A clean, modern, state-of-the-art building on the north-central part of campus, PACCAR Hall is the unmistakable jewel of the Foster School. The result of several private donations from area companies, the building is named after its largest benefactor, truck manufacturer PACCAR Inc. Headquartered in Bellevue, the Fortune 500 company continues to forge an exceptional and ongoing relationship with Foster, sponsoring the PACCAR Award for Excellence in Teaching and recruiting students and recent grads for internships and jobs. In recognition of this extraordinary partnership, Foster officially declared October 8, 2014, as PACCAR Day on the UW campus.
During the event, students, staff, and faculty were able to tour trucks, speak with PACCAR employees, and enjoy a special lunchtime presentation from CEO Ron Armstrong. See photos from the event below.
As a new school year begins, so does Foster’s high school-to-college pipeline program Young Executives of Color, known to most as YEOC. The program, now in its eighth year, is more competitive than ever, receiving over 350 applications for 173 spots. With 44 percent of current YEOC students working towards being the first in their family to attend college, the stakes are high and the rewards are life-changing. There’s much to learn and discuss, which is why the program staff kicked things off with an all morning orientation for both students and parents. YEOC Program Manager Korrie Miller believes that it’s vital that families have time to ask questions and see what their students will be doing for the next nine months. “It sets the tone for the whole year,” she says.
After breakfast and a bit of networking, students reviewed the program expectations and policies concerning attendance (required), dress code (business casual), and bullying (zero tolerance). Afterward, the students met their assigned mentors. The mentors, juniors and seniors here at Foster (some of whom are also YEOC alums) are assigned several YEOC students to support both during and outside of the sessions. This support includes contacting the mentees to see how they’re coming along with school-work (the average GPA for a YEOC student is a 3.6) and what actions they’re taking to achieve their post-secondary goals. The students ended their session with a workshop hosted by admissions counselors and recruiters from UW’s Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity.
Meanwhile at the parent session, families were given the opportunity to hear from YEOC staff, program sponsors EY, former YEOC parents, and a former YEOC student and mentor. Like the students, they also ended the session with a college prep and admissions workshop.
See photos of the orientation below.
This blog post is a part of a series focusing on monthly YEOC student activities. Visit the YEOC page to learn more about the program.
Jacob Mager (BA 2015) reflects on his experience as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting & Business Development Center.
This summer I had an amazing opportunity to work for the Consulting and Business Development Center as part of their Summer Consulting Program. I worked with three diverse businesses in the Seattle area: Plum Bistro—a vegan restaurant, McKinnon Furniture—a custom furniture manufacturer/retailer, and the CIDBIA—a non-profit dedicated to improving the business environment in Chinatown-International District. What I loved best about working with each of my clients was the true passion and excitement each owner displayed for their business. I completed a wide variety of task ranging from designing a floor plan, to orchestrating an employee meeting, to creating a branding strategy. This Program, although not my first consulting experience, challenged me to grow and learn like never before. I picked up valuable skills needed to move into a professional consulting career, and have highlighted what I consider to be some of my most important takeaways below.
Communication – I wrote emails, made phone calls, and presented ideas to my clients, advisors and manager. I was pushed to communicate more frequently, and because of the professional setting, more articulately than ever before. Each time I spoke clients I was expected to convey what I had completed, my plan moving forward, and to provide solid reasoning for every decision I made. This was much different than anything I’d experienced in class before, and although challenging, led me to greatly improve my verbal and written communication skills.
Relationships – I discovered the power of building close personal relationships in a professional setting. Because clients trusted me with sensitive information and were open about their concerns and goals, I was able to more efficiently address their needs and tackle additional problem areas. Ultimately, these close relationships not only made for a more enjoyable working experience, but motivated me to significantly increase both the quality and quantity of my work.
Work Ethic – As a student, it was both inspiring and empowering to get an opportunity to impact real life businesses. In doing so, I was compelled to provide thorough, quality work, and to put in the long, sometimes stressful hours needed. By being required to deliver results under deadline, just like you would in a real consulting position, I learned that long hours aren’t as hard as they seem when you feel your work has real value.
After completing this Program, I gained valuable skills and strengthened my conviction to choose a career as a consultant. I loved the diversity of my work and the opportunity to constantly learn. Each day was filled with new challenges, and knowing that my work would have a real impact kept me highly motivated. I became a better communicator, strengthened my work ethic, and learned how to build personal relationships within a professional context. I’m extremely grateful to have had this opportunity and know that it will greatly benefit me as I move forward into a career.
Faith Katsman (BA 2015) reflects on her experience as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting & Business Development Center.
As fall recruiting quickly approaches for full-time consulting positions, I reflect on my time as a summer student consultant with the UW Consulting and Business Development Center. When I initially applied for this program, I did not know what to expect. I was not sure what my scope of responsibilities would be, how much independent work I would be doing, if a manager would be telling me what to do every day, or what I would learn from the program. What I did know is that I was interested in a career in consulting, and this program could help me confirm or deny that interest.
This summer, I worked with three very different clients in Yakima: a restaurant, an electrical contractor, and an auto-glass professional. Working with each client was a unique and invaluable experience. One aspect of the program that could not be duplicated in a classroom was directly interacting with the clients. Interacting with each client was not only fun for me, but also helped me grow personally and professionally. Hearing positive and constructive feedback from someone you are directly working with on a day-to-day basis was very rewarding.
Working with the restaurant was especially interesting to me because I am passionate about cooking. Opening or investing in a restaurant in the future would be something I may be interested in. I was able to assist the restaurant by designing a new marketing plan to create a more loyal customer base. This afforded me the opportunity to look at the internal operations at a restaurant and some of what it takes to be successful. The owners were extremely dedicated to making sure everything was perfect, which I admired greatly. Working with them inspired me to continue to follow my dreams.
Each day throughout this internship was a challenge. I was encouraged to reach outside my comfort zones and think outside the box. Since I was given a lot of autonomy and not micro-managed, I had to stay organized and utilize excellent time-management skills to get my work done promptly, much like the real world will be. As this program comes to an end, I know without a doubt consulting is the right career choice for me. Each day at work was exciting for me, and I am sad to see it end so quickly. This internship has given me a great foundation to continue my desire to enter a career in consulting.
Each year, second-year MBA students are paired with first-year MBAs to provide peer coaching, leadership advice, and more. Get to know this year’s class of Fellows by reading their bios below. Learn more about the Leadership Fellows Program here.
Originally from Israel, Akiva earned his BSBA from Hawaii Pacific University after completing his military service. Following graduation, he spent over four years in India where he created a joint venture with Bapu Nature Cure, with an emphasis on two healthcare facilities in New Delhi. In addition, he was the co-founder of The Avatar Group Consultants, a Delhi/Tel-Aviv based practice focusing on real estate in India. Prior to joining the Foster MBA Program, Akiva worked as The Texas General Manager for GP21, the second largest private sustainability company in North America. He focused on founding and operating the Austin and Dallas plants.While at Foster, Akiva is focused on building his skill set in the areas of finance and consulting. He completed his summer internship with the Strategy & Operations team at Deloitte Consulting where he worked on a strategy project at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.Away from business school, Akiva enjoys travel, exercise, and family.
Erin Poulter is a second year Foster MBA student originally from New Jersey. Prior to her enrollment in the Foster MBA program, Erin graduated from Colgate University with her BA in psychology. She then became a member of the New Orleans 2009 Teach For America corps, where she taught special education in a K-8 charter school for two years and then spent two more years as the operations manager at the same school. This summer, Erin completed her internship at Starbucks, where she worked as a brand manager on the food team. Erin plans to continue to pursue a career in marketing after she graduates.Erin is excited and honored to be a Fritzky Leadership Fellow this year. She looks forward to giving back to the Foster community, being a positive resource for the incoming class as well as growing her own leadership skills.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Jared worked as a logistics analyst for a commodity manufacturer in Dallas, Texas before beginning his MBA journey in Seattle. At Foster, he has been involved with a number of clubs and activities including Strategy Club, Sports Business Club, and the Net Impact Case Competition. His summer internship led him to Starbucks where he worked on the CPG Pricing and Promotion team.As a Fritzky Leadership Fellow, Jared is excited to challenge himself and grow his leadership skills while giving back to the Class of 2016 and the Foster program as a whole.
Originally from Japan and the UK, Jessi has lived and worked in Tokyo for the last 6 years as an equity trader at a financial institution, and as an account manager for an online travel company. At Foster, Jessi hopes to acquire a broader skill set and transition her career into marketing roles in the tech industry. This past summer, Jessi worked at Amazon developing and testing Amazon.ca’s emerging online traffic channels. Outside of school, she spends much of her free time staying active and exploring new parts of the city.Jessi is looking forward to participating in the Fritzky Leadership Fellow program to help refine her leadership skills, as well as to give back to the Foster community. She has benefited from the mentorship of the Leadership Fellows program her first year and now wants to contribute by being a mentor to the incoming class.
Originally from Minnesota, John went to undergrad at USC in Los Angeles. Before coming to Foster, he was a consultant for an economic consulting firm that focused in litigation. He was responsible for leading projects, building financial and econometric models, and communicating complex quantitative analyses to clients. In the summer after his first year at Foster, John was a Summer Associate with McKinsey & Company in Seattle.In his first year at Foster, John was an MBAA 1st-year representative, a Net Impact board member, and active member of several other clubs. In his second year, John is the President of the Foster Consulting Society along with a Leadership Fellow. As a Fritzky Fellow, he will offer advice to incoming students, help ease their transition, and ensure they get everything they want out of their MBA experience on academic, professional, and personal levels. He hopes to grow as a leader and pass on to the next class the inspiration that his Fellow gave to him.
Born and raised in Minnesota, then Belgium, Kate earned an undergraduate degree with honors from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her professional experience includes over nine years in the nonprofit and global health sectors, most recently spending four years traveling to rural Rwanda as the Program Manager for a global health organization. At Foster, Kate is the President of the Healthcare & Biotech Association, a Global Innovation Fellow with the START Program, and an active member of Net Impact. She is a Board Fellow, a mentor for Women in Business, and an MBA Ambassador. This past summer she interned at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she worked on strategy for one of the global health programs.Kate is honored to serve as a Leadership Fellow and a resource for the incoming class, and looks forward to further developing her own leadership toolkit. Away from school, Kate enjoys traveling to different cultures, running in Seattle with her sister, and cooking inventive pizzas.
Kelsey previously worked for Ernst & Young in San Francisco in the IT Advisory practice. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in IT Management and remains a loyal Irish fan through her involvement with the local alumni club. This summer, she interned with Point B at the Gates Foundation and looks forward to pursuing a post-MBA career in consulting. A Seattle native, she enjoys skiing, biking, and running and spending time with friends and family in the Pacific Northwest.Kelsey serves on the MBAA Executive Council and other club boards, and is excited and honored to be a Leadership Fellow. She looks forward to giving back to the Foster community and serving as a resource to incoming and current students through these roles.
A native of Boise, Idaho, Kira moved to Seattle in 2013 for both work and school purposes. Now a second year full-time MBA candidate, she spent the summer of 2014 in Shepherdsville, Kentucky as an Amazon MBA operations intern. Prior to enrolling in graduate school, Kira worked in international development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, and Results for Development Institute in Washington, DC. Her areas of expertise include supply chain management in low income countries, and financial modeling for immunization and HIV/AIDS programs. Kira received her bachelor of arts from Oberlin College in 2008, where she studied economics and math, and played varsity lacrosse.
Rachel Azaroff is a second-year MBA student at the Foster School of Business, focusing on Marketing and Entrepreneurship. In addition to her role as a Leadership Fellow, she is a Foster Ambassador, sits on the Board of the Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club, and serves a Board Fellow for the Rainier Chamber of Commerce. She is also a Senior Associate for the Alliance of Angels. She has a BA from University of Maryland, College Park in Journalism. Prior to starting at Foster, she worked for seven years in strategic communications and outreach in Washington, D.C., most recently working at Deloitte for over four years.Rachel is excited to be a Fritzky Leadership Fellow to contribute to the Foster community and to continue to develop her own leadership abilities.
Prior to joining Foster, Ryan served as an Army officer where he specialized in joint air missile defense operations, personnel strategy, and operations research analysis. After more than eight years in the military, Ryan decided to head back to his roots in the Pacific Northwest and start a new chapter in his professional career.Ryan is humbled by the opportunity to serve as a Leadership Fellow and hopes to both support the incoming MBA Class and further his leadership abilities. Foster has been a transformative experience for him and he looks to facilitate the same level of change for others in the incoming class. When he’s not at PACCAR, Ryan enjoys the outdoors, Crossfit, cooking, connecting with friends, and spending time with his family. He is also currently serving with the Oregon Army National Guard.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sasha graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in Political Science. She then worked for a Bay Area vocational training nonprofit, JobTrain, for 4 years and served as their Youth Coordinator. She plans to continue working in the nonprofit sector post MBA. She started her MBA internship in January and worked as an associate intern at Waldron in both their Executive Search and Organization Development teams. Sasha is also co-president of Challenge for Charity.Sasha is thrilled to be selected as a Fritzky Leadership Fellow and is excited to help the first year students throughout the year. She is looking forward to working on her own leadership skills and connecting with the other Fellows.
Scott is a northwest native, growing up in Olympia, Washington, and attending the University of Portland as a scholar athlete in track and cross country. After graduating with a BS and a BA, he attended the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna as a Fulbright Scholar where he received a graduate diploma in international relations. He later attained a masters degree from the University of Cambridge before returning to the US to work as a consultant in international governmental affairs. Scott arrived at Foster eager to develop not only his business acumen and skill set but also to meet and befriend the many interesting, fun, and kind classmates at the business school and to take advantage of the many incredible opportunities at the University of Washington.As a Fritzky Leadership Fellow, Scott is looking forward to helping and supporting first-year students as they forge their path through the full-time MBA program. He is also interested in furthering his own leadership development and working closely with this year’s cohort of Leadership Fellows. Outside of the classroom Scott continues to enjoy distance running, cycling, and playing musical instruments.
Tony Liu is from Portland, Oregon but spent most of his life in Seattle, Washington where he attended the University of Washington majoring in Communication. Prior to starting the MBA program at Foster, he worked in software recruiting and managed his family’s Chinese restaurant for 5 ½ years. During the summer, Tony interned at Allrecipes.com at their headquarters in downtown Seattle where he helped the research team with usability testing and consumer research.Tony is honored and excited to be part of the Fritzky Leadership Fellows and wants to provide the same support that he received during his experience with his leadership fellow last year. He is also looking forward to developing his leadership skills and learning how to equip others to lead. Staying connected with his food industry roots he is excited to be a Foster Foodies board member and enjoys cycling, swimming, snowboarding, and cooking.
In 2013 the Hall of Fame board approached the Foster School and Professor and Dean Emeritus William Bradford, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, with a request to collaborate on the exhibit. Fast forward to almost a year later, a partnership between the Hall of Fame and the Foster School has been established. The exhibit is housed on campus in Mackenzie Hall and was developed in partnership with the Center for Consulting and Business Development, which has been helping minority-owned businesses succeed for the past 19 years.
At the grand opening of the Hall of Fame, Foster School Dean Jim Jiambalvo said he was very pleased the Foster School and the Center for Consulting and Business Development were able to form this partnership with the Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum. UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce said the Hall of Fame, along with the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, the UW Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center and the Intellectual House, scheduled to open in March 2015, represents the UW is committed to building a diverse community open to everyone. Washington State Representative and Foster alumna Cindy Ryu (MBA 1983) said the Hall of Fame signaled there are opportunities for everyone. She also cited the Washington State Dream Act (REAL Hope Act) as one of the most important pieces of legislation to pass because it makes college possible for people who are not legal citizens and creates a more diverse learning environment at higher education institutions in Washington.
John F. Robinson, founding board chair of the Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum, said that for the past nine years they have always wanted to find a home for the Hall of Fame and he was pleased it was able to be here at the Foster School. Then Fred Canady, chair of the Hall of Fame, introduced the newest inductees. Two of the five 2014 inductees are from the Seattle area: Firoz Lalji, co-founder of Zones, an IT company, and the founders of Liberty Bank, which was started in the Central District of Seattle in 1967 by business leaders who wanted to make more banking services available to minorities. The other inductees are Charles Timothy Haffey, former VP of corporate purchasing for Pfizer; Don McKneely, founder, chairman and CEO for MBN USA and Business News Group and co-founder of Billion Dollar Roundtable; and Margaret Z. Richardson-Wiley, former executive director of National Minority Supplier Development Council.
The grand opening concluded with Foster MBA student Yonas Seifu. He shared how mentoring and seeing African Americans in the engineering field, the career path he pursued as a high school and college student, shaped his career. He ended the talk by referencing the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” And he said, “The Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum is now part of the Foster School of Business village.”
Christian Chabot, CEO and co-founder of Tableau, spoke at the Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series on April 2. He outlined how Tableau, a business intelligence* software company, went from a small start-up in his Capitol Hill apartment to a publicly traded company (NYSE: DATA).
Chabot drew parallels between the rise of Tableau and the pattern that all disruptive companies follow as outlined in the book Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. That pattern is outlined below.
1. Disruptive technology comes along that is written off as low-end.
Initially, industry experts dismissed Tableau’s software even though it made it much easier for people to analyze data. Its software democratized people’s ability to work with and analyze data.
2. Market share captains write off the disruptive technology.
Gartner, an industry research firm, wouldn’t give Tableau the time of day from 2004-2006, and from 2007-2009, Gartner referred to Tableau as an interesting little data visualization start-up that is part of a niche market.
3. Massive numbers of people start to adapt the new technology.
The company’s revenue has roughly doubled every year since 2005, except for in 2009, the year of the financial collapse. Today, Tableau is the fastest growing software company in the world.
4. Technology moves up market and replaces the high-end technology.
Gartner visited Tableau in 2013 and said traditional business intelligence is dying and the world is moving toward the way Tableau operates.
5. Traditional providers start to struggle financially.
While Tableau is experiencing rapid growth, companies such as SAP and IBM, former leaders in the business intelligence industry, are reducing the size of their business intelligence divisions.
To learn more about Tableau and hear Chabot’s two pieces of advice for entrepreneurs and why he thinks Seattle is a better place for start-ups than Silicon Valley, watch the video below.
* Business intelligence (BI) refers to software applications that are used to analyze an organization’s raw data. BI includes data mining, processing, querying and reporting.
Christian Chabot was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.
At the heart of Fulcrum’s values are our people. Our staff is our key asset, and our people are one of the most important things our company can invest in. This is the message driven home by the instructors of the six-week Business Certificate Program here in Yakima. Instilling trust and developing our staff, and how we lead teams or promote teams from behind, is very critical to our business success.
Fulcrum Environmental Consulting consists of nine staff based out of our Yakima office and seven in our Spokane location. Our objective as managers is not to pit one of our offices against the other; rather, we term our company as a team to encourage performance. It’s us as an organization that is successful as we service our clients, as we try to provide answers to a school district who is experiencing flooding issues, or to a client who is just embarking on a construction project and realizes that they have all the wrong materials. We are about solving problems, and we achieve success as a team. Our team is developed to go out and solve these problems together. So, as you look at your staff, this is one of main ideas I encourage you to take away from this course. Success is about building your team to solve your clients’ needs more effectively.
The Business Certificate Program has provided us with the fundamentals and methodologies to unlock our company’s potential. For instance, our Board of Directors met recently to discuss our service area’s needs. One of the services Fulcrum offers is testing paint for the presence of lead—a serious health issue, especially for small children whose cognitive development can be severely harmed by lead poisoning. A new technology has been developed to assist in detecting lead paint, and we knew that investing in this technology was vital. Knowing we would need to spend about $20,000 in equipment costs and another $20,000 in training expenses, we reviewed the fundamental tools in the decision making process the instructors of this program taught us. Tools such as anchoring and framing our biases, helped us position our arguments on whether we needed to purchase this technology based on what are competitors are doing and what we could lose if we did not invest in this market. We conducted a financial analysis on this technology purchase to ensure it was a viable and profitable decision for our company, comparing cost vs. lease perspectives and even discussed abandoning the service area. Following our decision, we began to examine the ways in which we could improve our marketing plan to reach our target market and differentiate ourselves from our competition.
The Business Certificate Program is not only for business owners. The program can provide the management skills your staff needs to achieve your company’s growing goals. I am the sixth person from Fulcrum to attend the UW Business Certificate Program, and access to this type of continuing education will be the key to our company’s success.
This event was hosted by Neal Dempsey, the Foster School’s visiting 2013-2014 Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership.
You’ve probably seen the headline; “Major company goes public.” Perhaps you’ve even heard the breathless analysis that follows when said company’s stock prices decrease. What you’re probably less likely to hear or read in the news are the debates between CEOs and investment bankers, the strategy CEOs use to discuss going public with their employees, and how bankers negotiate stock price. These are the exact conversations current Fritzky Chair Neal Dempsey had in mind when he invited Vice Chair of JP Morgan Chase Cristina Morgan, former Eloqua CEO Joe Payne, Guidewire CEO Marcus Ryu and Head of Capital Markets at JP Morgan Chase Mike Millman to participate in a panel discussion on the IPO and M&A process. Moderated by Foster Professor Jennifer Koski, the panelists gave what is probably the most inside view possible of going public. Below are a few of the questions they tackled:
How do companies decide they’re ready to go public?
All of the panelists agreed that there are several things you must take in to consideration before making a final decision. For Ryu, it is asking one’s self, “Why do you want to go public?” Payne agreed, adding “Going public as a sole goal is an empty goal.” When preparing to take Eloqua public, Payne said that he and his colleagues spent a lot of time thinking about their customers and how they would feel about the move. Speaking from the investment bank perspective, Morgan argued that “the worst thing you can do is take a company public before they’re ready.” Furthering this point, Millman said that companies must consider three points before they go public; 1) Currency 2) Branding and 3) Capitol.
How do you maintain enthusiasm among your employees during the IPO process?
Ryu believes it is important for companies to operate with a long-term outlook. Since the stock market isn’t exactly the most steadfast entity, he came up with a two-pronged strategy for communicating with his employees about the IPO process: 1) Talk down the IPO and 2) Get everyone to understand the fickleness of the stock market. Having survived the dot com bubble of the 90s, when CEOs gained —and lost— millions of dollars in a matter of months, Payne had a similar revelation. “The issue of stock prices and IPO is only as important as you make it,” he stated in agreement with Ryu. In fact, Payne and Ryu said that they both designated a few minutes during staff meetings to answer questions about the IPO.
What is the biggest source of contention when going public?
When discussing the relationship between investment bankers and entrepreneurs, Morgan said “We’re [the investment bankers] representing the buyers as well as the sellers” and that all involved parties act as each other’s “checks and balances.” Adding, “[There’s a] natural suspicion that the investment bank is slightly more in league with the other side than with the company.” Simply put, bankers are predisposed to believe that the company is trying to get the stock prices higher while the company believes investment bankers are trying to get the price lower.
For Millman, there are three sources of contention:
1) Evaluation- It’s difficult to educate the company’s board on the IPO.
2) Employee selling- It can be very confusing for employees to know when and if they should sell.
3) Fees- Banks will argue with each other on the best way to “divide the pie.”
Speaking to Morgan’s “natural suspicion” comment, Ryu admitted that he was initially skeptical of investment bankers. However, having gone through the IPO process, he now understands the importance of the work they do. Looking to Millman, whom he worked with when Guidewire went public, Ryu stated “I can say emphatically that the fee is well-earned.”
The success of Brooks Running Company and their CEO Jim Weber is a classic underdog story, a come-from-behind victory that every sports enthusiast loves. When Weber joined Brooks in 2001—their fourth CEO in two years—the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Thanks to Weber’s tremendous leadership and insight, the company successfully rebooted, repositioning itself in the market, and has since experienced years of double-digit growth and industry recognition.
On March 5, as part of the Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, Weber came to the Foster School of Business and recounted the story of how he turned his company around. “I feel like I have the best job in Seattle,” he said. Weber’s passion for building brands and businesses is matched by a passion for athletics, reflected in his previous professional experience, which includes positions such as chairman and CEO of Sims Sports and vice president of The Coleman Company.
After his arrival at Brooks, Weber explained, the company made a major shift in its market focus. It’s common knowledge that many athletic shoes are never used for athletics, which Weber refers to as “BBQ shoes.” According to Weber, roughly half of their sales were in this “family footwear” category when the company made the bold decision to focus on a niche market and double down on technical performance running shoes. At the time, it was considered heresy for a company like Brooks to focus on just one sport. Conventional wisdom stated that a table “needs more than one leg to stand on,” as Weber put it. Now, after years of growth as a result of this decision, Weber looks like a visionary.
Part of Brooks’ strategy is to compete in a different way, Weber explained. True, there is good old-fashioned product leadership, the years of research and development in biomechanics that leads to a superior product. But Brooks also competes using its corporate culture, e.g. the way it “celebrates the run,” and invests in the sport that supports its business. Weber said the Brooks recipe for success is combining an incredibly serious technical product with a brand known for its unique, fun-loving energy. Corporate culture is instrumental to this success— “Run Happy” is much more than a tag line. “Our brand is positioned in a very welcoming way,” he said.
An important aspect of leadership is knowing how to pick your battles. Weber mentioned that it was impossible for Brooks to compete on the “visual technology” front, i.e. improvements that make the product pop off the shelf. “Nike will spend more on marketing by noon than we will in the whole year,” he said. Instead, Brooks focuses on “runability” and servicing as a niche expert. Every brand has a center of gravity, Weber explained. For Brooks it’s the trail and the specialty running stores that are at the heart of the running community. By focusing on those retailers and developing relationships with key influencers like coaches, leading athletes, and sports medicine practitioners, Brooks works to win the trust of its customers. “We create trust every time someone has a good experience with our product,” he said.
The lecture concluded with a Q&A session where students and faculty posed questions on topics like supply chain challenges and reactions to the barefoot running movement. On the subject of international expansion, Weber stated that his company is executing the same strategy, but still had much to learn. He explained that, thankfully, the brand ethos of “Run Happy” translates well across cultures and resonates with people around the globe.
Watch the full lecture below:
– Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.