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  • Playing to Win: Recessions and Caterpillar


    “This is my fourth recession and each and every time we came out of it stronger” was an inspiring insight shared by David Burritt, chief financial officer and vice president of Caterpillar, Inc. at an Accountancy Lyceum last Thursday. Students came away with a message that hard times are not the end of the world and, indeed, can be opportunities.
    “The lesson that I learned was that it may not always be easy but you are always going to come back up. You can’t let your motivation go away. You need to work hard at school and keep faith,” said Sonia Kanjee who attended the talk.
    Burritt spoke about his views of how Caterpillar is influenced by the current fiscal crisis facing the world economy and what the future holds. “Time,” he believes, “is the key to getting back on track.” The government stimulus plan will do its job slowly as it helps restore the economy. Because of the delayed impact of ongoing efforts, Burritt believes unemployment will possibly rise even after 2010 when he expects things to start getting better.
    “We are hopeful to see things change for Caterpillar in 2010,” said Burritt.
    Burritt spoke about the complexities of Caterpillar’s operations. The multinational corporation has thousands of software programs, accounts, and dealer locations to coordinate. The toughest part of his job is managing the flow of information to and from many diverse sources.
    This year Burritt does not expect Caterpillar to repeat the $51 Billion sales it posted for 2008, however, his experience supports a belief that now is an important time to hold on to time-honored values. An avid baseball fan and a former college baseball player, Burritt spoke metaphorically about six driving insights useful to future business leaders.
    You should play by the rules: they exist for a reason and avoiding them has consequences.
    Listen to your coach: the wisdom of others carries real advantages.
    Step up to the plate: enthusiasm garners opportunity.
    Play as a team: a group working together can achieve more than an individual effort.
    Know the game: to play your part you have to know how it fits with others.
    Play to win: give your best all the time.
    One of Burritt’s many anecdotes was about a change in focus for his career when he turned his energies to enrolling in a graduate degree program. What he first thought was a career lull, turned out to be an invaluable opportunity to prepare for future challenges.  
    “You have to make the most of every situation,” he said.

    Burritt always plays to win.

    UIUC College of Business Department of Accountancy