How does a major American soft drink brand reposition itself in a changing global market? With headquarters located in an increasingly health-conscious nation, and with new markets opening up as far away as Russia, how can a soda distributor stay competitive and maintain brand strength? These are some of the issues facing The Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG) today, as discussed by president and chief executive officer Eric Foss.

Foss talking to students
Pepsi Bottling Group President and CEO Eric Foss spoke to Mays MBA students about developing leadership skills.

Foss visited the Texas A&M campus recently to address MBA students at Mays Business School about Pepsi, leadership, and responsible business. Underscoring his message was a check for $10,000 Foss presented on behalf of PBG to Mays students for The Big Event, a student-organized community service project that involves more than 10,000 Aggies.

Foss talked about global dynamics that affect his business and gave the MBA students a look into his company as a compelling place to launch and build a career. His main message, though, was to seek opportunities to develop one’s leadership skills. With honest examples from his own life, Foss illustrated the importance of effective communication and management. “To me, leadership is the most important dimension in business today,” he said, challenging students to assess themselves in several leadership areas.

“The road to success as a leader is filled with failure,” said Foss, recounting mistakes he has made on the road to the boardroom, including one earlier in his career that lost the company a lot of money. “You need to embrace that failure and understand that it is just delayed success.”

Donation check
Foss presented a check for $10,000 to The Big Event on behalf of PBG.

Foss has been with PBG (which Pepsico spun off as an independent company in 1999) since 1982. He has held a variety of positions with increasing responsibility within the company, including general manager of Pepsi-Cola’s Central Europe business, and vice president of retail strategy for Pepsi-Cola North America. In July 2006, Foss was elected to his current position as head of the company.

Though he is not an Aggie (he holds a BS in marketing from Ball State University) Foss is an A&M supporter, is married to an Aggie, and is an Aggie dad.

Foss also serves on the board of directors of United Dominion Realty Trust, Inc., and on the industry affairs council of the Grocery Manufacturers of America. In his spare time, he coaches 7th grade girls basketball.

Categories: Executive Speakers

At the end of the semester, students tend to relax when it comes to class attendance and note-taking. This was not the case, however, for the final meetings of the Introduction to Business (BUSN 100) class, which featured Al Reese ’71 as a guest lecturer. Reese, who is the chief financial officer of ATP Oil & Gas Corporation, gave students practical advice for succeeding in the business world. He spoke to 150 students in two sections of the class.

Reese talking
Al Reese ’71, CFO of ATP Oil & Gas Corporation, speaks to Business 100 students.

“Guest speakers are important because they make what might otherwise be dismissed as “just theory’ real,” said Kris Morley, director of the Business Honors program and instructor of the Business 100 course. “Speakers like Mr. Reese give students the chance to hear how a concept they’ve learned about in class is played out in the business world.”

Many of the points Reese discussed with students would be obvious to business professionals, but for these freshmen, his message seemed to be an oracle from the business gods. The students hung on his every word as Reese gave tips on handshakes, business cards, e-mail etiquette, and wardrobe choices.

Reese echoed many parents when he gave students advice about quitting smoking, keeping tattoos covered, and dressing modestly and professionally. Though it may have been a familiar message, it held more meaning for the students to hear it coming from a highly successful businessman.

Reese’s final piece of wisdom was basic and profound. “If you want to succeed, work hard,” he said. “I know it’s trite, but it’s true.” Hard work has paid off for Reese, who graduated from A&M with a degree in finance, and then went on to certify as a CPA and achieve an MBA. He has served in his current position as CFO for nine years. Prior to joining ATP, Reese worked in several other management positions in the energy, finance, and accounting fields.

Reese serves on the advisory board of The Energy Forum in Houston and is a director of Integrity Bank in Houston. He also serves as president and director of the ACR Foundation, a private charitable organization in Houston.

Categories: Executive Speakers

“Successful leaders are not pessimistic or optimistic—they are realistic. Seeing things for what they really are is a hallmark of a good leader,” said Bob Loeffler ’77, COO of H-E-B grocery stores. Loeffler, who received his MBA from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, returned to campus recently to share with current Mays MBA students about his company, his career journey, and most importantly, about becoming an effective leader.

Loeffler speaking
Bob Loeffler ’77 recently returned to campus to speak to current Mays MBA students.

Loeffler suggested to students that one way to learn leadership is to seek out different experiences with a single employer and to “use the whole company as your playground.” He has worked for H-E-B for 28 years in a number of capacities, from IT to warehouse management to president of e-commerce. Prior to joining H-E-B he also spent several years in the Navy. These experiences have shaped him into the dynamic people manager that he is today.

Loeffler explained to students that he used to have a problem with conflict avoidance that was a stumbling block to his career. He stressed the importance of communication with team members about good things and bad things—as it is only by addressing the areas of weakness that a team can improve. He says the door swings both ways, though. “Constantly assess yourself and ask others to assess…that way you’ll get better.”

In all areas of management, Loeffler stressed the importance of being team oriented and motivating your employee team by making work a game. This way team members work together for a common goal with measurable results.

Loeffler also talked about H-E-B and the innovations the Texas mega-chain store is experimenting with, such as the creation of new store brand products and labels, and opening niche stores like Mi Tienda and Central Market. He also mentioned H-E-B’s shift in focus from a traditional grocery store to adding other goods and services, like cell phone plans and insurance.

“We’ve said, ‘let’s rethink who we are. We’re not just a great food market. We are a great retailer,’ ” he said of their growth.

Despite their changes, H-E-B’s commitment to community service is unwavering. “We want the communities we’re in to be better because we’re there,” said Loeffler, stating that H-E-B donates 5% of pre-tax earnings to public and charitable programs.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Giving back to Texas A&M University has been a priority for Mikal Harn ’88 for many years but, on a recent campus visit, he gave students something more valuable than endowment dollars: he shared his wisdom, acquired through twenty years of corporate experience.

Harn, the vice president and general manager of AT&T Southwest, spoke to both graduate and undergraduate business students about the process of corporate rebranding and the marketing of a new product.

Harn lecturing
AT&T Southwest Vice President and General Manager Mikal Harn ’88 speaks to Mays students.

The multimedia savvy students were all ears as Harn talked about U-Verse , AT&T’s new product offering which combines Internet and TV usage. Harn engaged students by discussing the future of media consumption and AT&T’s role in that platform, reaching far beyond their traditional stereotype as a phone service provider.

“We had a big job on our hands. Our brand needed to be resurrected,” said Harn, who has been with the company for 10 years.

To get the word out about the new technology offered in U-Verse, Harn and his team are using some surprisingly low-tech methods of communication: home demo parties, neighborhood events, door-to-door and retail sales, and even branded ice-cream trucks featuring sweet treats and flat-screen displays.

This grassroots method is unorthodox in today’s fast-paced consumer market, but so far, they are seeing big results. “It’s a brand new technology…and there are a lot of naysayers,” said Harn. “But really it’s all about service and how you differentiate yourself.”

Harn also shared more general business advice with the students, encouraging them to find a job they love, but also to gain a variety of job experiences to continue to grow. He commented that in the 20 years since he was a student, some things have not changed at Texas A&M—most importantly, the strong Aggie work ethic is still evident.

Harn received his BBA in marketing from Texas A&M University. He also holds an MBA from Incarnate Word University in San Antonio.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Laura Fulton ’85 wears many hats: she’s a mom, a wife, a Sunday school teacher, and also the general auditor of one of the top three chemical companies in the nation. Fulton returned to her alma mater recently to talk with students at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School about a career in accounting and about finding a work-life balance that makes that career worthwhile.

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Laura Fulton ’85 recently spoke to Mays students about finding a balance between one’s personal and professional lives.
Fulton spoke to an auditorium full of freshman in an introduction to business course, as well as ten Business Honors students over breakfast. To both groups, her message was the same: don’t make a big salary the number one priority that drives your career. Instead, find a job you like, with coworkers you can learn from, and a company you respect and that respects you.

“If you work hard and do your best, those opportunities will come to you, and the salary will follow,” said Fulton, who is currently the general auditor of Lyondell, a chemical company headquartered in Houston.

In the 11 years Fulton has been with the company, she has seen it grow from a $5 billion local operation, to a multinational conglomerate worth more than $20 billion, with facilities in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Fulton manages a team of auditors in Houston and in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She spoke about the challenges of working with employees with a different culture and a seven-hour time lag. “You’ve got to be very open-minded, and respectful of other cultures,” she said, in addition to having great communication, which she sees as the key to successful leadership. “When you have a common vision, it is possible to be very, very successful,” she said.

Fulton told how the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) legislation of 2002 has changed the accounting world and her job as an internal auditor. Accurate and detailed reporting was already part of the company’s procedure at Lyondell, she said, so the new regulation was not as hard to adjust to for them as it was for some other companies. Instead of a hardship, Fulton viewed SOX as a chance to shine as she set about creating and implementing a new process without disrupting the day-to-day processes that kept things running. “It was really a tremendous opportunity for me to sit down with the CEO and CFO and discuss a process created by my team that personally benefited them, giving them the understanding needed to sign the required certifications,” she said.

Prior to her time at Lyondell, Fulton spent 11 years working at Deloitte & Touche as a CPA. She serves on two Mays advisory boards: the Mays Fellows program and the Department of Accounting.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

“Public service is duty,” Chairman Donald E. Powell told a room full of Mays MBA students. “Lots of us talk about it, but few of us do it.”

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Chairman Donald E. Powell recently spoke to Mays MBA students about the important of public service for the business community.
If anyone is qualified to motivate students about public service, it’s Chairman Powell. President George W. Bush appointed Powell as the Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding on November 1, 2005, making him the liaison between state, local and federal governments in handling the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Chairman Powell was hard-pressed to find a team who would work with him on this challenging project, as many thought no significant good could be done. But that answer wasn’t sufficient for Chairman Powell.

Chairman Donald E. Powell recently spoke to Mays MBA students about his work with the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort.”Don’t let anyone override your heart or tell you what you can and cannot do,” he says.

Powell accepted an invitation by Interim Dean of Mays Business School Ricky Griffin to speak to MBA students at the Cocanougher Center on September 28, 2007. Powell spoke with authority, as he isn’t new to the realm of public service.

After founding The First National Bank of Amarillo (his hometown) in 1997, Powell eventually became its president and CEO. He’s joined numerous boards and committees, and served as chairman of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System, and advisory board member of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. Before his appointment by President Bush, Powell acted as the 18th chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from August 29, 2001 through November 15, 2005.

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Chairman Powell, seen here meeting with MBA students, is a former chairman of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.

Chairman Powell stressed to Mays MBAs that community service is not just meant for leaders in power or people with free time—it’s meant for everyone, especially the business world.

“Care about public schools. Care about healthcare. Care about quality of life issues,” he says. “Who should take care of these issues? Some would say government officials. I say the business community. The business community is always involved.”

Students sat with wide eyes and open ears as Chairman Powell told them of his business failures, emphasizing the importance of fundamentals and integrity, as well as the value of capitalism and the competitive spirit. Before opening up a question and answer session, Chairman Powell left students with this charge:

“Young people, we should never forget that for our quality of life, capitalism is the main component. Defend it. Cherish it. Make it better.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Programs

Hughes and students
Joseph Hughes, Jr. ’75 recently met with a group of business honors students to discuss the ins and outs of the business world.

Joseph Hughes, Jr. ’75 recently gave back to his alma mater in an important way: he came to campus to meet with students and gave them advice from his own experience. Hughes spoke about how his education prepared him for a highly successful career in accounting and later as a small business owner.

“The presentation was very useful, as it was primarily a question and answer session,” said Kayla Allen, a sophomore accounting major. “He was able to explain his industry in terms we could understand. He did a wonderful job and I think everyone there learned something.”

Hughes engaged the 14 business honors students present in a round table format over lunch. He shared stories from his life and work, and dispensed invaluable advice: whether you’re digging a ditch or presiding over a company, you must practice your job with integrity. “You have to be the standard,” he told the students.

He also recommended that students not spend all of their time studying, but rather get involved in campus and community activities. “It’s important to have other activities, rather than be someone who has a license on one of the study carousels in the library,” said Hughes, who founded the Diamond Darlings while he was a student.

Hughes and students
Hughes shared his stories and imparted some advice to the students over lunch.

After graduating from A&M with his BBA in 1975, Hughes went on to work for Touche Ross & Company for four years. He then spent one year with Bright & Bright before forming his own CPA business, Hughes & Company, in 1980. He also formed Spindletop Exploration Company in 1982, and worked long hours getting both businesses off the ground. In 1988, he sold his CPA business and focused solely on Spindletop’s ventures, which involve purchasing oil and mineral royalties.

Hughes had the students’ full attention as he talked about his mistakes and successes, as well as his overall business strategies.

“The luncheon was incredibly interesting,” said Zach Neal, senior accounting major. “It is always a good thing to hear how smart people make money.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

The values of your corporate culture will always determine your performance success no matter what industry or field you’re in, Mustang Engineering co-founder Paul Redmon told Mays faculty and students gathered in late April. It’s that philosophy that helped his oil and gas engineering services firm grow over the past 20 years from a $15,000 startup with 35 employees to a $500 million grossing firm with 3,600 Mustangers worldwide.

And it’s that vision and drive that earned Redmon the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship’s Conn Family Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, which he accepted in late April during a management class. He told students that how you instill people-oriented values and encourage servant leadership will always impact the bottom line. Such philosophy has made Mustang one of the fastest growing—and the 5th largest—energy services engineering firms in the nation.

“When our focus is on giving and helping others, we are energized,” Redmon said. “This is the heart and soul of servant leadership. There is no tangible way to evaluate it, we can’t do a cost-benefit analysis here, but when you get your culture right people will be passionate. The results will be performance and profit.”

Redmon, a 1976 magna cum laude Aggie civil engineering graduate, founded Mustang with partners Bill Higgs and Felix Covington in 1987. By 1989, Mustang was already known for its quality of life and engagement with workers; that’s the year the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce recognized the firm with an Innovate Houston award for people. It continued to put people first as it was growing—making the Houston 100 list of the fastest-growing companies four years in a row by 1993.

Mustang’s commitment to employees goes above and beyond the two dozen family and service events the company sponsors each year. Its founders were among the first in the business to share ownership with employees, giving 30 percent of the company to its people in employee stock options.

People may get values and a sense of belonging from family, school or religion—but they all go to work, Redmon said. And that’s where the personality or soul of the company, established by its leaders, becomes a touch point for impacting employees above and beyond the workplace.

That, Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship Director Richard Scruggs told students, is the lesson they should take home with them.

“Paul Redmon just said it best: Everyone works somewhere,” Scruggs said. “You are the future leaders of business and it’s your chance, if you take it, to shape the values and shape the culture of your employees, your country and your company.”

The Conn Family Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, established in 2000, is named after the former president and chair of Conn Appliances, Inc., Carroll Conn, Jr., and his wife Dorothy. The award honors those entrepreneurs who have the courage and the vision to launch companies that make a lasting impact on their communities and among their employees.

— Staff Reports

Categories: Executive Speakers

It was Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz who convinced him to come out of retirement. To tackle an existing culture and find ways to get people engaged in the life of your company is the highest calling of business leaders, Schultz told now-J.C. Penney Company CEO Myron E. Ullman.

Ullman thought so, too – and that’s why in December 2004 he accepted the role as chairman and CEO of a century-old general merchant with a $33 stock price. By December 2006, Ullman’s practices and guiding vision for growth had blasted the company’s shares into the $89 range as JCPenney announced plans to add 250 new stores in five years.

“We do business today with half the households in America,” Ullman says of JCPenney’s 24 million customers. “This is a contact sport – you can’t just be nice and hold onto your share in the market. The customer votes every day based on what she finds and what she likes, and you better be there to provide that.”

That can-do vigor, coupled with a strong-growth game plan, earned Ullman the 2007 M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Award from the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. He spoke at Mays on Wednesday as he accepted the award, addressing a standing-room only crowd of business students, community leaders and retailing and marketing executives.

When JCPenney representatives went out into the field in 16 U.S. cities to ask shoppers what they looked for in a store, Ullman said they expected the answer to be about lower prices. But it turns out that what’s most important to consumers are the little things that help them experience every day life.

That led the once-stagnant general merchant into its latest phase, with the tagline “Every Day Matters.” From compliments on a new blouse to finding just the right gear for children’s after-school activities, Ullman explained that the every day defines JCPenney and its target consumers in middle America.

Providing an emotional connection to JCPenney as a brand and creating an exciting and easy place to shop have proven their value to a company that nearly shuttered its storefronts in the 1990s. Under Ullman’s leadership, JCPenney met its 9 percent operating profit target in 2006 – three years ahead of schedule.

But the former R.H. Macy & Co., Inc., chairman and CEO says he didn’t arrive at JCPenney with any plans other than helping his executive team find a way to grow the revived Penney’s into something bigger, better and more meaningful for customers and employees alike.

“This isn’t a story about a CEO at all,” Ullman told students. “This is a story about teamwork, making a human connection with your associates, and in turn making a human connection with your consumers. Everybody wants to be part of something meaningful.”

Categories: Executive Speakers

“What can you say about outsourcing and Wal-Mart’s role in the loss of American jobs in manufacturing plants?”

The room of attentive MBAs fell quiet. Eduardo Castro-Wright ’75, the public face of Wal-Mart as its USA Stores CEO, responded without skipping a beat. “If you’re a capitalist, you can’t take the view of separate markets—the global market is where we live today,” he told the MBA questioner. “We favor U.S. products in our stores, even with a premium, but not to the extent that you’re going to pay for it as a consumer. Competition is a beautiful thing. It makes us better everyday.”

Making life better for consumers is precisely the mission the world’s largest big-box chain embraces everyday. That’s what Castro-Wright told students in a March meeting that marked a return to the Texas A&M campus since his days as an undergrad in mechanical engineering in the 1970s. And for a company that has grown $17 billion in international sales in the past year alone (more than the value of Google, eBay and Yahoo combined), such a human-first message is key to maintaining the chain’s quality growth and valued consumer experiences.

The Sam Walton vision lives on, today’s U.S. CEO explained. Wal-Mart has brought benefit along with change as it settles into the fabric of the communities it serves: from increased purchasing power through the Wal-Mart conglomerate’s scale and scope in 3,550 U.S. stores to community enhancements like green stores run on solar power (Colorado) or wind turbines (McKinney, Texas).

A new Wal-Mart in town can revitalize “urban deserts” and bring traffic to a previously withering retail market even if it might, in other places, threaten mom-n-pop business. Wal-Mart’s recent push for less packaging means the company’s truck fleet will haul less material and use 25 percent less fuel. Sheer size and scale also helps new energy-saving technologies make it to the retail floor, such as LED lights for freezer cases, which have proven costly to manufacture. Enter Wal-Mart’s 6,000 worldwide stores, each putting in LED lighting that creates a viable market for an LED manufacturer.

Benefits ripple out from major corporations Wal-Mart, Castro-Wright said, to affect change in more industry and business and especially within Wal-Mart communities.

“You can’t be successful in improving lives if you just bring products in at lower prices for consumers,” he said. “As the largest retailer in the world, we shoulder some responsibility for helping the world become a better place.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students