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Chris Webber: Loyalty and Teamwork Matter

by Roger Lanctot | Mar 23, 2020

It was 31 years ago that Chris Webber, vice president of the Global Automotive Practice (GAP) at Strategy Analytics, began his automotive research and consulting odyssey - after four years at Texas Instruments It was seven years later that Ian Riches signed onto the two-man show. And, now, the day has arrived that Chris passes the baton to Ian upon his retirement. These two men, colleagues of mine, are based in Milton Keynes, U.K.

The GAP team has vastly expanded to 13 stout souls under Chris's guidance, ferreting out the nuances of a rapidly changing market on behalf of an ever-expanding automotive clientele wrestling daily with existential threats. Chris has kept a firm hand on the tiller throughout, navigating the treacherous waters of upturns and downturns, company name changes and relocations, and a steady expansion of the team.

What was once one service at Strategy Analytics has become five under a single umbrella and encompassing autonomous vehicles, mobility, and user experiences. All the while, the core focus on semiconductors and electronics has been maintained and deepened - while perspectives on cybersecurity, cloud connectivity, and the onset of 5G have been layered on..

I joined the GAP team in the middle of 2009 after having been let go by my previous employer at the end of 2008 - yes, the traditional Christmas firing. Chris agreed to take me on on a probationary basis, but was sufficiently impressed by my brief trial performance to inquire whether i was interested in being a practice head.

I wasn't sure exactly what Chris meant, but it sounded like an attractive opportunity. I nevertheless demurred believing, correctly, that working remotely would ill suit my skill set in the role Chris was proposing. I told him I thought I could do more for Sttrategy Analytics as an analyst and consultant sans management role.

I have long known that my "style," if you can call it that, was misaligned with Chris'. If I am a little vocal and opinionated, Chris is a bit more dour and low key. I felt that each day at Strategy Analytics was a validatoin of my approach - but always contingent on Chris' forebearance.

On the rare occasion when I might push for some kind of change or a salary increase, Chris usually assured me that I was "pushing on an open door." I actually had never heard that expression before.

The real test, though, came when early in my tenure I attacked Nokia for its inept automotive marketing strategy which included its terminal mode smartphone mirroring campaign, now known as MirrorLink, and the unfortunate Meego Linux distribution. Both efforts were leading nowhere and arrived on the eve of Nokia's "burning platform" Elop email. Unfortunately for me, Nokia was a huge Strategy Analytics client at the time and suddenly my future employment at Strategy Analytics was in the balance.

This was a moment for taking the true measure of the man. I was new. I was brash. I was legitimately a pain in the ass to deal with. Chris Webber came to my defense - standing by me and my analytical conclusions in the midst of a classic large-client $%&@-storm. The storm clouds passed. I kept my job.

The current resident in the White House here in the U.S. talks a lot about loyalty. But the loyalty of which he speaks is the loyalty to him. Real loyalty is standing up for the other guy, putting your neck on the line. It cannot have been easy or popular to support me in the face of an irate customer. But Chris was there.

There have been multiple other occasions when Chris lent his support in times of need. I am sure I am not the only member of the team with such tales to tell. And, no doubt, there are multiple occasions of which many of my colleagues will never be aware when Chris ran interference for the team, fought for limited company resources, or advocated for unpopular but strategically important positions.

That kind of backbone is necessary both internally and externally. Strategy Analytics clients are paying top dollar for tough talk. No client is going to pay for sugar-coated insights. Chris represents the cold, hard calculus of hard facts and defensible insights. He's also a good man.

So I think I speak for my colleagues on the Strategy Analytics GAP team in saying Chris, we wish you well! You are a better man than I - on and off the carting track. I am looking forward to seeing you at the next pitstop and will warmly remember my time toiling at the Strategy Analytics coalface - where I labor to this day. Godspeed, good buddy. You showed us how it's done.

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