50 Missourians You Should Know - Ingram's Kansas City Business Magazine

Once again, Ingram’s introduces 50 Missourians from all walks of business, people who help give the state its unique flavor and who live Show-Me every day.by Dennis Boone


This is why Benjamin Ola Akande, from most every success metric you can think of, elevates both Webster University’s business school and the broader St. Louis area: “Missouri needs to start thinking big ideas, transformational ideas that will move us,” he says. “We need to transform the way business is dealt with—in tourism, food technology, life sciences—and we need to be clear what our competitive advantage is, what we do that nobody else could do, even if they wanted to.” That kind of thinking has driven improvements at Webster’s George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology, where he’s been dean since 2000. During that time, student enrollments and graduation rates have risen by more than 40 percent within Webster’s largest academic unit. The Walker School is responsible for 63 percent—$136.8 million—of the institution’s $220 million total tuition revenue. A Nigerian by birth, Akande holds two master’s degrees (in public administration and economics) from the University of Oklahoma, where he also earned his doctorate in economics. If Akande were a stockbroker assessing the state, his recommendation would be “Buy!” Its emerging potential in life sciences and entrepreneurship, and its ability to bring top-level students in from around the world—and keep them here—are the transformational elements he says the state needs to leverage.

Go to Ingram's 50 Missourians You Should Know.

100 St. Louisans to Know - Small Business Monthly Magazine

April 2012, Small Business Monthly For his entire career, Dr. Benjamin Akande has been finding ways to help organizations go from where they are to where they want to be. As an economist by training, a professor of economics and dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University, Akande is dedicated to helping individuals, businesses and organizations thrive. “My world is participation on boards, supporting the education and success of young men and women, and shaping the strategy of organizations as a consultant,” says Akande, who is also chief of corporate partnership at Webster University for the past 11 years. Just as he has helped Webster University and its students reach new heights, he sets his sights high for the development of the St. Louis business community. Akande stays motivated by seeing positive results and says that when organizations are successful, society will be as well. “When people buy in to what organizations are doing, it benefits the people in the organization by making them more successful in society by bringing us all needed products or services and creating jobs and tax bases,” he says. “Then, when organizations are successful, they can give back to society. It’s a remarkable cycle.”

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‘Diversity vs. Conformity’ Vienna Alumni Symposium

Members of Vienna’s business community joined Webster University alumni, students and staff for a Nov. 7 panel discussion on the topic of diversity and conformity within companies, the many problems that can arise from having a diverse workforce and equally diverse clientele, and what aspects of conformity are needed to find success in the international marketplace. More than 200 people gathered in the beautiful Palais Eschenbach in Vienna’s first district for this 4th Webster Vienna Alumni Symposium, “Diversity versus Conformity: Finding a Balance that’s Right for Business.”

More video clips from the event available at: http://www.youtube.com/webstervienna.

Eric Frey, managing editor of Der Standard, acted as moderator and posed questions to the panelist that drew from their experiences and expertise.

The panel included:

  • Benjamin Ola. Akande, dean, George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology, Webster University
  • Thomas Hintze, managing director, UPC Austria
  • Felix Thun-Hohenstein, managing director, 3M Austria and Switzerland
  • Erno Karl, IBM Intellectual Property Licensing, Europe
  • Doris Tomanek, head of HR Austria and CEE, member of the Board, UniCredit Bank Austria
  • Samantha Yarwood, marketing director, Switzerland & Austria, Starbucks Coffee Company

While cultural diversity remained the main theme for the night, other issues were brought up as well, including gender diversity and generational differences. Tomanek noted that while over 50 percent of Bank Austria’s employees were women, they make up only 25-30 percent of the managerial team. She also mentioned the importance of a healthy mix of younger and more experienced workers.

Hope Is Not A Strategy

(CBS)  Benjamin Ola Akande is dean of the business school at Webster University in St. Louis. In this open letter to President Barack Obama, he offers his opinions on how to revive the economy and America's spirit.

Dear President Obama,

During the campaign, you offered America hope and promised to restore a civility and practicality to the nation's highest office so that, together, we could rise to the challenges and opportunities that lay at our doorstep. Now it's time to make some wise choices.

In your acceptance speech on the evening of Nov. 4, 2008, you were pointed in your statement that, "while we breathe, we hope." As president, your greatest challenge will be effectively leading a Cabinet of highly qualified and highly opinionated individuals who will undoubtedly have differing ideas on how best to resolve the major issues we face. Your leadership will be tested early and often, and while you have assured Americans that there will be setbacks and false starts, your willingness to make tough choices early on will set the tone for a revival of a shell-shocked economy and a battle-fatigued nation. Yet, the fact remains that hope will not reduce housing foreclosures. Hope does not stop a recession. Hope cannot create jobs. Hope will not prevent catastrophic failures of banks. Hope is not a strategy.

I would like to offer 10 priorities to consider:

1. The Deficit: Don't be concerned about increasing the deficit in the short term. There is an urgent need to stimulate the economy now -- not at any price, but almost. Your recovery plan must combine tax cuts and structured spending in areas that foster long-term economic growth, specifically energy, healthcare and education. This is one time when we need to act for today to ensure that tomorrow will be much better.

2. The Auto Industry: I want to urge you to reject extending additional bailout monies to the Big Three. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the best thing that can happen to these automakers. They need help quickly, but not in the form of government largesse. This is a time for "tough love" and not enabling poor performance, corporate arrogance and unwise decisions. They will thank you in the long run.

3. The New New Deal: There is urgency to rebuild America's roads and bridges, but the real opportunity is to anchor your recovery plan on a renewed energy policy that is timely and targeted. The imperative should entail: 1.) A green bailout for U.S. automakers; 2.) Green infrastructure; 3.) Tax credit for companies to produce alternative energy; 4.) A construction program for a new smart electric grid; and 5.) Increased investment in mass transit using green technology. The projects must be shovel-ready to get people back to work immediately.

4. 2009 Homeowner Protection Act: Now is the opportunity to change the bankruptcy laws to protect homeowners from the vagaries of the marketplace. We have expedited Chapter 11 bankruptcy for businesses to keep them from going under when they run into financial turbulence, and we should do no less for homeowners. It does no one any good to force poor and middle-income Americans out of their homes, and we know that vacant houses destroy even the best neighborhoods. An expedited homeowner protection plan would allow for the restructuring of the mortgages of millions of Americans who are under water. Stemming the flood of foreclosures will reinvigorate the confidence of banks and provide a shot in the arm for the credit market, putting the economy back on the right foot.

5. Strengthening Middle Class America: Your administration should push to expand the earned income tax credit as a relief measure for the middle class and give Americans making less than $150,000 a $500 tax credit per person on the first $8,100 in income. This will increase the rate of spending and the rate of savings by the middle class, which will be a source of new capital to spur growth.

6. A Health Plan for All: The greatest fear among most Americans is the possibility of losing their jobs; with the loss of jobs comes the real possibility of loss of health insurance. We need a comprehensive program that provides health insurance to the unemployed and to the uninsured, and it must happen post-haste. For a nation of our wealth to have any of our citizens go without heath care is nothing short of criminal.

7. Rewrite Financial Service Laws: One of the key reasons for the current financial crisis has been weak regulation of the financial services industry. There needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of enforcement policies of the Securities Exchange Commission. Require disclosure and stipulate new accounting requirements.

8. Restructure Bailout: The first $350 billion of the financial market bailout has done very little to jump-start the economy. The next $350 installment must be directed at assisting homeowners and expanding consumer credit.

9. Foster a Bipartisan Approach: Divisive politics got us into this mess - unifying politics can help get us out of it. The country can no longer afford to see things in terms of red and blue or black and white. The enduring solutions will emerge from the gray.

10. Caution to Consumers: President Obama, I urge you to use your presidential pulpit to speak to Americans, to encourage them to be cautious and prudent in their spending. While consumer spending is a key to the economic revival, at times it may be wise to counsel consumers to -- in the words of former St. Louis Fed President Bill Poole -- "Put their foot on the brake way before they get to the stop sign."

What America needs, more than ever, is your ability to give hope through your leadership. May you have the inner strength to move this nation from uncertainty to certainty. I wish you well.

My Best,

Benjamin Ola Akande

Boycotting BP gas stations would miss the mark, experts say

26-June-2010Published in: St. Louis Post Dispatch Author: Matthew Hathaway
Consumers can change the world simply by not buying — but boycotts don't always work that way.

Twenty years ago, South Africa was in the throes of cultural and economic isolation largely because consumers vowed to punish any companies doing business with the apartheid state. That international boycott is credited with helping bring down the country's racist system, and today a transformed South Africa is the focus of international sports as host of the World Cup.

If South Africa is the best example of just how mighty a consumer boycott can be, the campaign to punish BP might be its opposite - an ineffective response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that will most harshly affect small-business owners who had nothing to do with the disaster.

Yet this week, the Facebook page Boycott BP gained its 700,000th supporter.

And, in the real world, plenty of St. Louis consumers have stopped buying from BP stations, said Tracey Hughes, a spokeswoman for Wallis Cos. of Cuba, Mo., a distributor of gasoline to about 60 area BP stations.

"Everybody is feeling the impact, although there are pockets where the consumer backlash is stronger," said Hughes, who said some stations have reported double-digit declines in sales recently.

On Thursday, in a commentary published in USA Today, Public Citizen President Robert Weissman renewed that group's call for consumers to avoid BP stations for at least three months.

Innocents will suffer from a boycott, Weissman acknowledged, but "that can't be reason for consumers to forfeit their collective power to influence or punish bad-actor companies."

For a consumer boycott to work, business must feel its sting, either from lost sales or tarnished reputations, and they need to have a clear path to winning customers back. The apartheid-era boycott worked because it met both these criteria; the BP boycott does not, said Benjamin Ola Akande, the dean of Webster University's George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology and an expert in energy economics.

Boycotting gas stations flagged with the BP brand is, at most, a symbolic act that will have an insignificant impact on the company's bottom line, Akande said.

That's because BP owns fewer than 200 of about 11,000 stations bearing its logo. Those stations are owned by independent operators, and the gas they sell may or may not have been drilled by BP.

The oil giant does make money from these stations, but the company won't say how much. Industry experts have said that they believe it's insignificant and that the flagged stations' real value to BP are as platforms for corporate marketing.

Under a boycott, the flagged stations could become liabilities. They are the battlegrounds where boycotters can chip away at BP's cultivated public image, or at least that's the position of Public Citizen. In the long run, BP will suffer.

In the short term, the collateral damage of a boycott is overwhelmingly borne by independent operators who had no say in BP's drilling operations or gulf cleanup effort.

"If you're boycotting, you're missing your intended target," said Ronald Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. "You're hurting local businessmen, their employees, the people they buy products from ... even the Little League teams they sponsor."

To make any BP boycott even more difficult, the company makes plenty of money from stations not bearing the BP logo.

For instance, angry consumers could end up skipping BP-flagged stations that, in fact, are selling fuel that was drilled by other firms and taking their business to another chain — or a non-branded service station — only to fill up their tanks with petroleum that was drilled, transported and sold by BP.

Patrick Welch, an economics professor at St. Louis University, compares the BP boycott with car buyers shying away from Toyota after that company's recall of more than 8 million vehicles because of unintended acceleration problems.

Toyota must respond to consumers' concerns because it has no other choice. The automaker can't simply sell its inventory to a competitor. But because BP has that option, "it can, to a large degree if not completely, dodge the bullet of a boycott," Welch said.

Leone agrees.

"Let's assume a boycott works, it ultimately isn't going to hurt BP corporate because they'll just sell their crude on the open market," he said. "It's not like the product isn't going to be sold."

10 Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Networking

6-July-2010Published in: Monster.com Author: John Rossheim, Monster Senior Contributing Writer

In this age of metrics, it's tempting for job hunters to seek solace in the sheer numbers of their effort: 200 job postings answered, 300 resumes mailed, 400 business cards collected for the purposes of professional networking.

But if you think about how these brute-force employment campaigns affect the professional on the other side of the desk -- the HR recruiter, the networking contact in a powerful position -- it quickly becomes apparent that the rack-up-the-numbers networker is on the wrong track. That's because these days employers are looking to select a very few outstanding professionals from a tidal wave of good people who just want a job.

So in the end, the quality-oriented networker, the thoughtful individual who always tries to give better than he gets, should have the advantage. Here are 10 points to keep in mind as you emphasize quality over quantity in your professional networking.

1. Quantity Is a Turnoff

If you hand out business cards like you're dealing poker, most folks will fold. "People don't want to do business with a card thruster," says Shel Horowitz, a marketing consultant in Hadley, Massachusetts. In fact, speed networking probably does not yield the best return on your investment of time. "Quantity networkers are forgettable individuals," says Benjamin Akande, dean of Webster University's George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology. "If a guy is just looking for his next consulting contract, I don't want to know him."

2. Don't Work the Room

Don't kid yourself: If you're always on the lookout for the next professional hookup, people will take offense. "When people spend 50 percent of the time looking over my shoulder, I don't feel warm and fuzzy," says Sally Haver, a senior vice president at The Ayers Group, an HR consultancy in New York City.

3. Take Time to Make a Real Connection

When you and a new acquaintance seem attuned, take time to explore how you might help each other out. "A lot of people figure that coming back from a networking opportunity with just one contact makes it a failure," Horowitz says. "But my hour with one good contact makes it a success."

4. Make Your Case for Building a Relationship

Recognize that if you're between jobs, you probably have more discretionary time than most of your valuable networking contacts do. "People are overrun with requests," Haver says. "Unless there's a compelling reason for someone to meet with you, they won't make the time." So work hard to make yourself useful.

5. Exchange Stories

Don't forget that you are more than the professional objective at the top of your resume. "Networking is about telling your story, describing your human competitive advantage -- what you do that nobody else can do," Akande says. And ask a new contact to tell you her story. "At the start of a professional relationship, I ask questions to get unique pieces of information about the person," Haver says.

6. Respond to Others' Challenges

There's no better way to establish a business networking relationship than to contribute to the solution of your new contact's pressing problem. "If someone states a challenge that they're facing, respond -- no later than the next morning -- with something of value that addresses their issue," says John Felkins, president of Accelerant Consulting Group, an organizational development consultancy in Bartlett, Tennessee.

7. Set Yourself Up for the Next Contact

If you intuit that a new contact will have lasting value, start building a bridge to your next exchange before you say your first good-bye. "I ask people what they�re working on right now, which gives me a segue to another contact," says Akande. "I make notes so that the next time I can say, 'You mentioned in our last conversation...'"

8. Make Yourself Useful, Again and Again

"If you consistently position yourself as a resource to others -- fellow college alums, former colleagues -- it will make you more valuable to your contacts, and, in turn, their contacts, as time goes by," says Amanda Guisbond, an account executive in the Boston office of PR agency Shift Communications.

9. Don't Forget Social Media

Social media are powerful tools for professional networking when used judiciously. But spam is distasteful no matter what the social medium du jour. So be selective, and use virtual contacts to supplement, not supplant, face-to-face meetings. As Horowitz puts it: "Social networking is deeply reinforced by an in-person connection."

10. Mind These Three Watchwords for Quality

Looking for a slogan to sum up quality networking? Try Haver's: Selectivity, discretion, mindfulness.