Ken Dixon, Retired Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Global Business Advisory Board Member Interview
Ken Dixon is an esteemed member and incoming chair of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board, having served since 2010. He spent his 30+ year career with the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche, LLP, working for various branches in Chicago; Osaka, Japan; and Seattle. He earned a BA from Spring Arbor College in Michigan, and an MBA from the University of Washington. Since departing from Deloitte and Touche, LLP, Ken has mentored Foster Students and volunteered in numerous capacities at the University of Washington.
Q: What were you like as a young person that set the stage for your career? How did you get your start?
A: Couple of key influential people in my background led to understanding about the opportunities in public accounting and also led to the opportunity to study abroad for a year in Japan. The completion of my MBA with an accounting concentration (this was permitted in the 70’s) at the UW prepared me for the on campus interviews by the public accounting firms…from there I spent 33 years with the same firm before retiring almost 5 years ago.
Q: Tell us a bit about your career at Deloitte. What did you like most about your position? Which aspects were the most challenging?
A: I was interested in Japan at a good time…investment by the Japanese in the US in the 1980’s led to business opportunities at Deloitte that matched my interest. As manager at then Touche Ross (merged with Deloitte in 1989), Japanese investment, m&a and audit opportunities created a unique career opportunity for me. This then led to an opportunity to spend 6 years with Deloitte’s Japanese affiliate in Osaka, Japan. I loved the opportunities with the Japanese practice, but certainly was challenged by language and cultural challenges of doing business in Japan and with Japanese companies, plus the multiple technical accounting challenges of large multinational Japanese corporations.
Q: Can you tell us about the international places you’ve lived, worked, or studied, and some of the things you’ve learned through your global experiences?
A: My career was centered on Japan. I spent six years living in Kobe, Japan and commuted about an hour to our office in Osaka. Osaka is also only about 30 minutes from Kyoto, Japan’s historic and cultural center…I came back from Japan fluent in Japanese, aware of their culture, and importantly, able to understand and work with the uniquenesses of Japanese companies. I was fortunate at Deloitte in that our Japanese practice became very significant, and I was able to lead certain functions related to Japan on a regional and national basis.
Q: What is it like to manage a global team? What were some major challenges? Any Insights?
A: An example of a key opportunity while still in Osaka – it was a large m&a transaction – an Osaka based company buying a European entity based in Munich, Germany…I was the global team manager for Deloitte…had to coordinate financial due diligence in Europe with our team in Osaka. Challenges included facilitating Japanese understanding of the business issues in Europe, and facilitating German and British understanding of key issues for the Japanese buyer. European and American interests tend to concentrate on price and shareholder interests…Japanese on process and stakeholder interests.
Q: How did your international experiences help advance your career?
A: After my term in Osaka, I was asked to move to Chicago where I was promoted to leader of our Japanese practice on a regional basis with a significant portfolio of Japanese companies. As part of those responsibilities, I traveled to Japan several times a year.
Q: What would you tell today’s business students about the world of global business?
- Why would you encourage a business student to consider a career in global business?
- What would you recommend to a student considering a career in the consulting industry?
- What advice do you have for students that want to live or work in Japan?
A: First, Japan is a great place to live. Our family really enjoyed it. International schools were great, kids were safe, food is wonderful…many, many things to enjoy. And the opportunity to work with Japanese colleagues…priceless. And the effort to learn Japanese, while significant, is worthwhile.
Large firms by their nature will be international…more and more so. The more international exposure a student gets, the better they will be prepared for the large firm environment.
Consulting as a whole is a broad area…requires a technical background in a basic discipline to be successful. For me, that background was accounting and auditing…but there are many tracts available in the consulting world…IT, healthcare, regulatory, strategy…success comes with hard work, but is worth it.
Q: What are you most excited about as you become the next Global Business Advisory Board Chair? What is your greatest priority for the Advisory Board and the Global Business Center as you take on this role?
A: I see two key challenges for the Global Business Center as we move forward. First is a continuation of the vision of increasing the number of business students that experience some type of travel abroad program. I know how valuable that was to me early in my career. Our second challenge is to try to build an endowment to fully fund the Global Business Center operations…more on that to follow.