The Most Important Thing in Business


By Randy Ataide

This will be an unusual blog post.

I just returned last night from several days at the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) annual meeting, where our very own Lynn Reaser presided over the four day event in her role as the outgoing President of this most prestigious organization. I was joined by Cathy Gallagher, Jose Munoz and Dieter Mauerman in our foray to Denver very early Saturday morning, and this was the third major NABE event I had attended. And it was there on Monday afternoon that the most important thing in business was made clear to me once again.

What is it like to rub shoulders with the economists and executives of the leading companies in the world including Google, Ford Motor, DuPont and FedEx? What about hearing first hand on government policy from the highest leaders of the Federal Reserve and the National Economic Council? Certainly, the counsel of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners is of supreme importance, correct? This seems like the ideal place to draw deeply from the incredible depth, experience and wisdom that is present at such functions. Right?

Well, not exactly. In many ways, I was inspired by what I heard from these people and many more. There are formidable challenges and issues facing all of us, and these are not mere academic exercises as was made clear by many presentations and discussions. Understanding economics, even on a basic level of supply, demand and the fundamental economic and policy forces, choices and decisions that are at play in all economies affect every person every day on the earth, and those to come after us. The need for economic literacy is more important than ever.

But what about the most important thing in business? Stated simply, it is about people, and finding, listening to, learning from and to use a biblical word, “imitating” people of quality. I say frequently in my classes at both the undergraduate and MBA level or in my public speaking that “You need to hang around smart people.” This is simply saying that based upon my own experience, observation and career, the role of mentoring is foundational. But this applies to not only the college undergraduate trying to make his or her way into a difficult job market, or the aspiring entrepreneur. It applies to all of us regardless of our career status, professional achievements and financial success. And while smart is important, when one finds smart and character in a mentor or role model, one is doubly blessed.

Yesterday during the NABE Presidential Address Luncheon, the four of us and hundreds of others sat and listened to Lynn give her perspective on the topic of what is permanent and what is transitional in the “New Economic Reality.” In her presentation we observed once again her extraordinary capacity to explain economics in a way, which in my opinion, is reserved to a few people in the world. It was interesting, understandable, timely and presented in such a way that the readers were engaged and inspired. What a gift PLNU, the FBEI, our students, faculty, staff, alumni and stakeholders have in Lynn!

But when the official “changing of the guard” came during the Luncheon, and NABE incoming President Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado came to the microphone to speak of Lynn and her qualifications, capacity and superb leadership of the NABE at a critical moment in its history, spearheading key initiatives to improve the relevancy, voice and membership of NABE, his voice cracked. In front of a silent room of the leaders of global economics, Richard spoke with an emotional voice of not only of these efforts of Lynn but also on her humility, grace, dignity, strength of character and other attributes that touched him so very deeply this past year.  Cathy, Jose, Dieter and I sat silently in agreement and inside knowledge, smiling as we knew what Richard was sharing was what we see in her every day, and have the supreme privilege of working with one of the most incredible people any of us have ever met.

So the people we meet of great character and capacity is really the most important thing in business. It is timeless and transcends organizations, eras and the ordinary measures of success or failure. I was reminded of the blessing we have of the choice of PLNU as where Dr. Lynn Reaser has chosen to work, and the positive impact she is making on many hundreds of people. Lynn, on behalf of all of us, thank-you for the privilege of working with you!

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One response to “The Most Important Thing in Business

  1. Randy:
    Great post and insight. You are so right on the mark on this one. As a PLNU grad, an entrepreneur and owner of my own company I daily face the challenge of keeping my company relevant and profitable, but true to the values that I hold close. In this tumultuous marketplace I am finding regular confirmation that it truly is about the people. When I seal a contract it is because someone is choosing to believe in me, not in my company. And the final result reflects on me, too, even though there are many people involved in the process. Having character and integrity pays off. The values I learned as a student at PLNU have served me well over the years and make my experience in the workplace meaningful….and fun! It is rewarding to bring quality and integrity forward in our work. Being a part of the PLNU community makes me proud.

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