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Distinguished Alumni Give Back to the Business SchoolDistinguished Alumni Give Back to the Business School
Distinguished alumni offered insights about strategies and characteristics of success, based on their careers.

Key characteristics for business success don’t always come from the classroom.

“We hire for the traits that can’t be taught,” said David Storch ’75, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of AAR Corp., at a School of Business Distinguished Alumnus Lecture this year.

His company, which provides products and services for the aviation/aerospace industry, looks for people who are “motivated, excited, and switched on.”

When Dayna Kleinman ’93 interviews job applicants, she looks for “gumption and grit.”

Kleinman, first vice president and senior product manager of alternative investments at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Chicago, says she likes people who talk about “being a go-getter, taking charge of a situation but doing it respectfully.”

Storch delivered the Distinguished Alumnus Lecture in the fall semester, Kleinman in the spring. They offered insights about strategies and characteristics of success, based on their careers.

Storch graduated from Ithaca with a bachelor of arts. After a year selling shoes, he joined Communications Channels as a sales trainee, selling magazine ads in New York City. He became branch manager in Chicago in 1977 and joined AAR, headquartered in Wood Dale, Ill., as a research manager in 1979. After stints as a purchasing manager, manager of engine parts sales, and president of AAR Trading Group, he was named president and chief operating officer in 1989. He became chief executive officer in 1996 and has served as chairman and CEO since 2005.

He served on the college’s Board of Trustees and is a member of the President’s Roundtable. In recognition of his support of the business school building project, the David P. Storch Moot Boardroom was dedicated during his appearance in November.

In 2010, Forbes magazine named AAR one of its “Most Trustworthy Companies.” Founded in 1951, AAR is known for a close-to-the-customer business model and a dedication to maintaining high levels of quality, safety, and service. It has 6,000 employees in 13 countries.

In his address, Storch noted AAR’s customer-centric business model and emphasized three principles for executives: keeping your finances in check, staying close to your customers, and seeking out opportunities and taking risks. This, he said, puts the odds in your favor.

“The US economy is affected by world events that we cannot control, creating a series of up-and-down cycles,” he said. “The up-cycles provide opportunities for businesses to capitalize on changed market conditions, assuming that they’ve done their homework.”

In the turbulent economy of the past five years, AAR’s sales have increased from $1.061 billion in FY 2007 to a projected $1.7 billion in FY 2011.

Be the best you can be, Storch told students. It all depends on a person’s attitude. Forty-six percent of new hires will fail within 18 months, and 89 percent of the failures are for attitudinal reasons, not skills.

“Traits like coachability, emotional intelligence, and temperament determine whether people succeed or fail,” he said. “Don’t seek out or stay in a job you don’t really like. Choose what you love and you’ll excel – in school, in work, in life.”

Kleinman conveyed a more personal message in discussing the characteristics and challenges of success. In describing the characteristics, she began her presentation by putting a picture of her as a baby on the screen.

“I told a story that my mother tells often of when I was in preschool. I’d finish my work and then get up and finish the work of the person next to me,” she said.

That’s the work ethic. Pay your dues, for nothing comes easily, she said.

She also told students to take matters into their own hands, never see roadblocks, think outside the box. In high school, she initially interviewed at Cornell and then “went down the road to look at a smaller school, where I could be a big fish in a small pond.”

Involvement in extracurricular activities is important. She was president of the American Marketing Association chapter as an upperclassman and remembers arranging a campus presentation by an Anheuser Busch vice president.

“And having humility and a little humor about yourself never hurts,” she added.

Kleinman earned a bachelor of science from IC and her MBA from DePaul University. She holds the FINRA Series 7, 63, 66, 53, 3, 31 and 24 licenses.

Before joining Baird, she was a regional manager for municipal bond marketing at Merrill Lynch. At Baird, she started in marketing and product development for the fixed income department. For alternative investments – such as structured products, managed futures, and hedging strategies – she oversees product development, education, marketing and due diligence.

Today’s economic environment challenges students seeking a first job, she said, as they are competing against people two or three years out of college who are still seeking work and those who’ve been laid off.

Gender is also an issue, she said, speaking as a woman in a traditional man’s industry, financial services. “There’s the life balance issue that men never have to face,” said Kleinman, the mother of two. She’s arranged a four-day workweek with Fridays off.

“Women communicate differently. We don’t always ask for what we need,” she said. “Hard work alone isn’t always going to get you recognition or a promotion. You have to step up and ask for what you want. I asked for and negotiated for my Fridays.”

Other alumni speakers this semester included Chris Burch ’76, chairman of J. Christopher Capital, and David Sargoy ’79, director of the commercial real estate division of Brown Harris Stevens Commercial Real Estate of Long Island.

They likely would agree with Kleinman about one way Ithaca prepared them for the business world: group projects.

“Whether it’s in front of two people, 10 people, or 100 people, you have to get over any fear of speaking in public,” she said. “Getting up and presenting your project in your classroom gives you a big advantage in communications skills.’’

 


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