Jim Stolarski ’83 reminisced recently to a class of Mays students about his 28-year career in business strategy, operations reengineering, and mergers and acquisitions. “I can tell you with certainty this is a lot of fun, a really cool field. You can plan to get in and work a 12-hour day every day — and love it. It is amazing and really a lot of fun.”

He said strategy is integral to every business transaction. “It doesn’t matter what you do — you could be selling cars, working for Peace Corps or cleaning houses. You need a strategy. Your plans have got to adapt to the environment.”

“You’re going to work really hard,” Jim Stolarski ’83 told students, “so have a good time.” (view more photos)

Stolarski worked for 18 years in the private sector as a strategist for the banking industry. In 2002 he moved to the public sector, where his clients included Holiday Inn, the FBI, the Secret Service, Check Free and Customs and Border Protection.

He was a senior executive with Accenture when he retired last May at age 50 and took a year off. Now he tinkers with his 1981 yacht at his Annapolis, Md., home and travels — often to speak to students at Texas A&M and Rice, where his sons attend.

Stolarski said he enjoyed his experience at the business school and enjoys speaking to students. “It’s fun to come back. It’s like going to your high school — only a thousand times bigger.” And Stolarski advises those seeking a job with a company to know the details of its previous month, quarter and year. “I always had a rule to dress one step above whoever it was I was meeting with. That always left a good impression.”

Stolarski advises businesspeople to develop strategy skills. “You have to be comfortable with the numbers so that you can discuss them on the fly, in conversation, like we are right here,” he said.

He also suggested strategists earn the title “trusted advisor.” “No B.S. — you say “I don’t know’ if you don’t know, and execute your role perfectly. That will build your credibility.”

Other bits of advice Stolarski shared were:

  • Value strategy
  • Model decision-making
  • The number is a number
  • Stick to just the facts
  • The toolbox is full — use it
  • Work harder than everyone else
  • Leave the campsite cleaner than you found it
  • Have fun — it’s a journey

Most of all, he suggested maintaining balance in life. “You’re going to work really hard, so have a good time.”