Richard Teerlink is the former Chairman and CEO of Harley-Davidson and is responsible for turning the company around. During his eighteen years with Harley-Davidson, he served as chief financial officer, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board. In 2015, Teerlink was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
After working briefly with Union Special, RTE Corporation, and Herman Miller, Inc., he joined Harley-Davidson in 1981 as vice president and CFO, where he would eventually rise to become chairman, president, and CEO until his retirement.
Teerlink joined Harley-Davidson in 1981 as chief financial officer. When he joined the company, it was reeling from poor management decisions made throughout the 1970s that led to falling market share and excess inventories.
From 1981 to 1987, Teerlink was part of the leadership team that revitalized the company through a focus on quality, reliability, and stakeholder relationships. In 1987, when he was appointed president, he led the company through a massive cultural change effort designed to sustain the success Harley had attained during the turnaround. As president and CEO, Teerlink helped rebuild and rebrand the iconic company, establishing a new mission and new values, objectives and strategies.
The driving force behind this change was his belief that a company's only sustainable competitive advantage is its people. By 2004, the Milwaukee–based company controlled nearly half of the heavyweight motorcycle market in the United States, and its models were the best known in the industry.
In 2000, Teerlink wrote More Than a Motorcycle: The Leadership Journey at Harley-Davidson that explains his collaborative, team-approach management style.
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