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In Market: Learning from the best

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Want to feel like a student? Listen to some advice

In 1969, the then primarily commuter school called The University of Texas at Arlington saw its College of Business receive initial accreditation.

That, from the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. In 1977, the college moved into a 157,810-square-foot building dedicated by Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe in January 1978.

Things have speeded up considerably since then. This year, the school’s MBA program was ranked No. 82 among 296 programs evaluated by U.S. News & World Report, the first time the school has been ranked.

Not bad for turning 50.

So little surprise that for the college’s executive dinner on April 4, it attracted some heavy hitters from the business world:

Matthew Rose, executive chairman, BNSF Railway

Thomas Falk, CEO and chairman of the board, Kimberly-Clark

Robert Kaplan, president, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Not a bad lineup. They’ve all done well in the rock and roll world of big business.

They all had some scolding to offer the country’s politicians, even though they were optimistic about the future.

Quoting Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Falk said, ‘“Americans will ultimately do the right thing, but only after they’ve exhausted all the other possibilities.’”

But these high-fliers had some advice for those just starting out in their careers or those of us who occasionally need a refresher course to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Kimberly-Clark’s Falk gave the students in the audience a “big promotion.”

“You’re all CEO of your own career,” he said. He then told them CEOs have to do three things. “Deliver results, whatever job it is; do more than what is expected,” he said. Second, he said, have a plan. “You don’t have to have the rest of your life figured out, but at least have a plan.” The third component was to always keep learning. “If you think you’re done learning when you get out of school, you’re not.”

Earlier, asked about being a mentor to younger colleagues, Falk said he used a reverse mentor system. He would choose a young person in his organization and learn from them.

BNSF’s Rose cautioned the students: “Don’t let anybody else shape your opportunity. Don’t give up. I see lots of people come through from very humble beginnings.”

The Federal Reserve’s Kaplan had some similar advice. “Take ownership of your life,” he said. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses, he said. To do that, he said, you need to develop relationships with people who care enough about you that they will tell you the truth about yourself.

And he told the audience to figure out what their passions are. “If you love what you do, it’s a lot easier to keep doing what you’re doing,” he said.

If you want to become a leader, he said, accept the fact that being a leader is “like getting in shape or losing weight, it never ends. You will be doing it the rest of your life.”

There, I feel like a better informed student already.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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