As any MBA student will tell you, networking is a must, but finding the time is tough. Meeting the right people, connecting with the right organizations—all are factors in where to spend your “extra” time.
For me, “Social Media: For Your Business?” was a no brainer; I had to go. Having spent nearly seven years living and working in Japan, as well as interning over the summer at one of the world’s largest PR and ad agencies (that also has a big social media team), I knew this would be a good opportunity to network and meet industry leaders who work internationally, have a connection to Japan, and are involved in social media.
Companies represented in the panel discussion were Starbucks, Microsoft, Ivy Worldwide, PSPINC, Nikkei Concerns, and Niconico. Each company representative gave a 10–15 minute presentation on their social media strategy and the impact social media has had on their organizations.
I learned effective social media strategy is about leverage, or as Nick White, partner and general manger of Ivy Worldwide, a word-of-mouth social media marketing consultancy firm, called it, “social media judo.” He said if your firm is going to have an effective strategy, you need to:
Contribute on other sites.
Publish your own content and make sure to link back, cite, and propagate.
Don’t sell, rather soft sell your product or service.
Listen even more.
Seems simple, but in the ever changing social media world, it is anything but simple. The buying process has changed, the customers are changing, and the frameworks that we have grown to love/hate in our MBA studies are changing. Thankfully, events like these allow real-time perspective from industry leaders in organizations many of us will end up working for one day. The opportunity to meet, mingle, exchange business cards, and practice your elevator pitch with the panel and other attendees is a great way to go that extra mile and make genuine connections. You never know how or when you might come across the same people when searching for an internship, or in my case, a job.
Guest post by Sohroosh Hashemi, Foster BA 2011 He attended the panel discussion Food on Wheels – A Foodie Blogger Dishes with Food Truck Owners, which was part of Entrepreneur Week 2012. Panel moderator was Jennifer Lewis, blogger and author of Food on Wheels.
A local organic farmer’s fresh apricot harvest was inspiration for Molly Neitzel, founder of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. Neitzel placed a large order of apricots and began planning for the debut of her new roasted apricot ice cream.
That was that start of the story, as Neitzel told the students and alumni in attendance at the Food on Wheels panel discussion. She went on to explain that her great idea—roasted apricot ice cream—was not what her customers wanted in October, when the new flavor would be on sale. Neitzel ended up with 100 pounds too many of apricots, which she turned into homemade jam. She used this experience to highlight a challenge she often faces, “a lot of times the creativity that we desire, or that you might desire as an entrepreneur, is the opposite of what your customer wants.” Neitzel’s apricot surplus also demonstrates the seasonality of her business. Molly Moon’s uses local ingredients, so any fruit or vegetable it sources is only seasonally available.
All of the other entrepreneurs on the panel—Josh Henderson of Skillet, Danielle Custer of Monte Cristo, and Marshall Jett of Veraci Pizza—also agreed that the seasons have a huge impact on their businesses. Both consumer preferences and the availability of local ingredients vary from season to season. Each of these entrepreneurs owns a company that relies either exclusively or in-part on food truck sales, and all of them find a large chunk of their revenues through catering seasonal events like weddings.
After the discussion, the audience question and answer session produced some takeaways. Danielle Custer, founder of the newly launched grilled cheese truck Monte Cristo, gave this advice: “Simplify. Specialize. Do that one thing very well.”
Student innovators have the potential to solve some of our world’s most pressing environmental crises. But in order to bring about change, these students need to bring their innovations out of the lab and into the marketplace.
Since 2009, the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) has challenged interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates market potential. The quarter-long process culminates in a large, DemoDay-like event where a select group of teams pitch to a group of 150+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors. The top teams are awarded up to $10,000 in prize money, and everyone comes away with valuable feedback and experience to help them realize the market potential of their innovations.
Inventor of mammoth machines, reinvents himself in the Foster EMBA Program
You could call John White (EMBA 2012) many things. Inventor. Entrepreneur. Scholar. Philanthropist. Restorer of rare antiquities. Teller of rousing tales.
How about Renaissance man?
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Let’s not get carried away. We’re talking about a uniquely American icon-in-the-rough, more rock-and-roll than lute and lyre. A tall-walking bear of a man who ran off to join the carnival when he was 14, enlisted in the Marines at 17, and made his bones in the heaviest of industries.
White is the founder of American Piledriving Equipment, the world’s foremost manufacturer of vibratory hammers that drive the foundations for the massive structures of modern civilization—skyscrapers, statues, stadiums, oil rigs, wind turbines, bridges. Especially bridges.
He’s been enthralled by these abiding symbols of human ingenuity ever since he was a kid in West Seattle, when an old neighbor would regale him with tales from his days flying bombing runs in World War II. “He said he could never take out the old Roman bridges in Italy and France,” White recalls. “They were just too solidly built.”
White’s role in the advancement of transport construction began humbly enough. After his stint in the military and a spell at community college, he was hired as a mechanic by Pacific American Commercial Company, fixing pile drivers from around the world that were surplussed after the construction of the Alaska Pipeline.
Eventually, he became a walking encyclopedia on the subject. “I didn’t realize it at the time,” he says, “but I was, perhaps, the only person on the planet who had been exposed to all of these hammers.”
North Carolina-based International Construction Equipment sought his expertise to coax its shoddy pile drivers to work on the West Seattle Bridge project in the early 1980s, then hired him to manage its west coast operations. But White eventually wearied of trekking from southern California to northern Alaska to install and service hammers that were always breaking down. “When you’re up in Prudhoe Bay, you don’t care how much you saved if the machine doesn’t work,” he says. “So I set out to make the world’s best pile driver.”
Build a better hammer…
After White left ICE, he founded APE in his White Center garage. His first creation was a small hammer that used vibration rather than concussion and heavy tungsten rather than steel to drive piles in tight spaces, a design perfectly suited for Boeing’s seismic retrofit of its facilities in the late 1980s.
White received his first patent in 1992. And the next day he was introduced to Pat Hughes (BA 1957), owner of several rock and gravel companies in the Northwest. They became partners in APE—White president and Hughes CEO.
“We were a great team,” White says. “Pat was an incredible mentor; working with him was like being enrolled in the Pat Hughes School of Business—an extraordinary learning experience in the real world. He said to keep on inventing. And 40 patents later, we were the world’s largest manufacturer of vibratory pile drivers. We revolutionized the industry.”
White designed progressively bigger and more efficient diesel impact hammers, best on land, and vibratory hammers, more effective and environmentally gentle in water. Locally, APE had a hand in constructing Safeco and Century Link Fields, the new waterfront Great Wheel, and is working on the new 520 Bridge. It helped build bridges in Iraq and Afghanistan, and repaired the Haitian port after the 2010 earthquake. APE now dominates the vibratory hammer market in North American and parts of Asia, and is a growing presence in Europe and South America.
For China, a nation setting new standards for mega construction, White designed the largest pile driver in history. Today his OctaKong, a 500,000-pound vibro hammer, is driving 72-foot diameter steel piles deep into the South China Sea to support the 31-mile Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
Reinventing the inventor
Despite being president of APE, White was always more comfortable in his role of inventor. In 2010 he decided it was time to learn the management and financial side of business. So he enrolled in the Foster School’s Executive MBA Program.
Three decades removed from his last classroom experience, White found he was a pretty good student. He soaked up faculty wisdom, polished his interpersonal skills, and grew into the heart-and-soul of a tight-knit class (after studying Ernest Shackleton in a leadership course, White bought his colleagues each a replica bottle of the legendary Antarctic explorer’s recently recovered stash of whiskey).
He also learned that he was ready—and able—to navigate his own future. “It didn’t matter if I was CEO of an antique store,” White says. “After 20 years as second in command, I wanted to run my own ship.”
He sold his stake in APE toward the close of the program, “the hardest decision of my life,” he admits. “But I was born in the EMBA Program. The Foster School has given me the tools and the confidence to do something new.”
White has wasted no time.
Since graduating in June, he has been testing the waters on an innovation that he worked on in the EMBA’s capstone project. This elegant twist on geothermal energy uses a long, hollow screw of heat-conducting steel to deliver the ambient temperature of ground water to an above-ground heat pump—enabling vastly more efficient heating and cooling, and a tidy installation.
White also launched Crazy Horse Motorcycles, manufacturing distinctive “V-Plus 100” curvilinear engines—you may have seen them powering the rides of the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper,” in a stroke of guerilla marketing—and genuinely all-American-made retro bikes sized to fit the big-and-tall market (of which, at 6-foot-4, White is a member).
And he’s bought a house. Well, not just a house. A kind of lost museum, really. White found the historic waterfront residence of Hollister Sprague, Boeing’s first attorney, shrouded in vegetation atop a bluff in Seahurst. Inside was a veritable trove of period furniture, books and music, and a Prohibition-era hidden hooch-running tunnel. In a grand ballroom inspired by the chancel of a Scottish church, he found three grand pianos (a pair of Steinways and a Bosendorfer) and a legendary 1931 pipe organ—the console operated percussion, harp, flute, glockenspiel, voix celeste, and a veritable orchestra of other instruments.
White is sparing no expense to restore this unique, historic residence to its original splendor. “It’s going to be incredible,” he muses.
The measure of an MBA
Since departing APE, White has made one other significant investment.
Midway into a life spent building things to last, it occurred to him that he could help build the school that had unlocked his future to endless possibilities. Just before graduation, he donated $500,000 to Foster—the largest student gift in the school’s 95-year history.
When Neal Dempsey (BA 1965) spoke at this year’s EMBA commencement, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist offered three kernels of advice that struck White—transformed by his days at Foster—as both inspiration and summation. Do something that scares you. Welcome change. Give back.
“Now I’ve done them all,” White says. “But it was his last point that resonated most.”
John White’s father worked as an electrician for Boeing when the company lost funding for the Supersonic Transport (SST) program. “When I was 14,” White recall, “my dad lost his job.”
The power got shut off. Eventually his parents lost their home. “It was depressing,” he says. “So I decided to go get a job.”
The uncle of a friend happened to run an arcade in a traveling carnival. It turned out that White was more mechanical than his friend’s uncle, so the carnival management kept him on.
His job was to set up and service the arcade games, mostly pinball machines. In the evenings, he’d help the carnies set up and run the midway. For three itinerant years, the job led him on a grand adventure across Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alberta.
All the while, he says, he sent back whatever he could of his $90 a week salary to help his parents. “The reason for my leaving was sad,” he says, “but the job was a lot of fun.”
His interest piqued by the stories of his childhood neighbor, John White has become an enthusiastic student of classic construction technique.
“I was inspired to go and see these bridges myself,” he says. “So eventually I had the chance to travel to Italy and France and see these structures that my neighbor could never take out. When you see them in person, they are absolutely amazing.”
At the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct in southern France, White jumped the barrier to get a closer look. “It’s built with boulders bigger than Volkswagens,” White says, “all sitting on foundations of wood piles driven into the Gardon River. When they studied those piles, they were as perfect as the day they were driven. That’s why the bridge probably hasn’t dropped an inch since it was built.”
At another ancient site, the Circus Varianus in Rome, he served on a team that studied the foundations of this ancient race track built in 81 A.D. and still standing tall as the surrounding ground has sunk over the centuries.
“It’s sitting on 30,000 wood pilings,” White reports. “Each one of those was labeled with a serial number and species. They knew the center was soft, so they cut the tip off center, then burnt the tip to make it extra hard. They also cut the piles in octagonal shape to increase the surface area and create friction against underwater soil—just like you’ll see under the piers on the Seattle waterfront. And platoons of men drove them into place with giant manual drop hammers of stone or steel.
“We learned a lot from the Romans.”
Hammers of the gods
In 2004, John White was summoned to China to meet with the country’s 78-year-old master pile driver, a Mr. Wong, about an ambitious new project.
The meeting began with Mr. Wong asking Mr. White, “What’s the largest pile you’ve ever driven?”
“Now, I was feeling a little cocky,” White says today. “I told him that APE had just driven a 10-foot diameter pile in Houston—which I knew, at the time, was the biggest pile ever, at least in the western world.
“Mr. Wong looks at me and says, ‘So that’s the biggest?’
“I say, ‘Yes, sir.’
“Then he pulls out a picture and slides it to me. It’s him in 1952, three years before I was born, with four electric Russian vibro hammers hooked together, driving a 15-foot diameter concrete pile. I nearly fell out of my chair.”
When he recovered, White noted that the process must have been pretty slow. “He says, ‘Mr. White, that’s why you’re here. Because I want to drive a 40-foot diameter concrete pile.’ I thought he was crazy.”
A few years later, the request came for a hammer to drive a 40-foot pile. White connected four of APE’s “Super Kong” hammers to get the job done.
That was 2006. Then a new project arose, of almost unimaginable scale. “They asked how big a pile can we drive?” White recalls. “I said, ‘As big as you want.’ ”
This time, China wanted to hammer piles measuring 72 feet across.
White’s response was the OctaKong, his grandest invention and the largest piledriver in history. Today the 500,000-pound vibro hammer is driving steel piles the size of missile silos into the South China Sea to support the 31-mile Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
“And that’s not even the biggest project in the works,” White says. “Now my son David is working on a hammer to drive 105-foot diameter piles.”
Crazy… like a fox
Crazy Horse Motorcycles is a little company. If it didn’t inhabit the tough-guy world of polished chrome and roaring engines, you might even call it a boutique company. Just John White, a few machinists and an assembler, manufacturing engines modeled after the classic Indian Motorcycles and a limited line of original bikes built for tall riders.
But how to go from boutique to blockbuster? White is deploying a number of innovative marketing tactics learned in the Foster School’s Executive MBA Program.
“In the EMBA we talked about how to market a product when you’ve got no money to market, looking at cases such as DaVinci vintage clothing that built its brand by providing bowling shirts for actors Charlie Sheen and James Gandolfini.”
So he began providing Crazy Horse engines to Paul Teutul Jr. (of Paul Jr. Designs) whose award-winning custom motorcycles are featured on the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper.”
“Every time he builds a custom bike, it has our engine in it,” White says. “We’re now very well known around the world.”
As with most archaeological finds, John White discovered his grand “fixer” thanks to a heavy dose of serendipity.
White had signed up for last spring’s Executive MBA study tour of South America. As a side trip, he planned to join in the trek to Machu Picchu, the legendary lost Incan city perched high in the Andes of Peru.
To train for this grueling ascent, he often hiked the steps of Eagles Landing Park, a sliver of greenspace leading from high bluff to seashore in Seahurst, on the edge of Burien. While catching his breath on the beach one day, he looked up and caught a glimpse of a sprawling house that was covered in vegetation.
“You couldn’t even see it from Google Earth,” he says.
Beneath its botanical shroud lay the surprisingly well-preserved 7,400-square-foot residence called Forestledge, the long-vacant Sprague mansion.
And it was for sale.
Owing to its outward condition, White purchased his dream home at a remarkable discount.
Now, just as Machu Picchu was gradually reclaimed from the encroaching forest after its discovery in 1911, White has set out to restore his own lost palace—and the treasures within—to its original grandeur.
The job also serves as a diversion from his early retirement from the piledriving business. “I’m using it as my therapy,” he says.
What about that angry gorilla?
APE had been represented by a conservative corporate logo for years. But what about the other emblem, that ferocious face of the angry gorilla?
“One day we hired this kid to help us in the shop,” recounts John White. “During a break, he drew a gorilla on a napkin. Two days later he was gone and we never saw him again. I thought it would be fun to put the gorilla on a hat. And everybody wanted one. I couldn’t believe it. Now we have an entire APE clothing line featuring the gorilla logo, and we painted the logo 40-feet tall on the side of our headquarters in Kent, WA.
“It all started with some part-time kid doodling on a napkin.”
What do a sports bar and fishing boat have in common? If you’re Erik Petersen, quite a bit.
Petersen, an alumnus of the Executive Development Program at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, manages fishing boats for Iquique U.S. by day and is owner of the Fremont Dock by night and weekend. As a fourth-generation member of the commercial fishing industry, it’s in his blood. He grew up on fishing boats and worked on one in Alaska with his father during the summer between high school and college. His ownership of a sports bar is more recent.
In 2011 he became a silent managing partner in the Fremont Dock, and when it became for sale, he bought it. The Fremont Dock reopened in September, and business has been good ever since.
Petersen has been able to apply what he learned in the EDP, not only to his work at Iquique, but also to the Dock. The program emphasized maximizing return on investment capital (ROIC) and he’s applied that concept to both of his jobs by running lean businesses. He is relentlessly focused on maximizing profits and reducing waste and costs by tightly managing inventory and purchasing.
Petersen’s motivation for enrolling in the EDP was to gain more skills and advance his career with a minimal impact on his time. He credits the EDP with “changing his frame of mind.” At the beginning of the program he said he went from learning how to think strategically to thinking strategically in his day-to-day work activities. An example of this is leveraging the network that exists in the program. It didn’t take Petersen long to find connections between his classmates and his businesses.
The Fremont Dock is family owned and operated. Petersen’s wife, Sara, manages it and his brother and parents also work there. His 5-7 year plan is to establish and expand the brand to other waterfront towns and neighborhoods–à la Ballard Dock, Edmonds Dock, etc.
“I’m passionate about never stagnating and constantly improving,” Petersen says.
It’s a mantra he applies to both Iquique U.S. and the Fremont Dock.
Guest post by Claire Koerner, Lavin student and Foster undergrad She attended the Networking Secrets talk that was the kickoff event of Entrepreneur Week 2012. The speaker was Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments.
“What do you dislike about networking?” That’s the question Dan Price used to open his Top 10 Networking Secrets talk. Attendees weren’t expecting to hear that the networking “expert” hates networking! But Dan is not your average networker. He started his now almost $100 million (gross annual) revenue business, Gravity Payments, at the age of 19 and has grown it to be the largest credit card processing company in Washington. And he has met President Obama three times! Yet even Dan openly admits there are many things about networking that are difficult, including knowing what to say, following up with everyone you meet, and making it beneficial for all parties involved. Therefore, he suggests a different outlook on networking: incorporate the following 10 key values in your everyday life and an effective, mutually-beneficial network will follow.
BE TRANSPARENT – When interacting with people, it is okay to disagree openly with their opinions, but make sure to honestly engage with them in order to build lasting relationships.
PRACTICE EMPATHY – Even in uncomfortable situations like forced networking events, listen to what others need, understand their perspectives, and try to help wherever possible. Truly empathizing with others’ needs will smooth your networking nerves.
RECOGNIZE SHARED INTERESTS – Don’t pretend you are exactly the same as someone else, but be willing to find and make meaningful connections around mutual interests.
BE HUMBLE – Oftentimes you will be networking with people more successful and wiser than you, so be humble and willing to accept help. People are often willing to help if you are a sponge to their knowledge.
GIVE AND ACCEPT FAVORS – Reciprocity is one of the most important benefits of networking, and is important in building trust in relationships. Try to find three favors you can do for someone else every day. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will also improve your network.
SOLVE PROBLEMS TOGETHER – Be open and honest about issues you see in the arenas in which your connections have influence, and work through solutions to those issues together. This builds relationships much faster than merely shooting the breeze.
HAVE FUN – When you go out and enjoy life, chances are others will come along to share in the fun and this will only increase your network AND social life at the same time.
BELIEVE IN SERENDIPITY – Networking isn’t always about setting out to meet the right people. Sometimes, the best contacts fall into your lap and you just have to be open to the craziest and best opportunities coming your way.
DON’T BE A DOUCHEBAG – This one seems obvious, but integrity is extremely important in maintaining your reputation and the trust of those in your network.
TREAT EVERYONE EQUALLY – You don’t have to seek out the people that will be most beneficial for your success. When you are friendly and incorporate the values above, the best contacts will come your way and stay to help out for the long haul.
Entrepreneur Week is put on by the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Learn more.
My name is Tracy Gojdics and I am the Director of the UW Foster Technology Management MBA (TMMBA) Program and a proud alumna from the Class of 2007. Since 2001, the program has transformed hundreds of technology professionals into business leaders. In addition to our esteemed faculty and rigorous and relevant curriculum, the program offers a network second to none. As the Director and as an alumnus I have experienced the power of the TMMBA network and the great ROI the program yields.
When you become a student in the Foster TMMBA Program you become a member of an exclusive and supportive network of over 800 accomplished and high-caliber professionals. These professionals represent over 65 organizations including start-ups, non-profit, family-owned and global organizations – all with one thing in common: a passion for technology! With the TMMBA network, you will meet potential business partners and make connections with people in the companies you’d like to work for.
As a student and alum of the program you will experience an ROI greater than you expected. Our students and alumni measure their TMMBA ROI in more ways than just an increase in salary. They look at factors such as whether or not they are more equipped and self-assured to lead others, more creative and strategic in their thinking, more analytical in their decision-making and more confident and well-rounded professionals. Factors outside of monetary gain are difficult to measure; however, I hear time-and-time again from students and alumni how the TMMBA experience is the greatest investment they’ve made in their lives.
I invite you to watch the video above, visit a class, talk with Technology Management MBA students or alumni, or contact me directly to learn more about the academic experience, our powerful network and the return on investment you can expect and more.
On September 28th University of Washington students Niki Kiga, Elizabeth Reisner, Emalina Berkshire, and McKenzie Schnell presented at the Washington State Summit on US-India Trade & Commerce about their experiences during the “Half the Sky” India Exploration Seminar. The students had traveled to India for one month studyingwomen’s leadership and issues related to social business – corporations, entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and individuals creating business solutions to poverty and environmental issues persisting despite explosive growth in the Indian economy. The students brought a fresh perspective and personal insights to the summit which was focused on deepening trade ties and building awareness of opportunities between the state of Washington and Orissa.
The students shared stories about the highlights of their trip including visiting the innovative Aravind Eye Hospital, helping build a rain-water tank at a village school, joining a group of women at their weekly rooftop micro-finance meeting, and a papermaking business employing and empowering people with disabilities using tea-plantation waste materials. They emphasized that although they came from different academic disciplines and backgrounds that they all saw the influence and interconnections of business in all facets of society and were inspired by the way business can be a tool for empowerment.
During the Q&A the audience was especially interested in the long-lasting impacts the trip will have on their career choices, connection to India, and views of gender roles. The students talked about how before the trip, the group fund-raised $4,000 to buy a water tank for a village school and to open a pre-school in a rural area through the organizations they visited and how this experience inspired them to continue to support and be connected to similar organizations.
Meet Jeri Wait, Global Business Advisory Board Chair and Co-founder of OrcaWave, a globally oriented software company providing revenue assurance solutions for telecommunications companies in the USA and across five continents.
How did you become interested in the telecommunications business?
Actually it was rather by chance. When I was in high school, I was looking for a summer job in which the working conditions would be pleasant, and I could learn something new. The previous summer I had been a hotel maid, which was very hard physically and not the best working conditions. (But to this day I can make a mean bed!) I had heard AT&T was hiring high school seniors to be telephone operators, sounded good to me! My luck was with me, as they not only hired me, but placed me in a college program that allowed me to work around my upcoming university class schedule. The program I was hired in was targeting high potential incoming college freshmen, that had tested well for future management jobs in the telephone business. It was a wonderful college job and ultimately career, first beginning as a telephone operator and then later working with a networking group assisting with analysis and managing special projects. By college graduation, I already had four years of service with the company and had some solid experience to draw upon as I entered the management trainee program. My accelerated program prepared me well for management roles at the age of 22, and also allowed me to career track to the technology side of the business. At the time, I was one of the youngest managers as well as one of a handful of women who managed traditional male jobs. I must admit it was challenging, but some of the best days of my early career.
By the time I left the phone company, I had experienced over a dozen different positions, including the role of Vice President of major business accounts, responsible for $600M of annual revenue as well as leading a national development effort for a new business unit. It was quite a ride and provided me a solid basis from which to co-found my own business. Not only did I leave with a wealth of knowledge about the business and managing teams, I also was fortunate to have graduated with an Executive MBA (Class 6) from the University of Washington.
What is it like to be the co-founder of a company? What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about the experience?
Entering the entrepreneurial world as a co-founder of a company was quite a change from the bureaucracy of a fortune 500 company. The phone company had surrounded me with training, procedures, outstanding team members and staff support. For years, I had a personal assistant taking care of all of the little things. Launching a new business that was initially self funded, required a change in my thinking and learning new skills. I now had to be responsible for everything, with very limited time and resources. No longer was there staff to back me up, or to even make my flight reservations. The overwhelming responsibility of managing employees who were dependent upon me and the other co-founder for their salary and well being, was an awesome task. In my corporate career, I was proud of my ability to mentor and assist my employees with their career development, but owning my own business now made that commitment to employees so much more complex. After more than 12 years of co-owning my own firm, I continue to enjoy mentoring my team but also never cease to forget that their jobs and livelihood are dependent upon our mutual success as a company.
On the other hand, being an entrepreneur is exhilarating, wonderfully fun and addicting. The first company I co-founded was a telecom business providing long distance solutions to telephone companies on a global basis. Ten years ago, we founded a new company providing the software for the management of telecom solutions. This is a global company, with customers on all continents. The opportunity to learn a new business, software was intellectually stimulating and challenging. I have traveled extensively to places that never would have made the family vacation agenda but have enriched my life in so many ways. Every day, we are challenged by doing business in different cultures and time zones. Although, from my perspective I always think we can do anything , time of day or culture should not create barriers to working together. I think this is the American optimism exuding from me, however my customers can get very frustrated with the differences, so my challenge is to constantly be alert to the signals that will tell me there is more we need to do as a business to be successful in a global market place.
You have to think hard every day as a business owner. You can never let your guard down, or think you have it right. There are always multi faceted issues that present themselves daily. Cash flow is probably the biggest challenge and requires close vigilance to assure the business is healthy. The balance between having enough cash and not diluting mine and my business partner’s hard earned equity consumes me on some days. However, I would never give it up, not for one minute. It is my life and my passion.
And one last thing regarding co-founding a business, I have a great partner! I was so fortunate to have traveled down this professional path with someone whose skills complimented mine, is intelligent, business savvy and has an optimistic outlook. Other entrepreneurs that venture into new opportunities will tell you this same thing, it is absolutely essential to move forward with partners, one or more. I am convinced the synergy of partnerships leads to better businesses and long term success.
How did your experience at the Foster School prepare you for your career in global communications?
My Executive MBA absolutely prepared me for the leap into an entrepreneurial career path. The solid foundation built on accounting and economic principals has been drawn upon daily. I was also so fortunate to have had such outstanding professors including Rocky Higgins, Karma and Bob Bowen who bestowed upon our class their broader vision of how their particular expertise was applied to the global marketplace. I was also exposed to 40 classmates from 40 different corporations who shared their challenges, how they problem solved and their formulas for success.
What I see in today’s program that is so meaningful for success is the global perspective and the real life business models expressed through business case presentations and sometimes competitions. They closely align to the current business client and challenges that I see today.
Can you tell us about a person or experience that has influenced you in your career decisions?
This may sound corny but my parents encouraged me to dream, excel and never did they discourage me in following my professional desires. Also, I had many wonderful mentors along the way. Early in my career I had individuals that identified me as someone they wished to invest time in, providing training, career path counseling and sounding boards for new ideas and problem solving. These individuals will be held dear to me for all time. I use them as my role models, as I mentor UW students and my employees.
What would you tell current business students, both undergrads and MBAs, about the world of global business?
Global business is an integral part of our world and is as much main stream as the domestic U.S. business was 20 years ago. However, never take the cultural differences for granted. Learn from each, and take the time to understand how your business actions are perceived. Be open to others’ differences and views and enjoy those unique characteristics. Be willing to step back and accept the culture you are working in even though it is not how you would manage if at home. Enjoy global business, it will enrich your life!
Guest post by Julius Ekeroma, TMMBA 2014 He attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Phil Condit, former Chair and CEO of The Boeing Company.
Phil Condit was an absolutely excellent speaker tonight. He was asked to speak on the topic of communication and narrowed it down to a more specific topic: aggressive listening.
I heard a quote once before that said, “Behind every successful leader is a multiplicity of great mentors.” Phil truly was one of those inspirational leaders. One of the biggest issues Phil emphasized tonight is that top leaders fail due to their philosophy of “My way or no way at all.” Phil says a good leader is one that listens to his team and his people; takes in what they say and determines a plan of action. Under each leader are a whole slew of intelligent and talented people. If you don’t use their knowledge, there is no reason to hire them.
My key takeaways from tonight:
If you have a big decision to make, use the pros and cons from the people to support your account. If you don’t involve your team in your big decisions, yet you hear their feedback, they’ll frown down upon you–to point of even losing their respect.
Listen intently and interact with your speakers. Show them a sense that you care of their issues. Value who they are and they will do the same of you.
Being a good listener is not a skill that comes naturally: it is a skill you have to think about.
If you’re willing to listen to your people, they’ll start telling you things they normally wouldn’t tell anyone — good and bad.
Kick yourself! Be an aggressive listener. Listen to the people and what they have to offer before you say, “Here’s our direction.” Every team has skilled people — as a leader, use them.
Every great leader has a moral compass. Be sensitive to the people. As a leader, your job is the success of the enterprise, not your personal success.
Phil concluded that as a leader, once in a while you need to be alone and reflect on yourself as a leader. Reflect on how people perceive you as a leader. Are you leading in a good way or bad? Have you done your job well? Have you sincerely met the expectations of the people? Are you an effective leader?
The next speaker is Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications, on November 1. Learn more.
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