October 31, 2013

GE executives share expertise, insights with students


Students received exclusive access to some of the world’s most influential business leaders as GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, GE Capital CFO Robert Green, and GE Capital Chief Marketing Officer Ian Forrest visited the Fisher College of Business campus this week.

The classroom discussions helped kick off the third annual National Middle Market Summit, hosted by Fisher, GE Capital, and the National Center for the Middle Market.

Immelt discussed GE’s focus on technology, customer outcomes, and leadership and culture. The globally known CEO also answered student questions and stressed the importance of lifelong learning.

“You are in school right now, but your education is just beginning,” he said. “Every good leader I’ve met, from people like (Amazon.com CEO) Jeff Bezos to big industrial leaders, all are good learners. They’re constantly students . . . They’re constantly looking for that next best idea.”

Immelt, who visited students prior to middle market summits in 2010 and 2011, also offered career advice.

“One of the most important things you can do when you leave here, in your first five or 10 years, is to take control of your own time,” he said. “The fact is, no matter where you go to work, you’re going to have vast control over your time. The best people do 100 percent of their work in 80 percent of their time — and they save 20 percent to do something new.”

Nearby in Gerlach Hall, Green shared with students an overview of his role at GE Capital, the company’s challenges before, during, and after the financial crisis, and the qualities of productive leadership.

“Candor and integrity have to be high. No matter what you say or portray as a leader, if you act differently you have no credibility,” said the GE Capital CFO. “The second element of good leadership is that you have to be able to sort through a lot of information and pick a clear strategy — a strategy that’s not only clear and that you can articulate, but that’s accurate in regards to what’s going on in the market.”

Forrest shared with students his perspectives and insights on marketing, from the importance of segmentation to having deep global knowledge.

“In the marketing field you have to strategically think about what’s known as well as what’s unknown,” he said. “And in today’s world, you are going to have to be global and have a deep understanding of individual global markets in which your company operates.”

Forrest also raised the importance of varied skill sets on teams: “I look for quantitative and creative skills to bring to teams – we find that the problem-solving lens only increases with differing skill sets.”

A “fireside chat” featuring Immelt and former U.S. president George W. Bush at Mershon Auditorium served as the official opening to the summit on Tuesday night. Speakers at Wednesday’s day-long event inside the Ohio Union included Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics; Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour; Donald Graham, CEO of the Washington Post Company; Anil Makhija, academic director of the National Center for the Middle Market; and many more.

Overall, the National Middle Market Summit brought together more than 1,000 CEOs, academics, policy makers and industry experts to discuss opportunities and challenges facing the middle market, a powerful segment of the U.S. economy accounting for nearly 200,000 companies, 44.5 million jobs and one-third of private sector GDP. Learn more about the summit.