Ford CEO Says Stamina Key to Business Success

To succeed in business, a corporate head must have stamina, the chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Co. told an audience of about 450 at the Business School yesterday afternoon.

Take it from Donald Petersen, Ford's chief executive officer. The Stanford business school graduate estimated that he attends about 1000 meetings, gives 75 talks and travels 100,000 miles in the air each year.

"And I try to be in an automobile as often as I can," he said.

Petersen described a typical fort-night during which he travelled across two continents and met with President Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi.

After asking how many listeners in the audience would like to be chief executive officers of a company like his own, Donald Petersen, chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co., said, "For all of you would be C.E.O.s, one prerequisite is stamina."

Although Petersen met with Thatcher right on the heels of the "nonsummit summit" in Iceland, she still spent a full hour talking about business with him, he said.

Even though he had to work Saturday to prepare himself for the next week, Petersen said he felt that he could not turn down the invitation he received to have dinner at the White House the Sunday after his Europe trip. Of President Reagan, Petersen said, "He's a great storyteller, and he talked a lot about the summit."

Petersen said that while in Italy he was promised an answer on Ford's bid to buy Alfa Romeo by November 1. "Whether we acquire Alfa Romeo or not," he said, "at least we know we've made an effort."

But not all of Petersen's life is jet-setting and meeting important people. "So often in our lives, we get caught up in the macro views of the economy and politics," he said. "We kind of lose sight of the fact that what we're all about is selling automobiles to individuals like you and me."

In response to a question from the audience about the future of Ford in South Africa, Petersen said that as long as there is any chance for a peaceful resolution to the problem of apartheid, the Ford Motor Co. would continue to carry on business in South Africa.

"For those who say the only solution is to get out, what they're really saying is that the only solution in South Africa is a revolution, a bloodbath," Petersen said.