All posts by Sarah Massey

Reinventing the Fremont Dock

Erik PetersenWhat 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.

Networking: a new strategy for an established activity

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.

Dan Price“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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Leadership is aggressive listening

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Being a good listener is not a skill that comes naturally: it is a skill you have to think about.
  4. If you’re willing to listen to your people, they’ll start telling you things they normally wouldn’t tell anyone — good and bad.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Grow smarter

Seattle Bagel BakeryAJ Ghambari, 2007 University of Washington Foster School of Business alumnus, has owned Seattle Bagel Bakery since October 2010. The previous owner was ready to give the business up in the midst of financial hardship and Ghambari took this opportunity to turn the bakery around. This summer, he enlisted the help of a student consultant through the Business & Economic Development Center’s (BEDC) Summer Internship Program to identify ways to strategically grow his business.

“I’m a big fan of the leadership at the BEDC. I want to surround myself with people I want to be like…They are good people doing positive things in the business environment,” said Ghambari. As an undergraduate studying at the Foster School, he “loved the opportunity to collaborate with small business owners, mentors…learning problem solving, consulting…real world stuff…the BEDC really gave that.” Ghambari wanted to play a role in getting students involved and applying their classroom knowledge to the real world.

Since taking over Seattle Bagel Bakery (SBB), Ghambari has continued to deliver a high quality product – “old school kettle-boiled bagels.” But it’s not only the product that is prospering; SBB prides itself on the relationships it builds with their suppliers, customers and employees. All the employees have been with the company from five to 15 years. “We instill a strong sense of ownership in our employees – they feel empowered to do what they’re good at. And that really comes out in the product.”

Ghambari said he hopes to double sales revenue of SBB in the next three to five years, and “not just to make a quick buck, but sustainable growth.” In order to do this, he emphasized how SBB needs to look at its strategy and how it is growing. “We need to grow smarter, not harder,” he said. The BEDC Summer Internship Program is providing this. Student consultant Cynthia Chiou has been creating a “clearer, more focused strategy on growing business outside of the state of Washington,” said Ghambari.

“Everything the student and BEDC said they would do, they have done…they walk the walk,” said Ghambari. He recommends this program for “any small business looking for mentoring and guidance, a second opinion. It’s a great group of people to bounce ideas off of.”

Twelve businesses participated in the summer intern consulting program. Learn more about the companies.

Food on wheels: a foodie blogger dishes with food truck owners

Molly Moon Food TruckFood trucks are not a fad. There are over 80 operating in Seattle currently and the number continues to grow. If you want to know what it’s like to start and operate a food truck, this is your chance. SmallFoodBiz.com blogger and author of Food On Wheels, Jennifer Lewis, will lead a panel discussion with food truck entrepreneurs Molly Neitzel, Molly Moon’s; Josh Henderson, Skillet; and Marshall Jett, Veraci Pizza. Jennifer, along with the panel, will cover everything from permitting and budgeting to executing on your idea to becoming profitable.

The challenges of owning a food truck are real. Food truck restaurateurs have to worry about competition, not only from restaurants but also from other food trucks. There are also other considerations: cost, location, rules and regulations, and marketing a business that moves. We’ll also talk about the amazing food truck craze. The initial impression was that it’s low rent food, but it’s actually delicious, high quality cuisine sought by foodies all over the Northwest. Join us for this insightful panel discussion about the business of operating a food truck.

Food on Wheels Panel Discussion
Wednesday, October 17 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in Anthony’s Forum, 320 Business Hall

Food trucks will also be open for business! Molly Moon’s, Veraci Pizza, and Monte Cristo will be serving food from 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. on October 17 on the Business Hall Promenade.

EntreWeek: Film premiere celebrates China’s Jack Ma and Alibaba

Since Jack Ma first launched the business in his apartment in 1999, Alibaba has transformed into one of China’s largest internet companies and Ma has become known as China’s Steve Jobs. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is excited to be hosting the Seattle premiere of Crocodile in the Yangtze a film about his life and start-up adventures, as part of the annual UW EntreWeek. The film presents a strikingly candid portrait of Ma and his company, told from the point of view of Porter Erisman, an “American fly on a Chinese wall” who witnessed Alibaba’s successes and mistakes along the way. This insider story captures the emotional ups and downs of life in an online start-up, including Ma’s battle with eBay, when the Internet was bringing China face-to-face with the West.

Don’t miss this film, which recently sold out its San Francisco Premiere and was awarded “Best Documentary” by the United Film Festival jury. With Erisman in attendance as CIE’s special guest, this Seattle premiere will include a lively Q&A session, so attendees can learn even more about his eight fascinating years working with Ma.

Seattle Movie Premiere: Porter Erisman’s Crocodile in the Yangtze: The Story of a Westerner Inside China’s Alibaba.com
Monday, October 15
5:30-7:30 PM in Shansby Auditorium, Paccar Hall 192

Watch the movie trailer.

Learn more about all EntrepreneurWeek events.

Students connect with professionals

Costco Field TripThe Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) tracks have been exploring out-of-classroom activities by organizing field trips to local internationally-focused businesses. Many of these trips have been set up by partnering with CISB alumni. Not only is this a great way for alumni to get involved, it also allows current students to see where a CISB certificate can take them, and is a great way for them to learn more about some exciting local companies. Here are a few highlights:

Spanish Track:
In February, 2011, the Spanish track went on a trip to the Starbucks headquarters, where they met with CISB Spanish Track alumna Julie Anderson, Ethical Sourcing Manager in the Department of Global Responsibility, along with a colleague of hers. After being given a tour of the office, students were taken to the tasting room where they learned about the process Starbucks uses when choosing coffee beans to be used in production. They even got to sample some different coffee roasts for themselves! Students were then shown a short presentation highlighting the C.A.F.E. program for Ethical Sourcing, which ensures an overall ethical cultivation, distribution, and selling process.

Japanese and Chinese Tracks:
In January 2011, the Japanese and Chinese tracks had the opportunity to tour the new Seattle Amazon.com campus and learn more about this internationally-focused company. Carson Chu, a CISB Japanese track honorary alumnus, has worked at Amazon for six years and is now manager of the Shares Services Asia Department. He showed the students around the facility and talked about the company’s current activities and future vision. The students heard about Amazon’s current developments in the China market and how skills learned as a CISB student can be applied in the workplace.

After the trip, Carson invited two of the Japanese track members, both candidates for Amazon Financial Analyst positions, to meet with him and do mock interviews to prepare for the official job interviews.

The Japanese track also met informally with Costco CEO Jim Sinegal during a field trip to the company in May, 2011.

German Track:
Bob Vollbracht, Regional Director, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, hosted the German track at the Auburn, Washington facility in October, 2010. The students witnessed cross-dock transloading operations, got an up-close look at various trucks, containers, cargo and equipment, and received an explanation on warehouse inventory management.

Students Ashley Matsumoto and Darcy Lloyd said, “We are grateful for the many benefits that CISB provides, not only in preparation for international business jobs and careers but in helping us connect with our amazing alumni and local international companies.”

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Mentor program connects students to work world

Repurposed from a 2007 newsletter from the Certificate of International Studies in Business

CISB 2007 mentor photoFifteen Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students received support and advice from professionals in the business world this year through the pilot Business Mentoring Connections Program. Mentors from Microsoft, Boeing, SanMar, Deloitte Consulting, KPMG, Accenture, Expeditors, Washington Mutual, Tran Law Firm, Ballard Travel and Cruise Consultants, and Lowell Elementary School shared their expertise and offered career guidance while benefiting from the chance to practice their coaching skills.

“The program does a great job of connecting education to the work world,” according to one student. Mentors were equally enthusiastic, saying, “this kind of program develops skills that are crucial to managers: listening, patience and developing the overall person rather than just focusing on their potential job”, and “we have worked a lot on professionalism, networking and communication skills; these are key aspects of transitioning successfully into the business world.”

Business School alumna Margaret Xu, ’03, will join Nishika de Rosairo in co-managing the program in 2008. CISB alumna and co-founder of BMeC, Anne Sackville-West, ‘03, will be moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and will stay involved with the program in an advisory capacity.

Associate Dean Steve Sefcik says, “we’re thrilled to have the involvement of dedicated mentors who care so much about helping our CISB students succeed.” The program will continue in 2007-2008, thanks to the support of the UW Business School Undergraduate Program office.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.