Avolio in Australia: a powerful reminder

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

The picture is of an empty and very long table on South bank in Melbourne. The organizers wanted to send the message that a lot of folks would go without a holiday meal if folks didn’t donate to help out. What a powerful symbol…empty table with lots and lots of seats needing to be filled.

Found in translation

Found in Translation: Frenchman fêted for bringing American management to Chinese business

When Cyrille BrearCyrille Breardd (TMMBA 2010) was studying global strategy, cross-cultural management and how to lead organizational change at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, he had no idea just how far—and how fast—his education would take him.

In late September Breard found himself in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where he received the National Friendship Award, China’s highest honor for a foreign national, from Premier Wen Jiabao.

Elapsed time? Just over two years out of Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program.

“This is a huge award in China,” says Xiao-Ping Chen, a professor of management at the Foster School who taught his cross-cultural management class. “It’s quite a remarkable honor that Cyrille has won, and won so soon.”

If the pace seems extreme, well, then, that’s China. Breard was recognized for his significant coordination and collaboration work with COMAC, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, a state-owned company that launched in 2008 with ambitions to join the global aerospace market almost overnight.

Technical bona fides

Breard has the cut of an absolute engineer: PhD in mechanics from the Université du Havre in France. Author of papers with titles such as “An Integrated time-domain model for the prediction of fan forced response due to inlet distortion.” Researcher at the Rolls-Royce Vibration University Technology Center at Imperial College London. Senior scientist/engineer at Redmond-based Analytical Methods. Acoustic scientist engineer at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

After proving himself a top technician during a decade in the United States, the French-born Breard aspired to manage innovation at a higher level. His time in Foster’s TMMBA Program proved pivotal.

“My outlook changed entirely,” he says. “As an engineer, you see a problem as something to fix. Now I see every problem as an opportunity. The Foster TMMBA experience made me more positive, more entrepreneurial, to view every situation as a way to improve something. That’s the philosophy I took with me to China.”

It would serve him well.

Unique opportunity
Cyrille Breard
Breard was recruited under China’s Thousand Talents Program which imports international experts to help develop the nation’s industries. Aiding his decision was his wife Xuehong’s desire to return to her native China. With their two daughters, the family relocated to Shanghai in 2010. Xuehong went to work for a Chinese civil engineering firm. And Cyrille joined COMAC, at the time a two-year-old “startup” founded with $2.7 billion in capital. Its aim was unprecedented in the history of aviation.

“You don’t just create a company from scratch in the aerospace business,” Breard says. “I had to take this opportunity.”

He was initially hired for his acoustic engineering expertise. His charge was to bring the firm’s single-aisle commercial airplanes into compliance with strict international noise standards. But this proved to be a difficult challenge.

Like many Chinese enterprises, COMAC is organized into distinct departments with clear responsibilities. But acoustic engineering, by nature, must cut across every function of aircraft design. It requires enormous collaboration, something Breard knew well from his time in the US and at Foster.

So Breard took it upon himself to connect the dots. He amended his job description to become a kind of in-house organizational consultant. “I go into different departments and try to find a better way to do what they’re doing,” he says.

His tacit understanding of Guanxi, the powerful rule of relationships in China, enabled him to begin fostering a Western-style collaborative culture across the company. And he quickly proved himself an indispensable asset to COMAC—an engineer who knows how to manage organizations.

Famous in China

COMAC and the Chinese government formally recognized Breard’s contributions in September. Xuehong joined him in Beijing for the ceremony. And both attended, as special guests, the following day’s National Banquet, officiated by Premier Wen and then-President Hu Jintao.

In early December, Breard and a small group of foreign experts met with Xi Jinping, the newly elected General Secretary of China’s Communist Party and likely next president of China.

“There are not many people who get the chance to do these things in their lives,” Breard says.

All of this has been covered extensively by the Chinese press, bringing him a rapidly growing notoriety.

Breard says his first sensation of celebrity came a few weeks after the Friendship Award proceedings. A two-minute profile of his work at COMAC aired in prime time of the national news broadcast on CCTV1. The program was viewed by over 320 million people.

“After that,” Breard says, “people I didn’t even know where coming up to me and saying, ‘Now you’re famous in China.’ ”

Suzan DelBene

Tech entrepreneur and former Microsoft executive heads to Congress

Suzan DelBeneSuzan DelBene (MBA 1990) has been a Microsoft vice president, CEO of a software startup, microfinance consultant, and director of a state agency. Now she is representing Washington state’s First Congressional District in Washington D.C.

DelBene ran for Congress to improve the economy and put the middle class first. According to The Seattle Times, DelBene said, “For me this campaign always has been about standing up for working families and the middle class.” She won the district with 54% of the votes and was sworn into office on November 13, 2012. She is finishing the final weeks of former Congressman Jay Inslee’s term and will start her 2-year term in January.

Prior to being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, she was looking for ways to help businesses as director of the Washington State Department of Revenue. Governor Chris Gregoire appointed DelBene to head the state’s tax collection agency after her first foray into politics as a 2010 candidate for Washington’s Eighth Congressional District. That highly credible effort earned her the endorsement of the Seattle Times, which cited her “tremendous promise” and “sharp business and entrepreneurial skills.”

DelBene freely admits she knew little about tax administration before agreeing to run the agency that collects more than 90 percent of state taxes. But observers say she has been a quick study on the complex intricacies of tax policy.

After DelBene joined the agency, the governor directed her to examine ways it could improve the business climate by streamlining the tax system. DelBene consulted businesses and other stakeholders across the state to determine what the state could do to reduce the burden of complying with multiple state and local tax obligations. The resulting report issued in June 2011 recommended that the state consider assuming administration of local business and occupation taxes, much as it now collects local sales taxes. Gregoire subsequently directed the Department to work with business and local governments to develop a proposal. Such an overhaul of the tax system would require legislative approval.

In the end, cities such as Tacoma and Seattle were resistant to centralizing the collection of B&O taxes at the state level, and as a result the bill was not approved. While DelBene was not able to centralize B&O tax collection, she was able to move business licensing to the Department of Revenue from the Department of Licensing, which helps streamline the process of starting a business.

The Eastside resident started her career in immunology research after graduating from Reed College in Portland. She first became interested in the business side of technology while working at ZymoGenetics in Seattle. That led her to enter the Foster School in 1988. She interned at Microsoft while in school and joined the company after graduation, marketing Windows 95 and other products. She then left Microsoft to help launch drugstore.com in 1998, and in 2000 became CEO of Nimble Technology, a data integration software firm. Along the way, she’s also mentored students at the Foster School.

DelBene returned to Microsoft in 2004 as a corporate vice president for the mobile communications business, and in 2008 became a consultant at Global Partnerships, a microfinance nonprofit.

Now that she is on the government side of things at the national level, DelBene’s business background will come in handy again as she works to solve the economic issues currently facing the United States.

UW Minority Business Awards honor top ventures, announce expanded partnership

The 2012 University of Washington Minority Business Awards honored ten top performing minority-owned ventures in the state of Washington.

The December 6 event, co-hosted by the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) at the UW Foster School of Business and the Puget Sound Business Journal, also unveiled an expanded partnership between BEDC and JPMorgan Chase, and welcomed back an old friend,

Ali TarhouniThat would be Ali Tarhouni, the popular senior lecturer who famously left his post at Foster in early 2011 to serve as finance minister for the Libyan revolutionary government. Tarhouni, who has initially declined a run for the newly democratic nation’s prime minister, expressed his pride in the growth of this unique Center that he helped found in the early 1990s.

“The Foster School of Business has heart,” he said. “We teach our students how to create wealth, and that’s our primary responsibility. But I’m also proud to be associated with a school that subscribes to do the right thing—even though it doesn’t usually have an immediate reward… Doing what is right and creating wealth aren’t mutually exclusive.”

The long-term impact of BEDC in promoting a robust economic diversity across the state was evident in the range of 2012 awardees.

The William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year is Redapt, the Redmond-based provider of innovative data center infrastructure solutions.

Regional winners include:
King County Award – Jabez Construction/ST Fabrication and Radarworks
Northeast Washington Award – Spoko Fuel West Plains
Southeast Washington Award – RJS Construction
Northeast Washington Award – Gliding Eagle Marketplace
Southwest Washington Award – Sunmodo Corporation
Rising Star Award – C2S Technologies

Zones, the Auburn-based enterprise IT firm, received special commendation for reaching $1 billion in annual revenues. Accepting the award was Firoz Lalji, CEO and chairman of Zones, who noted that his company has become successful by serving businesses nationwide with expertise in all areas of IT, including systems and storage, networking and security, software, virtualization, procurement, logistics, any and everything tech.

Minority Business of the Year Awards 2012Michael Verchot, founding director of BEDC, announced a transformational $600,000 gift from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the largest in the center’s 17-year history. Verchot said that the gift will allow the center to engage more students in consulting to small businesses in Seattle’s low- and moderate-income communities and to grow its faculty-led small business classes throughout the state. And, perhaps most significantly, the investment also will enable the center to build a regional and national network of business schools that follow the BEDC model to spark economic development in their own communities.

This newest investment brings Chase’s total support of BEDC over the years to more than $900,000. “At JPMorgan Chase, we believe in strengthening small business and creating jobs. And we believe that is critical to the progress of our country,” said Curt Fraser, Chase’s CEO of middle market banking for the Pacific Northwest. “We’re thrilled to partner with the UW Business and Economic Development Center in working to do just that.”

A short trip down under reveals what it really means to ‘spit out the dummy’

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking at the Foster School and Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Management

Recently, I traveled to Melbourne Australia for a series of lectures and short workshops on examining the total leadership system in organizations. By total leadership system, we mean examining leadership at all levels, looking down, peer to peer sideways, and where folks are leading up measuring a broad range of leadership styles (e.g., transformational, authentic, authoritarian, ethical, etc.) within and between levels and units in organizations. By examining the total leadership system, we hope to assess all of the key leadership elements that positively contribute to organizational change and transformation.

I found that before leaving the U.S., everyone who I told about the trip smiled and said something like, ‘that’s going to be a lot of fun’ or ‘what a great place to go.’ I told my Australian colleagues that we have serious Australian envy in my country. And when I said that, I didn’t realize that on this trip to Australia that my envy would only deepen as I learned that the Australians just have the best expressions.

Being in Australia also reminded me that one could be lured into a state of lacking self-awareness about cultural differences because Australians speak English and have a lot of common interests and history in line with those of us from the U.S. When I am in other cultures where the language is different, I am more keenly aware of observing and listening to make sure I understand the cultural nuances. In Australia one can get away with that for a while, until you realize that ‘conservative’ means ‘liberal’ in Australia and vice versa.

In one of the last workshops I was doing in Australia, someone said something that got me reflecting and I must admit I laughed out loud. At one point in the workshop, one of the participants said, “That guy just spit the dummy!” You can let those comments go by, and there were several such expressions, but I decided to stop on this one and ask, “What could spitting the dummy possibly be?” I learned that a dummy is what we would call a baby’s pacifier, and when you spit the dummy, all hell breaks loose. Throughout the remainder of the day, I tried to find every possible instance to use the term, spitting the dummy, or even better, you are a dummy spitter.

So, just when you think the folks you are with are familiar, they spit the dummy and all hell breaks loose!

Launching a new business division: a conversation with Ray Risco, President of Weyerhaeuser Solutions

Ray Risco is the President of Weyerhaeuser Solutions, a division of Weyerhaeuser that offers consulting and management services designed to help clients develop, manage and commercialize forest assets. He is a member of the GBC’s Global Business Advisory Board.

Tell us about Weyerhaeuser Solutions. What was it like to create a new business division for a company?
Weyerhaeuser Solutions is designed to take our management, business and some IP systems and engage them with third parties outside of the traditional forest products space as part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development 2050 initiative. I worked with Bob Ewing, a colleague, in developing a business that manages natural resources and assists companies in transitioning to renewable energy supplies, such as electrical utility companies that are looking to co-fire biomass with coal as a green alternative in the UK, and specialty chemical companies looking for organic feedstock instead of traditional sources.

Creating a service division that provides consulting as well as operational management in a traditional products company presented some significant challenges.  However, the timing of the idea linked to the 2050 initiative and the support of senior management along with the Board of Directors was a significant plus in successfully launching the business.  From inception to official launch took 2.5 years.  That may seem like a long period of time, but considering the radically different business model it was a remarkably quick process.

In your career, you’ve worked in accounting, finance, operational and divisional leadership, and new product/business development. Which was the most challenging, and which the most rewarding?
Every role I have had has had its challenges and rewards from a personal and career perspective but one challenge in particular had the largest personal impact.  In 2005 I took over the leadership of our Uruguayan operations and had the chance to transform a plantation project into a full blown operating company.  My challenge was to set up the productive chain and to find the right people to staff all of the new departments we had just created and set them up for success. Although this was a significant personal challenge and rewarding for the whole team, the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride has come from seeing the immensely positive impact this project has had in the communities in which we operate.

What countries have you lived and worked in?
I am originally from Peru and I have lived in 6 different countries since my childhood including living and working in the US, Germany, and Uruguay. Over my career, I have had direct responsibility for over 22 countries covering Asia, Europe and South America.

What would you tell students about the world of global business?
The world may be getting flat but that doesn’t mean it’s the same – culture, history and tradition matter as one thinks of doing business at home or abroad.  At the end of the day you are still dealing with people so respect matters.  Be confident in what you know and never be afraid to admit what you don’t.  More often than not you will get the help you need.

 

A visit from Mr. Gunnar Oom, Swedish State Secretary of Trade

Guest post by Ludomir Wanot, Foster undergraduate

A few weeks ago, I was a part of an audience at the University of Washington that had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Gunnar Oom, the Swedish Secretary of trade, who discussed Sweden and the Euro Crisis. His role as the state secretary of trade is to promote Swedish exports.

Mr. Oom started by briefly addressing some Sweden’s economic advantages and disadvantages. He stated that more than half of Sweden’s GPD originates from its exports and about 70% of its exports go to the European Union (EU). In the future, he said, he would like to see more of Sweden’s exports go to developing markets. Mr. Oom mentioned that Sweden’s economy has suffered because of the housing market and other challenges, but was optimistic about the growth of the economy and stressed the importance of avoiding uncertainty in pushing the Swedish export industry forward.

Mr. Oom briefly addressed some of the solutions he would consider for Sweden’s economy. He suggested increasing investment in infrastructure as a way to build efficient and effective transportation networks, including new railroads. Sweden is consistently ranked in the top 3 most innovative nations based on the quality of its institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure and market business sophistication, and the results of innovations like patents and software, and Mr. Oom is committed to making sure that Sweden rises even farther to the top.

During the last half of his presentation, Mr. Oom addressed the current Euro crisis. He stated that without better policies, the worst could be yet to come, and recommended that the EU’s main focus should now be on evenly distributing the wealth of health care and social services. He concluded his presentation by saying, “More implementation, less talk. Instead of discussing what were going to do, we must take action now and do it.”

Student-funded scholarship is a first

UWiBThe student organization, Undergraduate Women in Business (UWiB), recently established an endowed scholarship–a monumental achievement. UWiB is the first student organization to establish an endowed fund and they raised $32,000 in a little over 2 years. Additionally, this initiative was completely student driven and a team effort.

Foster undergrads Amber Waisanen and Raychael Jensen started UWiB in 2005. They were inspired by a similar organization at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Their core mission in starting UWiB was to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders. They are very pleased with how the organization has grown and evolved over the past eight years.

“UWiB was founded on the premise of serving others and giving back, with an underlying mission to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders.

As founders, we feel extremely proud of how far UWiB has come. We are strong supporters of this fund and look forward to securing a long-term future for the organization.

For UWiB to reach an endowment status is truly a dream come true, as it was part of our list of things we hoped to accomplish one day. To see that goal come to fruition is a very rewarding and exciting opportunity for us, our members, the Foster Business School and the community at large.”

- Amber Waisanen & Raychael Jensen, Co-Founders of UWiB

The recipient of scholarship for the 2012/2013 academic year is Amanda Hamilton. She is junior at the Foster School pursuing marketing and a certificate in international business. According to Amanda, “The scholarship will help me further my international interests as I study abroad in Spain.” Last year Amanda served on the executive committee for UWiB as the fundraiser associate.

You can learn more about UWiB by visiting their website: http://uwuwib.com/

Transformational gift from JPMorgan Chase

Guest post from Michael Verchot, Director of the Business and Economic Development Center at the University of Washington Foster School of Business

On December 6 we’ll formally announce a $600,000 gift from JPMorgan Chase Foundation that will mark a turning point in the life of the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). This gift will enable us to fully meet our goals of making a substantial impact on growing jobs where they are needed most by engaging students in learning that matters to them and to businesses. Fundamentally, this gift will enable us to do three things:

  • Increase the number of students engaged in hands-on work with small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities in the Seattle area.
  • Grow our faculty-led small business classes offered in Seattle, Everett, Yakima, Tri-Cities, and Spokane to reach up to 200 small businesses each year.
  • Build a NW regional and national network of business schools that enhance their student learning by helping small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities to create jobs.

BEDC Celebrates JP Morgan Chase GiftWe already know that more than 94% of students who participate in BEDC programs say the experience improves their job performance after graduation and 80% of small business participants report positive financial and performance gains following their work with us. We now have the opportunity to serve more students and business owners.

This is the largest gift the BEDC has received in its 17-year history and brings Chase’s total giving to the BEDC to more than $900,000. As we’ve worked with Chase over the last year in shaping our vision for the use of these funds, they’ve also challenged us to think beyond their gift to what’s next. Chase’s gift will be spent over the next three years which will bring us to our 20th anniversary. It’s time to set our sights on the future. Our overarching goals these next three years will be to:

  • Leverage Chase’s support to secure between $1 million and $10 million in endowment support to sustain the growth in programs made possible by Chase’s gift.
  • Double the number of students who are working with small businesses.
  • Create a self-sustaining series of classes for entrepreneurs and business owners at all levels of business growth.

All of us at the BEDC, students, faculty, staff, and business volunteers, are deeply grateful to Chase for this investment and we look forward to an exciting couple of years ahead of us.

The sweet sniff of success: Kyle Polanski finds great potential in dog treats

Kyle Polanski
Kyle Polanski and Havana

Kyle Polanski eats dog food. So do his employees. In fact, he says, “It’s rare that we have a staff meeting and don’t taste some of the product.”  A little strange, perhaps, but if you’re picturing them spooning up mouthfuls of that smelly canned stuff, you’ve got the wrong idea.

Polanski, MBA 2008, is the CEO of Blue Dog Bakery, a dog treat company headquartered in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. The bakery produces all-natural dog snacks made with the same kinds of ingredients you might find in your favorite cookie (minus the sugar and salt), and sells to retailers across the country.

Blue Dog Bakery was started in 1998 by Margot Kenly, who directed her passion for healthy, natural foods toward making natural dog treats with pure ingredients like whole wheat flour, molasses, oats, and peanut butter. Initially sold at Costco, the treats were a hit, and the bakery soon began receiving calls from other retailers like QFC, asking when they could get Blue Dog Bakery products on their shelves.  By 2008 the company was distributing biscuits to Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Petsmart outlets throughout the Northwest and the Northeast.

At about this time, Polanski, an MBA student at the UW Foster School, established Halibut Flat Partners, a search fund backed by 12 investors who had agreed to finance his acquisition of a promising local company. His plan, once he found a company to purchase, was to use his business savvy to make it grow.

During his search, Polanski met Kenly, and spent several months doing a deep dive into Blue Dog Bakery. “There was clearly potential for expanding the company, evolving the brand, and scaling distribution to a national level,” he said. Polanski acquired Blue Dog Bakery in 2009 and the rush was on.

Since then, the bakery has grown its geographic and retail footprints (its products are now in 12,000 stores across the country) and increased sales (30% since the beginning of 2012 alone). The brand has become popular in stores like QFC and Safeway, and gained attention from the media, appearing in the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report. Blue Dog even won the 2010 Supermarket News Category Excellence award.

Polanski and his now 7 employees have expanded their product line to include items like Doggie Cremes and Bakery Bones, and redesigned their packaging. The company also started Pet Treat Pantry, a program that donates boxes of dog treats to animal shelters in five regions across the country.

As he looks ahead, Polanski is focused on competing in the national market, vying with billion-dollar brands for the attention of pet-owners and their pups. He believes Blue Dog’s all-natural products can go head-to-head with anything the competition throws their way. “People want healthy, natural, and affordable for their pets,” he said. “That’s Blue Dog.”