Leaders in Business provides forum for discussion on growth

More than 100 area executives joined 30 Olin Business School student leaders at Washington University in St. Louis in discussing topics from U.S. economic policy to business growth during the third annual Leaders in Business Summit Oct. 14 in the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center.

CEOs and top officials from industry leaders such as Deloitte, Edward Jones, Emerson, Energizer Holdings, Harbour Group, MEMC Electronics Materials Inc., The Roberts Companies, UniGroup and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis participated in the half-day event, hosted by the Olin Business School and Deloitte.

Titled “The Challenges and Secrets to Growth,” the event’s panel discussions, moderated by Olin and School of Law faculty, covered topics from factors that hinder business growth to what helps businesses succeed, especially in challenging economic times.

Each panel presentation was followed by a lively exchange with audience members.

“I am pleased that so many business leaders are here to participate in the summit,” says Mahendra R. Gupta, PhD, dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management. “This is an excellent opportunity for our students to interact with and learn from some of the top managers in business and how they face the challenges of growth.”

James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, presented the David R. Calhoun Jr. Memorial Lecture, sharing his insights on the continued U.S. economic recovery, monetary policy and the challenges that lie ahead.

Bullard, an international leader in monetary policy research, shared a cautiously optimistic outlook for the economy. He says the economy may not be quite as bad as many think it is, with Gross Domestic Product having recovered to nearly its pre-recession level. Bullard says the U.S. will be in “slow growth mode” for a while, but will not dip back into another recession. Bullard also discussed the European debt crisis and this summer’s messy debate over the debt ceiling.

Edward L. Monser, president and chief operating officer of Emerson, began the summit with a presentation on “Spirited Growth in a Slowing World.” Drawing on more than 25 years of experience in senior operational positions at Emerson, Monser addressed the challenges companies face as they prepare to grow in the “new normal” economy.

He says that high levels of debt and unemployment will continue to slow the mature economies’ growth while emerging markets will continue to grow, driven by an emerging of the middle class.

Factors that hinder business growth was the topic of a discussion led by Richard McClure, president of UniGroup, Jim Weddle, managing partner of Edward Jones, and Robert Campbell III, vice chairman and U.S. state government leader at Deloitte. The session was moderated by Stephen Nowlis, PhD, the August A. Busch Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Olin.

The panelists discussed strategies for growth and how companies can learn to recognize and overcome the hurdles that face all businesses on the growth track.

Adrienne Davis, JD, WUSTL vice provost and the William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law, moderated a discussion on factors that help businesses succeed. Michael Roberts, chair and CEO of The Roberts Companies, Jeff Fox, chair and CEO of Harbour Group, and Ahmed Chatila, president and CEO of MEMC, participated in the panel.

The group shared insights and tactics for mapping strategies and reaching profitable and sustainable growth.

Those in attendance said the summit provided a great learning opportunity.

“To have different participants in different fields articulate how their companies and their industries are affected (by the economy) has definitely made a major impact on my thinking,” says Alexander Haimann, second year MBA student. “At least I know that as a student here at the Olin Business School, I’m not just sort of academically focused on these issues but they are, in fact, of major interest and concern to other business leaders as well.”

“We are excited to co-sponsor this summit and the candid exchange of ideas it promotes,” says Rodney Kinzinger, managing partner of St. Louis Deloitte. “This event provides a great opportunity for executives to take stock of what their companies are doing and to examine how, even in this economic recovery, there are ways to promote growth and new ideas.”