Category Archives: Leadership

The art of failing

This event was hosted by Neal Dempsey, the Foster School’s visiting 2013-2014 Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership.

art-of-failing-eventFailure is part of life. In fact, success often starts with failure. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard or painful. On January 21, a panel at the Foster School tackled the art of failing. The panelists were Steve Singh, CEO of Concur; Sean Dempsey, founder and general partner of Merus Capital; and Emilia Griswold, Foster MBA, Class of 2014. Bruce Avolio, professor of management and executive director of Foster’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, moderated the discussion.

The discussion covered a range of topics and often oscillated between risk, failure and success. It’s difficult to have real success without risk and the potential for failure. There was also an emphasis on the ability to adapt to change, particularly when faced with the potential for failure.

Griswold spoke about changing her strategy for finding an internship after several months of no success. Ultimately, she was successful in landing an internship because she approached her goal from a broader view and was willing to risk failure. She said this experience taught her three things:

  1. Focus on the goal. She came to the MBA Program as career changer. For her, conducting informational interviews with people who had successful career paths, not people who worked at a particular company, was most effective.
  2. Believe in yourself. If you’re trying to convince someone else you can do something before you have convinced yourself, it won’t work.
  3. Embrace risk. Look for opportunities that scare you—ones where you could actually fail.

In order to cope with risk, you have to possess the patience and persistence to work until it pays off. Dempsey said, whether you are building your career or a company, “You should be short-term impatient and long-term patient.” In other words, you have to keep moving forward on a day to day basis, but you also have to realize change happens over time. Persistence, even in the face of failure, is critical for success.

Trying to accomplish a goal too quickly can also lead to failure, especially if you don’t consider the big picture. Instead of making decisions based on the next 90 days, Singh, who has been the CEO of Concur for over 20 years, said he considers the impact of his decisions on the next five to ten years. He said he realized, “There are goals along the way, but there is no end goal.” For him, getting to success is a long-term process. He tells his team, “Your job is to define the world the way it should be defined. Not in the way that is best for you, not in the way where you get the most value out of it, but the way it should be.” Once you figure that out, he said, “You step back and think about how you get from here to there.”

When implementing what you’ve defined as the way the world should be, be prepared to face challenges and failure. Dempsey likened this process to being at the top of a black diamond ski run. From the top, it looks long and intimidating and there are obstacles to overcome, but he said, “The thing to do is only worry about what you can control.” From there, the strategy is to take it one step at a time.

The panelists also talked about how failing can be the ultimate teaching tool, and they pointed out that not failing is also risky—it means you’re not challenging yourself. Click on the video below to watch the entire discussion.

Men in cheaply made gorilla suits: How Avvo used the internet to disrupt the legal business

Mark BrittonDuring his introduction at the November Leaders to Legends Breakfast Series, Dean Jiambalvo jokingly referred to Mark Britton as having “the most dangerous job in the world.” Mark Britton is the founder and CEO of Avvo, a lawyer rating and legal Q&A forum website founded in 2006.

A lawyer with the firm Preston Gates & Ellis, Britton began working with major area clients like Microsoft and its then budding travel spinoff, Expedia. After experiencing what he dubbed the “meteoric growth” of Expedia while serving as their executive vice president of Worldwide Corporate Affairs, Britton decided the travel associated with the position was too much and moved to Italy with his family to teach finance for his undergrad alma matter, Gonzaga. Interestingly, he found that even though he was no longer practicing law, friends and family were still calling him for legal advice. It made him wonder, “Why are all of these smart people lost when it comes to the legal system?” At that time, Britton notes, there was no “Expedia like resource where people could go to get their questions answered.” Thus, Avvo–short for avoocato, the Italian word for lawyer–was born.

Like EBay, Amazon and TripAdvisor, Avvo is rooted in an internet culture where the “expectation has been built where you can converse with your friends [online] about a product and rate it.” And with the advent of Google, Britton adds, we have become accustomed to asking for, receiving and discussing information with zero cost to the consumer. A practice Avvo continues, providing their rating system and Q&A forum to customers for free.

Besides ratings and forums, Avvo provides advertising for lawyers. During his presentation, Britton referred to the “yellow page mode” of advertising. He found that even as recently as nine years ago, lawyers were spending $1 billion dollars in outdated phone book advertising. And to add insult to injury, the advertisements themselves were not good. To the amusement of the audience, Britton included some of the worst offenders, including ads that featured scantily-clad women, men in cheaply made gorilla suits and tricked out cars straight from a ‘Pimp my Ride’ rerun. Jokes aside, Avvo definitely hasn’t gone without controversy.

Towards the end of the lecture, Britton touched on some of the challenges Avvo has faced, including a lawsuit filed against Britton and Avvo a mere nine days after the company launch. Although it was later thrown out, the suit, paired with a year-long stagnation in online traffic and negative press, took a toll on the young CEO. However, Britton believes that the uphill battles built mental fortitude, stating, “The risk of failure, when you’re trying to cut something out of nothing, is approximate.” He also reiterated the importance of self-assurance and steadfastness, saying, “You need to believe and that’s the key. You have to be obsessed with something.”

Avvo currently has six million monthly visits, 160,000 lawyers listed, 10,000 advertisers and 117 employees. When asked about Avvo’s future, Britton stated, “We have a company trying to buy us but we’re not spending a lot time thinking about it…we know we can double our business.”

Mark Britton was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the monthly Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

Investing in life

Gary Furukawa (BA 1981) is the chief investment officer for Freestone Capital Management, a wealth management firm. Recently, he spoke at the Foster School about his career path, gave an overview of the financial markets and shared his personal insights on a range of topics, including what Freestone looks for in potential employees, books to help you develop your own investing framework and more.

Furukawa started his career with Deloitte & Touche in Seattle as a Certified Public Accountant. In 1982, he joined Smith Barney as a financial consultant, eventually rising to senior vice president. In 1999, he founded Freestone. He has been a highly successful investor along the way, investing in a wide variety of asset classes: distressed real estate (1980s and again after 2008 crisis), private equity (early 1990s) and thrift conversions (1988-present). He was also an original angel investor in Amazon.com and aQuantive.

Top insights from Furukawa’s talk:

  • Most useful courses he took at the University of Washington: English/writing courses, sociology and psychology courses and behavioral finance courses. Furukawa said, “Learning about the flaws in the way you think is very powerful and will help you make better decisions.”
  • Your life = the sum of your decisions.
  • Through your education, you should try different things until you find something you really like. It should be something you have the potential to be good at.
  • Self-knowledge, obtained through reading, thinking and life, is the most important knowledge. Learning really starts after you graduate from college.
  • Wealth is primarily created three ways (in the U.S.): owning a business or owning stock in a successful business, owning real estate for a long time or inheriting money.
  • Your pay check funds your lifestyle, but in order to build wealth you have to save and invest your money.

Watch video highlights, which include his ideal employee traits, investment lessons, recommended reading and life insights.

Gary Furukawa 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.

Pivoting for success: a CEO panel on adapting for growth

DempseyPanelWhen most people hear the word “pivot” they imagine the agile, effortless movement of an experienced athlete. But, for CEOs like Chet Kapoor, Christopher Cabrera, and Joe Ruck, pivoting in the business world–making sharp turns in strategy to capitalize on new opportunities–is anything but effortless.

On Thursday, November 21, in a room packed with students and faculty, a panel of three CEOs discussed their theories and hands-on experience in adapting their businesses for growth. The event was moderated by Professor Charles Hill and hosted by Neal Dempsey–the Foster School’s visiting 2013-2014 Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership–who brought the three Silicon Valley CEOs to Dempsey Hall.

The discussion began with each CEO describing how they knew when the time was right to “pivot”–i.e., redefine and reconfigure their business–and how they managed to enact such drastic change. Afterwards, the floor was opened for audience questions. Prompted by students, the CEOs launched into a discussion on the difficulties of managing both internal and external buyin. Cabrera emphasized the need for decisive action: “You’re the CEO; you’re on the ground; you have to make the decisions.” Kapoor mentioned transparency as an effective method of earning internal and external trust, and Ruck underscored the importance of having a core team of true believers.

The three CEOs combined brought over a half-century of experience to bear in the discussion. Kapoor, CEO of Apigee, has spent more than 20 years in leadership positions in innovative software and hardware companies. Cabrera, founder, president and CEO of Xactly, is a seasoned executive with more than two decades of successful senior management experience at both early-stage and public companies. Ruck, President and CEO of BoardVantage, held marketing and executive positions at several software companies prior to leading his company from being a startup to its current position as a technology leader.

Over the course of the evening, Cabrera, Kapoor, and Ruck discussed topics such as how to foster a culture of open dissent, how to react when pivoting goes awry, and what the life of a CEO is truly like. They offered a diverse array of strategies and opinions; however, on the subject of the challenge of maintaining a competitive advantage, the three CEOs professed similar beliefs in maintaining momentum by being open to new opportunities. “You don’t win a race by looking back. You win by looking ahead,” Kapoor said.

Forty chances

buffettHoward G. Buffett and his son Howard W. Buffett spoke at the Foster School on November 5 about their recently published book, Forty Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World. The talk was moderated by Linda Nageotte, president and CEO of Food Lifeline. The premise of the book and the talk was that farmers typically have 40 crop seasons during their lives. Howard G. Buffett remarked that’s a short, finite period of time and there are no do overs. Therefore you need to focus and have a sense of urgency and be willing to take risks.

Howard G. Buffett is the son of investor and philanthropist, Warren Buffett, and he received $3 billion from his father in 2006 for his foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to assist the one billion people on earth who lack access to food. The foundation focuses its efforts primarily on food security, water security and conflict mitigation. During the talk, Buffett made the point that food is more powerful than money in many parts in the world. He said, “You can use food to avoid conflict, but hunger causes conflict and conflict causes hunger.”

In addition to being a farmer and philanthropist, Buffett is also a photographer. In addition to Forty Chances, each member of the audience received a book which featured photographs Buffett took while traveling the world. He explained that photography is a way for him to document and prove what he sees. He also mentioned the importance seeing the problems he was trying to solve in person. He emphasized it’s important to show up. He said in order to understand something you have to feel it, smell it, see it and experience it. He said for him, there is no other way to gain that level of understanding.

Meet the 2013-2014 Fritzky Leadership Fellows

Courtney Biggs
Courtney Biggs
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Courtney Biggs is a second-year MBA student at the Foster School of Business, focusing on Marketing and Finance. In addition to her role as a Leadership Fellow, she is a Peer Advisor, sits on the Board of the Diversity in Business Club, and serves a Board Fellow for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. She has a BA from Vassar College in Art History and Economics, and an MA in Art History from the University of Southern California. Prior to starting at Foster, she worked at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth.Courtney chose to participate in the Fritzky Leadership Fellows program because she found her Leadership Fellow to be a tremendously helpful resource during her first year of the MBA program, and would like to provide the same sort of help and guidance to incoming first year students this year. She is enthusiastic about providing her peers with opportunities to develop their leadership abilities, as well as utilizing the Fritzky Leadership Fellows program as an opportunity to nurture and grow her own leadership development.
Evan Daikoku
Evan Daikoku

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Originally from Seattle, Evan attended Claremont McKenna College, where he majored in organizational psychology and government. Prior to starting the MBA program at Foster, he worked for five years in Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital practice in San Francisco and Seattle. This summer, Evan completed his internship at Nordstrom, as a member of the Corporate Strategy team leading multiple growth and innovation centered initiatives – including international expansion, capital budgeting, and customer service experience.He is honored to be a Leadership Fellow and is excited to serve as a resource for first year students and help develop their own leadership skills.
Joel Duck
Joel Duck
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Prior to enrolling in the Foster MBA program, Joel Duck received his Industrial Engineering degree in 2002 from Texas Tech University and moved to Seattle to begin his new life in the great Pacific Northwest.  He spent two years working in the WA district office for UPS in their management training program in Operations Excellence and as the Seattle Hub Industrial Engineer.  More recently, he spent 7 years working for Swagelok as a Key Account Manager, developing new business relationships with a variety of clients including Boeing, Puget Sound Energy, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and World CNG.  After graduating from the Foster MBA program he plans to pursue a career in Marketing and Consulting.Joel is excited and honored to be a part of the Fritzky Leadership Fellows and hopes to provide the same level of support he received from his fellows as a first year student.  He lives in West Seattle with his wife Collette and two clownish English bull terriers.  He enjoys playing guitar, Seahawk & Husky football, camping, grilling, aquariums, games of all sorts, and hosting great parties.
Luke Goodrich
Luke Goodrich
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Before returning to school, Luke was a Customer Strategy Consultant in the technology industry with Accenture Management Consulting. Luke also and managed multichannel marketing campaigns for an online retailer, and deployed twice to Iraq, where he was an infantry team leader in the Army. At Foster, Luke is focusing on marketing and entrepreneurship. During his internship, he determined the ideal market, and developed a commercialization plan, for an early-stage medical diagnostic technology. He is excited to be a Leadership Fellow to contribute to the Foster community, and to continue to develop his own leadership abilities.
Liza Green
Liza Green
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A native of Virginia, Liza lived in Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon before relocating to Seattle for business school. Her professional experience spans various industries, from restaurants to biotechnology and education. She is most passionate about the food industry, and spent her summer interning in brand management at Starbucks. In her second year at Foster she is a Leadership Fellow and president of Foster Foodies, among other things.She looks forward to developing her leadership skills in both of these roles, and is excited to serve as a resource for the incoming class at Foster!
Zach Gretch
Zach Gretch
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Prior to joining the Foster MBA Program, Zach worked as a consultant for PwC’s Advisory Services practice. Focused in the technology sector, he led and supported a broad range of business initiatives in areas such as risk management, market research, mergers and acquisitions, and process improvement. While at Foster, Zach is focused on building his skill set in the areas of marketing and strategy. He completed his summer internship with a sales strategy team at Philips Healthcare.Zach views the Fritzky Leadership Fellows program as a special opportunity to work on developing both himself and others. His goals for the program include: expanding his leadership knowledge through studying the art and learning from others, building personal leadership skills and experience through interaction with his first year teams and peers, and supporting growth by recognizing and encouraging leadership qualities and behaviors in others.Away from business school, Zach invests his time primarily in sports, exercise, and family. He and his wife excitedly await the birth of their first child, due in February of 2014.
Dennis Grubbs
Dennis GrubbsLinkedIn Icon
Dennis Grubbs is a lifelong Northwest resident and also earned his Bachelors Degree from the University of Washington.  Prior to coming back to Foster, Dennis worked in mortgage lending and then digital marketing at Microsoft.  In addition to taking on leadership roles in a number of clubs at Foster, Dennis is extremely honored to have been selected to take part in the Fritzky Leadership Fellows Program.He feels it will be a great opportunity to develop his leadership skills while also lending support to first-year students; something he appreciated having when he was a first year.  He is looking forward to this huge personal growth opportunity.
Kyle Hiatt
Kyle HiattLinkedIn Icon
Kyle Hiatt is a former Army Officer who is focusing strategy and finance at Foster. He majored in international relations at Tufts University, and studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. Kyle grew up in Rhode Island, but has spent time living all over the United States throughout his career in the Army, including Georgia, Kentucky, Arizona, Southern California, and Washington.  Kyle decided to stay in Washington because it is the place where he sweats the least.Kyle decided to get his MBA to facilitate his transition from a career in the military to a career in business.  At Foster, he is on the executive boards of the Operations Club, Consulting Society, and the Sports Business Club.  This past summer Kyle interned at Deloitte, consulting on a supply chain project at Wal-Mart Headquarters in Arkansas.  He hopes to be in a management position one day, where he can help his employees feel fulfilled and valued as members of a team. Kyle sees the Leadership Fellows program as the perfect opportunity to test his abilities to work with and mentor groups of individuals striving toward collective success.When he is not hanging out in Paccar Hall, Kyle enjoys spending time with his dogs, watching and playing sports, running, hiking, and exploring the city.
Alyssa Hochman
Alyssa HochmanLinkedIn Icon
Prior to attending Foster, Alyssa spent close to seven years working as a Project Manager/Implementation Consultant at Epic, a healthcare software company based in Verona, Wisconsin.  She earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and was a 4-year varsity member of the Women’s Swim Team.  Alyssa is passionate about improving health-care delivery and is interested in the intersection between clinical care and technology.As a Fritzky Leadership Fellow, Alyssa endeavors to help and support first-year students as they navigate the MBA program. She is also interested in furthering her own leadership development and working with this year’s cohort of Leadership Fellows.
Andrew Kepley
Andrew KepleyLinkedIn Icon
Andrew comes to the Foster School of Business from his hometown of Washington DC. After graduating from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Andrew worked for Deloitte Consulting. At Foster, Andrew is focused on opportunities that build upon the skills he developed as a consultant while furthering his interests of marketing, strategic planning, and leadership.Andrew spent his summer interning for Brooks Running where he focused on the organization’s culture as the path to innovation. As a Leadership Fellow, Andrew is excited to further his leadership abilities while having the chance to better connect with first year students.
Cecily Northup
Cecily NorthupLinkedIn Icon
Cici is a second-year MBA student at the Foster School of Business. Prior to attending Foster, Cici worked as a senior analyst for a market research and consulting firm in Portland, Oregon where she led custom, mixed-method, proprietary research projects for Fortune 500 healthcare and technology companies. She is hoping to pursue a career in marketing, strategy and/or business development following graduation. Cici holds a BA in psychology from Columbia University and enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and skiing.
Carlton Wilson
Carlton WilsonLinkedIn Icon
Before moving to Seattle in 2010, Carlton worked at an independent music label in his hometown of Washington, DC. He traveled the world as a tour manager, then became the COO of the label’s own music venue. After moving to Seattle, Carlton became a financial advisor primarily working with middle-income families.Carlton is concurrently pursing dual masters in Business and Health Care Administration, with a goal of working at a non-profit health care provider.  Over the summer he interned at Virginia Mason Medical Center, where he helped the Graduate Medical Education department prepare for new regulations in the training of resident physicians.As a Leadership Fellow, Carlton is looking forward to helping guide the incoming class through the fun and challenging process of growth here at Foster.  Additionally, Carlton is a member of the Honor Council, MBAA VP of Academic Affairs, as well as a board member of several student groups.  Trying to be a good Seattleite, Carlton spends his free time sailing, cycling, and running.

 

Learn more about the Leadership Fellows program here.

Leadership Team: aiding students advance their professional careers

Guest post by Charissa Chin, Vice President of the Leadership Team

Each quarter, the Leadership Team (a student organization that partners with the Consulting & Business Development Center) offers a Flagship Consulting Program, where students provide consulting services to local businesses. During these seven-week projects, students work in teams and receive guidance from professional advisors from Ernst & Young.  This spring, our students gathered research and developed recommendations for The Seafair Foundation, Sealaska Corporation, and The Skin Firm.

The Seafair Foundation, which is part of the organization that hosts Seattle’s Seafair Festival, focuses on charitable services through its scholarship programs and community outreach. The student team’s goal was to expand brand recognition for the Foundation and other programs in their portfolio. Besides providing recommendations on how to increase membership for Seafair’s Ambassador Program, the student team also created an event, Inspire Seattle, which projects to attract more than 500 participating high-school students.

Sealaska Corporation, a $275 million dollar Alaska Native Corporation, with subsidiary operations in various industries, tasked their student team with researching potential markets where Sealaska could gain market share and increase profits, while still maintaining their company’s core organizational values. The team identified various industries such as athletic apparel, green retrofitting, deconstruction, and niche recycling as attractive markets where the company could potentially flourish.

The Skin Firm is a Seattle-based company that offers high-quality skin care products and services. The primary objective for their student team was to develop a marketing strategy to grow their customer base by 4% monthly. In order to reach this goal and increase overall revenue, the team recommended strategies to strengthen the firm’s local advertising, social media campaign, and service packaging.

Our consulting students came away feeling extremely accomplished as they learned how to apply their classroom knowledge in real-world business situations and helped small business owners become more successful.  Students gained insight into what consulting is and had the opportunity to expand their network with Ernst & Young professionals. Through the Flagship Consulting Program, students improved their analyzing, problem-solving, time-management, and teamwork skills.

Personally, I was most excited to see how this experience has helped our students grow and ultimately advance their professional careers.  In fact, this experience has already helped several Flagship members acquire various internships and job offers.  As Vice President of the Leadership Team, I’ve had the pleasure of managing these projects for three consecutive quarters.  It was not only rewarding, but allowed me to grow personally.  Learning how to manage 17 students this quarter has helped me develop my organizational, decision-making, and leadership skills.  It’s a wonderful program and I encourage every student at the UW Foster School of Business to join!

Executive MBA students team up to lead change in healthcare

It was serendipity when Guy Hudson, MD, a pediatric specialty surgeon, met Shelley Cathrea Roy, a chiropractor, and Laureen Driscoll, a nursing administrator, for the first time at their EMBA orientation meeting in 2011. Though Guy and Laureen were both working at Swedish Medical Center at the time, neither they nor Shelley could have guessed that their EMBA experience would soon result in teaming up to lead change in pediatric services at Swedish. Pursuing a career shift, Shelley sold her practice and, leveraging her EMBA network, joined Swedish the following year as a clinic administrator. All three quickly found innovative ways to apply the business tools they were learning in the program in the hospital setting. Executives took notice, and supported their efforts to marry their growing business savvy to their professional expertise on the job. Leadership opportunities and promotions followed, with more to come.

Neal Dempsey’s advice for the class of 2013

The Foster School of Business was honored to have Neal Dempsey (BA 1964) speak at the undergraduate commencement ceremony this year. Dempsey is managing general partner at Bay Partners, focusing on enterprise software applications. Over the past 19 years he has guided more than two dozen start-ups to obtain highly successful outcomes—either through an IPO or by acquisition. He recently made Forbes’ 2013 Midas List of top tech investors. In 2012 he had three companies go public and three others get acquired.

Dempsey gave an animated and insightful send off to the class of 2013. His three secrets for success in the real world: accept failure, embrace change and give back. Below is an excerpt from his blog and video of his speech. Congratulations to the class of 2013!

Re-posted from Dempsey’s blog:

I had the honor of being asked to give the commencement address for the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business undergraduate class this month. As many of you know, the University of Washington is my alma mater and near and dear to my heart. It was a real treat. To prepare for the speech, I spent some time with about 25 of this year’s graduating class. I wanted to know their hopes, dreams, and worries for what’s ahead. After all, these are some difficult times for new college graduates. I must say I was surprised and impressed with the caliber of these students. Most have jobs and all are prepared and ambitious. I expect to see great things from this group of students in the future.

This is not your ordinary commencement speech, so get ready for more than a few surprises. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed giving it. Congratulations to the class of 2013!

See more from the Foster School’s graduation ceremonies.