Transformation is an overused word. It is pulled out of the dictionary to describe some pretty ordinary things. But that is not the case for either Roger Martin or the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
In the 15 years that Martin led Rotman, he utterly transformed the institution from a small, irrelevant Canadian B-school to a legitimate global player. More tellingly, much of the transformation can be chalked up to Martin’s force of will, his formidable intellect, and his bold and often provocative decisions that have indisputably made Rotman the best business school in Canada. Martin’s transformational accomplishments earn him Dean of the Year honors from Poets&Quants for 2013, and the first dean who is no longer in the job to be given the accolade. He joins Harvard Business School’s Nitin Nohria and the University of Virgina’s Darden School Dean Robert Bruner in Poets&Quants’ Hall of Fame.
At the end of this past June, the 56-year-old Martin completed one of the most successful deanships in recent memory. During his stint, the former strategy consultant for Monitor Co. doubled the physical space of the school, quadrupled the endowment, increased the size of the faculty to 113 from 30 and the Rotman staff to 300 from 60, and boosted the student population by 300%.
AMONG A HANDFUL OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL DEANS IN THE PAST QUARTER CENTURY
He raised more than $250 million for the school, reeling in eight eight-figure gifts–roughly a third of the 25 eight-figure donations the entire university has received in its 175-year history. The school’s annual budget is now $130 million, up from a little more than $13 million when he became dean in the fall of 1998.
Many agree that what Martin has accomplished makes him one of a handful of the most successful business schools deans in the past quarter century. Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, puts Martin in the company of such transformational leaders as Donald Jacobs, who had put Kellogg on the map years earlier. “Rotman has surpassed every expectation I ever had,” says Joseph Rotman, a entrepreneur and benefactor whose name is on the business school.
And yet, when he took the job, Martin faced, as one insider now puts it, “myriad institutional forces that make his success all the more improbable and impressive. As the title of his latest book says, the man ‘plays to win.’”
WHEN HE ARRIVED, FACULTY WERE PAID HALF THE RATE OF THE BEST U.S. PROFESSORS
Salaries were one big hurdle. When Martin arrived, Rotman had been hemorrhaging faculty. Though it had 48 approved positions, it only had 36 full-time, tenure stream faculty members. The school had lost a dozen professors over the previous couple of years, largely because Rotman—which then ran at a deficit—paid roughly 50% of the prevailing rate of the top 50 U.S. schools. As soon as a professor achieved some distinction in a field of expertise, he or she was quickly poached by another school who could pay more.
For Martin, the trick was to figure out how to hire top-notch business professors with no money to do so. His answer to the puzzle? “5-4-4-2” It stood for the following goals: quintuple the endowment, quadruple tuition, quadruple revenue from executive education and double the size of the MBA cohort—all in five years. Those goals would allow Rotman to hire world class faculty at world class salaries.
“Most thought it insane,” admits an insider. “But under Roger’s leadership the school did it – and that was followed by a further 50% increase in the cohort and another doubling of tuition. The strategy allowed Martin to build a world class faculty that routinely churns out leading edge research.
ROTMAN NOW TOPS EVERY OTHER SCHOOL OUTSIDE THE U.S. IN BUSINESS SCHOOL RESEARCH
In fact, the most recent Financial Times’ ranking of schools whose professors publish the most articles in the top 45 academic and practitioner journals shows that Rotman is the highest ranked school outside the the U.S. At ninth in the world on the FT’s research analysis, Rotman is tied with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School and the University of Michigan’s Ross School.
And although rankings show Rotman trailing York University’s Schulich School of Business as the best Canadian institution offering a full-time MBA program, the lag effect inherent in ranking systems makes it all but certain that Rotman will soon be recognized as Canada’s leading business school. It already has the highest rank of any Canadian school in The Financial Times.
And yet, Martin himself admits that if he had any idea what it was like to be a business school dean he would have turned the job down. “In truth,” he says, “I didn’t super want the job. I knew nothing about it. I was clueless and minding my own business. If I had known what I know now about the job, I never would have taken it.”