I first met Mitt Romney in 1984 when I was a summer associate at Bain & Company and Mitt was transitioning over to start up Bain Capital. The following year, after finishing business school, I joined Bain & Company full-time.
Throughout my 7-year tenure at Bain, I had the opportunity to see Mitt in action and quickly grew to develop tremendous respect for him. Mitt was incredibly smart but appreciative of others’ work and insights. When you worked on projects under his purview, you would be challenged to reach for your best work, learn a great deal and have your work valued. He listened carefully and thoughtfully to everyone, even if you were the most junior person on the team.
Mitt also personified integrity. He was extraordinary in his ability to comprehend and assimilate mounds of data, sort out fact from fiction, listen to all perspectives, and then make objective, fact-based, rational decisions. I never saw a single instance where Mitt let any preconceived bias influence his decisions.
Mitt’s friendly personality and stellar reputation also made him the guy everyone wanted to work with. The story of the time he closed Bain Capital to assist a colleague in finding his missing daughter has been told many times, but I can say that those actions spoke louder than any words ever could. For Mitt, it wasn’t about money, fame, or power. It has always been about doing the right thing.
Another vivid recollection I have of Mitt’s talent and leadership was when he returned to Bain & Company in the early nineties to help save it from near bankruptcy. It was then that I saw his leadership talent in a time of crisis and his compassion for employees and their futures. Quickly, Mitt pulled all of the partners into a large conference room and shared the firm’s financial statements with them. It was alarming to be shown a huge upcoming interest payment that clearly was going to be next-to-impossible to pay. Mitt acknowledged that it was daunting, but committed himself to fixing it.
After this meeting, Mitt communicated calmly but candidly to the rest of the office, and sought to put employees at ease. For the weeks to come, he consistently checked in on how we were doing and encouraged us to focus on our regular client responsibilities, and told us he would work hard on restoring the company’s financial stability. It was hard not to worry. Our company was flirting with bankruptcy and for my husband (a partner at Bain) and me, our entire household income rested on the firm’s fate. But we never considered leaving Bain at that point. There was no dash toward the door, despite phones ringing with recruiters trying to lure talent away.
In retrospect, it is incredible that everyone I recall stayed and continued to work hard at Bain throughout that crisis period and beyond. For that, I credit Mitt. In a short period of time, he successfully mediated an agreement between the lending bank(s) and the founders in a way that left the firm and the employees much better off. It is now one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world.
That experience taught me two important things about Mitt Romney: (1) Mitt has an ability to cut through the noise, get to the facts, and quickly bring disparate parties together to find and implement a positive solution; (2) When Mitt makes decisions on behalf of others, his choices are informed by the facts and a deep sense of integrity, compassion and desire to do what is right for the longer-term good of the whole group.
Four years ago, I thought Barack Obama would bring a similar rational approach to government. I voted for him then, but looking back at his first term, I now feel great disappointment. I am frustrated by how few of his promises he has kept, and how much worse off our economy is today.
Now, more than ever, I believe we need someone like Mitt in the White House. He has a track record of success in turning incredibly challenging situations around without great pain or fanfare. In every situation, he not only fixed things, but did so by bringing opposing parties together to ensure ownership and success. That’s true leadership.
I can’t think of anyone more capable of rebuilding America than Mitt. Before he made his first political bid, my husband and I had never been involved in politics. But when Mitt put his hat in the ring, we quickly stepped in to support him as best as we were able. I believe supporting Mitt’s campaign at this critical juncture is the best investment in our future.
Paula Ness Speers is a member of the Women for Mitt National Advisory Board.