When I arrived in Lansing, Michigan, for the NAMA Executive Development Program, my luggage was still in Chicago. I hoped this was not a sign of things to come.
I was uncomfortable enough about attending the program. It had been 18 years since I’d been in a college environment, and I was afraid I’d be out of my element. And I didn’t know any of my fellow students, which added to my anxiety.
The next day, I attended the opening session with Dr. Ronald Cichy. I was relieved to find out that we would be required to work only half a day. I had grand plans to explore the campus, frequent the spa and visit a few local pubs. I later learned that half a day meant 12 hours! My suitcase caught up with me that evening, but I would soon be knocked out of my comfort zone again.
Prior to the trip, all participants were required to read a case study of a fictitious operating company that was in a state of transition. Its aging owner was running it profitably, but he needed an exit strategy; and his managers, who wanted to buy the company, needed a business plan.
We were assigned to teams, each representing a specific department of the company. During the day, we attended lectures, presented by top-notch instructors, on a variety of subjects relevant to that case study. Topics ranged from financial planning and technology to customer service and negotiation.
In the evenings, after class, each group went to work, discussing and drafting the changes needed to position the company for a successful future. We addressed the issues facing our industry today: increased competition, the influx of new technologies, the growing application of new supply-chain strategies to the vending and OCS business, and growing human resources challenges.
What impressed me most was how quickly we became a team. When you put people in a stressful environment and then give them a specific challenge, it’s amazing how much they support each other. Working in teams enabled us to apply our own personal and professional experiences to our proposed solutions. We had ample opportunity to brainstorm and network, which allowed us to really get to know each other. I was able to observe at firsthand the difficulties faced by contemporary operators, from the operator’s perspective. And my colleagues got to learn what goes on behind the scenes at VENDING TIMES!
During the intensive, week-long program, I was encouraged to think about business from many different viewpoints. The experience broadened my perspective, which has helped me with my “real job” as president and publisher of VT.
The NAMA Executive Development Program at Michigan State University is not for lightweights. It is a challenging, thought-provoking – and inspiring – program. As a proud EDP graduate, I recommend the course wholeheartedly to anyone who wants to become a more effective leader, and to meet a great group of forward thinkers. I commend NAMA for working to develop tomorrow’s talent, a task necessary to ensure our future. Just don’t check your luggage!