Dean’s Blog

Hong Kong

Posted by Joseph M. Phillips on May 10, 2016 at 3:05 PM PDT

I spent May 4, 5, and 6 in Hong Kong visiting Seattle University alumni and supporters.  Along with Jim Hembree from University Advancement and Russ Powell, Associate Provost of Global Engagement, I visited with 24 people individually or in group meetings, including 15 alumni of Albers.  There was a wide range of graduates, with the oldest graduating in 1975 and the youngest In 2006!  We estimate there are about 80 Albers alums in HK.

Hong Kong looks to be a very livable city.  The subway system is convenient, though crowded at times, and we have been making a lot of use of it!  The city is fairly clean and crime does not seem to be a problem.  On the other hand, the sidewalks are teeming with people in many sections of the city.

Right now the HK economy is not doing well.  There has been a big drop in retail sales as mainland Chinese have cut back on the purchase of  luxury items, the result of both the government's crack down on corruption and feeling unwelcome by HK residents due to recent governance controversies.

We were frequently asked about the purpose of the trip.  The main purpose was to reconnect with alumni and learn how they have progressed since graduation.  They have some great stories to tell!  For example, the idea for the story on Kevin Dong that recently appeared in the Albers Brief (I hope you received your copy!) was hatched on our previous visit to HK and Guangzhou when we learned more about Kevin's success with his business, Hand Picked.

In September, Professors David Reid and Quan Le will be leading a study tour to Hong Kong and focusing on doing business in Hong Kong and near by China.  One thing we like to include in study tours are company visits.  I asked alumni if they would be able to support the tour with a company visit and discussion of how to conduct business press in Asia  The response from alumni was very positive --  they were anxious to help!

One thing we have not been doing, at least not directly, is to recruit students. In the future we should be leveraging these trip to recruit students to our programs.

Hong Kong and China

Posted by Joe Phillips on May 1, 2016 at 1:05 PM PDT

I will be travelling to Hong Kong and China May 2 to May 10.  I will be travelling with Jim Hembree from the SU Advancement team, and part of the time we will be with Russ Powell, Associate Provost for Global Engagement.  The main purpose of the trip for Jim and I is to connect with alumni in Hong Kong and Southern China.  In addition to Hong Kong, we are travelling to Macau, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.  Most of SU's alumni in that part of the world are Albers graduates.

I am using the trip to test the university's new content management system!  I hope to post a few blogs as time permits.  We will see if I can do that with my iPad!  Theoretically, it should work!

I am packed and ready to go!  Stay tuned!

Rich Barton

Posted by Joe Phillips on April 29, 2016 at 8:04 AM PDT

Rich Barton, founder of such companies as Expedia, Zillow, and GlassDoor, spoke in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on April 19th, to an audience of more than 300 students, faculty, staff, and alumni.  The title of his talk was, "Power to the People:  How Technology Transforms Industries."

Barton has a remarkable for picking companies that use technology to successfully disrupt their industry.  In addition to Expedia, Zillow, and GlassDoor, others include Trover, Avvo, and Qliance.

Barton started his presentation by showing the Apple Super Bowl XIII ad from 1984, which he said inspired him to grasp the "power to the people" potential of technology to enable people to do what they really wanted to do.  No matter that the majority in the audience was not yet born in 1984 -- at least I was!

In his presentation, Barton explained how the genesis for Expedia, Zillow, and GlassDoor all came from his own frustration as a consumer and his desire to have more control of his destiny.  In the case of Expedia, it came about from his frustration of managing his travel itinerary while a project manager at Microsoft.  In that role, he travelled all over the country, but could not shape his travel schedule to meet his personal preferences.  He realized the travel industry guarded the information that would liberate him as a business traveler.  To overcome that problem, he convinced Bill Gates to launch Expedia as a business internal to Microsoft, one that was successful and ultimately sold to IAC in 2003.

The Zillow story started shortly thereafter when he was trying to buy a new home in Seattle.  Again, it was a situation where the industry was controlling information in a way that short circuited him as a buyer.  Zillow was launched in 2005 to release that information and empower the consumer.  It is 2016 and the rest of the Zillow success story is history, you might say.  Being a homebuyer is a much more information-informed activity today!

GlassDoor was inspired by a gaff Barton made while doing some employee evaluations at Zillow.  He mistakenly left some employee performance and salary information in the copy machine and some employees found it.  In the aftermath of that experience, Barton asked himself what would be wrong with more transparency around such things as salary, benefits, and company culture?  It turns out that nothing is wrong with that, and GlassDoor has been very successful since launching in 2008 and successful companies are embracing GlassDoor rather than resisting it.

In the question and answer period, noted that, "Good ideas are cheap.  Execution is dear."  Good ideas are the easy part.  Actually building the company (execution) is the hard part.

When asked why he thought 2016 had been such a slow year for IPOs, he noted that part of the problem is the prevailing myth that companies do not need to go public.  Barton disagrees and thinks going public introduces a certain discipline that is good for firms in the long run.  He also noted a trend of waiting for really big market valuations before going public, but he ticked off a long list of companies that started with market valuations below $1 billion who have gone on to create much larger market capitalizations.

How does he think about horizontal versus vertical growth? He prefers the latter, because it is hard to do and if you can make it work, it is very difficult for someone to replicate, giving you more market power.

When he was asked where he saw future opportunities in the job market, he emphasized the growth of data and the need to manage it and get something useful out of the data.  He thought this would be particularly true in the marketing arena.  Sounds like a great plug for our new MS in Business Analytics program starting this fall!

Richard Barton has demonstrated a phenomenal ability to pick out businesses that will succeed in disrupting their industry by putting more information in the hands of the consumer.  It was a great opportunity to have him speak at the Albers School on April 19th!


Vidya Awasthi

Posted by Joseph Phillips on April 19, 2016 at 9:04 AM PDT

Vidya Awathi, Associate Professor of Accounting in the Albers School, will be retiring from Seattle University at the end of this academic year.  Vidya has been on our faculty since 1996, and prior to that served on the faculty of Santa Clara University.  The university is honoring his many years of excellent service by naming him an emeritus professor.

At a dinner last night, we recognized Vidya for his many contributions to the Albers School, especially those to our students and alumni!  Above all, Vidya was an excellent teacher.  Students found him to be clear, patient, and approachable.  They appreciated his strong concern for their success.  Vidya taught primarily managerial and cost accounting, and was the department champion for the CMA designation – Certified Management Accountant!

Vidya was not only a teacher, but also a scholar, embracing and modelling the “teacher-scholar” role that characterizes SU faculty.  His research appeared in some of the top journals in his fields – The Accounting Review, the Journal of Business Ethics, and the Academy of Management Journal, and for a number of years was the most productive scholar in the Department of Accounting.

Most important, Vidya was a supportive and affirming colleague.  He was the leader in the department when it came to assessment, a thankless task, and at the university level was very active in inter-religious dialogue, something he hopes to continue with in retirement, continuing to bring his Hindu perspective to those conversations.

The comments by those in attendance last night were instructive.  Above all, people remarked on his humility and how they enjoyed conversations with him because he put them at ease with his unassuming demeanor and subtle sense of humor.  Several faculty members also commented that Vidya served as a mentor and role model for them.  They picked the right person for that!

Thank you, Vidya Awasthi, for twenty years of outstanding service to Seattle University and for being such a great colleague! 

Alan Mulally Appointed Senior Fellow

Posted by Joseph M. Phillips, Dean Albers School on April 14, 2016 at 8:04 AM PDT

Alan Mulally, retired President and CEO of Ford Motor Company and former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, has been appointed Senior Fellow in the Center for Leadership Formation in the Albers School at Seattle University.  In this capacity, Alan will be working with students, faculty, and alumni in our Executive Leadership and Leadership EMBA programs.

We are incredibly privileged to have someone of Alan's caliber working with us in this capacity!  He will be a terrific resource for our students, faculty, and alumni!  We are also extremely honored to be the first university at which Alan has agreed to take on a formal role since his retirement from Ford!

Both programs will be introducing into the curriculum key aspects of Mulally’s signature leadership strategies, including “Working Together” and “Business Process Review.”  According to Marilyn Gist, executive director of our Center for Leadership Formation, “These concepts are right out of our textbook for the Executive Leadership program.  Alan reviewed our curricula and found many commonalities from content and values standpoints, with what we teach.”

In a press release, Alan said, "I am excited to work with the Albers Center for Leadership Formation because its executive programs align so closely with my values. They focus not just on strategy and business tools, but on self-awareness and values of serving others.  Those are so important in building the genuine culture of working together to accomplish important goals.  It's an honor to work with the Center's leadership and to serve Seattle University.” 

Alan spoke on our campus last October as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series, and that was followed two days later with a day-long workshop for alumni, faculty and senior university leadership.

Our Center for Leadership Formation is home to Albers' Executive Education programs. It’s known as a center of innovation where top educators, alumni and business leaders join forces to help accomplished professionals become influential leaders in a changing world. The Leadership EMBA program is ranked 12th in the nation in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Top 25 EMBA programs and number one in the Northwest.

Marilyn interviewed Alan in the Fall 2015 issue of InSights, the CLF quarterly magazine. In it, Mulally talks about his leadership philosophy, the influence of his parents’ beliefs and values, and viewing mistakes as “gems” – opportunities to learn and grow.  You can read the interview in the online version of .

Colleen Brown

Posted by Joe Phillips on February 18, 2016 at 12:02 PM PST

Colleen Brown, board chair of American Apparel, participated in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on February 16 th .  The theme of her presentation was, "American Apparel--Difficult Choices," as she shared some of the difficulties the troubled firm has faced since she joined the board in 2014.

In addition to chairing the board of American Apparel, Brown serves as a board member of TrueBlue, Inc., a Tacoma-based staffing company, and Delta Dental of Washington, a dental insurance company. She recently bought and now manages, a web monitoring business.  Brown is also the former President and CEO of Fisher Communications, Inc., which she turned around and successfully sold in 2013, capping a career in the broadcasting industry that spanned more than three decades. 

A few highlights of her extensive business and civic boards include the National Association of Broadcasters, serving as Chair of the Washington Roundtable, Chair of United Way of King County, and board member of the Pacific Science Center.  Brown also has been elected twice to the board of the National Association of Broadcasters. She has served on the boards of the National Association of Television Program Executives and the Television Bureau for Advertising.

Brown started her presentation with a slide showing American Apparel protesters waving placards with her picture on it.  The point was to illustrate the stress that AA had been under due to financial mismanagement that had left the firm teetering on bankruptcy, while clouded by misconduct allegations against the founder.  Within a few months of having joined the board, Brown was swept up in the firing of the CEO and the installation of a new management team.

As Brown explained, she had found herself in another business turnaround project, only this time it was not Fisher, it was AA.  It was her success at Fisher, of course, that opened the way for her to be asked to join the AA board.  When she joined Fisher, it was a respected company losing money.  Brown returned it to profitability and was able to sell the company at a share price more than five times what it was when she took over.

Brown told the audience that her resilience and leadership can be traced back to her youth.  She was one of ten children, but her mother died when the family was young and her father was frequently travelling for work and battling mental illness, so the kids were very much on their own.  Brown was the oldest girl in the family, so much of the work needed to get by fell to her.  Today, she is not sure how they all made it, but she traces her self-reliance and "can do" attitude back to her early years.

Brown provided three points of advice to the students in the audience:

  1. "Remember that laughter is the best medicine."  Don't take yourself too seriously and when things get difficult, finding the humor in things will help you get through it.
  2. "There are no realists in fox holes." Substituting "realists" for "atheists" in this old adage, her point is you have to have faith you can succeed, even if it looks like a long shot.
  3. "Live beyond yourself.  Know there is a greater good than you."  We need to be in a mode of giving back to others, or "being men and women for others" as we say on a Jesuit campus!

Brown closed her presentation with an AA video entitled, "86 Hands," which she said was being shown outside of AA for the first time.  The video illustrated that it takes 86 hands to make a pair of AA jeans, highlighting the vertical integration of AA and its "Made in the USA" commitment.

In the Q&A, Brown revealed that her driving commitment at AA was to preserve jobs for employees and turn it into a good place to work.  That is what kept her going through all the stress.  When asked if she had changed as a leader during the AA experience, she noted that she was used to a business being well organized with processes and infrastructure in place, only to find that AA was not well organized and "chaotic."  She had to learn to loosen up and "let go" and not try to fix everything at once.  Finally, she noted that one of the things that gives her the most joy is mentoring others to be successful in their careers, and was proud to look back at all the people she had supported in the past and what they have gone on to accomplish.  She even gave a shout out to one of her former Albers mentees who was in the audience.  That alum is now paying it back by mentoring our students in the Albers Mentor Program!

After more than three decades in the broadcast industry, Colleen Brown agreed to apply her leadership skills to the challenge of American Apparel.  Never a dull moment since then, and a great opportunity for our students to hear her tell that story about difficult choices!

Dan Price

Posted by Joe Phillips on January 22, 2016 at 12:01 PM PST

Dan Price, co-founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, participated in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on January 21st. Price has been in the news quite a bit for establishing a salary floor of $70,000 at Gravity and lowering his own salary to that level.  He's made many national appearances on that topic, so we are fortunate to have him in our own back yard and available to speak.  Of course, when we confirmed his visit back in February of 2015, we did not know he would have so much notoriety! 

Despite the rain and resulting traffic, there was a strong turnout of nearly 350, which shows there is high interest in Dan Price and Gravity Payments.  The turnout was a pleasant surprise, and I wonder if it is connected to widening concern about income and wealth inequality in our society.  If so, Price may find himself getting pulled into the 2016 elections in ways he is not anticipating.

Price was born in Michigan and grew up in Idaho.  He founded Gravity Payments in 2004 while he was a student at Seattle Pacific University, in response to seeing many small business owners being overcharged by credit card processors.  Today, a decade later, Gravity processes over $13 billion in credit card payments for over 13,000 businesses as it continues to disrupt the industry. 

Along the way, Dan has received many awards for being a successful young entrepreneur --Entrepreneur Magazine  Entrepreneur of 2014, Seattle Business Magazine  2014 CEO of the Year,GeekWire 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and Small Business Administration 2010 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Recent publicity for Price has not all been favorable.  He is being sued by his brother and co-founder for mismanagement of Gravity.  There are insinuations of domestic violence against his ex-wife.  We received feedback beforehand that Price should not be in the speaker series and a group of students handed out fliers saying the event should be boycotted because of allegations of domestic abuse.  As most people know, law suits are easy to file and accusations are easy to make.  Unless there is at least some evidence in the public domain to substantiate the claims, we can't be cancelling events on the basis of hearsay.  Rest assured if we had come to the same conclusions as these critics, we would not have hosted the event.

Price titled his presentation, "More than a Business Plan: My Mission to Help the Little Guy or Gal Achieve Their American Dream," a reference to helping small businesses lower credit card expenses and his $70k initiative.  He started his remarks by talking about growing up in rural Idaho as the fourth child in a family of six.  He spoke about his "nerdy" transition from being home schooled to the public schools in seventh grade.  He explained how he formed a successful rock band and in the process met many small business owners who worked hard but did not necessarily have much to show for it, and that one of the challenges for them was the high fees they paid on credit card transactions.

That was the catalyst to create Gravity Payments, of course, and the path of Gravity has by no means been linear.  The company was hitting its stride when the Great Recession hit in 2008.  Price wanted to stay true to his core values and not respond by cutting salaries or eliminating jobs, and rallied his employees to find a way through the recession by increasing productivity.

By 2011 Gravity had bounced back and Price cited 30% profit margins, but he was taken back when an employee complained that he was being taken advantage of even though he was being paid "at market," and claimed that Price was proud to be making so much money and getting away with paying everyone else so little in market wages.  So for two years in a row Gravity made large across the board wage increases and in both cases profitability rose, suggesting the wage hikes led to higher productivity.

Despite the raises, Price was seeing evidence that some workers could not keep up with the cost of living in Seattle. He was concerned that employees were making him rich and at the same time could not afford to pay the rent.  On a hike with a friend one day, he decided to go with the now infamous $70,000 minimum salary policy.

In closing, Price said he wanted to be part of a movement where the purpose of business is not about squeezing out the last dollar of profitability, but that business serves a more noble purpose in terms of solving society's problems and needs.  He urged students to think about what their purpose would be and how they are going to serve society.

In the Q&A, the first question asked was about how the new $70k wage policy seemed to be working.  Price said the short answer is that it is too early to tell, but anecdotally he thinks there is evidence it is reducing employee stress and increasing productivity.

In a subsequent question on its impact on recruiting and retention, he said it had been a mixed bag.  Prior to $70k, they would get 50-250 applications for a position and be able to identify a few exceptional applicants.  Since the change they are getting thousands of applications and it is hard to pick out the gems.  He also mentioned they had been able to attract a "rainmaker" who had been a VP at Yahoo and joined Gravity because she was inspired by the $70k policy.  On the other hand, he admits a few people left the firm because of the policy and he regrets that.  He went on to say this was not a "100% all good" kind of decision.  He had to weigh it in the balance and make a call.  "HR is complicated," he reminded.

When asked to identify mistakes he made as a young entrepreneur, he noted that he used to see things as black and white and could be rigid in his thinking.  He said he has learned there are two sides to every story and the perspectives of others can be valuable.  He gave an example of an employment law suit that he knew he was right about and knew he would prevail in, but it also caused a lot of stress, distracted him from the Gravity business, and was expensive in terms of litigation fees.  Discretion may have been the better part of valor in that episode, he insinuated.

He was asked if he has a routine to keep himself operating effectively, such as methods recommended by author Tim Ferrris in The 4-Hour Workweek . He admitted he was not a big fan of Ferriss, but reading the book had prompted him develop a few successful strategies to deal with unwanted phone calls and email - not strategies that Ferriss recommended, but some that he developed for himself, such as programming his phone to send a gushing request to be taken off the email list by typing the letters S-P-A-M in a reply message.

Price gave expansive answers to the questions, something that seems consistent with his personality.  As a result, time ran out and no doubt our panelists and audience had more questions for him.  But that is ok, since we had students who needed to get back to their evening class! 

It was a great opportunity for our students to hear from a young entrepreneur who has been in the news a lot these days, and that may not be changing any time soon!  

Installation Ceremony 2015

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on November 25, 2015 at 2:11 PM PST

On November 20th  we celebrated the excellent work of our faculty by installing three of our faculty members into endowed chairs and one into an endowed professorship.  In recognizing these faculty members, we are, by extension, also recognizing the good work of our entire faculty.

We have the good fortune to have five endowed Chairs and five endowed professorships in the Albers School. Endowed chairs and professorships are a particularly important resource for a business school to have.  They are a valuable tool for attracting and retaining outstanding faculty.   If we are to attain our aspirations for academic excellence, we can only do so with a strong portfolio of endowed chairs and professorships.


Dr. Marc Cohen was installed as the fifth Genevieve Albers Professor is Marc Cohen.  Marc joined the faculty in the fall of 2008. He earned a doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and holds a joint appointment with our philosophy department. His academic work concerns business ethics, social contract theory, moral psychology, and more general questions in social/ political philosophy about what makes society more than an accidental crowd. The journals he has published in include the Journal of Business Ethics , Journal of Trust Research , and the Business Ethics Journal Review .  Prior to joining Albers, Marc worked as vice president and corporate strategist at Branch Banking & Trust Co in North Carolina, as assistant vice president in the Bank's middle market commercial lending group, and as a management consultant at Mercer Management Consulting.   Last year, he was a visiting scholar in the Department of  Management,  National  Sun  Yat Sen University in Taiwan while on sabbatical.  


Dr. Lisa Zhao was installed as the third holder of the Lawrence K. Johnson Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship.  The Johnson Chair was established by alum Kent Johnson in honor of his father, and Kent was able to join us for the ceremony.


Lisa joined us this year from the University of Missouri - Kansas City, where she directed the Entrepreneurship and Innovation PhD program and taught undergraduate, MBA, PhD, and executive education courses. Before she joined UMKC, she worked at Cornell University and Michigan State University. She was also an entrepreneur and a consultant with startups and Fortune 500 companies.


Lisa conducts research and teaching on new venture product launch strategies, new venture funding and exit strategies, innovation management, market-entry strategies, and statistical methods. She is the author of more than 20 articles in top academic journals such as Strategic Management Journal , Journal of Operations Management , Journal of Management , Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice , Decision Sciences Journal , Journal of Product Innovation Management , and IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management .


Dr. Jeffrey Smith was installed as the fourth holder of the Frank Shrontz Endowed Chair of Professional Ethics.  Shrontz is the former CEO of Boeing and was able to join us for the celebration.


Jeffrey joined us this year from the University of Redlands, where he spent twelve years and served as the founding Director of the Banta Center for Business, Ethics and Society. He currently serves on the Executive Board of the Society for Business Ethics and will assume its Presidency in 2017.


His research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy and business, currently focusing on the philosophical dimensions of corporate responsibility, examining whether recent calls for greater social involvement by corporations can be given a moral foundation, political foundation, or some combination of both. Jeffrey's work has been published in journals such as Business Ethics Quarterly , Ethical Theory and Moral Practice , and the Journal of Business Ethics , and he is the co-author of the forthcoming 8th edition of Ethics and the Conduct of Business .


We also installed Dr. Peter Brous as the third holder of the Dr. Khalil Dibee Endowed Chair in Finance.  Peter also was the first holder of the chair back in 2007 to 2011.  Dibee was a long time member of our finance faculty. 


Peter joined Seattle University in 1992, after four years on the faculty at Pennsylvania State University. He has published articles in the top finance and accounting journals, including the Journal of Finance , Journal of Financial Economics , Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis , and the Journal of Accounting Research .   At the same time, Peter has published several pedagogical papers in the Journal of Financial Education . He has taught on-site finance courses at Costco Wholesale Corporation and has served as an expert witness in over 30 cases based on his expertise in valuing employee stock options or business valuation. Additional areas of expertise include corporate performance measures, capital budgeting, corporate financing decisions, and real option analysis.


It was great to be able to recognize these faculty members for their outstanding work!  Please join me in congratulating them!

Jamie Nordstrom

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on November 13, 2015 at 11:11 AM PST

Jamie Nordstrom, President of Nordstrom Stores, participated in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on November 12 th .  Nordstrom was appointed President of Nordstrom Stores in May, 2014.  Prior to that, he was President of Nordstrom Direct starting in 2005.  A fourth generation family member, Jamie began his career in the stockroom of the Bellevue, Wash. store in 1986.  He  worked  in  sales  in  shoes  through  high  school  and  college, and   went   on   to   hold   numerous   positions   with   the   company   in   store   and   buying management.

Jamie started his remarks by reviewing the history of the company and the work of the three previous generations of Nordstrom's to get it to where it is today.  I take that back - he actually started his remarks by referencing the release of the company's latest earnings report that day, which had triggered a 20% drop in the stock price, so it was clear that being at Seattle University was going to be the best part of his day!

From its very beginnings as a shoe store, Nordstrom has focused on gaining customer loyalty, not around price, but around service.  With that philosophy, it became a very strong brand in the Northwest.  But in 1971, in order to facilitate the transfer of the company from the second to third generation, the family took the company public and that required growth.  Thus began the nationwide expansion of Nordstrom to where today they have 320 locations in the US and Canada.

Despite the results of the last quarter, Nordstrom has to be considered one of the best retailers out there. Jamie provided insights on how they see customers changing and how they are responding.

Not all the Options - in the good old days, the customer went to the store and selected from the available options.  Nowadays, a customer can check his or her phone for a wider selection.  You must get better at providing more options (like locating items from other stores).

Informed Customer - in the good old days, you could tell a customer anything about an item and they would not know the difference.  Nowadays, a customer can check his or her phone and know more than the sales associate, including prices at the competition.

Price Transparency - in the good old days, you would watch the prices of your competitor down the street.  Nowadays, a customer can check his or her phone and find the price anywhere.  All the more reason to compete on service, not price!

Jamie noted that when competing on service, one has to realize that the definition of great customer service is changing over time.  Same day shipping and curbside pickup matter today but were not expected in the past.  He also cautioned that customers are not so much looking for speedy  service, as they are looking to control their time.  He gave a great illustration of how in the good old days, you would call for a cab and wait and wait, wondering when it would arrive.  Now you can use Uber and you can see exactly when the driver should arrive.  Both could take the same amount of time, but you feel better about the wait for Uber.

In the question and answer session, he was asked when Nordstrom would be expanding outside the US and Canada.  His answer was -- not any time too soon.  They first have to get it right in those two markets and Asia and Europe seem to be well served these days.

When asked about preserving the culture of Nordstrom, Jamie said he likes their strategy of combining long time employees who have worked their way up (like him!) with new hires that bring new skills and experience at other organizations.  The culture is to be nice to one another and support one another in taking risks and trying new things.  While being nice internally, they also like to pound the competition and win!  They emphasize that retailing is a "team sport" and you need to be part of the team. 

Interestingly, he mentioned that our previous speaker, Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, came to Nordstrom several years ago and spoke of his "One Ford" strategy.  They realized that Alan was also talking about their culture, so since then they have started a "One Nordstrom" campaign!

When asked about the future of on-line retail, Jamie responded that e-commerce is in its infancy.  He also noted that from 2005 to 2010 they ran the on-line business as a mature business, managing expenses and net income and not spending for growth.  That changed in 2010 and now they are investing heavily in their on-line business, which has become their engine for growth.

A question was posed about which customer the company should be focusing on.  Jamie noted that few customers buy only high end items. Instead, they mix and match items of different price points, so you will often see someone with $30 pants and $400 boots.  It's not about getting all of someone's business.  Instead of price, customers are really looking for something new  (as I write this, I am wearing my new  brown pants from Nordstrom for the first time!), so Nordstrom aims to provide the hottest and latest merchandise.

When asked about his leadership style, Jamie responded that the best leaders support people to be more successful.  They make others believe they genuinely care about them and are invested in their success.

Finally, the question came about the stock price.  Jamie responded that it was a bad quarter, with growth coming in at 1% instead of the 6-7% range they had been seeing, and it is not uncommon for a bad quarter to show up.  The key to responding is to manage inventories through these ups and downs and he said they are very good at that.  He added he felt very good about their ability to handle a bad quarter.

When it rains in Seattle, the turnout for the speaker series always takes a hit, but we had a very large crowd in attendance.  That shows you the power of the Nordstrom brand among our students!  Jamie is just one of four Nordstrom's at the top of the organization.  Would the turnout have been any different if it were Blake, Erik, or Pete?  Probably not, and the message would surely have been the same!  It was an evening of great insights on the retailing industry!

Want to see a great picture?!

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on November 6, 2015 at 9:11 AM PST

This picture features all the people who have served as chair of our Department of Accounting in its 45+ year history!  What a great picture!  Dave Tinius was the first and longest serving chair of the department.  Bill Weis also served during some of the earlier years.  After the completion of Dave's 18 years, Susan Weihrich followed Dave.  She handed it off to Bruce Koch in 2006, and this year Bruce  passed the baton to Chips Chipalkatti.

One thing for sure is that the department has benefited from outstanding leadership over the years!  Each of these individuals has made significant contributions to the progress and development of our accounting program.  Thank you Dave, Bill, Susan, Bruce, and Chips!