From Bankruptcy to Billions


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Hard times can become one of the most influential learning experiences. Take it from current CEO and Chairwoman Ursula Burns. As an executive in 2000, she found herself in a difficult position within a company she truly believed in. Xerox was on the brink of bankruptcy, a new CEO was announced, and everyone was unsure what lay ahead for this technology giant.

Anne Mulcahy, the CEO at the time, sat with the 100 executives of Xerox and offered them a “graceful exit” if they decided to leave. Of the 100 executives that were offered a severance package, 98 decided to stay, and Ursula Burns was one of them. Burns sat down with Forbes, saying that staying with Xerox became one of the greatest decisions she made. Pushing herself and helping her peers tackle the challenges of Xerox, an organization that was more than just a job but had become part of her identity.

After all, Ursula Burns’ career at Xerox extends as far as 1980 where she began as an intern. Stepping away from a company she has been so committed to simply wasn’t an option. She watched as Anne Mulcahy helped guide Xerox out of the hole that had been dug, shifting from a product and manufacturing company to more of a services basis; a refocus that not only helped Xerox out of bankruptcy, but allowed them to thrive.

“Never waste a good crisis.” Burns reflects, a cliché but an appropriate one. Since 2000, Xerox has reclaimed their rightful spot at the top of the industry, extending its tendrils to more than business and office spaces but assisting in the medical one as well.

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