Leaders Forum 2006
In an unprecedented three-week Leaders Forum series, SOM students had the opportunity to hear from and question three distinguished business leaders, Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Renault S.A.S., investment banker and turnaround financier Wilbur Ross, chairman of WL Ross & Co., LLC, and Fred Smith, president, chairman, and CEO of FedEx Corporation.
Ross kicked off the series on November 21, 2006, by discussing the issue of globalization and how it is the most powerful economic force in the world today. Known as a turn around specialist, Ross is involved in the restructuring of more than $200 billion of defaulted companies' assets around the world, primarily in the steel, coal, and textile industries. “If you can figure out the biggest problems the industry has and deal with them in a very direct fashion, you can change the entire industry even one as mature and even one as written off as steel,” noted Ross.
Students had another opportunity to question a turn around specialist, Carlos Ghosn. Ghosn is well-known for rescuing Nissan and implementing the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the first of its kind involving a Japanese and a French company. “Inside the Alliance: The Win-Win Nature of a Unique Business Model” was the focus of his talk. Ghosn noted, "I think this is a very important concept because even though for most of us coming from the 20th Century, we’re still influenced by the old systems of doing business, but going into the 21st Century, alliance and partnership between corporations are going to become much more common."
To wrap up the three-week Leaders Forum series, Fred Smith spoke to students about some of the major macroeconomic trends that FedEx faces today – steady migration from simple products to high tech products, the continued march of globalization, the emergence of the internet, and the adoption of fast cycle supply chains. FedEx was the brainchild of Fred Smith, who recognized in the late 1960s that the U.S. was becoming a service-oriented economy with a need for reliable, overnight delivery services. Smith found investors willing to contribute to his idea and began building what is now the world's #1 express transportation company. “I think as an entrepreneur you have to have three things, a solid business idea, a good plan, be team-oriented, and determined and committed.”