Category Archives: Leadership

Foster MBAs place 3rd in national ethical leadership competition

A team of MBA students from the University of Washington Foster School of Business took third prize at the fifth-annual MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership at Baylor University November 18.

The competition challenges MBAs to demonstrate ethical leadership in a practical business dilemma. This year’s case was based on a recent, real-world, ethics scandal. Teams were charged with creating a path for News Corporation to rebound from its phone-hacking mess and reemerge as an ethical leader in the media industry.

The Foster team of second-year MBAs Krister Fardig, Jeremiah Marks, Jesse Robbins and Henry Vogler recognized that no cosmetic fix would do the job. To address the root problem—an organizational issue with ethics—they recommended that News Corp directors implement what they called the “audit and continuous improvement of ethics (ACE) model.” This external and internal auditing process enables increased accountability, increased visibility and better performance when it comes to managing ethical behavior.

Robbins, a veteran of three case competitions as an undergrad at the Foster School and five in his first year of the Full-Time MBA Program, said that the team was well prepared by the program’s rigorous core curriculum. He also credited Foster’s business ethics professor Scott Reynolds, who armed the team with an ethical framework that helped them identify the solution that hit closest to the sweet spot where technology, strategy and ethics intersect positively.

The Foster MBAs competed with teams from Auburn University, Baylor University, Iowa State University, Pepperdine University, Texas A&M University, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota and University of Texas. Illinois and Florida took first and second places.

Video: CEO Dave Roberts on PopCap Games success and luck

To be successful in business, Dave Roberts says you have to be good, smart and lucky. You don’t expect to hear luck invoked as a key factor by the CEO of a company—PopCap Games—that was just sold for up to $1.3 billion. Classic CEO talking points include lingo such as “We were in the right place at the right time.” That kind of message implies that founders were in control of external events.

But Dave Roberts clearly said the “L” word—and for gamers everywhere, luck is a very powerful force. PopCap makes the blockbuster games Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies with a mix of creativity, business savvy and luck.

Capping the 2011 University of Washington Entrepreneur Week, Roberts shared PopCap Games’ growth timeline in the rapidly evolving landscape of social media and mobile devices. Watch highlights of his lecture.

Video: Michael Potts on a renewable energy future

Michael Potts, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, spoke to a group of University of Washington students in all fields – business, engineering, public affairs – about solutions for a renewable energy future.

He addresses energy efficiency, building efficiency, 21st century electric cars, trucks, planes – and gives success stories such as a recent project to retrofit and “green” the Empire State Building in New York City, which resulted in both money and energy savings.

Watch this 15-minute video of highlights from Potts’ lecture.

This lecture is part of the University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge organized by the UW Foster School of Business.

Informed innovation: interview with Steve Tolton of Petrocard

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBrogan

The Brogan Blog had a chance recently to chat with Steve Tolton, the CEO of PetroCard, a leading Pacific Northwest fuel and lubrication distributor. PetroCard, specializes in unattended stations that use a proprietary card lock technology to provide fuel to commercial customers that can be as large as Pepsico or as small as the one-truck plumber down the street.

And it may be one of the largest companies you’ve never heard of.

In 2010, PetroCard grossed over $900 million. PetroCard was ranked last year as the fifth largest privately held corporation in Washington State.  It is owned by Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.  BBNC is owned by about 8,200 Eskimo, Indian and Aleut shareholders.

PetroCard started in 1997, when Steve Tolton, then the Chief Financial Officer of BBNC, was looking for promising investments.  He partnered with banker Tom Farr, who saw an opportunity to consolidate the fragmented card lock business, starting with the purchase of a small company called PetroCard.

Neither Steve or Tom knew much about petroleum.  But they knew a good business opportunity when they saw it.  In less than 15 years, PetroCard has gone from 25 million gallons to 300 million gallons of fuel sales per year and it has leveraged its base business into other compatible business ventures

Steve Tolton attributes PetroCard’s success to focus on its customer base..   Their regional customers include school fleets and taxis, as well as Waste Management vehicles.”

“We touch our customers a thousand times a day,” says Tolton.  “We stay abreast of trends so we can offer solutions to our customers before they have to ask for them.”  Innovation means knowing how to manage risk with great due diligence.

“It is rare to hit a complete home run,” says Tolton.  He noted, however that the “Clean N’ Green” fuel stations, PetroCard’s partnership with Waste Management, has come pretty close to a homerun—exceeding all  expectations.

“For the last two years, we’ve been operating commercial natural gas stations, because of the continued expansion in the area of compressed natural gas,” said Tolton.

Tolton has grown PetroCard, but  does not believe in growth for its own sake.  “We focus on our commercial customers fueling and lube solutions, even though we may see other opportunities,” he said.  “We’re better at taking a decent companies and helping make them better.” PetroCard’s venture into natural gas has been an entrepreneurial “home run,” built on a deep understanding of industry trends and changing customer needs, including the need for a cost-competitive product in an emerging market.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle, one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series monthly. Previously, she covered green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage. Her current blog topic focus is on innovation.

Video: Richard Tait on entrepreneurship and Cranium

Cranium co-founder Richard Tait discusses his passion for entrepreneurship, the inspiration behind Cranium and his latest business venture, Golazo. He considers himself an inventor and at the top of his game when combining invention with entrepreneurship. Interviewed by UW Foster School of Business student Vance Roush (BA 2011), Tait offers inspiring insights about his leadership philosophy and how he captures trends to start new ventures.

“Entrepreneurship is about galvanizing teams of people around a mission. …the development and pursuit of a passionate dream,” says Tait. “I’m driven by a fear of failure rather than the glow of success. For me, it’s not about the prize, it’s more about the journey.”

Tait also believes everyone has a creative spirit and while society sometimes squashes that, it is in all of us.

This video is part of a series of entrepreneur interviews conducted by University of Washington undergraduate students who are involved in the UW Foster School of Business Lavin Entrepreneurial Action Program.

Foster MBAs summit Mount Rainier and raise $7000 for charity

Guest post by Anders Zwartjes (Foster MBA 2012)

Foster MBA students climb Mt. Rainier's Emmons Glacier

This 4th of July, as the sun crept above the Cascades in the east and many hours before the fireworks would start exploding above Seattle, a team of 11 tired but excited UW Foster MBA students stood at the top of the tallest mountain in Washington state. The group had started the ascent six and a half hours earlier, but had truly started their journey six months earlier during winter quarter.

What began in January of 2011 as an idea to take an exercise from Professor Michael Johnson’s leadership class a step further and to raise money for the Foster MBA Challenge for Charity fundraising drive, quickly took form and resulted in six months of dedicated training and preparation. Although the group that stood on the Summit of Mount Rainier numbered only 11, the entire effort was successful thanks to the support of more than 100 Foster students, faculty, staff, plus friends and family. As a result of their help, the climb raised $7,000 for the Boys and Girls Club and Special Olympics of Washington.

On the mountain, teamwork and discipline were key. During the final ascent up Rainier’s Emmons glacier the group was divided into three different rope teams, with each member paying fastidious attention to the progress of those around them and the tension of the lines as the teams passed over more than a dozen crevasses. Communication is key to a successful ascent, and everyone looked after each other as the elevation increased and the temperature dropped. Collaboration was of even greater importance on the way down, as joint problem solving quickly fixed the few obstacles our group encountered.

As the sun dropped on July 4, 2011, the line of tired MBA students arrived at their cars, tired but healthy and jubilant about the climb. While one party member had been forced by altitude sickness to stay at base camp, the day had seen 11 climbers successfully make it to the top of one of Washington’s greatest natural wonders, but even more importantly marked the safe end to a trying but hugely rewarding feat.

A view from inside one MBA student's tent on the Mt. Rainier trek

This experience would not have been possible without community support. MBA climbers would like to add a special thank you to Eli Rosenberg and Eric Docktor for assisting in climbing training and helping to lead the team up the mountain. We would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Scott Heinz for patient coaching, impeccable focus on safety, constant encouragement and altogether exemplary leadership.

“It’s a round trip. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” – Ed Viesturs

Video of Lululemon CEO Christine Day

Former Starbucks executive Christine Day became Lululemon Athletica CEO in 2008 and has turned the under-performing athletic clothing retailer into a near-billion-dollar company. Lululemon’s business is as healthy as the lifestyle the brand supports and customers who buy its yoga and exercise gear. Aside from clothing quality, Day believes in sharing profits, supporting employee life goals, partnering with communities and providing a unique store experience for guests.

At a sold-out lecture on University of Washington campus in spring 2011, Day shared insights of her Lululemon leadership philosophy and strategy with Foster School of Business alumni, faculty and students. Lululemon is bucking the recession using a steady growth model centered on customers, community and staff.

Watch video highlights of her lecture.

Christine Day 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.