Superior Manufacturing Company

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REV: AUGUST 12, 2004


Superior Manufacturing Company
In February 2005, Herbert Waters was appointed general manager of the Superior Manufacturing Company by Paul Harvey, president. Waters, 56, had wide executive experience in manufacturing products similar to those of Superior. The appointment of Waters resulted from management problems arising from the death of Richard Harvey, founder and, until his death in early 2004, president of Superior. Paul Harvey had only four years’ experience with the company, and in early 2005 was 34 years old. His father had hoped to train him over a 10-year period, but his untimely death had cut this seasoning period short. The younger Harvey became president when his father died and had exercised full control until he hired Waters.

New Management
Paul Harvey knew that during 2004 he had made several poor decisions and noted that morale of the organization had suffered, apparently through lack of confidence in him. When he received the income statement for 2004 (see Exhibit 1) showing a net loss of $688,000 during a good business year, he knew he needed help. He attracted Waters from a competitor by offering a stock option incentive in addition to salary, knowing that Waters wanted to acquire a financial competence for his retirement. The two men came to a clear understanding that Waters, as general manager, had full authority to execute any changes he desired. In addition, Waters would explain the reasons for his decisions to Harvey and thereby train him for successful leadership upon Waters’s retirement. Upon taking office in February 2005, Waters decided against immediate major changes. Rather, he chose to analyze 2004 operations and to wait to see results for the first half of 2005. He instructed the accounting department to provide detailed expenses and earnings statements by products and departments for 2004 (see Exhibit 2). In addition, he requested an explanation of the nature of the company’s costs including their expected future behavior (see Exhibit 3).

Company and Industry
The Superior Manufacturing Company made only three industrial products: 101, 102, and 103. They were sold by the company’s sales force for use in the processes of other manufacturers. All of the sales force, on a salary basis, sold the three products but in varying proportions. Superior sold ____________________________________________________________

Professor James W. Culliton prepared the original version of this case, HBS No. 156-004. This version was prepared by Professor David F. Hawkins and Jacob Cohen, Affiliate Professor of Accounting and Control at INSEAD. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. The company mentioned in the case is fictional. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management. Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.


Superior Manufacturing Company

throughout New England and was one of eight companies with similar competitors were larger and manufactured a larger variety of products dominant company was the Samra Company, which operated a branch market area. Customarily, the Samra Company announced prices annually, followed suit.

products. Several of its than did Superior. The plant in the company’s and the other producers

Price cutting was rare, and the only variance from quoted selling...
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