30 Jun 2019


Alumni in France honor self-made entrepreneurs; Shih talks trade in Buffalo

by Margie Kelley

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Clubs News

Buffalo Alumni Explore the Future of Manufacturing Amid Global Turbulence

The HBS Club of Buffalo hosted HBS Professor Willy Shih as a guest speaker in April for a talk on the impacts of global trade disputes on manufacturing in Western New York. Shih, the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration, teaches in the MBA and Executive Education programs. According to HBSCB president Bing Sherrill (MBA 1962), about 45 alumni from HBS, Harvard College, and MIT attended the event, in which Shih talked about the current and future status of manufacturing, against the background of the evolving U.S.-China trade challenges. The talk was followed by a Q & A session and reception.

Shih shared his expertise in manufacturing and product development across multiple industries to illuminate the current disruptions in global trade policy.

“Before his talk, Professor Shih toured three Moog factories in the Buffalo area,” says Sherrill. Moog Inc., which is currently headed by CEO John Scannell (MBA 1999), is a leading aerospace manufacturer, producing critical components for both commercial and military aircraft.

“The employees enthusiastically showed him the parts and assemblies they are building for various aircraft and space vehicles, as well as industrial process controls. His interest and knowledge impressed everyone,” Sherrill adds.

Shih says he jumped at the chance to go to the Buffalo area to explore the local manufacturing scene firsthand so he could address it directly with HBS alumni and guests from local industry and area colleges that evening.

“I study industrial competitiveness, so wherever I may be going, I try to take a tour,” says Shih. “Visiting these companies is how I understand what’s going on.”

Shih spoke about global supply chain and the current trade war, offering some historical perspective. “I never give the same talk twice because it’s been so disruptive.” says Shih. “We know China wants to become an advanced country—and with a larger market, it rode the wave of globalization to dominate in many sectors. The U.S. is concerned—so we talked about that. We’re more interdependent than we realize, but there’s certainly cause for concern. We had a vibrant discussion. Many felt that we are in uncharted waters here with lots of unknowns ahead. I talked about my visit to Moog. They want to maintain competitiveness in a situation where China essentially says: ‘First we will buy from you, but then we will do it ourselves.’ It gets very complicated.”

Still, Shih added that the U.S. aerospace industry is strong enough to maintain its position against China’s inroads. He also noted that current employment and supervision methods in China would come under pressure as the education and income of workers increase.

Ultimately, Shih says the discussion turned to the idea of exploring ways to “play fairly” in global trade. “I really enjoyed the event,” he says. “The audience was very engaged. The trip was a treat and they really valued the visit. It was very gratifying.”

HBS Club of France Honors Self-Made Entrepreneurs

The HBS Club of France, in partnership with the global accounting firm, Mazars, celebrated outstanding French business men and women with the final round of the Victoires des Autodidactes (VDA)—the self-made entrepreneurs award—held in Paris on May 14.

“This event celebrates self-made entrepreneurs of small- and medium-sized companies who started working right after high school,” explains Alexandra Mannai (MBA 2015), who helped organize the event with Hélène Reltgen (MBA 1995), VP of the 2019 VDA.

“These exceptional people are also involved in local development initiatives—social, educational, environmental—and their impact stretches internationally.”

Since the VDA’s inception in 1989, more than 250 candidates and their families have been invited to the national selection ceremony held at the French National Assembly.

Photos by Guillaume Esteve

Mannai says the VDA has a simple goal: “To shed light on successful and impactful local business leaders in France, who embody, perfectly, the HBS value of ‘making a difference,’ but who took a different path to get there. The self-made entrepreneurs’ stories underline a complementary approach to driving business ventures—using intuition and life experience, instead of analyses and case studies. But they also share similar levels of grit, ambition and self-confidence.”

This national competition recognizes entrepreneurial spirit, audacity, and resilience, says Mannai. Candidates are sourced mostly through Mazars’ local network and client base, in every region of France. The first level of the contest is regional, and leads to one or two favorites who are then presented to the national jury. This year, there were six final candidates.

“Out of these, one National Laureate is chosen, based on a set of balanced criteria: business success and growth, breadth of impact, and a sustainable impact on society,” says Mannai. “The yearly ceremony is very popular, with over 300 people attending. This year, the President of the National Assembly came to underline the values of the VDA and personally announce the winner.”

The 2019 VDA National Prize was awarded to Gary Anssens, founder of alltricks.com, a kind of “Amazon for sports gear.” A longtime all-terrain cyclist, he launched his business career 15 years ago after a serious bike accident landed him in the hospital for a year. From his hospital room, he laid the groundwork and developed the team that would eventually launch alltricks.com in 2008, offering a user-friendly sports retail website with seamless and extra-fast logistics. “The company now employs more than 140 people and revenues have gone from 100k€ to 65M€ in 10 years,” says Mannai. “Further growth is expected, as they open brick and mortar stores and launch their own clothing brand.”

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1962, Section D
Class of MBA 1999, Section I
Class of MBA 2015, Section A
Class of MBA 1995, Section F

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