In 2014 Stanley Black & Decker set up engineers in a Towson, Maryland, strip-mall office with instructions to come up with something new in cordless power tools. Three months later, James Loree, the company’s chief operating officer and chief-exec-in-waiting, had a look.
The Towson engineers demonstrated a clever way to arrange cells in a battery to make the voltage adjustable. Loree asked what they would need to get the battery out the door in a year. They said $30 million. “I looked at the CFO and said, ‘Are we good for that?’ and he said, ‘You bet,’ and off they went with their $30 million,” Loree says.
Stanley is an ancient firm, still making tape measures in the rust-belt city of New Britain, Connecticut, where Frederick Stanley opened a hinge-and-bolt shop in 1843. How does a company survive for 175 years? By throwing money at long shots like that battery. “History is littered with stories about legacy companies that were complacent, inwardly focused, arrogant,” Loree says.
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