Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning from a Top Executive, who is also an Alum

Today, my students in my undergraduate transportation & logistics class and I had the distinct pleasure of having Mr. Marc Schneider, the President of Phillips-Van Heusen's (PVH) Dress Furnishings Division, who is based on Madison Ave. in NYC, speak to us at the Isenberg School of Management. Mr. Schneider is an alumnus of the Isenberg School and I had asked him to speak on his "life experiences" and "lessons learned." I had met Mr. Schneider last Spring when he came to reconnect with the campus and I enjoyed him so much that when the opportunity arose to have him come back, I could not turn it down.

To make the occasion even more festive, and since the students had done well on their midterm exam, I brought Italian cookies from our favorite bakery in West Springfield, which were beautifully wrapped up and beribboned.

Having a top executive come to a class is meaningful in numerous ways. Students get to learn from a true expert and they get to ask questions on topics that interest them. This class consists of seniors who are majoring in operations management plus an exchange student from Hong Kong. The students are beginning to job hunt and several have already had interviews with major corporations.

Mr. Schneider was simply fantastic and since the majority of the students are from Massachusetts it was especially meaningful for them to see someone else born and bred in Massachusetts who had graduated from the school that they now attend who has been so successful.

Mr. Schneider began his career with Macy's in its training program, and held 14 different positions in 14 years, rising up to management. He was Executive Vice President of Bob's Stores and then Senior Vice President of Global Product Management at Timberland, a company renowned for its environmental concerns and emphasis on corporate social responsibility. Prior to his present position, he was President of PVH's Timberland Sportswear Division.

Mr. Schneider spoke on the importance of having objectives and a strategy (and emphasized the great professor that he had had at UMass Amherst -- Professor George Odiorne who had written numerous books on Management by Objectives).

He told us not to sit on the sidelines, but to always come to the table and to be willing to play the game with a lot of energy.

He emphasized the importance of leadership to inspire and to be inspired.

He also told the students the importance of relationships and how the people that they know form the "connective tissue" that make everything else possible. He spoke about hiring the individuals who are now Presidents of Coach and Gap, respectively, and the importance of excellent employees.

Mr. Schneider also extolled the specialness of travel and the associated experiences.

It was so interesting and fun to hear him speak about outsourcing, the bottom line issues of logistics and operations (just perfect for this class), efficiencies in warehousing and the movement of products, and deciding on whether to ship by boat or by air. He even spoke about service associated with apparel in stores and how his company deals with not only Walmart and Target but also with Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom's. He told us that it costs $.50 to ship 1 tie and $3.50 to ship 1 shirt! His business travels take him regularly to Italy (to glorious Como, one of my favorite spots on this planet) and to China (especially Shanghai) and even to Africa.

He also spoke about the value equation and asked the students what, in their opinion, constitutes value.

Mr. Schneider's energy and knowledge plus passion for what he does filled the classroom and the time was too short (as all great visits are)!

Thank you, Mr. Marc Schneider, for your visit today to the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst! You inspired and educated all of us.