Occupation: Director of the Center for Business and Economic Development at IUPUC
Family: Wife, Ginger, three grown sons, Christian, of Detroit, Erik and Thomsen, of Charlotte, North Carolina
Hobbies: I work out four or five times a week, and I try to bike. Both my wife and I are believers in fitness, and this is a great community for that.
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Valparaiso University. I studied in my junior year at University of Cambridge in England. I have a master’s degree in international studies and economics from Western Michigan University. I worked on my Ph.D at the University of Florida, in economics, demography and international studies.
● Why and when did you move to Columbus?
I moved here in March of this year to take the position with IUPUC.
● What did you do before you came to Columbus?
Most recently, I was managing director of Rocket Ventures, a venture capital firm I founded in Ohio.
● What was your first job?
My first job was at this small company in Detroit called General Motors. I was senior marketing manager of worldwide marketing and product planning, first in Latin America and then in Europe. It was great because it was the world’s largest company at that time, and it was an unbelievable training ground.
● What primary lessons did you learn from that job that have helped you today?
I learned the impact and the importance of global business. I saw it from one of the world’s largest corporations, so it was so clear.
Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of management, and it was drilled into me every day. It was very tough at that company.
The other thing I learned is the importance of business analytics; the analysis of markets and really understanding what makes business in markets grow and go. We looked at economics, the market, advertising, promotion and sales — all aspects of the business as it pertained to GM in Latin America and in Europe.
● What are the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned?
I got my training at GM and then I was involved in several technology companies, including some startups. The leadership lessons I’ve learned from all of those is the importance of passion. You can’t succeed without passion and a lot of drive.
From a management point of view, it was how to listen, be honest and be process-driven. But when you have a passion for the business, that’s when you really succeed.
I spent all of my career growing organizations, either organically as startups or growing them from within and that’s what I’m doing every day now.
I’m helping the community by really leveraging the faculty, the staff and the expertise in the community.
● How did you develop your leadership capabilities?
First, through coursework and management, and later through jumping in and working for such a big corporation.
Every day they were pushing management strategy — how do you work your staff and win their hearts and minds and make them feel engaged?
I’ve just taken that through my career. Right after that I worked for a really high-tech firm that raised a lot of venture capital and went public. So I went from the world’s largest corporation to a startup, and I further developed my management skills in the high-tech culture.
● What are some of the lessons you have learned or examples that demonstrate the level of community involvement in Columbus?
I think Columbus is one of the most pulled-together communities I have ever seen. It’s absolutely amazing how corporations and organizations jump in, both financially, but even more importantly through their expertise.
There are executives involved on a number of boards and committees, and it’s an amazing community from that point of view.
I believe volunteering and working is so important for the community and the individuals as well.
I am meeting and connecting with so many people, and it’s helping me grow these organizations and the Center for Business and Economic Development. It all kind of works together.
● What advice do you have for people who want to become more involved in the community?
I tell people if you can, volunteer and get engaged, and there are so many opportunities that you will find something that drives your passion. This community is ahead of almost any other and it’s because of the talent that’s here, to be a welcoming community and a diverse community, and that is so important.
It’s a small town with big thinkers, and that’s really magical. When you are in a large city with millions of people you expect that, but finding it here has been really special.
● You mentioned that you have been all over the world during your career. Do you still like to travel?
Now our travel is to Chicago, or down to Louisville or Bloomington or Indy, to see what is going on there. We have our boys in Charlotte, and we do love it there. I spent 25 years of my life traveling overseas. I was somewhere, if not every week at least every month, so now it’s kind of nice to be in one place.
● Community involvement
I became involved right away, and I thank goodness for our university president, Dr. Marwan Wafa, for that. He has been great in introducing me and letting me run with things. I’m on the Columbus Economic Development Board, on a special committee called the Columbus Connection Center.
I’m also on the IUPUC Business Advisory Committee, which is the business school. I’m on the Jackson County Learning Center Board of Advisers.
I’ve formed my own Center for Business and Economic Development Board of Advisers, and I’m a teacher at the MBA School.
I’m trying to elevate the Center of Business and Economic Development and take it to the next level, by leveraging the talent on the faculty and area consultants. Part of our mission is to improve the economic vitality of the region by offering our expertise.
I’m doing a variety of learning workshops like entrepreneurial boot camps, CEO 101, which explains what it means to run a new company, and events like the recent SPARK Columbus that was organized by the Chamber of Commerce. I think what’s making my experience here so enjoyable is the involvement and the engagement.