Some of the most powerful minds in the business world gathered last week at the University of Miami for a two-day-long conference that explored not only the state of the current economy but also the ways in which increased connectivity affects the business world.
“It gave a lot of exposure” said Eliana Baddour, a sophomore who volunteered at the event. “Having all these people gathered and hear them talk doesn’t happen everyday.”
The speakers, which included CEOs of companies such as FedEx, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, discussed the role that technology has had in shaping the modern business climate and how it has drastically reduced the distance not only between countries, but also between markets.
“We live in a world where we’re one click away from each other” said UM alumna Frances Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa, formerly the president of the U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. “What happens on Wall Street can be felt miles away in real time.”
Aldrich Sevilla-Sacasa also called for increased regulation and more aggressive enforcement of transparency in the business world as a way to prevent future economic crisis. She also emphasized the importance of the entrepreneur as a driving economic force and the source of most of today’s world wealth.
“Today’s future business leader is anyone with a laptop and a burning passion,” said Jim Skinner, the vice chairman and CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation.
Skinner also outlined what he believed to be the three most important principles in today’s business world. The first, he argued, is speed and the ability to innovate faster, citing Apple as a forefront example of the principle of urgency.
The second principle is to be consumer-centered. He argued that the drive to innovate and expand should never come at the consumer’s expense. He cited McDonald’s own rough patch two years ago as an example of why firms that always keep their costumers in mind are the ones that succeed.
“We took our eyes off our fries,” Skinner joked.
The third principle is the importance of business owners and leaders being good global citizens and leave a positive footprint in the communities they touch.
The conference also focused on outlining the future of the business world and how to better prepare the students to become tomorrow’s business leaders.
“These business leaders are where they are because they’ve provided innovation,” Baddour said. “As a business student, it made me think about what the world is calling for and how I can contribute to it.”
According to Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, the most important characteristics needed to succeed in the business world are initiative and innovation. He also underscored the importance of what he called “generosity of spirit,” the manager’s ability to motivate and encourage their team to achieve their full potential.
He advised younger generations to “move faster” and not be so scared to act upon their instincts.
“Ask anyone, no one will tell you they wished they had waited six more months to ask that girl out or close that deal,” Welch said. “Don’t be afraid to shatter glass.”
Welch encouraged students to learn from everyone around them, mimic the best in everyone and read voraciously instead of getting just one mentor and following only their vision. He urged students to be comfortable in their own shoes and be confident in their own abilities.
He also advised the university to “teach today” in order to stay on the cutting edge and avoid lagging behind.