Brian Dyson, former president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Enterprises, candidly spoke to a crowd of more than 150 students and faculty about his biggest business challenge Wednesday.
Dyson was the capstone speaker at the annual College of Business's Business Day and is the current president of Chatham International Corporation.
"My moment of truth was when I left my native Argentina for the United States. After my string of successes in South America I wasn't prepared at all. I had to face the facts. Failing at this hurdle was a sobering thought. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to turn the company around," Dyson said.
While he was overwhelmed after first joining the Coca-Cola Company in 1979, he knew the steps he had to take to achieve his objective. Dyson described this time in his career as the "winter of discontent," but offered advice to students about how to get over a similar hurdle by outlining five key points.
"First, show the flag. To be a leader you must be committed. Look the part. Look confident, like you always have a solution to the problem," Dyson said.
The second point he stressed was called "show time to buy time."
"Find a way to give yourself breathing room. I was overloaded with problems. I gave myself more time by planning something I called the Grand Convention in San Francisco. It created good will and gave myself an extra six months," Dyson said.
"Hire now and pay later" was his third piece of advice.
"I had to face up to a major shake up in Coca-Cola USA. There were good people in the company but they had lost their entrepreneurship. You do what you have to do to get results and force change," Dyson said.
Dyson also found that he had to learn from people in other markets in order to be successful in his market.
"I call this 'strategy on the fly.' I had to learn certain intricacies of the job," Dyson said.
"Managing up," or managing with a positive attitude was Dyson's last point. He stressed the importance to "show the light at the end of the tunnel or else people will grow restless."
Lacey Fuller, a senior business management major, attended the event in an effort to get a better idea of what to expect after graduation.
"He gave a lot of good advice. It's encouraging to know that people want you to have a life as well as a career," Fuller said.
Dyson ended his speech by giving graduates advice about entering the business world.
"Have a vision in life, be curious about the world and be confident about yourself," he said. You're an individual and as good as anyone else. Be proud of yourself and who you are."