Tag: leadership perspectives



Tanya Yatzeck and, at right, David Moons.

My first impression walking into the event “60 ideas in 60 minutes,” presented by alumni of Olin’s Executive MBA program on January 9, was that the six panelists mingling among the attendees were EMBA graduates.

That information was on the event invitation, but it didn’t hit home until I overheard them reminiscing about their classes and the fun that they’d had getting together in the years since graduation—just like me and my former classmates. The panelists were us.

Sixty ideas in one hour sounds daunting, but the simplicity of the format made it possible to absorb every single one of them. Each of the six panelists had 10 minutes to present their 10 ideas. Each had a theme, which kept the content fresh from speaker to speaker.

Gene Dobbs Bradford, president and CEO of Jazz St. Louis, used his musical training as a theme, while Jennifer Labit, founder and CEO of Cotton Babies, emphasized her experience in entrepreneurship. Eric Benting, owner and operator of Chik-fil-A, shared his  insights about working with very young employees.

Attendees at the EMBA-sponsored “60 ideas in 60 minutes” event.

Don Halpin spoke of pivoting from a military career to medical innovation, and Ken Yamaguchi about straddling both corporate and university surgical responsibilities. Jan Alonzo, an attorney, provided a practical tool box of tips, including counting good days, blessings, helping others, and the legal and business necessities of becoming informed about the problem of sexual harassment.

While I was there, I was surprised and pleased to run into my classmate from EMBA 43, David Moons, president at his family’s business, Anji Mountain. I asked him why he attends Olin events.

“When you work in a small business, it’s very easy to get focused on just what you’re doing and ignore some of the external factors that are influencing your business,” he said. “WashU events provide me with the opportunity to stay in touch with what other companies are doing and, more importantly, how some global macro factors can be affecting my business and my people.”

I asked David to distill the 60 ideas into his top three:

1. Pull multiple levers. Find your idea and make sure all of your resources support it.

David: “We have a major initiative this year with some patented innovation. I’m cherry-picking different things that we’ll likely do to support that launch, but we’re now thinking more of, “Let’s just pull all the levers.” We don’t really know what’s going to work, and we might as well go full stop as opposed to limit our financial exposure, because we want to make sure this thing is a success.”

2. If you think you know what you’re doing, you’re likely in decline.

David: “That is something that will likely keep me up and still does keep me up on a nightly basis. I think that level of focus—on continuous improvement and not resting on your laurels—is about trying to drive your company and your vision and what you’re doing to improve. It’s something that’s critical. We can’t be successful if we don’t do that.”

3. Use mission to inspire people.

David: “When I think about mission inspiring people, it’s not just my people that I work with at Anji Mountain. It’s more about using our mission as a company to inspire our customers to get further engaged with our business. We compete in a hyper-competitive market. There are a lot of major players that are established. We need to continually find ways to differentiate, and using and leveraging our mission to better position ourselves with our customers is something we’re going to continue to focus on.”

David added, “I’m going to take probably the top 30 and bring it back to my company and my people, and hopefully they can get something out of it and it starts a bigger dialogue.”

I spied another EMBA classmate, Ken Franklin, running out of the event before it was over. I talked to him by phone later in the day.

“I’ve always felt that I have a moral compass guiding tough decisions, but I didn’t realize that it’s a skill,” he said. “At the end of the day, you want to do the right thing, be honest, have integrity, and build character. That’s what leaders do. My big takeaway—big ideas come from the heart.”

Read more about the event and find a list of all 60 ideas.




Food is big business, so the Executive MBA program hosted a delicious panel to discuss what’s “behind the counter” at four different quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) and fast casual establishments. Moderated by food blogger Lauren DeSantis-Then, the panel featured two Executive MBA alums, Toby Warticovschi (Lion’s Choice) and Eric Benting (Chick-Fil-A) along with BSBA alum Oliver Kremer (Dos Toros) and Gail Kitsis (Crazy Bowls & Wraps).

The panel brought very different perspectives to the discussion. EMBA alum Eric Benting owns a single Chick-Fil-A, which is the typical ownership within the company. His motivation to drive sales is the potential to be chosen to open a second store. Dos Toros, on the other hand, has opened 14 restaurants in the NYC area over 9 years, modeling them after a specific taqueria cuisine that the founding brothers grew up with in California. Their strategy is to build in highly dense areas (such as tall, crowded office buildings) and hit their numbers during lunch. As they expand to new markets, such as Chicago, they will focus on many units within a handful of key markets—all with a dense walking population.

The morning kicked off with talk about supply chain and operations. Consumers don’t usually think about the business of food with respect to inputs and how the food gets to the restaurants. Yet ordering, inputs, waste, and throughput are a large piece of the restaurant puzzle. Three of the panelists spoke about the challenges of being in a business that uses only fresh (not frozen) inputs, making them vulnerable to varying consumer demand and pricing fluctuations of ingredients such as broccoli and avocados. The conversation moved to how technology has played a role regarding waste in the “back of the house.” For example, Chick-Fil-A now uses iPads to direct those on the line on how many patties and nuggets to batter and fry at any given point, which prevents food from sitting for too long. It’s a balancing act between being prepared and ready, but not having food sitting out and awaiting purchase for more than 5 minutes.

Technology is a hot topic among the restaurant professionals. All spoke about the role of tech—both in the kitchen, as well as the consumer-facing technology, such as mobile apps, drive-thrus, and online ordering. Get it right, and customers will eat at your restaurants more often and with a higher ring. Get it wrong, and they may not come back. Today’s consumers (millennials especially) are “on the run” and looking for time-saving measures. Yet many of the restaurant owners and operators spoke to the fact that their food is meant to be consumed within minutes of it being prepared, which doesn’t lend itself to pre-ordering and/or delivery. Most of the speakers agreed they did not want to get into the business of delivering, so they outsource this component – yet then lose control of the final experience.

The morning flew by leaving the standing room-only audience hungry for more insights on the business of food.

Don’t miss the next Executive MBA event. Be sure to check out upcoming EMBA webinars, panels, and information sessions.




Sports, much like business, represent a global entity. No matter the sport, the values created and embedded on the court, mat, and field don’t just lie within the lines. How can the drive and passion for sports carry over to society, where individuals can enhance business organizations and their own enterprises with their background in sportsmanship? In turn, how do sports shape society? The 2017 Leadership Perspectives series continued by discussing these topics and more at the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center at Olin.

The St. Louis Business Journal’s Senior Reporter, Brian Feldt, moderated the forum. The panelists included Solomon Alexander, Foundation Director, St. Louis Sports Commission; Drew Caylor, Partner, Louis York Capital & EMBA Alumnus; Khalia Collier, Owner/General Manager, St. Louis Surge Women’s Basketball; Tim Hayden, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Stadia Ventures; and Greg Waldbaum, CEO, 3D Lacrosse & Olin Alumnus.

Each of the panelists brought a unique perspective on the contribution of sports, with commentary on topics ranging from the value of trophies in kids’ sports leagues to the recruiting of high school and professional athletes. One attendee brought her high school-aged son to learn from the panel’s experiences. Waldbaum pointed out that “grades and more grades” are most important in college scouting, emphasizing the importance of success in the classroom as well as in competition. However, he specified that colleges contact high school coaches quite frequently to find out how players perform as a team player and how they lead and show good sportsmanship. Much like academics, sports play a key role in opening up opportunities for getting into a reach school.

On the impact of sports on leadership, Collier noted, “96 percent of women at the executive level attribute their success to sports.” The St. Louis Surge players not only serve as All-American NCAA athletes, but also as role models and mentors, fostering the next generation of leaders. Caylor, who spent several of his early post-college years in the NFL as a center, is a prime example of how sports values also carry over to a business career. Caylor realized that although his true passion and talents lie more within the financial industry, he still balanced the technical skills necessary for the investment sector with the team and collaborative-based skills learned on the field.

In a similar vein, Hayden brought up a fun fact: “Junior Bridgeman is the second-wealthiest athlete”—not holistically due to athletic achievements, but due to entrepreneurship in using his sports salary to buy and invest in franchises both in and out of the sports world. Hayden and Waldbaum both agreed on how experiencing the reality of either a ‘W’ or a ‘L’ in sports educates a former athlete on how to rebound after a failure as an entrepreneur and problem solve when it comes to adapting strategies for business.

In addition to skills for the job market, perhaps the most applicable takeaway of the session, and of sport itself, is learning invaluable life lessons on how to be a teammate and an emphatic human being. Collier underscored that much more than stats contribute to an athlete’s success—character, she said, speaks volumes.

As the forum ended, Solomon Alexander said, to a round of applause, that the best translation of sportsmanship to society is “treating each other like a fellow human being in the most respectful way.”