Dean’s Blog

Catholic Business Education

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 20, 2012 at 5:06 PM PDT

On June 18 to the 20th the Eighth International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education was held at the University of Dayton.  The theme of the meeting was, "Renewing Mission and Identity in Catholic Business Education."  Over 150 faculty from more than 75 Catholic universities from around the world participated in the event.  I served on the planning committee for the event.

 

Dayton, Ohio is hot and humid this time of year, and it is not the easiest place to get to (particularly for international participants), but once you get there, it is a pretty manageable place.  Anyone from Seattle will notice there is a lot less traffic!

 

The most interesting part of the meeting for me was the participation of Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is heading up the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP).  The PCJP recently published, "Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection."  It is a very readable document that pulls together what Catholic Social Teaching means for business.  If you have ever read any of the encyclicals on CST, you know they are rich documents, but very difficult to plow your way through.  It is nice to have such an accessible document that does such a nice job of summarizing the positive role business should play in our society!  

 

The Cardinal kicked off the conference by celebrating mass, which of course is a great way to start a conference for Catholic business schools.  I believe it was the first time I have been at a concelebrated mass where most of the priests were Black, a result of the mix of attendees at the conference.  Four of the five priests (including the Cardinal), were Black.  I guess I should chalk it up as, "A Sign of the Times." :} [Vocations are strong in Africa and parts of Asia, and weak in Europe and the US.] I am also trying to recall the last time I was at a mass led by a Cardinal.  I think it might have been way back when I was eight or nine years old and Cardinal John Krol was presiding at my Confirmation at St. Cyril's Church in the Philadelphia diocese!

 

The mass was followed by a talk by Cardinal Turkson on "Vocation of the Business Leader."  He confided that they called it a "reflection" instead of a "note" because the latter would have required it to receive various approvals from the Vatican bureaucracy, which of course means it would still be awaiting publication!  The Cardinal explained the process that was followed to develop the document, including the significant consultation with business leaders and academics.  His message was that business serves the Common Good, and he challenged Catholic business schools to bring that message to students and alumni.  He also talked about leadership, using the image of the shepherd as a figure providing leadership and sustainability to the flock.  I liked his point that the good business leader sometime goes behind when the flock knows the way, but sometimes must take the lead when new paths are being taken.

 

The conference featured a number of papers presented by faculty in attendance on various aspects of Catholic business education.  There were several plenary sessions, including one featuring a panel of business school deans discussing the challenges they face in their positions.  I served as moderator and had the easy role of peppering my colleagues with questions on mission, working with other units on campus, the role of Catholic Social Thought in Catholic business education, hiring for mission, and how mission should influence faculty research.  These are not easy questions, but we had three deans with collectively over five decades of dean experience - Joe DiAngelo from St. Joseph's, Ellen Harshman from St. Louis University, and Tom Bausch, Dean Emeritus from Marquette.

 

I had to leave the evening of the 19th, so I missed the last day of the conference.  All the flights home were significantly delayed.  It's the combination of thunder storms and no slack in the system!

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Departures

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 12, 2012 at 3:06 PM PDT

We had our end of the school year picnic on June 12th.  We had over 70 faculty and staff in attendance, including four retired faculty members.  It is always a good event, even if some faculty are still scrambling to get their grades in for the spring quarter!  It gives us a chance to close out the year and see everyone before summer begins and people scatter.

 

The picnic is always used to salute those who are departing.  This year that included two people who could not make the picnic, so we saluted them at a school meeting on June 7th:

 

Tom Kelley - Tom joined us full time in 2002 after a long and successful career at Arthur Andersen.  His last assignment was managing partner for the Moscow office, so Tom always had a lot of good advice for students with respect to their professional formation.  Tom was a rigorous teacher, and thanks to his undergraduate degree from Holy Cross, fit right in to our Jesuit institution.  Tom will be missed!

 

Dino Falaschetti - Dino served the last two years at the Thomas F. Gleed Endowed Chair in Business Administration, which is a two-year visiting appointment in the Albers School.  Dino was very popular with students and enlivened the intellectual climate by organizing several panel discussions on contemporary issues where law, economics, and finance intersect (like Dodd-Frank!).   Dino is headed to Bozeman, Montana where he will be Executive Director of the Property and Environmental Research Center.

 

At the picnic on June 12th, we said good bye to several faculty and staff:

 

Rex Toh - Rex is retiring after 32 years as a faculty member at SU.  You can read my blog from May 25th about Rex!

 

Mary Carpenter - Mary has been our Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs and a few months ago was diagnosed with cancer.  She has been out on sick leave and plans to retire in November.  Mary has been working at SU since 1988.  Mary always had a "get it done" attitude and was always willing to tell you exactly what she thought, all of which I appreciate.  Mary was a strong advocate for our graduate students, and we will miss her very much.

 

Steve Brilling - Steve has served as Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center and prior to that served as an executive in residence.  He has done a terrific job of building up the center, and in the process reaching out to the community for support.  It is not easy for a "business guy" to come to a college campus and be successful, but Steve has done that. Steve will continue to work with us in the family business arena.

 

Kim Eshelman - Kim has served as the administrative assistant for the Entrepreneurship Center since 2007.  She has been instrumental in the continuous improvement the center has achieved.  She is an artist and is leaving to pursue her passion full-time.

 

Carly Cannell - Carly joined Albers a year ago after working at SU's Center for Service and Community Engagement.  She worked as a program manager for our EMBA programs.  She just completed her MBA at SU and will be taking a position with The Boeing Company.  Carly was one of the students very involved with the project to raise $20,000 for the St. Ignatius School in Rwanda.

 

A big thank you to Tom, Dino, Rex, Mary, Steve, Kim, and Carly for their many contributions to the Albers School!  We will miss all of you!

 

Graduation 2012

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 11, 2012 at 8:06 AM PDT

On June 10th we graduated 299 undergraduate business students and 262 master's students at Key Arena.  Graduation is always a bittersweet moment for faculty and staff.  We know these students have to move on but we hate to see them go!

 

The business sector has been under fire of late, but the criticism is broad and over-reaching.  Business makes a critical contribution to our society.  Our standard of living does not improve without a healthy business sector.  That said, not all businesses "get it."  They don't always understand the importance of ethics and integrity.  They don't always understand it is about meeting the needs of all stakeholders (not just stockholders) and the obligations a business has to the community it operates in. They don't always understand that the goal should be to create a sustainable, profitable enterprise.

 

Our students know these things, and that is why we are excited to see these business graduates entering the workforce.  We look forward to the many contributions they will make to society for decades to come.

 

Kudos to our students who received awards for their academic achievements.  At the graduation ceremony, Tiffany Wadel (BABA Economics) received the President's Award for the highest academic performance of a graduating senior who entered SU as a freshman.  She also received the Paul Volpe Award for the best business undergraduate academic performance.  Albers students Ted Adams (BABA ECIS) and Aran Kaweerattanaphon (BABA Finance) received the Provost's Award, which goes to the graduating transfer student with the highest GPA.  Both had the same academic performance, so there were two recipients of the award this year.  Albers has the highest concentration of transfer students on campus (about 40%), so it is not surprising that two of our students are receiving the award!

 

 

On the graduate side, August Kristoferson (MS Finance) received the Jerry A. Viscione Award for the highest academic performance of a business graduate student.  By the way, both Volpe (1947-65) and Viscione (1988-97) are legendary deans in the history of the Albers School!  Too bad it was before the concept of blogging was created - they would have had some good things to blog about!

 

Fiona Robertson and Madhu Rao did an admirable job of reading the names of our graduates at graduation.  Probably the best that has been done since the dean stopped doing it!

 

Not only did Albers dominate the President and Provost Awards this year, but we also dominated the singing.  Maddy Cary (BABA management) handled the national anthem at the undergraduate ceremony in the morning and Anna Klutho (BABA marketing) took care of the graduate ceremony in the afternoon. 

 

Speaking of students and reflecting back over this academic year, our students did some amazing things in 2011-12.  Some of the highlights include:

 

  • The Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization students organizing the third annual Redwinged Leadership Award.
  • Our graduate students who raised $20,000 to support construction of the St. Ignatius School in Rwanda (overseen by their classmate, Fr. Jean Baptiste Ganza, SJ, who graduated with his MBA).
  • Our Beta Alpha Psi students (the accounting honorary) received the Gold Chapter Award (one of seven schools nationally) and won the KPMG Northwest Case Competition.
  • Our SIFE students, who won the regional competition and completed an incredible number of hours of community service in the process (over 3600 hours that impacted an estimated 162,000+ people).
  • Three Albers students/recent alums receiving Fulbright Fellowships - Michelle de Vera (graduated on the 10th with a BA in Economics), Senay Kahsay, and Kyla Hagedorn.

 

Congratulations to our 2012 graduates!  There will be many opportunities for you to leave the world a better place than you found it.  We expect big things from you!

 

Rex

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 25, 2012 at 10:05 PM PDT

When the title is "Rex," everyone knows what the topic of this posting is about!!.  Professor Rex Toh is retiring from our faculty at the end of this year.  Rex has been a member of our faculty since 1980, so he has been at the university for over 30 years.  Rex has taught primarily courses in marketing research, statistics, and transportation.

 

Everyone is going to miss Rex.  Rex has a unique style, which everyone seems to have learned how to navigate.  Basically, Rex can be very "direct."  If it were someone else, you might worry about it.  But it is Rex, so you don't worry about it.  There is a certain charm to it all that only Rex can pull off.

 

Rex has been a great champion for the importance of faculty scholarship.  He has been a leader in this regard within Albers, and therefore on the SU campus.  He leads by example - he has nearly 90 journal articles to his credit!

 

He has also tried to assist colleagues with their scholarship, either making suggestions to improve their work or inviting them to join him in research projects.  He has co-authored with a number of our faculty and served as a valuable research mentor for them.  Rex has not only had an impact on campus, but he has also impacted the profession.  For example, he recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, recognizing his work as both an author and reviewer for the journal.  It is also important to acknowledge that Rex was a "research pioneer" at SU, throwing himself into his scholarship at a time when research received little support from the university. 

 

I discouraged Rex from retiring.  I asked him what he plans to do in retirement.  Surely, he will miss his teaching and research??  No, he says, he will keep busy with his gardening and travelling (Rex just loves a good cruise!).  I'm betting not and he will be back before long begging me to let him teach! :}

 

Rex is very devoted to the concept of "efficiency."  He does not like take long to get things accomplished.  My favorite memory of Rex in this regard will be how he orchestrated the elections of Marketing Club officers.  I always imagined it as the way elections worked in the USSR!

 

On May 25th we hosted a dinner to honor Rex and recognize his contributions to SU.   His colleagues in attendance noted his dedication to efficiency and scholarship, but also his success in the classroom.  He was very successful as an instructor of statistics, something his colleagues admire since they know what a difficult topic it is to teach.

At the dinner, Rex was presented the plaque listing him as the 1982-83 MBA Professor of the Year.  It was retrieved from the "Albers Archives" and given to Rex for safekeeping -- until someone else on the plaque retires and we need to present the plaque to her or him! 

 

We will miss Rex, and will always admire the legacy he has created at Seattle University.  Thanks, Rex!

40th Anniversary

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM PDT

There are many end-of-the academic year events, but one that I always look forward to is the Accounting Awards Banquet.  This year marked the 40th consecutive year for the event.  Forty years - that is an impressive run for the Department of Accounting!!

 

Dave Tinius was on the podium this year as co-moderator of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP -- the accounting honorary).  Since Dave was involved in organizing the first award dinner, he was able to tell us that the first dinner took place in Campion Hall (as did the fortieth) and was organized to commemorate the launch of our Beta Alpha Psi chapter.  Dave noted that Campion looks better now than it did in 1973!

 

Twenty-two different awards were bestowed on our accounting students.  Angela Bever, BAP president, received the BAP Leadership Award.  Michael Watson, the incoming BAP president, received the BAP Outstanding member Award.  Alex Mena received the BAP Community Service Award.

 

The BAP students involved in the ceremony, such as Angela and Michael, were very poised and professional.  They made their faculty very, very proud!

 

Our BAP chapter had a great year in 2011-12.  It was one of seven chapters in the nation to receive the prestigious Gold Chapter Award.  They also received two best practice awards at the BAP regional meeting, and one of them will now be competing for national recognition at the BAP national meeting in August (a financial literacy program done with Girl Scouts of America).

 

Mary Carpenter received the Chair's Award, which goes to the staff member who provides exceptional service to the Department of Accounting.  Since Mary is on sick leave, she was not present to receive the award, but the presentation was taped for her viewing pleasure!

 

One of the critical success factors for our Department of Accounting is the strong support it receives from the accounting professional community.  Prior to the dinner, the department advisory board had met and everyone was buzzing about what a great meeting it was.  The advisory board is pushing the department to take on a new strategic initiative, and not only that, stepping up to provide support for the project.  Advisory board members were joined by other accounting professionals at the reception and the banquet.  It was all an impressive display of support from the accounting community.

 

Despite being on sabbatical this quarter, Department Chair Bruce Koch was there to MC the event.  [I have to admit that we ended up asking Bruce to do a lot even though he was supposed to be on sabbatical - I guess that means we cannot really get along without him.]  With his self-deprecating sense of humor, Bruce was able to keep the audience engaged throughout the ceremony.  Fortunately, he eased up on his normal supply of puns! :}

 

Congratulations are in order for the Department of Accounting on the occasion of the 40th year of its awards banquet!  Talk about sustainability!!

 

 

 

 

 

Business Plan Competition

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 18, 2012 at 9:05 AM PDT

The finals of the 14th annual Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition took place on May 17th.  The winner was Populous Legal Services, a team of law students.  Unfortunately, I did not catch their presentation, so I cannot tell you about their concept, but I am sure it is good because their competition was very formidable.  The two final presentations I did see were well done and built around very compelling products.  The law students enrolled in a business plan class jointly sponsored by Albers and the law school.  I would say the class definitely paid off for them, as in receiving the award they made it clear their concept was developed through the class!

 

Over 200 students, judges, mentors, coaches, and sponsors participated in the competition this year.  It has become a very powerful event and a significant learning experience for the students who participate, particularly those who make it to the final round.  It is a great benefit for Albers and SU to be able to draw upon so many volunteers from the Seattle community.  These volunteers are integral to the success of the competition.

 

Each year the final presentations get better and better.  The students are much further along in their planning than they used to be.  I attribute this to the powerful influence of their mentors.  Each team participating in the competition is assigned a mentor (assuming they want one, which they better be smart enough to accept!).  The mentor is a business professional with an entrepreneurial background, and they advise the students in putting together the plan.  Introducing mentors into the competition was the best thing we have done to raise the quality of the competition.  Our mentors really have an impact!

 

For a video on the impact of the competition on student learning, go to:  http://youtu.be/cXa1txQc2xI

  

The two presentations I saw were In My Grandma's Kitchen and Lockstep Shoes.  They were both strong presentations by Nick Woog and Joe Lancaster, respectively.  Nick plans to bring out a series of organic food products under the (much more manageable) brand, "Joe's," named after his father.  The first product is an organic garlic sauce.  Lockstep Shoes will license a design concept that shoe brands can incorporate to make it easier for the elderly, the injured, and the handicapped to get in and out of their shoes.  Both these products were very compelling (Nick took the runner-up prize), so that is how I know that Populous Law must have made a great presentation of a great concept!

 

Scott Oki, well known Seattle entrepreneur and philanthropist, was the keynote speaker for the event.  He revealed that he grew up near Seattle U., at 14th and Yesler.  He made it clear that he did not grow up in a privileged environment, and ended up serving in the military and finishing his studies at the University of Colorado.  Scott also made it clear how hard one has to work to be successful, referencing his 90 hour work weeks and going years without a vacation. 

 

Since leaving Microsoft 20 years ago, most of his work has been as a social entrepreneur and philanthropist.  He highlighted two of his most recent ventures.  One is the Parents Union, which is a non-profit dedicated to pursuing school reform on a state by state basis.  It is designed to bring parents together who have an interest in pushing for K-12 school reform. 

 

The second recent venture is See Your Impact.  This is a social networking tool for "the bottom of the philanthropic pyramid," as Scott put it.  See Your Impact allows people who are raising smaller amounts of money to leverage social networking.  An important feature is to allow the donors to actually see how their contributions benefit recipients.  See Your Impact posts images and stories of the beneficiaries that donors can view.  A group of our MBA students are currently using See Your Impact in an initiative to raise money for the soon to be built St. Ignatius School in Rwanda. 

 

Scott's parting words of advice for students was, "Find your passion and go for it!!"

 

The business plan competition is aptly named after Professor Harriet Stephenson, a member of our faculty since 1967 and receiving an award this year for 45 years of service at SU!  Harriet started our activities in entrepreneurship in 1990, and we would not be where we are today without her pioneering activity and foresight.  In 1990, it was hardly clear to academics that entrepreneurship was a worthy area of study!  Now it seems obvious.

 

This was the last business plan competition with Steve Brilling as Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center.  Steve has been leading the center since 2004 and done a great job improving the quality of the competition each year.  Steve will be missed, but he is not leaving completely.  He will continue to play a role in our Family Business programs.

 

Kim Eshelman has served as Steve's administrative assistant since 2007.  She is stepping down to pursue her passion as an artist full time.  We will miss Steve and Kim and thank them for all their excellent work during their time with us!

Gary Scott

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 15, 2012 at 11:05 AM PDT

Gary Scott was the final speaker in this year's Albers Executive Speaker Series.  Gary is a graduate of our MBA program and recently retired as President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft after leading the development of the C series, narrow-bodied airplane.  As Gary took pains to say, Bombardier is not trying to compete in the single-aisle airplane market with Boeing and Airbus, as much as fill a gap in smaller size end of the market.

 

Gary joined Bombardier in 2004 as President of the New Commercial Aircraft Program and was named President of Commercial Aircraft in 2008.  He began his career with The Boeing Company in 1973, where his roles included Vice President and General Manager for the 737/757 programs and President of Flight Safety Boeing, which is the role he had when he left Boeing in 2002 to take a position with CAE, Inc., a leader in commercial aviation training.  While leading the 737/757 program, Gary oversaw Boeing's single aisle commercial airplane division through the biggest production build-up in the company's history to that point in time.

 

Gary's presentation was on, "Leading a Non-US Global Enterprise," and he highlighted a few advantages that US firms have when doing business in the global market.  These are things that many of us in the US take for granted, but should not!  They include a huge home based market to grow up in.  Second, we don't have to worry about exchange rate volatility in that home market, whereas companies in smaller nations are forced to expand into other currencies much earlier in their development.  When US firms do venture abroad, foreign sales are still sometimes denominated in dollars.  You can bet that Canadian firms are not pricing their exports in Canadian dollars.  Finally, export financing through an entity the size of the US Export-Import Bank is not available in most countries.  This is particularly advantageous to large scale industries such as aviation.

 

One advantage that US firms do not have is good people.  "They are everywhere," said Gary.  The trick is to create an organizational culture that leverages that talent.

 

One questioner asked how it was that someone with a business background held leadership positions that one would associate with someone from an engineering background.  Gary's response was that you should always understand your product, even if you are the finance guy!  He was not afraid to ask questions about how airplanes worked.  Additionally, he was always willing to take on a new challenge, so in the process was continually learning about the business.

 

Several questions were directed at doing business in China, where there are concerns about protecting intellectual property.  Gary acknowledged the challenges, but said that China is such a big market you have to be there if you are in aviation.  The key will be to find a way to establish the right partnership.  The market has confidence in Western aviation companies, and that can be a leverage point in establishing partnerships in China.

 

When Gary was an MBA student at SU, we required a thesis for graduation (many an MBA alum has complained to me about that over the years!).  Gary reminisced about his topic, "The Capital Crisis in the Airline Industry."  At the time, people were concerned that there would be insufficient financing for growth in the industry.  Gary argued, correctly, that there would be no capital shortage.  Things have a way of working out, he said.  What you once thought was a stretch in terms of something like production capacity, is easily exceeded a decade later. 

 

This perspective is what nearly four decades in the aviation industry will give you!  It was a great opportunity for our students to learn from an aviation leader!

 

Gary's presentation was the last chapter in this year's Albers Executive Speaker Series.  We had another good year, with some of the highlights including Howard Schultz from Starbucks, Jim Sinegal from Costco, and wireless industry legend John Stanton.  We hope to do as well in 2012-13!

 

2012 Red Winged Leadership Award

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 14, 2012 at 3:05 PM PDT

The Third Annual Red Winged Leadership Award ceremony took place on May 10th.  The award recognizes local leaders who combine leadership and business acumen to make a positive social impact on the community.  The entire process is organized by the students in our Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization (GLFS), who are guided by Professor Jennifer Marrone.  There were 24 students in the 2012 GLFS cohort.

 

The three finalists this year were Jocquelyn Duncan (Work it Out Seattle), Killian Noe (Recovery Café), and Dan Wall (Opportunity Knocks).  Jocquelyn is the Founder and Executive Director of Work it Out, which is a non-profit dedicated to getting high school dropouts productively re-engaged with the community.  She became increasingly alarmed at the wasted talents of young people in her community and was called to act.  In her remarks, she noted that there are 6.7 million high school dropouts in our nation, a daunting waste of talent, creativity, and energy.  She advised the audience to consider our legacy - "what will you leave behind?" she asked.

 

Killian Noe moved to Seattle in 1999 and surveyed the community to find an unmet need.  She concluded that there was not enough support for those recovering from addiction and mental health challenges.  The result was Recovery Café.  She advised the audience to be ready to take a risk and don't wait until you are 100% sure to launch a new initiative.

 

As a top executive at Expeditors International, Dan Wall was when he enrolled in our Leadership EMBA program.  The program requires students to develop a legacy project in the workplace.  Dan developed Opportunity Knocks based on his personal experience with Expeditors, where he started working at the age of 18.  Opportunity Knocks identifies high school students who are not planning to continue their education beyond high school and offers them a part-time job with the opportunity for a full-time job if they meet Expeditors' expectations.  The program began at the Seattle headquarters but has now branched out to offices around the country and, soon, around the world.

 

For her work in founding Recovery Café, Killian Noe was selected as the 2012 Red Winged Leadership Award recipient.  Of course, all three finalists are winners and doing wonderful things to advance the Common Good!

 

The keynote speaker for the evening was Jim Sinegal, our new Senior Executive in Residence and co-founder and retired CEO of Costco Wholesale.  It was Jim's second event of the day, as earlier he spoke to students in the Marketing Club at their end of the year event.

 

In his remarks, Jim chose to focus on the legacy of Sol Price, founder of Price Club, who Jim considers to be his mentor.  Jim learned many things from Price, including that a business has a responsibility to the society it operates in.  The creation of jobs with good working conditions is the highest service that a business can provide to society.  Jim mentioned that the 30th anniversary of the founding of Costco would take place this fall, and that their original business plan called for 12 warehouse locations.  Today, Costco has over 600 locations in eight countries.

 

We're very proud of the Red Winged Leadership Award and its effort to recognize an unheralded leader in our community!  Our students in the GLFS do an amazing amount of work to organize this event, and they are to be congratulated for their successful execution of what is becoming a Seattle University tradition!

 

For more information on the Red Winged Leadership Award, including videos on the honorees, check out the website:

http://www.seattleu.edu/albers/redwinged/

 

 

 

Dan Nordstrom

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 27, 2012 at 5:04 PM PDT

Dan Nordstrom, CEO and owner of Outdoor Research, was the featured speaker on April 26th for the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  His topic was "Anatomy of a Turnaround."  Nordstrom bought OR in 2003 when it was close to bankruptcy and revised the company so that today it is one of the strongest brands for high end outdoor apparel and accessories.

 

In 2002 he had left Nordstrom, Inc. where he had been President of Nordstrom.com, and was looking for a smaller, more entrepreneurial challenge.  He said that a mentor gave him some great advice, "Don't buy a great company, buy a company that is successful in spite of itself."  Otherwise, you will pay a lot of money and it will be difficult to make it better.  Buy something you can fix and add value to.

 

After acquiring OR, the first thing he did was to come and ask a lot of questions to employees and customers.  After all, there is a need to know what the business is about.

 

He also noted the importance of sizing up the workforce.  You need to identify who the high performers are and who are the people that will need to move on.  Or, as he quoted Jim Collins, "First who, then what."  People come first, then everything flows from that, according to Nordstrom. It is critical to identify your best people and treat them well, and at the same time to identify your lowest performers and have them move along.

 

An exciting point is when you get to hire new talent.  To get the people you really want, you have to have a good story and credible vision for the future.  The new employees can reinforce the need for higher levels of performance with the existing high performers, and that becomes a virtuous circle.

 

Culture and brand are both very important to the success of a business.  One of the problems with the existing culture at OR was that it was not customer centric and thought it knew what was best for customers.  There was not enough listening to the customer.

 

In the question and answer period, the following points were made:

 

  • Weather trumps the business cycle when it comes to OR's sales.  Bad winter weather means stronger sales.

 

  • When it comes to social responsibility and the OR supply chain, the factories of their suppliers offer excellent working conditions.  It is sub-contracting by their 20 main suppliers that they must be vigilant about.

 

  • OR does not want to spread itself too thin.  It prefers to focus on accessories and apparel.  It is not going to do tents and sleeping bags.  They don't need new categories, there is plenty of opportunity for growth in their current categories.  So what is their next challenge??  Staying focused!

 

  • With social media small companies can created a lot of noise.  He gave examples of that for OR.  Local events related to their product categories, in particular, are a good way to raise awareness of the brand.

 

  • Consumers are "tribal."  They want to belong to something, so they become OR customers as opposed to the customer of a rival brand.  They develop an emotional tie to the brand story.

 

  • He warned that it would be dangerous for OR to become a regional company.  Then, all their products would be about the rain and staying dry.  That would not have much relevance for customers in Colorado and Minnesota, where down jackets are important.  Down jackets are disastrous in the rainy Northwest!

 

Dan Nordstrom has guided OR back from the brink.  It was a brand that was losing relevance, and now is one of the most respected in the outdoor industry.  It was hunkered down doing accessories "it's way," and has now expanded successfully in to apparel.  He is a leader who understands the importance of people, culture, execution, and brand.  It was a great opportunity for everyone in the audience to hear from him.

 

Our next speaker is on May 14th, when Gary Scott, who recently retired as President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, will be visiting.  Gary earned his MBA at SU and his topic is, "Leading a Non US Global Enterprise."  It will be from 5:30 to 6:30 PM in Pigott Auditorium.

 

 

Ethics in the Business World

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 18, 2012 at 9:04 AM PDT

Ethics in the Business World was held on April 17th.  Throughout the day, professionals from the business community visited 55 Albers classes (undergraduate and graduate) to discuss ethical challenges they have faced in their career and how they resolved them.  The 55 classes were visited by 39 different professionals, meaning a few people visited more than one class.  Only one class was unable to participate.

 

We had some excellent visitors participating in the program.  Speakers included Jim Sinegal (former CEO of Costco Wholesale and Senior Executive in Residence for the Albers School), Gary Scott (former President of Bombardier Airplanes), Brian Webster (CEO of Physio-Control), and Robbie Bach (former President of Microsoft Games and Devices).  Gary gets the prize for visiting the most classes - four!!

 

The concept of Ethics in the Business World was proposed to us by the advisory board of the Center for Business Ethics.  Their thought was to have business leaders come to classes to expose students to some of the ethical dilemmas they are sure to face in their careers.  They thought that many classes might participate, but we challenged ourselves to have ALL classes meeting on that day to participate.  We got about as close to that as you can! 

 

We also envisioned complementary activities throughout the day, so from that grew an alumni event in the morning featuring Professor Marc Cohen (Assistant Professor of Business Ethics), and Stan McNaughton (CEO of PEMCO insurance, who also spoke to a class later in the morning).  We collaborated with the College of Science and Engineering so that they would schedule their Boeing panel discussion on engineering ethics to take place on the same day.  Undergraduate students starting a campus chapter of Net Impact organized a panel discussion at the end of the day on socially responsible investing.  Net Impact is a non-profit that encourages business students to see business as means for social good.  The bottom line should be about more than profits, but also people and the planet.

 

As you might imagine, with classes meeting throughout the day, the event was something of a logistical nightmare.  How to match all the speakers with all the classes??  No worries there.  Aaron Hayden, the graduate assistant for John Dienhart, our Frank Shrontz Chair of Business Ethics, was able to put that all together, including getting all the necessary parking passes (mid day visitor parking is something of a challenge!).  Aaron managed all the details and entertained our guests throughout the day.  It is not easy to get people to come in during the middle of the workday when some classes were meeting, but we managed to do it, thanks to the commitment of many of the volunteers.

 

Ethics in the Business World makes a statement to our students. It reinforces for them the importance of ethical business practice and alerts them that doing the right thing is not always easy.  Nevertheless, one must hold to one's core values and recognize the importance of ethical business practice both for long run professional success and the effective functioning of our market economy.

 

Many thanks to all the business leaders who participated in Ethics in the Business World!  It was a very successful event, and we plan to do it every year.  The students were the beneficiaries of the collective wisdom of our 39 volunteers.  I want to thank the faculty who surrendered some of their valuable class time to participate in this event.  It is another demonstration of their alignment with and commitment to the SU and Albers mission!