Executive Education Program Benefits Minority Businesses

The 2013 class of the Foster School of Business Minority Business Executive Program

The 2013 class of the Foster School of Business Minority Business Executive Program

On June 14, the University of Washington Foster School of Business will welcome the 2015 class of its Minority Business Executive Program.

Now in its eighth year, the program is designed for executives of minority and women-owned businesses from all around the country and the world. For one week, about 30 executives learn about strategy, leadership, supply chain management, accounting, and marketing in lectures, panels, and group discussions. Classes start daily at 8 a.m., end at 6 p.m., and are followed by group dinners, with students having assignments to work on at night.

The program isn’t for companies that have just opened their doors, says Jennifer Lang, director for executive education at the Foster School of Business. Participants must have minimum revenue of $300,000, with some companies attending earning $40 to $50 million.

The program is “for people who are looking to grow, expand, perhaps take things global. We’re really looking for established organizations,” Lang said. “We like to see it as helping these businesses grow.”

Program attendees learn in lecture settings, as well as in team exercises and panels

Program attendees learn in lecture settings, as well as in team exercises and panels

UW’s MBE program is unique in that “we focus on developing the entire management team. We want the CEO to come, but we want the CFO, the COO, the marketing manager, and the other executives to come too,” said Michael Verchot, director of Foster’s Consulting and Business Development Center. “Gone are the days when one person makes all the decisions.”

Dennis Brooks, president of certified minority business enterprise Trio Group, attended the program in 2013. The following year, Trio’s Executive Vice President Jeff Quint attended. This year, Trio will be sending Senior Account Executive Trevor Amack.

According to Brooks, the program is “well thought of and well put together.” He found he benefited from the coursework focused on company financials, “an area where executives don’t spend a lot of time as they should,” he said.

Brooks also appreciated the focus on leadership and marketing. “Here I am, a marketer, and I learned a thing or two about marketing,” he said. And, he added, the interaction with classmates was “exceptional,” leading to lasting business relationships and new clients.

Verchot says the program is distinctive in its emphasis on global operations. “What we hear from our sponsors is that these businesses and these corporate supply chains need to be globally competitive,” he said. Through the program, the businesses learn how to operate, how to compete, and how to win on a global scale.

The curriculum also features guest speakers and team exercises focused on minority- and women-owned business management—“it’s customized for the unique challenges that they face,” Lang said.

“The program wouldn’t exist without the partnership of the Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council,” Verchot said. “We had been pitching the idea to the Council and its MBE Input Committee for years.” President & CEO Fernando Martinez “was the one who got it” and helped launch the program, brokering relationships between program staff and corporations.

Martinez “is also really great about conveying the values of the program. His contacts, his connections are really invaluable,” Lang said. Both Martinez and his national counterpart, Joset Wright-Lacy, attend parts of the program each year.

Tuition to attend is $4,250. Roughly 90 percent of each class is self-funded. Sponsors include the Northwest Mountain MSDC, Boeing, Microsoft, Zones, Inc., Multnomah County, Union Bank, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the National MSDC support the remaining 10 percent. Through annual efforts such as awards dinner and silent auction in the spring and the upcoming scholarship fundraiser, the Council is able to sponsor two participants.

Verchot’s top goal “is to increase the number of corporations that sponsor their supply chain partners to attend the course.” The second goal is to increase class sizes to 40. “The diversity of industries that are represented in each class really enhances the dynamic of the discussion,” he said. The “cross-industry fertilization” is accompanied by the “cross-geographic learning” that comes from the presence of attendees from other countries.

Trio’s Trevor Amack says he is looking forward to the learning experience. “I’m hoping to better understand business executives’ mindsets,” he said. “How can I help businesses move forward in their efficiency, their effectiveness in the marketplace? How can I interact with them and understand the business side? In what way can my services get them there?”

Brooks hopes the program will give Amack the “30,000-foot view, that strategy view of business” as well as “understand there’s a tactical side and then there are the daily aspects of business, the growth side,” he said. “This program—it stacks up against an Ivy League school.”

For more information about the Minority Business Executive Program, visit www.staging.foster.washington.edu/executive/mbep. The deadline to apply for this year’s class was June 1, but interested parties can always join the mailing list.