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Business Management

Why Business Management?

imageBecause you want to build a business. Because you want to work hard and do well. Because you’re a leader with imagination, integrity, and drive.

Business Management is a great major or minor. You can dive deep into business studies here—information systems, accounting, finance, and more. You can help manage a $450,000 investment fund, study global business in Paris or Hong Kong, and design your own senior capstone to jump-start your career. And we make it easy to combine our minors and concentrations with any of the more than 40 programs of study at the college.

Fine, you might be thinking, but can we boil it down to one big thing we’re good at and employers value? Here goes:

Business Management is a Liberal Art

That’s our vision in a sentence. It’s the guiding idea behind our department, our teaching, and every challenge we help our students take on.

Sure, we love helping you learn to read accounting statements, develop marketing strategies, use business-intelligence software like SAP, and start businesses. It’s great to have skills. But all those things start with questions, not answers. To do them well, you have to be good at asking questions. And questions are at the heart of a liberal-arts education.

imageSo beyond teaching you how to do stuff employers love, we’re focused on something deeper: asking the questions that lie below the surface, the questions that drive business success.

An auditor asks: “Do these numbers match reality?”

A marketer asks: “Do I understand what my customers really want?”

A CEO asks: “How must my business change in order to survive?”

To answer such questions takes more than technical training.

Peter Drucker, the great philosopher and teacher of management, saw business leaders as needing the kind of broad education you get from the liberal arts. “Managers,” he said, “draw on all the knowledge and insights of the humanities and the social sciences—on psychology and philosophy, on economics and on history, on the physical sciences and on ethics.” 

 My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions. — Peter Drucker

Management, Drucker concluded, “is thus what tradition used to call a ‘liberal art’: ‘liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; ‘art’ because it is practice and application.”

Okay, enough history lesson. Hopefully you get the idea that the roots of what we do here go deep.


We can’t guarantee you’ll get good at questions if you study with us. But we do guarantee you won’t avoid the imperative to ask. Our small classes, intense student-faculty interaction, and liberal-arts commitment will keep pushing you to think critically, look deeper, and ask the questions that help shake, shape, and reshape our world.

Asking questions can be irritating, embarrassing, or downright dangerous. The Mandarin word for ‘question,’ 问题 (wèntí), also means ‘problem,’ and that’s how a lot of people think of questions.
So part of getting good at questions is developing the moral courage to ask, and the toughness to keep asking even in the face of resistance, avoidance, or obfuscation. A lifetime habit of asking questions: most people probably don’t think that sounds too great, all things considered.

But if you think it sounds like fun, we might be a good fit.

What do you think?

Your Passion + Our Vision = Your Edge

 

image Austin

imageLet us know what you think

We’re devoted to the business of you—we’ll help you invest in yourself, develop skills, market yourself, and jump on the countless opportunities out there for liberal-arts entrepreneurs—young leaders who know how to think, learn, communicate, and collaborate.

If you want to see for yourself, drop us a line or arrange a visit to one of our classes.

 

Business lessons, life lessons

[Big ideas you might encounter in our classrooms]

  • Face reality

    imageWhen hard-charging Jack Welch took over as CEO of General Electric in 1981, “face reality” was one of his key ideas.

    He traveled from division to division of GE’s farflung operations, talking to thousands of employees and urging them to take a hard look at their fast-changing competitive environment and question their long-standing assumptions.

    To drive change, Welch believed, he had to convince employees that change was necessary–and the best way to do that was a two-word mantra that he made the centerpiece of his communication: “Face reality.”

    Welch remains a controversial figure, with detractors as well as enthusiasts. His story of what he tried to do at General Electric, told in his memoir Jack: Straight from the Gut (2001), is a compelling picture of the drive and discipline it takes to succeed at the highest levels of corporate leadership.

     

  • 現地現物 [Genchi genbutsu], Go and see

    imageAt Toyota, when a manager faces a difficult problem, he or she is encouraged to get out of the office and “go and see” what the root cause of the problem is.

    This principle, “go and see” (genchi genbutsu in Japanese) is one of the core concepts of the Toyota Way, the set of simple but powerful ideas that have helped Toyota become the most successful and respected car company in the world.

    Jeffrey Liker, who spent two decades studying Toyota from the inside, describes how “Go and see” and Toyota’s other key ideas work in his best-selling The Toyota Way.

    Toyota’s approach has attracted so much attention that it has begun to train members of other organizations in how to apply the Toyota Way to their own operations. 

     

  • Know yourself

    imageIn “Managing Oneself” (1999), famed management scholar Peter Drucker observes that in order to manage others, one must first learn to manage oneself.

    To help do that, Drucker says, it’s essential to gauge one’s strengths, values, and learning style.

    Drucker describes one powerful technique for improving one’s effectiveness: “feedback analysis”:

    Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been practicing this method for 15 to 20 years, and every time I do it, I am surprised.

    Over the course of a career that spanned seven decades, the Austrian-born Drucker (1909-2005) produced a host of ideas that helped define modern business leadership. Now you know one of them!

     

  • Listen aggressively

    imageWhen Michael Abrashoff took over the Navy ship U.S.S. Benfold, he found low morale and low performance.

    He wanted to change things, and he wanted to change them fast.

    Realizing he didn’t have all the answers, he set out to find from his crew where they came from, what their goals were, and what ideas they had about how to make the ship function better.

    He interviewed his entire crew of 310 men and women, five a day, until he had talked to every crew member.

    What he learned changed how he led, and helped make the Benfold the highest-performing ship in the U.S. Navy.

    Brash, driven, and often dismissive of the Navy’s rigid ways, Abrashoff has many detractors, especially among career officers in the armed forces.

    But his success with the Benfold, as he tells it in his book It’s Your Ship, shows that it’s possible to turn frustration, failure, and low performance into success: at least if you start by making a commitment, as he says, to “listen aggressively.”

     

  • ¡Aprender Español!, ¡Learn Spanish!

    imageFrom Ryan Bankert ‘13, double-major in Business Management and Spanish. Ryan interned in Chile in summer 2012. He reflects on his experiences there and on learning Spanish:

    I’m sitting in a tourist van, headed to the Valle Nevado ski resort in the Andes. Three Brazilians are sitting to my front. To my left, there is a Frenchman, and to my right, a Dane.The driver and a tour guide, both Chilean, round out our group. 

    We are all chattering away, having a great time driving up into the Andes – in Spanish.

    Imagine this scene with a van full of monolinguals. Pretty quiet ride. Instead, people from four different countries got to talk business, life, and skiing. Just an hour up the mountains–but it made me grateful I’d chosen to start studying Spanish in school, and kept at it.

    Why Spanish? First, I fell in love with the language and culture after just a few classes. 

    Además, anybody interested in a career in business in America should recognize how practical Spanish is. If you speak Spanish you’ve got an instant connection with more than 50 million American citizens, with $1 trillion in buying power. “If Hispanic Americans were a nation,” Forbes says, “it would have the world’s ninth-largest economy.”

    And it’s a rapidly growing group, growing faster than any other demographic group in the U.S. In five years, Hispanics will represent 17% of the United States population. Businesses can’t afford to ignore Spanish, or those who speak it.

    Do you have to major in Spanish and become a fluent master of the language to succeed? No!

    But knowing a little Spanish language and culture can do wonders for you and your business. As José Cancela says in The Power of Business en Español, “Spanish connects with us on an emotional level. It builds trust. It builds affection. Even when you don’t speak it very well, we tend to like you for trying.”

    ¡Que todos sean bilingües!

  • Ask the limo driver

    imageZappos, the online retailer, is famous for its friendly, energetic customer service. CEO Tony Hsieh, who’s tried to build that positive energy into the company’s culture (Hsieh explains his approach in his best-selling book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.)

    Here’s one way Zappos does it.

    When Zappos interviews a job applicant, the company sends a limo to pick up her up at the airport.

    Afterwards, when the candidate has gone through her grueling interviews at headquarters and has flown back home, Zappos asks the limo driver how he was treated by the candidate.

    If the candidate was a jerk, she’s out, no matter how good an impression she made during her day at HQ.

    After all, Zappos reasons, it wants employees who treat people well even when they don’t think their job is on the line.

    Because in business, in the end, it actually is.

     

  • Imagine a world without plastic

    imageIn Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them, Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich explore the fascinating world of behavioral economics.

    Classical economics assumes that individuals are perfectly rational, but it turns out that in real life people often think irrationally about financial decisions. That’s the basic idea of behavioral economics.

    For instance, credit cards make it easy for us to run up high levels of debt, because the decision to buy is removed from the requirement to pay. If you’re careless with credit, Belsky and Gilovich suggest that “you start asking yourself how much you would pay for a prospective purchase if you were paying with cash out of your pocket.”

    None of us are perfectly rational about money, or anything else—but, as Belsky and Gilovich show, we can learn to control our irrational ways of thinking. When it comes to financial decisions, you might say it’s only rational to try.

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