This article examines whether managers impact firm performance. We conservatively define managerial ability as the manager's capacity to deploy the firm's resources. We verify the validity of our metric using a manager–firm matched panel data set that allows us to track managers (CEOs) across different firms over time. We find managerial ability is inversely related to the amount of time a firm spends in distress, the likelihood of a firm's failure, and the cost of failure. These results suggest that the managers of failed firms are less skilled than their counterparts. But even within failed firms there is heterogeneity in the talents of managers.