as a "pusher," which he believes is an asset and an occasional liability.
"When I have a passion for something, I'm all in," Fitzgerald admits. "I expect my senior team to be all in, as well. I have a pretty good way of pushing people and making them feel proud about their accomplishment while I'm pushing them on something else. My managers would probably say they like the fact that I challenge them, so maybe challenge is a better word than push."
Dan Shipman, vendor management and procurement strategy manager of global supply chain at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), is amazed by Fitzgerald's problem-solving skills. It took 25 years before the printer missed a delivery date—while Fitzgerald was on vacation—and "they killed themselves to get the job done," Shipman notes.
Another time, HMH inadvertently sent the wrong files to the printer. It was late in the day, people had already left work, and it was during the dark ages, before cell phone proliferation. Fitzgerald spotted the gaffe and did a literal cut-and-paste job—substituting the proper pages from another book—on a spiral-bound book destined for a Texas client. The typical supplier, Shipman points out, would have just gone home and addressed the problem the next day.