The Frey file Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2010

Born: Binghamton, N.Y.


Education: B.S. degree in industrial engineering, The University of Rhode Island; MBA, Harvard University

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

My first job out of college, I was an industrial engineer for a company called Polytechnic Research and Development, working on computerized, electronic checkout systems for naval aircraft. I had a very strong leader in that job. He taught me what he called a box theory. That is when you have an area of responsibility in your box, you not only have to do what you’re supposed to do but you have to get other people to do what they have to do for the support that you need. He never let anyone off the hook for not achieving what they were supposed to achieve by saying, ‘Well, this other person didn’t give me what I needed and that’s the reason.’

We had meetings every Monday morning where you went through what you were supposed to accomplish the week before. To give you an idea of how intense they were, we subordinate managers called them Bloody Monday.

What is your definition of success?

Success is to be as good a person as I can be and contribute as much as I’m capable of contributing to whatever endeavor I’m involved in, whether that’s my job, my family, my community and my faith.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

The CEO of the corporation where I spent most of my career, it was called General Signal, was Nathan Owen. He was a financial business guy and I was an up-and-coming manufacturing guy. He was advising me, and he said, ‘You manufacturing guys think factories and equipment are big capital investments.’ But he advised me, ‘Brand value is the most expensive capital to obtain and the most valuable to own.’ That probably has influenced me. We consider our strategy a brand strategy.