By Marcos Solloso, Jason Acevedo, Wasique Iqbal, and Santiago Vallinas
On hearing Larry Culp, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School, Hillman student Jason Acevedo reported, “As soon as Culp started his lecture I was able to notice that he is a great person. Even though I knew he was a very respected and important man, I felt like I’d known him because of the way he was talking with us and his jokes. It was as if he was talking to his close friends or family. I could tell he is a very humble human being, and that made me want to be like him.”
On Wednesday, February 7, 2018, a cadre of four Hillman Entrepreneurs attended a Macklin Business Institute Distinguished Lecture featuring Larry Culp, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and Senior Advisor to Bain Capital Private Equity Group. Culp is well-known because of his time at Danaher Corporation as the Chief Executive Officer and President. During his time at Danaher (2000-2014), the company increased revenues and its market capitalization five-fold to $20 billion and $50 billion, respectively. Harvard Business Review named Culp one of the Top 50 CEOs in the world. We were indeed fortunate to have him speak at Montgomery College!
Culp’s lecture focused on leadership, management, and the importance of making a connection with anyone you work with on a personal and professional level as well as in the business world. Below are the insights that the Hillman students gleaned from this extraordinary event.
First, Hillman students Marcos Sollosos and Wasique Iqbal were both struck that Culp is from the Rockville area and went to Magruder High School (where they both attended as well) and that as a lecturer for the MBA program at Harvard, he found out that two of his students went to Montgomery College, and that one of them lived in the same area where Culp grew up. As Sollosos noted, “real-life examples prove how easy it can be to create a connection with people around you, and how important it is.” It was also this initial connection that led Culp to reach out for this opportunity to speak to students here at MC. And throughout his lecture, Culp reflected the importance of making a personal connection with others—while demonstrating its impact in real time.
Culp also stressed the importance of knowing what your goal is and in finding ways to improve as a leader. He gave an example of the type of leaders that “throw the dart and draw the target around it.” Culp mentioned that there are many leaders like that, but that is not the way to be a successful leader. Culp also stressed that “people’s decisions are what really matters in being a CEO.” He noted that “In today’s market place, you should have high expectations and be ready to lose and live to tell the experience.”
Culp touched as well on the importance of problem solving. He believes that in business, problems scare people, but that “a customer’s problem is an opportunity to be a do better.” He suggested that leaders “have to ask the question “why?” at least five times” in order to really understand what the problem is. “Keep asking why until you get to root cause,” he stressed.
Hillman student Wasique Iqbal was impressed by Culp’s discussion about the importance of “substance over superficiality,” or “pretending to do work or doing it just for show without commitment is not going to get you anywhere.” Iqbal took to hear the message that Culp’s success was based on doing his best to perform instead of trying the climb the ladder.
The benefits of being a leader as well as being able to connect with individuals are that there is a better sense of trust and being more open about the problem at hand. Because of this, Mr. Culp was able to deduce problems from employees and not blame them for it but to work through the problem together. Mr. Culp mentions how many places function like this where the subordinate is to blame for poor performance or any issues. When he saw a business that performed well and worked like that he would buy them off young and change the work culture to attack the problems together as a unit, resulting in better and more efficient workplace.
The students in the Hillman Program, not shying away from such an opportunity, spoke with Culp after the lecture. In this informal conversation, Culp reiterated that it is essential for people in his position to think in terms of disruption, the focus of our current course in the program. When Sollosos shared with Culp that the Hillman Entrepreneurial program is currently looking at disruptive ideas. Sollosos reported that “Mr. Culp was happy to see me and the other Hillman students there understanding and practicing these ideas.”
Sollosos shared the most important lessons in leadership that he learned from Culp: “1) be nice to everyone you meet, 2) find opportunities to actively connect with people, and 3) look for people around you and create life lasting bonds.” Acevedo concluded, “I would use what I learned in Larry Culp’s lecture to first become a better person and then delivering that to others in order to be successful. I learned that being humble is the key to make connections. Starting from yourself and your inside will lead you to a successful environment.” Iqbal concurred with this conclusion: “The advice he had was to use the word “we” more and to be honest and proud of your failures. I will remember Mr. Culp’s advice and do my best to apply it to my career.”