November 19, 2016

I wrote this in 1995, having recently been appointed CEO of Procter & Gamble.  I believe it still applies to any leader trying to build a company today.

As I think about the subjects which we so often discuss - innovation, cost effectiveness, system improvement,  people - I arrive at questions which I expect all of us have asked:

What type of company are we becoming?  What will change?  What will not?

The answer to those questions will lie ultimately in our actions and our behaviors.  But the character of what we aspire to become is very clear.  It grows directly out of our history and our purpose. 
  • We will be a company where, even more, innovation flourishes and quality and value are our guides.
  • A company in which individual initiative and respect for teamwork are honored together.
  • A company where our systems and processes are being constantly renewed to be the best in the world.
  • What will not change – and we must never let change – is what brought us to this company – and what makes us proud to say “I work for P&G.”
  • The bone-hard commitment to doing the right thing, no matter the sacrifice.  Saying what we mean…and living what we say, to the best of our ability.
  • The commitment to serving the consumer and supporting our communities.
  • The commitment to leading and improving in whatever we undertake.
  • The commitment to people in the broadest sense…their ideas:  their views; and particularly as it concerns those who work for us, their personal growth and satisfaction.
  • To me there are four summary testimonials that will tell us we have done our jobs very well.
  • The first from a consumer:  “I always use P&G products.  They’re the best value I can find and they never let me down.”
  • The second from an investor:  “Am I ever glad I own P&G stock.  I’m going to buy more.”
  • The third from a member of a community in which we work:  “Thank heavens we have P&G people here.”
  • And the fourth from hopefully all of us and certainly me:  “I am proud to be a member of this Company.  I can’t imagine a more rewarding career or working with a finer group of people.”


November 16, 2016

While I wrote this book almost 10 years ago, I think its principles have stood the test of time.

The following is from the Amazon book site.

"The fundamental question in business and in personal life is the same: What really matters? In this book one of America’s most widely admired business leaders distills a lifetime of experience, including failures as well as successes, to reveal his answers.
John Pepper, president, CEO, and chairman of Procter & Gamble for a combined 16 years, underscores the importance of continuous change, innovation, and renewal as prerequisites for growth and sound leadership. In What Really Matters he suggests that a preparedness to alter perspective, rethink assumptions, or change course is central not only to understanding customer needs and keeping costs under control but also to developing talent, organizing global businesses, and supporting communities. While he discusses specific business tactics, he notes that they all center on fundamental tenets: listen to and respect the customer, engender personal accountability and passionate ownership, encourage diversity, and create a vibrant, trusting institution that incorporates employees and their families. In his own years as an executive, Pepper has demonstrated that a profitable business can create and sustain a culture that shapes—and is shaped by—ethical behavior. His profoundly important advice and counsel belong in the lexicon and practice of every leader".

“No one should accept a position of responsibility without reading this book. John Pepper provides ground-zero real-world insights into managing the dilemmas that confront every leader—including ethical dilemmas. The business world might be quite different today if this book had been required reading for those CEOs of the past decade who lost their way.”—Norman R. Augustine, Retired Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Former Undersecretary of the Army, Former Chairman of the American Red Cross.
(Norman R. Augustine 2006-12-27)

What Really Matters is a wonderful antidote for executives who make excuses for their bad behaviors: ‘it’s complicated out there;’ ‘the pressures are enormous;’ etc., etc. In practical, clear, and compelling terms, John Pepper lays out how to lead with integrity, humility, and —not instead of —effectiveness.”—Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
(Roger Martin 2006-12-27)

“John Pepper’s What Really Matters may been written for a Procter and Gamble audience, but it should be read by other companies and business school, as well as those in government. Not only was John Pepper an extraordinarily creative CEO at P&G, but he also has an unusual ability to communicate what I call ‘character-based leadership.’”—David M. Abshire, President and CEO, the Center for the Study of the Presidency
(David M. Abshire 2006-12-27)


November 9, 2016

Incredibly, worryingly, Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th President of our Nation last night. 

Volumes will be written about this campaign and how he won and why Clinton lost. It took an unimaginable confluence of circumstances for a man rejected by much/most of his own party, representing by his own words and actions values and a character which would not even have allowed him to be interviewed by a major Corporation and whom parents would have warned their children to ignore as being a bigot and mean to become President of this great Nation.

Sadly, above all, this was in my view a rejection of  Hillary Clinton and what she was seen to represent. The accusations of her being self-interested, part of the establishment and continuation of the "Clinton era", being "crooked", all hyped and repeated again and again did their job. 

The e-mail controversy and accusations about the  Clinton Foundation (which has done so much good),  the I believe irresponsible insertion of the FBI at the last minute, the dislike of Obama (framed as Obamacare) and the  belief that Clinton would be more of  the same-- all this added up to a gut level reaction of "we don't trust her, we don't like her and we're ready to try something different even though we know he is unprepared and are very worried about his temperament". In the end,  an act of frustration and desperation on the part of a large percentage of the American people. 

What's especially sad for me it that in her heart and mind I am certain that Hillary is not only a highly intelligent, careful thinker and very experienced but a thoroughly caring, moral and decent person who above all loves our Nation and its people, all of them.  

What troubles me the most about Trump, and it troubles me to my bone, is that the character he has lived  throughout most of his life and the character and values he has expressed in the campaign are so utterly antithetical to what we seek for ourselves and we teach to our children. He has disrespected others, taken advantage of them, it has been about him.  

When we say at P&G and life as a whole that it all comes down to "people and values", we mean it. And we are right. 

 Fortunately  we are a big and strong and diverse country. We will get through this. 

My hope is that in spite of so much of his campaign rhetoric and (ill informed and dangerous) proposals he will act to bring the country together in spirit and policy. I hope he will follow the path of Lincoln and bring a few strong Democrats into his inner circle and cabinet. He needs to make some substantive and highly visible moves like this.

I hope people like Paul Ryan will be able to influence him with positive ideas which the Democrats can align with like infrastructure investment and sensible tax reform. I hope he avoids "doing harm" like walking back the good parts of Obamacare. 

For Francie and me, the blessings of our lives remain undiminished and incredibly positive above all because of our wonderful family and our closest  friends. 

We will carry on, trying to do what is right and helping others in our own circles of influence wherever we can. There is no other way.

 We will remember my favorite 6-word Winston Churchill speech. "Never, never, never, never give up"--in doing what is right and what we are called on to do.


November 8, 2016

For the first time ever, with great intentionality,  I am devoting my blog to sharing an inspiring and wise message I received this morning from my 39 year old daughter, Susan. She is married and the mother of two children ages 3 and about a year and a half. 

As for many of us, this long and emotionally draining Presidential election has impacted her deeply. I embrace every word she writes as she looks to the future we must forge. 


 I’ve taken several things from this Election so far.

#1 One, women have a long way to go!
The release of Trump tapes demeaning women really brought home to me the all-pervasive sexualization of women and girls in our society. Like Michelle Obama said, it really touched something in so many of us to hear these comments coming from this presidential nominee, and it did hurt. When this election started, I wasn’t “all about the women” but I am now. We have a long road to travel to a place where women and girls are fully respected, empowered and actualized, but I am confident that the good fight will continue—and we will get there.

#2 Every voice counts, and I need to do my part speaking out.
Those of us who have been shy, harmony-seeking, not wanting to step on anybody’s toes…it’s time to speak out!

#3 No matter who wins, we need CIVIL discourse.
Let’s agree to disagree, but let our love for each other, our communities and our country over ride a tendency towards mean-spiritedness, violence and anarchy. We need to listen to each other, respect our differences, and find common ground.

#4 No matter who wins, I need to work harder to do my part for the greater good.
I protested the war on Iraq traveling to D.C. on a bus. When the war broke out, I was so  disillusioned with government and the powers that be, I withdrew from participating in political activism. I withdrew period! No matter what happens today, I don’t want a country of disillusioned people. I want us to roll up our sleeves, come together and get to work rebuilding, unifying, and beautifying our neighborhoods, communities and nation.


November 3, 2016


We read about the sobering, indeed horrifying statistics documenting the growing epidemic of heroin overdoses and fatalities. We read about he tragic impact of drug addiction on those addicted and on those who  care for them.

I was confronted personally with the life-upending reality of this trauma by an unpublished manuscript written by my mother a half century ago. I did not even know  she had written it until  my wife discovered the manuscript a couple of years ago in a dust-covered unopened box stowed away in our basement.

The book tells the story of how my mother worked courageously and mainly alone to help my sister, Elizabeth, overcome her addiction to pain-relieving drugs  which she had succumbed to after a long series of operations on her knee resulting from a field hockey accident in high school. 

Through its moving and cinema-like narrative, my mother provides a sorrowful,  chilling description of what it is like for a parent to try to care, moment to moment,  for a drug-afflicted child. She reveals the loneliness of the role; the urgent, often unexpressed need for help and companionship. She reveals the intertwined feelings of hope and desperation, of doubt and frustration, buoyed by unyielding courage, determination and love. 

I decided to publish this book--"The Fourth White Gown"--for several reason.*

I hope that this story will not only sensitize readers to the devastating impact of drug addiction on the lives on those afflicted but on those--parents and friends--trying to help them.  I hope it will encourage us to provide the help we can be to these care givers by better appreciating the extraordinary toll it is taking on their lives and, even if not requested,  their need for support.

I also hope that this story will stimulate further action--in both policy and funding--to address the causes of drug addiction and provide effective treatment to those afflicted. The epidemic of drug addiction and drug fatalities surrounding us today demands greater action. It must be treated as a medical issue, not one a criminal one. 

Personally, the story reveals the depth of parents' love for their children-- in this case my mother's love for my sister and her love for me, her son.  

I had just joined Procter & Gamble when my mother wrote this manuscript.  Over the course of the next three decades, I rose to become CEO and Chairman of the company. 

I was of course aware of my sister's addiction. But I had no idea of its depth nor the deep feeling of aloneness which my mother experienced in contending with it. As she did throughout her life, my mother did everything in her power to help me succeed, including  protecting me from the unsettled conditions in our home. She insisted that I go away to school and to work. 

I can't read this book without wondering--and yes, worrying about-- what more I could have done to help my mother and sister. I know I could have done more. However of this I am sure, I know my mother (ands sister and father too) would be thrilled by my wonderful family. I know my mother would say: "this is what I worked for; this makes it all worthwhile". 

This is what all parents work to achieve. 

This is what my mother and so many parents give their lives for.  There is no greater love. 

Again, I hope that this story will make us all  even more aware of the drug epidemic which surrounds us and touches so many lives, including people we know who are caring for loved ones who are suffering from addiction and whom we can help.

*"The Fourth White Gown", was written by my mother,  Irma O'Conor Pepper. It is available on Amazon and other book sellers. I wrote a Preface and an Afterword to provide a personal context.