The Top 25
Alexander “Sandy” Cutler
Chairman and CEO, Eaton Corp.
The Power 100 List
Greater Akron, Cuyahoga County, Lake County, Lorain County, Mahoning Valley
#3 Christopher Connor,
Chairman and CEO,
The Sherwin-Williams Co.
Tale of Two Cities
#4 Dan Gilbert,
Majority owner, Cleveland Cavaliers; chairman, Quicken Loans Inc.; principal, Rock Gaming
#6 Anthony Alexander,
President and CEO, FirstEnergy Corp.
In Good Health
#8 Thomas Zenty,
CEO, University Hospitals
#13 Beth Mooney,
President, COO, and incoming chairman and CEO, KeyCorp
County Executive Ed FitzGerald talks economic development
Women on Power
Five women on our list provide their views
Good Years, Bad Years
Tracking ups and downs
How November's winds blew in change
2010 honorees who didn't
make the list
It is difficult to write about Eaton Corp. CEO Alexander Cutler without exercising that most overworn literary device, the sports metaphor.
The Milwaukee native, the man everyone calls Sandy, fueled his competitive spirit as a multisport performer at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., and Yale University. In 1972, Cutler, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive end, helped Yale’s football team overcome a 17-0 deficit to defeat Harvard 28-17, ending a string of two losses to the Bulldogs’ ultimate rival. Cutler is also an avid tennis player and baseball fan who switched allegiances from the Brewers to the Indians years ago.
And in almost every interview, Cutler mentions his passion for teamwork, insisting he is not the star. “There’s no one man on the mound,” he told The Plain Dealer
upon his elevation to CEO in 2000.
But others argue that he is unquestionably a leader among leaders, the MVP among Northeast Ohio’s power players. Key Corp. CEO Henry Meyer turns to another athletic analogy to explain why.
Meyer says Cutler’s approach to leadership reminds him of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
“That’s what differentiates Sandy,” says Meyer, who has watched Eaton’s CEO work from a close-up vantage point: Cutler is also the lead director on Key’s board.
“He focuses on a strategic vision,” Meyer says, “not just for the moment, but where things are going … and where they should be going.”
That was evident when Cutler took over the top job at Eaton a decade ago. He saw the company not as the industrial manufacturer it once was, but as the global manager of electrical, fluid and mechanical systems and services it would become.
Cutler and his team set a bold path for the company in 2000, announcing goals that “most thought were unreachable,” he says. The result is a diversified, transformed company that does more than half of its almost $12 billion in annual sales outside of the U.S. — an expansion that has spurred its planned move to a new international headquarters in Beachwood, set for 2012. It has averaged almost 14 percent compounded growth (stock price plus dividend) over the past 10 years. It was strong enough to rebound (there’s the sports metaphor again) from the deep recession of 2008-09. In the third quarter of 2010, Eaton posted profits of $268 million, up 39 percent from a year ago.
In the same way, Cutler doesn’t see Northeast Ohio as what it has been over the past two decades. He sees it as a region full of potential that can leverage its many assets to spur growth. He’s done his part to make that happen during his extensive service with more than a dozen civic organizations. He’s much more than a cheerleader. “He’ll get in the mud and wrestle with you,” another local leader once told Inside Business.
Perhaps Cutler’s most competitive match has been the 18-month struggle to reform Cuyahoga County government, which has been beset by a corruption scandal unmatched anywhere in the nation.
“Frankly, Northeast Ohio has deserved better than the public government it has had over the last 20 years,” Cutler says. “In a very, very loud voice … the people said, ‘We’re tired of a government that’s not transparent, not accountable, that doesn’t appear to be honest and appears to make way too many excuses.’ ”
That vision of a better county government turns to reality this month, as newly elected County Executive Ed FitzGerald and the county council take office.
Now it’s time for them to lead, Cutler says.
“We are blessed to have tremendous leadership in the private sector,” he says. “My hope is that we will now see the public sector step up.”
Cutler, one of eight members of the county’s transition executive committee, says three attributes of leadership that he’s cultivated inside Eaton will be essential to the success of the new charter government: You have to embrace dramatic and bold change. You have to be willing to recruit top talent. You need an environment that encourages people to do their best work.
“There [has] to be a significant raising of the bar for the senior jobs that will report to the county executive,” says Cutler, who supported FitzGerald’s opponent, Matt Dolan. “Great talent is not defined by somebody you know. Great talent is defined by being truly great talent. If you don’t have that, you can’t accomplish these truly big goals.”
The sports metaphor is clear: The team that puts the best players on the field usually wins. And Sandy Cutler knows something about winning.