Education: Undergraduate degree in transportation, University of Arizona; MBA, international economics, City University of New York; master’s degree, Liberal Arts, St. Johns College
Whom have you most admired in business and why?
There have been several people like Mike Walsh, the former CEO of Union Pacific Railroad, and Jim Allen, senior partner with Booz Allen Hamilton. Jim was a very thoughtful business executive, who always kept his calm and his focus on people, even when faced with difficult market conditions. He also had a knack for seeing around corners and anticipating the future.
What is the greatest business challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
In the early 1980s, the boom of imports from Asia wasn’t anticipated, and there was no effective way to transport the goods across country. I was part of a team that bet our entire company on the success of the double-stack train. What we proposed would mean that customers could send the freight on trains, instead of sending the containers on ships, all the way through the Panama Canal to go across the country. But it had never been done before, and really what we did was to take an obstacle and turn it into an opportunity. We had no way of knowing whether companies would eventually opt out of using the Panama Canal, and if it hadn’t worked, we would have been gone.
What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned?
Profitable execution is just as important as having a great strategy. It’s not enough to have a great idea, you have to get things done in the right way and you have to construct teams, so they can execute. It’s really the balance of all three that creates success.