Starting a Consulting Company Takes Perseverance and Patience-Tim Boberg 69′

Tim Boberg spoke to the Midwest Entrepreneurs class yesterday via teleconference from his ski lodge in Telluride Colorado. “I just came off the slopes. It is a beautiful day to be skiing”. He began the discussion by sharing his experiences at Monmouth College from 1965-1969 and how he became successful in management consulting. “I was sitting where you are 40 years ago as a business major at Monmouth”, he said. ”I had no idea before I graduated where my career would take me”. He was first hired by American Hospital Supply (acquired by Baxter in 1978  http://www.baxter.com/) to be a management trainee. Tim was grateful for the opportunity, but he met a successful management consultant in Lake Forest who was working for the Alexander Proudfoot Company http://www.alexanderproudfoot.com/home.aspx . After listening to his new friend’s career experiences, seeing his home and his new Bentley, Tim decided to pursue a new career. It was right out of the Hollywood movie In Pursuit of Happyness which depicts the life of Chris Gardner who became a successful stock broker in California in the late 1970′s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pursuit_of_Happyness

Mr. Boberg was hired by Alexander Proudfoot and worked 16 years for the consulting firm. They were considering a sale of the firm and tried to get Tim and an associate who was an operational expert by the name of  DeWolff to sign non-compete agreements binding them to the company. Tim believed it was unethical and along with Mr. DeWolff refused to sign it. They were both fired.

“Mr. DeWolff and I started our own firm out of necessity, we were both on the street”. Since Tim was a specialist in analyzing efficiencies and DeWolff was a “master of execution and implementation” they made a great team. DeWolff, Boberg & Associates was born with no corporate offices. http://www.dewolffboberg.com/

The process was simple. We had a team of salespeople who sought consulting assignments with a unique guarantee. “No one else in the industry would guarantee results, so we promised we could provide $3 in savings for every $1 invested in our services. In 20 years of service with hundreds of large consulting assignments, we only had to repay the fee once”.

Tim led the team that would do the efficiency analysis and they found ways to save the company money. “A lot of our work was common-sense stuff that could not be solved internally by our clients–because it was too political or difficult to pull off”. DeWolff’s team made sure the recommendations were implemented.

Before Tim retired in 2006, they landed a huge contract from a military contractor and the US Navy. However, it wasn’t always easy sailing. “DeWolff and I didn’t get a paycheck or any financial return for the first three years. We were fortunate to survive those lean years, but things really clicked after the initial launch. We had some good clients, did some great work and we increased our full-time employees from 10 to 200 … sales increased to $60,000,000 annually”.

“We were profitable because we didn’t pay for offices or non-performance. Every employee would get a quarterly bonus and informal review based on their performance. Usually the majority of the compensation came in the form of those quarterly bonuses so evryone focused on satisfying our clients and the bottom line. It was clear who was contributing, and who was a slacker. We became very profitable, but I was always gone and it cost me two failed marriages. Some of my emplyees pay that same price because they leave on Sunday night and don’t return home until Friday for 40-50 weeks a year.”

Tim feels that you can learn a lot about someone’s character by how much they love learning. It is important to care about one’s physical well-being, but one’s mental well-being and desire to learn is just as important. Must work the intellectual muscles.

He hired college graduates because they had a better work ethic and made better employees, but he had to train them all, so it is important that they are teachable, trainable.

Tim Boberg-Successful Management Consultant Entrepreneur-Alumnus 1969

Mr. Boberg will speak tomorrow at 4pm. Tim majored in business at Monmouth and was a leader in  Greek life. He founded DeWolff, Boberg & Associates  in Florida and focused on advising companies and government on strategies to improve productivity. In 2006 he married Roxanne Pulitzer, the internationally known socialite, novelist, and actress. He is now retired from his firm but remains very active in both winter activities from his base in Telluride, Colorado or with Roxanne in her home in West Palm Beach.  He will talk about the founding of his company, and explain some of the business strategies that made him successful.

Alex Melvin-Young Entrepreneur on the Rise

Alex Melvin, Vice President of Rural King Supply spoke today in Midwest Entrepreneurs. Alex joined the family company about three years ago. He graduated in 2005 from Monmouth with a degree in Business Administration. Alex, long with his CEO Father Gary, successfully lead their team in increasing overall store sales to $550,000,000 in 2010. They plan to open four new stores in 2011. Alex worries that unless they streamline buying and go direct to manufacturers their margins will suffer. He hopes Rural King’s 52 stores improve their margins from around 27% to closer to 30% by direct relationships and efficient management. “Top management at Rural King are few in numbers but our line people pick up the slack”. Having low overhead helps improve Rural King’s retail margins that are the envy of the big box competitors.

“We compete directly against Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, and Tractor Supply”.  Alex owns a trucking company and maintains 38 semi-trucks and numerous tractor trailers.  He believes government regulations in the trucking industry are “huge impediments” to profitability. “Limiting hours to 10 per driver per day will hurt my business”.

He believes in offering ownership to key employees to keep them engaged and focused. An investment of $2,500 in private Rural King stock is now worth $50,000. Alex is now focused on opening new stores and increasing the web business. One year ago he opened his first new location that he manages and owns. That location is in Wentzville, MO outside of St. Louis.  His work with his team has been successful in finding new sources of quality products internationally, and he pushed web sales to their highest levels in Rural King history.

Marketing-wise, Rural King advertises with a weekly circular newspaper insert that “has many products”. He doesn’t believe in radio. Recently, they have been collecting zip code information from customers and through data analysis, he has created Google Maps that track how much money is spent by zip code so they can heavy-up or decrease advertising in less desirable areas.

Alex complained about government intervention and taxes. He called Illinois a less-friendly business state when compared to Indiana. He worries that internet retailers have an advantage because they do not charge tax, but he predicts his internet store business will go up dramatically. “My biggest mistake is that we didn’t push online sales two years ago”.

Alex says it is tough to work with family or help find a job for a friend. “They know you will hesitate to let them go if they don’t perform. Plus the people you help the most, disappoint you the most [and are usually ungrateful].”

Buyers at Rural King are part of a buying co-op. They are discouraged from accepting gifts, lunches, or boondoggles from sales representatives. “It compromises our focus on lowering costs and finding the best values for our customers”.

Detasseling Administrator

Blog post by Michael Connell: Monmouth College President Mauri Ditzler was the St. Patrick’s Day guest speaker in the Midwest Entrepreneurs class. The festive nature of the holiday and the presence of the College President in the classroom made for a memorable day that those in attendance will not soon forget.

Mauri began de-tasseling corn when he was a young boy on the farm in Indiana. De-tasseling was to become a 35 year love affair that saw the relationship grow and change over time as Mauri’s life changed and his management expertise grew. At first, it was a way for a teenager and college student to earn extra summer income. Later it became an intense, 16 hours a day, month long passion that saw an East Coast chemistry professor and his high school coach partner employing and supervising over 1000 teenagers at time – anyone who can employ over a 1000 teenagers at one time deserves whatever profits he earns. Mauri was in business to supply specialized labor to enable seed corn companies to produce high value seeds for a hungry world.

Ditzler started by explaining to the class that he wanted to find a business that would allow him to maintain his academic job and supplement the meager wages of a college professor. He quizzed the students to get them to identify the desirable characteristics of a suitable business – together they came up with a business model. The students quickly suggested that the business should be 1) seasonal, 2) only require labor that could be trained quickly and cheaply, 3) have a quick start-up each year, 4) have low capital requirements, and 5) offer high profit potential per day. A seed corn de-tasseling operation fit all the stated requirements.

Ditzler’s business operated as a classic middleman – his smaller company provided a specialized service to a larger company that found it beneficial to outsource one step of the production process to an expert. Like all outsourcing companies, Ditzler found a niche in the value-chain where he could perform a task more efficiently because of specialized knowledge, increased efficiency, learning curves and economies of scale. The old saying of “do one thing and do it right” accurately describes Mauri’s highly specialized business. By focusing on this single task and searching for constant efficiency improvements, Ditzler’ s company was able to increase benefits for the seed corn company, himself, his partner and their employees – the seed corn company saved money, Ditzler earned profits from his entrepreneurship and the workers had more consistent work opportunities and higher wages. Over time, Ditzler learned that his business could be more efficient and more profitable if he also managed the food, lodging, and transportation for more a smaller, more efficient workforce. The seed corn companies realized the benefits of a dealing with a specialized company that could supply consistent, high-quality, workforce on short notice over a wide geographic territory. Every business needs an identifiable market niche and that was Ditzler’ s niche – consistent, high-quality performance that was highly mobile over a service area that was several hundred miles wide.

Over the years, Mauri learned many business and life lessons that he shared with the class. He learned that “you can win an argument or you can solve a problem but you cannot do both on the same day.” He learned that a business must always pay “productivity justified wages” – in the early years, he paid low wages to workers and supervisors that had low rates of productivity; but in later years, he found that the business ran better if he paid higher wages to more productive workers and supervisors. He learned that it was money well spent to pay bonuses to supervisors because a better compensated workforce produced a stable, high quality set of employees that avoided costly mistakes. He and society both changed some of their unfounded 1970’s stereotypes about “men’s work” and “women’s work.” He took pride in the fact that he personally de-tasseled few rows of corn every day and at least once a year he took the time to do every job in the business so he would know the issues and conditions his employees faced on a daily basis. He learned that every new problem required changes and that ultimately it was those same changes that lead to constant improvement, increased efficiency and higher profits. Being able to constantly re-think things kept the business alive and profitable.

Since he became the President of Monmouth College, he has not been back to see the business that his partner is still running – seeing your old love again can be a painful experience that wisdom tells us is better avoided. Over 35 years, the seed corn de-tasseling business taught the chemistry professor turned college dean that the world is a dynamic place that requires flexibility and problem-solving skills to survive – these are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur; funny how it sounds a lot like the foundations of a liberal arts education. Welcome home Mr. President and thanks for a memorable class.

Calendar featuring upcoming speakers

Thursday 1/27/2011 John Twomey  – Twomey Company McMichael 308
Tuesday 2/1/2011 Rod Smith – EBAY Nascar Sales McMichael 308
Thursday 2/3/2011 Jack Donnelly – New Dance Club McMichael 308
Tuesday 2/8/2011 Mike Bond – InnKeepers Coffee McMichael 308
Thursday 2/10/2011 Becky Ellison – M&E Catering  
Tuesday 2/15/2011    
Friday 2/18/2011 Dwight Tierney – M.T.V.  
Tuesday 2/22/2011 Chris Byers & Mike Salaway – Advanced Rehab  
Thursday 2/24/2011 Dan Palmer – Tri-Cities Electric Co.  
Tuesday 3/1/2011  Don Capener Above the Rim  
Thursday 3/3/2011 Jessica Way – Showplace Kitchens, Inc. On location at company headquarters
Tuesday 3/8/2011 Spring Break  
Thursday 3/10/2011 Spring Break  
Tuesday 3/15/2011 Keith Gossling – Contractor  McMichael 308
Thursday 3/17/2011 MC President Mauri Ditzler McMichael 308
Tuesday 3/22/2011    
Thursday 3/24/2011 Alex Melvin – Rural King  McMichael 308
Tuesday 3/29/2011 Tim Boberg ’69 – DeWolff, Boberg & Associates Via Telephone Conference
Thursday 3/31/2011    
Tuesday 4/5/2011    
Thursday 4/7/2011 Kevin Goodwin CEO Sonosite Electronic Classroom, Library 
Tuesday 4/12/2011 Audrey Kabla – Epykomene (Paris) McMichael 308
Thursday 4/14/2011    
Tuesday 4/19/2011 Scots Day  
Thursday 4/21/2011    
Tuesday 4/26/2011    
Thursday 4/28/2011    
Tuesday 5/3/2011    
Thursday 5/5/2011 Reading Day  
       
       

Keith Gossling-Contracting is a Relationship of Trust

Keith Gossling, independent contractor spoke to the Midwest Entrepreneurs class at 4pm yesterday. Keith has been successful recently after struggling to get traction as an independent contractor. He was in the army for eight years and then a security and loss prevention specialist for big box stores such as Walmart and Shopko. He was tired of making $13 per hour and he also did not have good credit because he could not get ahead of his bills. He launched his business over ten years ago with the dream of making $250-$300 per day. It took him a long time to realize that dream.  He focused on acquiring the skills and clinetle to be competitive, but not the lowest bidder on jobs.

He observed those that had good reputations for quality and workmanship. He listened intently even when customers were difficult or abrasive. He worked hard on establishing good communication with sub=contractors because the biggest complaint was they “didn’t show up-or even call” when something went wrong. He intentionally doen’t mark-up subcontractors when he is the general or lead contractor. “It isn’t worth the risk to get in between the customer to make a few hundred bucks”.

Keith struggled until he had established good credit and could acquire the best tools and help. He has no full-time employees but he hires help as needed on a sub-contracting basis. “It exposes me to some liability, but I do not have enough work to hire a full-time crew and I would have to charge $5-10 more per hour just to pay benefits”. Keith claims he takes on jobs he has not done before and hustles to figure out the best way to do the job by reaching out to others. He beleives the difference in becoming sucessful was being straightforward and honest. He also credits some early customers such as Monmouth human resource instructor Karen Cates, “She was willing to recommend me and I can’t tell you how many jobs I landed from that one person”. He remembers why he has become successful and willingly deflects praise onto others.

Professor Mike Connell – Risk Defined

Class – I am no expert on Japan but I have visited there twice thanks to grants from the Japan Study Foundation.  Here are some thoughts based on the economics I know and the things I saw in Japan.

RISK DEFINED – the first topic of the first real class in business 105  risk.  Life and business are about risk.  Risk is the probability that something bad will happen such as an earthquake or a tsunami or a failed business.  Risk produces social losses such as destroyed or misused resources.  In Japan, there were risks of earthquakes and tsunamis and those events have now occurred.

PRECAUTIONARY COSTS –  Risk can be reduced but not avoided.  No amount of money can be spent to make anything completely safe.  The issue is how much money will be spent to reduce risk and the potential losses from the risk.  Money can be spent on precaution and safety but spending cannot guarantee safety.  There have been three major earthquakes recently – Haiti, Chile and Japan.

PRECAUTIONARY COSTS AND STRUCTURAL DAMAGE – Notice the differences in destruction in the three nations.  Haiti had massive destruction and death from the earthquake; Chile had some destruction from the earthquake and Japan had very little destruction from the earthquake (the destruction and death in Japan are from the tsunami not from the earthquake.  Economics, risk analysis and precautionary costs explain why this happened.  Haiti is poor – no free markets and very little wealth (remember the quote from Business 105 — “poverty does not have a cause” — wealth has a cause – poverty is the natural state of humanity.)  Haiti cannot afford to build safe buildings – safe buildings cost extra money to build – the opportunity costs are too high – a society cannot spend all of its resources on safe buildings when it does not have food, clothing, education and medicine; therefore, Haiti is more vulnerable to risk.  Safety is a luxury good purchased by rich people and rich societies.  Chile is in the middle.  More economic freedom; more wealth; more precautionary spending and more safety than Haiti.  Chile had a medium amount of building destruction and a medium amount of death.   Japan is a rich nation.  It makes more economic sense in Japan to allocate resources to expensive building techniques to absorb the shocks of earthquakes.  Modern buildings in Japan have special hydraulic units in the support columns to absorb vibration and eliminate or reduce shaking to the building.  Notice that Japan has very little structural damage from the earthquake even though Japan had the strongest of the three earthquakes.  Wealth comes in many forms and one form is safer buildings.  Summary: it makes economic sense for rich individuals and rich nations to protect themselves from risks that poor individuals and poor nations must incur.

PRECAUTIONARY COSTS AND TSUNAMIS – there are no “cost-justified” precautions against tsunamis.  The economics do not add up.  The coast is too long, the devices and technologies (if they exist) are too expensive and tsunamis are too infrequent.  The damage in Japan is not from structural failure of buildings, it is from the wall of ocean water that caused destruction.  Even a rich nation like Japan is not rich enough to protect itself from this risk.

POPULATION DENSITY AND INVENTORY IN JAPAN – Japan has a very high population density.  Land is a scarce commodity.  The whole society and culture are shaped around the relative scarcity of land (economics).  The people live in small houses and apartments (land is precious).  People grow labor intensive crops – small rice paddies worked by hand (land is precious).  Human bodies are usually cremated instead of buried (land is precious).  People live in cities instead of suburbs (land is precious).  People take public transportation (rail and bullet trains) instead of driving cars on highways and having parking lots at work and at the mall (land is precious).  When a society has very little land, they use it carefully.  Because the homes are so small and the cities are so compact, families keep very little “inventory” in the home – very little food in the house.  They shop daily, they eat fresh food, the buy small portions, there are small convenience stores everywhere – sometimes three or four in the same block.  Seven Eleven is one of the biggest corporations in Japan.  I went into the grocery stores and saw lots of single serving packages.  Bread was sold in packages of either four or six slices – I did not see full loaves of bread for sale.  I did not see 24 packs or even 12 packs of beverages – I am not sure I remember seeing 6 packs – single drinks of Coke, milk and beer.  There are beverage dispensing machines all over the place – maybe fifteen or twenty machines on one block.  One day we went to McDonalds’ for an Egg McMuffin.  While we were there a small truck arrived and delivered the food for that day’s lunch.  The delivery came in the front door and was unloaded over the counter.  The clerk told us that when they were serving breakfast they did not have enough room for the lunch food that they would be selling within an hour.  They had to wait until they sold the breakfast food to have room to bring in the lunch food.  Land is precious and they cannot afford space for storage in homes and McDonalds’ (Just in Time Inventory was invented in Japan for this reason).  Because they buy in such small quantities and they buy frequently, food tends to be a higher percentage of their overall budget.

POPULATION DENSITY AND TRANSPORTATION IN JAPAN – Driving and parking are major issues in a nation where land is scarce.   Public transportation is essential, efficient and ubiquitous.  The trains run on time.  If you are a minute late for the train, you miss the train because it is gone.  Cars are an expensive luxury.  While in Kyoto, we visited a Toyota dealership and we were told “We cannot sell a car to customer even if they have cash unless they have a certificate of parking from the government.”  To buy a car, you have to prove that you have a parking place.  Parking is limited and expensive.  Japan has many ingenious devices to park cars in very small spaces – these systems make economic sense in Japan but are not cost-effective in the US.  A society that relies upon public transportation needs for that system to operate in order to work, produce and eat.  Japan has to get its public transportation system working again quickly.

THE TSUNAMI & HAWAII & FIVE DAYS OF FOOD & A MARKET ECONOMY & HAYEK – I was watching the cable news networks before the tsunami reached Hawaii and the “talking heads” were discussing the possible consequences of the tsunami in Hawaii.  One of the speakers said “if the tsunami destroys the loading docks it could cause major problems because at any one time Hawaii only has five days of food.”  Think about that – lots of people and five days of food.   Economics is about the social coordination between strangers to create and distribute valued goods and services.  The price system operates as a giant communication device and incentive system to organize behavior without central planning.  Could there be a better example?  Hawaii has five days of food – people could starve.  Who is in charge?  How can disaster be avoid?  The spontaneous order of the market process is the answer (Nobel Prize winning economist Hayek).  The price system coordinates the food supply of Hawaii – rejoice and be glad.

Jackie Zachmeyer-Midwest Intrepreneur at John Deere

Exerpts from Jackie Zachmeyer’s, Director of Global Finance, Ag Division for John Deere recent talk on campus that inspired Monmouth students to go global.

“It is so great to be back here at Monmouth College. It’s been several years since I’ve been on campus and it is really amazing the number of changes and improvements that have been made here. It’s almost like visiting a totally different college than when I was here in the late 80s. I was honored to be asked to speak at Homecoming as part of the Midwest Matters Forum. I’ll admit that when I was a college student at Monmouth, I really did not give the global marketplace much thought. I was more interested in working hard, playing hard and making sure I had a job after college. The late 80s was a difficult time to be entering the job market, much as it is now. But now, getting a global perspective in life and developing your own personal Global Mindset is something that I am passionate about. And I hope that in the next 30 minutes, you will understand why this became important to me and why I believe it should also be important to each of you in this room. Because if you’ve come here today, unless you’re just here for the extra credit, you have an interest in globalization – whether it is from an economic standpoint or an educational standpoint. I would tell you that my interest is from a personal standpoint, why I believe I have developed into a more knowledgeable person as a result of my experiences outside the US. Let me start with providing you a little bit of my background… I grew up in Milan, not Milan, Illinois and went to Sherrard High School. If you are not familiar with Sherrard, it is a small high school in a farming community in Illinois. Most of the people that attended Sherrard were from similar backgrounds – socio-economically, geographically and culturally. We had one exchange student a year from a foreign country so that was the extent of my exposure to people from different parts of the World. Then I chose to go to Monmouth College. Why? Because the size appealed to me, the friendliness of the students, the professors and also, I would have a chance to be involved in campus activities. So it was well within my comfort zone to decide to go to Monmouth. After college I went to work with KPMG in Davenport, Iowa. And deciding to live and work in the Quad Cities, my hometown, was also well within my comfort zone. After a few years I joined John Deere and expected to live and work in the Quad Cities the rest of my life. But then they talked me into moving to Waterloo, Iowa and subsequently I moved back and forth between Waterloo and the Quad Cities. So my exposure to diversity-cultural diversity and diversity of thought did not really expand in those first 36 years of my life. I really had experienced very little of the World. Then Deere asked me to move to Welland, Canada, an opportunity to experience a new country. When I moved to Canada, I took the chance to step out of my geographic comfort zone. I didn’t realize it was also different culturally as well. For the first time I had multiple nationalities working for me in Canada – Canadians obviously, but also someone from CZ and India. They describe the US as a ‘melting pot’, where immigrants’ cultures are melted together to form America. In Canada they describe themselves as a ‘mixed salad’, where different cultures are brought together and retain their identity and culture. These different cultures coexist in one of the most diverse countries in the World. This was my first time living outside the US and was a chance to experience the ‘mixed salad’ environment and the Canadian approach to life. Which was slightly more relaxed than the US, where work-life balance was a bit more important, there was a different political and health care system and Hockey Night in Canada was the national past time. It was good preparation for the next big step – moving to Germany. I had been in Canada for 2 ½ years when I was asked to move to Germany and take over European Regional responsibility for Finance & Accounting. I had not asked to live and work in Europe, so the request by the Company to move to Germany came as a complete surprise to me. In fact, when I received the call about the location of my next job, I assumed it was going to be back in the US. I had about 3 days to make this major decision (luckily this covered the weekend, a very sleepless weekend) – this was WAY out of my comfort zone – different language, different culture, an ocean separating me and my family and I knew no one over there. Not anyone that would be working for me, none of my colleagues and none of the other Americans that were already over there. During the weekend I talked with my parents – they were very supportive of whatever my decision would be, even though it would be hard for them to imagine their child living in Europe. My current Manager had done an expatriate assignment in Germany. He helped reassure me that it would be a great experience and that I could do it. My husband was also very supportive and actually gave me the boost I needed to make this huge leap out of my comfort zone. So, with this support of family and friends, I made the decision to ‘go for it’ and move to Europe. And I can honestly say that the 4 years in Germany have been life changing – both personally and professionally. Here’s why: You remember what I said about my lack of exposure to different cultures growing up? Well now I was in a completely different culture, trying to learn how to communicate, work with and even more challenging, manage people that grew up different than me. This meant that we didn’t have the same reference points – I couldn’t use American slang – like “this will be a slam dunk”. I tried that in one meeting and I could see that a few people had confused looks on their face. I asked about this and they explained that they thought a “slam dunk” was difficult, because not many people could slam a basketball. This interpretation completely changed the meaning of what I was trying to convey. Also in Europe, there are many different cultures, so behaviors of Germans, French, Spanish, Russian, etc differ – what matters to these cultures are different – some want data and precision, others are more emotional and passionate in discussions and “go with their gut” when making decisions. And then there is the fact that they approach problem solving differently – some are more process oriented, or want a lot of detail, others are used to doing “whatever it takes” to get something done. So, at work I learned how to motivate and influence folks from different cultures and different backgrounds. And I learned to appreciate different approaches to problems, different perspectives to an issue and different educational backgrounds that caused me to stop and examine my own paradigms and perspectives. It wasn’t always easy and I had to realize that everyone in the country wasn’t going to change… I had to change. I had to develop my cultural sensitivity if I wanted to be successful. I also came to appreciate the benefits of having a diverse team working together. This diversity brought different ideas and perspectives to the table. Something that would not have been as likely if everyone looked the same and had the same experiences. In the end I believe this team diversity makes for a better outcome. And outside of work I learned how to communicate what I needed, even if I only spoke a few words of their language, and to appreciate the European approach – to art, culture and all of the wonderful diversity of people, and food, in Europe. Then, I was asked to take on my current job. This brought a whole new challenge – I was now managing people across different continents – Germany, South America and Mexico. And I had dotted line Finance & Accounting responsibility for facilities in more parts of the World – India, China, South America, Mexico and the US. And relating to the Europeans started to seem easy compared to Brazil, India and China. But what an amazing experience! To have responsibility for Finance & Accounting in each of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) each brings different challenges and also eye-opening experiences. Something I would have never had the opportunity to see or do if I would have remained in the Quad Cities all of my life. I’d like to give you just one example from each of these BRIC countries. Brazil – in this country, it is compulsory for everyone aged 18-65 to vote. This is a picture of the voting lines in the recent Presidential election. This is an interesting approach – if you do not vote you are fined and if you choose not to pay the fine, you cannot get an identity card (like a driver’s license or passport), hold a public job, take a loan in a public bank or register at a public school. In a country of about 195M people, over 136 MILLION people, or about 80% of the eligible voters, vote in the elections. Now we’re in the heart of election time here in the US, think how things might be different in our country, if 80% of the eligible people voted in every election… Russia – understanding the background of this country and what people have lived through – communism, food lines and never knowing if what they have today will be there tomorrow, helps to understand the decisions that individuals make – at work and in life. I once had a young Russian co-worker explain that they do not value Pensions in Russia-the people don’t trust that the government or a company will really save something for them for later in life. And they don’t trust that what they have today in the bank will be worth as much in the future. So saving isn’t a concept that motivates them, in fact, they spend their money because they would rather have “things” now than the possibility of having them in the future. So owning more and better things – clothes, watches and cars is highly motivating to them. People in this country often move from job to job for just a little more money – the country is expanding and educated individuals have huge opportunities. India – Incredible India! The Power of Ambition is amazing in this country. I traveled to India for the first time 2 years ago. How many of you have seen “Slumdog Millionaire”? The conditions were not exaggerated. I was fortunate enough to travel to a small village and see for myself the many aspects of this incredible country. In one small village an elderly woman came up to me in the street and touched my face because she had never seen a pale faced, fair haired female before. There are also the large cities where there are clearly the “have’s” and the “have nots”. However, in these incredibly difficult living conditions, the children are dressed for school in clean, neat clothes. They go to school for 6 days a week and study 7 days a week to have a better life. When I met a classroom of 7 year olds from the poorest areas of the town we visited, they came up to me, shook my hand, introduced themselves and wanted to know my name. They could not wait to show me their school projects and what they were working on. When asked what their parents did – it was window washing, flower picking, cleaning homes. When asked what they wanted to do – it was doctor, teacher and policeman. These children live in conditions worse than we can imagine and yet they have the desire and ambition unlike anywhere I had ever seen before. It was amazing! The “Power of Ambition” and their education system will drive these children for many years to come. In this country, young people want to continually be challenged and developed, because that is what they are expecting and needing, in order to have a better life. What do you think this “Power of Ambition” means to the rest of the World? China – A much different country than the other 3 in many respects. You watched the Beijing Olympics? The Opening Ceremony? If India is the “Power of Ambition”, then China is the “Power of the Government”, the power to fund building projects such as the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, to fund infrastructure and subsidize entire industries in order to ensure continued economic growth in their country. For many Companies, having strong Governmental Relations at many different levels, local, provincial and national is important. And this “Power of the Government” is also helpful in understanding how the government and the people interact. This is a picture I took of a monument in a Chinese garden. It was explained by our tour guide that the dragon is the government. The toad, sitting under the dragon’s mouth, represents the people. The people are the toad, living off the saliva of the dragon (the government). The monument now brings the “Power of Government” into something you can really envision. So…hopefully I have given you a taste of what it can mean to develop a “global mindset”. It means first being exposed to differences, recognizing them, appreciating those differences and then learning from them. As you develop a Global Mindset one thing you learn is that just because something is different, doesn’t mean it is “wrong”. Because in who’s context is it “wrong”? Our Midwestern Mindset? With a Global Mindset you can look at the context of why something is different and learn how this perspective can help you approach problems, people and challenges in different ways. And remember, you are never done expanding this Global Mindset. As you continue to travel and explore global perspectives, you continue to develop and expand your Global Mindset – think of it as “lifelong learning”. I am a good example of moving from a Midwestern Mindset to a more Global Mindset. JD took a young female from the Midwest with no real international experience and sent me first to Canada and then to Europe. They also spent the money to send me to a program called Global 2020-a one year program at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, with a team of 10 people from JD and teams from 3 other MNC. We had learning sessions at Dartmouth, India and China. This, along with my daily experiences of working with people in and around the world has developed my cultural awareness and greatly increased my exposure to diverse thoughts, solutions and approaches to situations. It has also helped me form perspectives on doing business and competing on a Global basis. When I was finishing my Global 2020 program it finally hit me. The reason JD had invested in my development and sent me to live and work in foreign countries and go through the Global 2020 program was to help me develop this Global Mindset and maybe even more importantly to teach and develop others as Leaders in our rapidly expanding global environment –to pass on my experiences from the various parts of the world and help develop future leaders with a Global Mindset. It also meant that I could ‘walk the talk’ and encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and have an experience outside of their home country or at least be aware of and appreciate the benefits of a diverse workforce. Because it doesn’t matter if you are from Illinois, China, Brazil, Mexico, Canada or Europe – having this global perspective is more and more important each day. If you take this global perspective and mix it with the ability to quantitatively reason and use data to develop solutions, then you personally develop a great tool set for solving problems. And you don’t have to be a business major or even work in business to benefit from this mix of a Global Mindset and the ability to analyze an issue. Whether you are in HR, Finance, Supply Management, a volunteer for a local community or even a politician – having a global perspective and analytical skills allows you to contribute to the success of your Company and your Community. Because now more than ever, each of us needs to understand that we are competing globally – on an individual basis – for jobs, on a Company basis we’re now competing globally for customers, against global competitors and as a Region, we have to compete globally for business investments in our community that helps our communities thrive and grow. So my challenge to you: 1. You chose MC likely for some of the same reasons that I did – to participate-in sports, in class, on campus. So use this opportunity to lead – don’t just wait for others to do something. I was very active in Leadership roles in Pi Phi and it was a wonderful opportunity to learn leadership skills that helped me a great deal later in life. And in a recent discussion with a group of Monmouth alumni currently working at JD, one of the most prevalent comments was that these young folks wished they had been more active on campus, especially in leadership roles. Because now they are seeing how that experience would have helped them later in life. 2. The second challenge is to get out of your comfort zone and take risks by exploring different cultures and different places, whether that’s by participating in a service project, studying abroad or going on a school sponsored trip. Take classes that you aren’t normally drawn to, even if you know they will be difficult for you. When I was at Monmouth I was able to arrange my courses so that I received a minor in Communications. One of the classes I dreaded the most was Advanced Public Speaking…but I knew I would need it-for my leadership roles in Pi Phi and beyond. So I took it, I survived and now I’m very grateful for that foundational class I had at Monmouth. 3. Third Challenge is to Experience Diversity – it’s really easy to make friends and hang out with people like us – same interests, same background, same upbringing. Monmouth College is working to increase the diversity of its student body every year because they realize the benefits of having diverse students and the richness it adds to the learning environment. So take the opportunity at college or in society to make friends with people that aren’t the same as you, I can guarantee you that you will learn something from them, and they will learn something from you. 4. Finally, teach others what you have learned from your experiences at college and during your travels, as you work to develop your Global Mindset. Give back to your community, your school, your place of work or your family. By getting out of your comfort zone and deliberately developing your Global Mindset, you will grow and have many life experiences that are worth sharing and teaching to others. Think about how you can make a difference. Remember, I was like many of you, a Midwesterner from a small school, who never considered living or working outside the US when I was growing up. But here I am today, having traveled to X number of different countries all within the last X years. And it’s an opportunity I never would have had if I hadn’t taken that leap 4 years ago and moved to Europe. You have all the opportunities and options in the World, how are YOU going to develop YOUR Global Mindset and make a difference? o great to be back here at Monmouth College. It’s been several years since I’ve been on campus and it is really amazing the number of changes and improvements that have been made here. It’s almost like visiFrom a Midwestern Mindset to a Global Mindset It is so great to be back here at Monmouth College. It’s been several years since I’ve been on campus and it is really amazing the number of changes and improvements that have been made here. It’s almost like visiting a totally different college than when I was here in the late 80s. I was honored to be asked to speak at Homecoming as part of the Midwest Matters Forum. I’ll admit that when I was a college student at Monmouth, I really did not give the global marketplace much thought. I was more interested in working hard, playing hard and making sure I had a job after college. The late 80s was a difficult time to be entering the job market, much as it is now. But now, getting a global perspective in life and developing your own personal Global Mindset is something that I am passionate about. And I hope that in the next 30 minutes, you will understand why this became important to me and why I believe it should also be important to each of you in this room. Because if you’ve come here today, unless you’re just here for the extra credit, you have an interest in globalization – whether it is from an economic standpoint or an educational standpoint. I would tell you that my interest is from a personal standpoint, why I believe I have developed into a more knowledgeable person as a result of my experiences outside the US. Let me start with providing you a little bit of my background… I grew up in Milan, not Milan, Illinois and went to Sherrard High School. If you are not familiar with Sherrard, it is a small high school in a farming community in Illinois. Most of the people that attended Sherrard were from similar backgrounds – socio-economically, geographically and culturally. We had one exchange student a year from a foreign country so that was the extent of my exposure to people from different parts of the World. Then I chose to go to Monmouth College. Why? Because the size appealed to me, the friendliness of the students, the professors and also, I would have a chance to be involved in campus activities. So it was well within my comfort zone to decide to go to Monmouth. After college I went to work with KPMG in Davenport, Iowa. And deciding to live and work in the Quad Cities, my hometown, was also well within my comfort zone. After a few years I joined John Deere and expected to live and work in the Quad Cities the rest of my life. But then they talked me into moving to Waterloo, Iowa and subsequently I moved back and forth between Waterloo and the Quad Cities. So my exposure to diversity-cultural diversity and diversity of thought did not really expand in those first 36 years of my life. I really had experienced very little of the World. Then Deere asked me to move to Welland, Canada, an opportunity to experience a new country. When I moved to Canada, I took the chance to step out of my geographic comfort zone. I didn’t realize it was also different culturally as well. For the first time I had multiple nationalities working for me in Canada – Canadians obviously, but also someone from CZ and India. They describe the US as a ‘melting pot’, where immigrants’ cultures are melted together to form America. In Canada they describe themselves as a ‘mixed salad’, where different cultures are brought together and retain their identity and culture. These different cultures coexist in one of the most diverse countries in the World. This was my first time living outside the US and was a chance to experience the ‘mixed salad’ environment and the Canadian approach to life. Which was slightly more relaxed than the US, where work-life balance was a bit more important, there was a different political and health care system and Hockey Night in Canada was the national past time. It was good preparation for the next big step – moving to Germany. I had been in Canada for 2 ½ years when I was asked to move to Germany and take over European Regional responsibility for Finance & Accounting. I had not asked to live and work in Europe, so the request by the Company to move to Germany came as a complete surprise to me. In fact, when I received the call about the location of my next job, I assumed it was going to be back in the US. I had about 3 days to make this major decision (luckily this covered the weekend, a very sleepless weekend) – this was WAY out of my comfort zone – different language, different culture, an ocean separating me and my family and I knew no one over there. Not anyone that would be working for me, none of my colleagues and none of the other Americans that were already over there. During the weekend I talked with my parents – they were very supportive of whatever my decision would be, even though it would be hard for them to imagine their child living in Europe. My current Manager had done an expatriate assignment in Germany. He helped reassure me that it would be a great experience and that I could do it. My husband was also very supportive and actually gave me the boost I needed to make this huge leap out of my comfort zone. So, with this support of family and friends, I made the decision to ‘go for it’ and move to Europe. And I can honestly say that the 4 years in Germany have been life changing – both personally and professionally. Here’s why: You remember what I said about my lack of exposure to different cultures growing up? Well now I was in a completely different culture, trying to learn how to communicate, work with and even more challenging, manage people that grew up different than me. This meant that we didn’t have the same reference points – I couldn’t use American slang – like “this will be a slam dunk”. I tried that in one meeting and I could see that a few people had confused looks on their face. I asked about this and they explained that they thought a “slam dunk” was difficult, because not many people could slam a basketball. This interpretation completely changed the meaning of what I was trying to convey. Also in Europe, there are many different cultures, so behaviors of Germans, French, Spanish, Russian, etc differ – what matters to these cultures are different – some want data and precision, others are more emotional and passionate in discussions and “go with their gut” when making decisions. And then there is the fact that they approach problem solving differently – some are more process oriented, or want a lot of detail, others are used to doing “whatever it takes” to get something done. So, at work I learned how to motivate and influence folks from different cultures and different backgrounds. And I learned to appreciate different approaches to problems, different perspectives to an issue and different educational backgrounds that caused me to stop and examine my own paradigms and perspectives. It wasn’t always easy and I had to realize that everyone in the country wasn’t going to change… I had to change. I had to develop my cultural sensitivity if I wanted to be successful. I also came to appreciate the benefits of having a diverse team working together. This diversity brought different ideas and perspectives to the table. Something that would not have been as likely if everyone looked the same and had the same experiences. In the end I believe this team diversity makes for a better outcome. And outside of work I learned how to communicate what I needed, even if I only spoke a few words of their language, and to appreciate the European approach – to art, culture and all of the wonderful diversity of people, and food, in Europe. Then, I was asked to take on my current job. This brought a whole new challenge – I was now managing people across different continents – Germany, South America and Mexico. And I had dotted line Finance & Accounting responsibility for facilities in more parts of the World – India, China, South America, Mexico and the US. And relating to the Europeans started to seem easy compared to Brazil, India and China. But what an amazing experience! To have responsibility for Finance & Accounting in each of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) each brings different challenges and also eye-opening experiences. Something I would have never had the opportunity to see or do if I would have remained in the Quad Cities all of my life. I’d like to give you just one example from each of these BRIC countries. Brazil – in this country, it is compulsory for everyone aged 18-65 to vote. This is a picture of the voting lines in the recent Presidential election. This is an interesting approach – if you do not vote you are fined and if you choose not to pay the fine, you cannot get an identity card (like a driver’s license or passport), hold a public job, take a loan in a public bank or register at a public school. In a country of about 195M people, over 136 MILLION people, or about 80% of the eligible voters, vote in the elections. Now we’re in the heart of election time here in the US, think how things might be different in our country, if 80% of the eligible people voted in every election… Russia – understanding the background of this country and what people have lived through – communism, food lines and never knowing if what they have today will be there tomorrow, helps to understand the decisions that individuals make – at work and in life. I once had a young Russian co-worker explain that they do not value Pensions in Russia-the people don’t trust that the government or a company will really save something for them for later in life. And they don’t trust that what they have today in the bank will be worth as much in the future. So saving isn’t a concept that motivates them, in fact, they spend their money because they would rather have “things” now than the possibility of having them in the future. So owning more and better things – clothes, watches and cars is highly motivating to them. People in this country often move from job to job for just a little more money – the country is expanding and educated individuals have huge opportunities. India – Incredible India! The Power of Ambition is amazing in this country. I traveled to India for the first time 2 years ago. How many of you have seen “Slumdog Millionaire”? The conditions were not exaggerated. I was fortunate enough to travel to a small village and see for myself the many aspects of this incredible country. In one small village an elderly woman came up to me in the street and touched my face because she had never seen a pale faced, fair haired female before. There are also the large cities where there are clearly the “have’s” and the “have nots”. However, in these incredibly difficult living conditions, the children are dressed for school in clean, neat clothes. They go to school for 6 days a week and study 7 days a week to have a better life. When I met a classroom of 7 year olds from the poorest areas of the town we visited, they came up to me, shook my hand, introduced themselves and wanted to know my name. They could not wait to show me their school projects and what they were working on. When asked what their parents did – it was window washing, flower picking, cleaning homes. When asked what they wanted to do – it was doctor, teacher and policeman. These children live in conditions worse than we can imagine and yet they have the desire and ambition unlike anywhere I had ever seen before. It was amazing! The “Power of Ambition” and their education system will drive these children for many years to come. In this country, young people want to continually be challenged and developed, because that is what they are expecting and needing, in order to have a better life. What do you think this “Power of Ambition” means to the rest of the World? China – A much different country than the other 3 in many respects. You watched the Beijing Olympics? The Opening Ceremony? If India is the “Power of Ambition”, then China is the “Power of the Government”, the power to fund building projects such as the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, to fund infrastructure and subsidize entire industries in order to ensure continued economic growth in their country. For many Companies, having strong Governmental Relations at many different levels, local, provincial and national is important. And this “Power of the Government” is also helpful in understanding how the government and the people interact. This is a picture I took of a monument in a Chinese garden. It was explained by our tour guide that the dragon is the government. The toad, sitting under the dragon’s mouth, represents the people. The people are the toad, living off the saliva of the dragon (the government). The monument now brings the “Power of Government” into something you can really envision. So…hopefully I have given you a taste of what it can mean to develop a “global mindset”. It means first being exposed to differences, recognizing them, appreciating those differences and then learning from them. As you develop a Global Mindset one thing you learn is that just because something is different, doesn’t mean it is “wrong”. Because in who’s context is it “wrong”? Our Midwestern Mindset? With a Global Mindset you can look at the context of why something is different and learn how this perspective can help you approach problems, people and challenges in different ways. And remember, you are never done expanding this Global Mindset. As you continue to travel and explore global perspectives, you continue to develop and expand your Global Mindset – think of it as “lifelong learning”. I am a good example of moving from a Midwestern Mindset to a more Global Mindset. JD took a young female from the Midwest with no real international experience and sent me first to Canada and then to Europe. They also spent the money to send me to a program called Global 2020-a one year program at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, with a team of 10 people from JD and teams from 3 other MNC. We had learning sessions at Dartmouth, India and China. This, along with my daily experiences of working with people in and around the world has developed my cultural awareness and greatly increased my exposure to diverse thoughts, solutions and approaches to situations. It has also helped me form perspectives on doing business and competing on a Global basis. When I was finishing my Global 2020 program it finally hit me. The reason JD had invested in my development and sent me to live and work in foreign countries and go through the Global 2020 program was to help me develop this Global Mindset and maybe even more importantly to teach and develop others as Leaders in our rapidly expanding global environment –to pass on my experiences from the various parts of the world and help develop future leaders with a Global Mindset. It also meant that I could ‘walk the talk’ and encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and have an experience outside of their home country or at least be aware of and appreciate the benefits of a diverse workforce. Because it doesn’t matter if you are from Illinois, China, Brazil, Mexico, Canada or Europe – having this global perspective is more and more important each day. If you take this global perspective and mix it with the ability to quantitatively reason and use data to develop solutions, then you personally develop a great tool set for solving problems. And you don’t have to be a business major or even work in business to benefit from this mix of a Global Mindset and the ability to analyze an issue. Whether you are in HR, Finance, Supply Management, a volunteer for a local community or even a politician – having a global perspective and analytical skills allows you to contribute to the success of your Company and your Community. Because now more than ever, each of us needs to understand that we are competing globally – on an individual basis – for jobs, on a Company basis we’re now competing globally for customers, against global competitors and as a Region, we have to compete globally for business investments in our community that helps our communities thrive and grow. So my challenge to you: 1. You chose MC likely for some of the same reasons that I did – to participate-in sports, in class, on campus. So use this opportunity to lead – don’t just wait for others to do something. I was very active in Leadership roles in Pi Phi and it was a wonderful opportunity to learn leadership skills that helped me a great deal later in life. And in a recent discussion with a group of Monmouth alumni currently working at JD, one of the most prevalent comments was that these young folks wished they had been more active on campus, especially in leadership roles. Because now they are seeing how that experience would have helped them later in life. 2. The second challenge is to get out of your comfort zone and take risks by exploring different cultures and different places, whether that’s by participating in a service project, studying abroad or going on a school sponsored trip. Take classes that you aren’t normally drawn to, even if you know they will be difficult for you. When I was at Monmouth I was able to arrange my courses so that I received a minor in Communications. One of the classes I dreaded the most was Advanced Public Speaking…but I knew I would need it-for my leadership roles in Pi Phi and beyond. So I took it, I survived and now I’m very grateful for that foundational class I had at Monmouth. 3. Third Challenge is to Experience Diversity – it’s really easy to make friends and hang out with people like us – same interests, same background, same upbringing. Monmouth College is working to increase the diversity of its student body every year because they realize the benefits of having diverse students and the richness it adds to the learning environment. So take the opportunity at college or in society to make friends with people that aren’t the same as you, I can guarantee you that you will learn something from them, and they will learn something from you. 4. Finally, teach others what you have learned from your experiences at college and during your travels, as you work to develop your Global Mindset. Give back to your community, your school, your place of work or your family. By getting out of your comfort zone and deliberately developing your Global Mindset, you will grow and have many life experiences that are worth sharing and teaching to others. Think about how you can make a difference. Remember, I was like many of you, a Midwesterner from a small school, who never considered living or working outside the US when I was growing up. But here I am today, having traveled to X number of different countries all within the last X years. And it’s an opportunity I never would have had if I hadn’t taken that leap 4 years ago and moved to Europe. You have all the opportunities and options in the World, how are YOU going to develop YOUR Global Mindset and make a difference?

Why Universities Can’t be Entrepreneurial

If you work in academia or serve on a college board, it is likely you will understand the problems and issues when you try and incorporate business discipline and planning into academia. If you work in the social sector, there are some parallels to the challenges your institution faces. What constitutes a great college or university? Excellent faculty and students that are engaged in learning and research certainly helps. We like to think that is what we have here at Monmouth College with the Midwest Entrepreneur program.

There is no one authoritative definition for an excellent university academically. Likewise, there is no one institution that can be singled out as the best managed college or university in the world. Even Harvard University, Cambridge, or Beijing has weaknesses and relative strengths. Those storied institutions, endowed with so many valuable assets, must secure enough revenue to fund operations to maintain their excellent reputations. Where much is given, much is expected in the way of return on investment. Ironically, the best managed company is not likely to be Google, Honda or Apple in the same way that the largest universities in the world may not be the best managed. From my research and experience, it is apparent that a college with less than 2,000 students can do a lot with a little. However, the more resources and staff involved, the more challenging it is to adapt to change, understand scarcity,  and initiate the disciplined planning required to survive and sustain a business.

Many institutions of higher learning were sheltered from these realities and the economic downturn has uncovered their naivety. How the administration and faculty adapt to external changes and challenges certainly tests all institutions and some fare better than others.

Every institution of higher learning claims to enrich student learning and prepare them for meaningful lives. Each claims they do something unique that sets their graduates apart from the competition. But what characteristics are commonly identified as attributes of a well-managed institution? Answer: A strong financial footing, disciplined leadership, and a sense of direction or purpose according to Jim Collins in Good to Great and the Social Sectors. (Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sector, 2005) However, few universities would ever be decribed as entreprenuerial.

The Moody’s Investment Report, “2011 Outlook for U.S. Higher Education, Moody’s maintains a negative outlook for the majority of higher-education institutions in the United States, which it says are too dependent on tuition, auxiliary income, and state support. (Moody’s Investment Service, 2011)  The report points to three “critical credit factors” that drive the 2011 outlook for colleges:

  • “Weakened prospects for net tuition growth” because of a market preference for low-cost or high-reputation competitors.
  • “Differing degrees of pressure on non-tuition revenues,” such as philanthropy or research money.
  • A “need for stronger management of operating costs, balance-sheet risks, and capital plans.” 

My future study will focus on how business tools can be utilized in higher education. I will analyze the drivers for net tuition, perceived value as marketing and fundraising assets, and the critical need to establish criteria for management success for 877 institutions of higher learning. Can a college be entrepreneurial? Most pundits would say no. I hope to share the results of my research in July at the conclusion of this phase of my research. I believe Monmouth College is an exception, and this study will reveal why it is so difficult for colleges and universities to be entrepreneurial in marketing themselves as distinctive entities, while practicing a disciplined financial approach to growth.