Joline Godfrey and the Polaroid Corporation (a)

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Harvard Business School9-492-037
Rev. April 4, 2000

Joline Godfrey and the Polaroid Corporation (A)

Joline Godfrey slowly surveyed the room where she and her partner, Jane Lytle, were bargaining for the future of their venture, Odysseum.For the past three years, Polaroid had provided Godfrey with the resources to nurture her idea of using photography as the basis for creative corporate training programs. Now, after agreeing to spin the project off into an independent company, Godfrey was unpleasantly surprised at the proposal Polaroid had made. In return for 14% equity, Polaroid expected to invest only an additional $120,000 in the company. Godfrey did not believe that this offer was consistent with the support she was previously given.

Godfrey glanced at Jerry Sudbey, group vice president of worldwide manufacturing at Polaroid, and Godfrey’s long-time supporter. Sudbey had taken an active interest in Godfrey’s project from its inception and played an influential role in its evolution. At this meeting, however, he remained silent and did not once take Godfrey’s side of the argument. Godfrey felt shocked and hurt by the terms on which she was expected to leave the company.

Godfrey’s First Years at Polaroid

Godfrey began at Polaroid in 1975 as an intern in the company’s employee assistance program (EAP) department while working towards her master’s degree in social work.Upon graduation, Godfrey became a full-time employee in Polaroid’s affirmative action department. During that time, she worked closely with William Rebelsky, a policy assistant to the company’s chairman and CEO, William McCune. Having previously opened the Polaroid manufacturing plant in the Netherlands, Rebelsky had earned credibility as one of the company’s top line managers. Rebel, as he was nicknamed, was actively involved in the hiring policies at Polaroid. He established a reputation for bringing in young people, especially women and minorities, and ensuring that they were given a broad range of responsibilities. Rebelsky got Godfrey involved in a variety of projects that exposed her to upper-level management. Even though she did not have any formal authority over these projects, his active support gave her legitimacy within Polaroid’s engineering-oriented environment. Godfrey recalled Rebelsky’s influence on her early career at Polaroid:

He was an extraordinary man. If I needed to talk something over with Bill, he would suggest I drop by his office at the end of the day. We might meet for 15 or 20 minutes and then, informally, others would slowly gather in his office to discuss company politics, policy issues under discussion, or projects underway. He never

Research Associates Nancy A. Kamprath and Melinda B. Conrad prepared this case under the supervision of Professor Linda A. Hill as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.

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This document is authorized for use only in PGXPM II by Prof. Vijay Menon from May 2010 to May 2010.

492-037Joline Godfrey and the Polaroid Corporation (A)

asked me to leave and it was in this way that I came to feel comfortable in this milieu. So I, this young thing right out of graduate school, would be sitting in the office with the CEO, etc. For the first time in my life, I was smart enough to be quiet so they...
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