Within months of being tapped to run data-storage giant EMC Corp. (EMC ) in early 2001, Joseph M. Tucci got the wind knocked out of him. The dot-com crash sent sales and profits through the floor and took EMC's once-buoyant stock price with them. Suddenly the company, a Wall Street darling during the 1990s, "was going headlong for a cliff," says John McArthur, group vice-president at market researcher IDC.
Not anymore, thanks to Tucci's deft turnaround. The 57-year-old chief executive cut costs, reached out to customers, and expanded in software and services to reduce the company's reliance on sagging hardware sales. In the first nine months of 2004, revenues were up 34%, to $5.9 billion, and net income doubled, to $551 million. Tucci's most impressive move may have been facing up to the changes roiling techdom. With customers demanding easier-to-use, less expensive alternatives, he revived a line of modular storage gear that EMC had inherited when it bought Data General Corp. in 1999. Pushing it through a new batch of resellers, as well as PC king Dell Inc. (DELL ), Tucci made it one of his fastest-growing businesses. That's good, because EMC's pricey high-end machines seem destined for single- digit growth.
Not that Tucci is taking EMC low-rent. To boost margins and broaden EMC's appeal, he has made almost $4 billion in acquisitions of software companies in the past 18 months. Tucci is hoping that packaging his range of products and services together will make EMC an indispensable ally for corporate customers.