“My favorite company is Nike because of their innovative products, connection with sports culture, and their willingness to openly support racial and social movements. Nike seamlessly combines their adaptive high-performance gear with a trendy fashion forward design that is comfortable and unique. There are lots of ways to run a successful company and Nike uses its massive platform to not only make profit, but more importantly advocate for justice and equality.”
Torrey Mayes, UC Berkeley (Haas)
“I know of no company that balances efficiency with quality and price like Chick-fil-A. While the company is super profitable and their company culture is uncompromising, it is the operations of the average Chick-fil-A franchise in any given American town that can teach the most to business school students. These restaurants serve as a literal case study on effective systems and customer service and demonstrate what a commitment to excellence and perfection looks like on a daily basis (except on Sundays) in a way that can be transferred across industry.”
Richard Pettey, Harvard Business School
“My favorite company is a nonprofit called The Ocean Cleanup. Growing up near the coast, I always had an appreciation for the ocean and our role in protecting it. I admire the fact that a new business invented a system, which involves floating barriers and a solar-powered conveyor belt, to remove large plastic objects from the ocean. They also developed a business model to finance the operation by melting down the recovered plastics and selling them to make recycled items.
However, it was not always smooth sailing for The Ocean Cleanup team. Initially, the first system failed and was not able to retain plastic effectively. Instead of giving up, they created a second version of the system, which was successful in collecting plastic from the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup organization identified a difficult problem, took a risk in developing and financing the system, and persevered to see it become successful. Knowing that progress is not always a straight line and that with perseverance and passion we can make a meaningful impact is an essential lesson for business students.”
Jonathan Nichols, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
“One brand I really admire is Fenty Beauty. In 2017, Rihanna wanted to create a product where, in her words, “…people could appreciate makeup without feeling like it wasn’t for them.” After research with women of color, she launched her Fenty Beauty foundation line in 40 shades. When the products were released, social media praised her authentic execution of the product. And shortly following the launch, beauty publications started using the phrase “The Fenty Effect” to describe major brands that released an extended shade range in response to Fenty’s success.
By using representation as THE guiding principle for her company, she created a brand that resonated with consumers and changed an entire industry. Rihanna’s success shows me, and my fellow MBA students, that inclusion isn’t just a “nice-to-have,” it’s an essential ingredient of brands’ success.”
Rachel Chanen, New York University (Stern)
“Peloton is my favorite company since it combines my love for fitness and technology. While I was still working, John Foley, the CEO, did a fireside chat for our clients that I got to listen in on. He discussed how important it was for them to support the community when they are one of few companies doing well right now. They also just announced a new bike and are refunding customers who purchased the old bike before the announcement since the price went down. I don’t know of a lot of companies that would give such a refund. Business students could learn that creating shareholder value can still be done while taking care of your customers and community.”
Niki Miyashiro, USC (Marshall)
“Since reading Yvon Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing, I’ve had an admiration of Patagonia. I appreciate the origin story of the company and how the principles established early in its founding have remained a bedrock of the company’s culture. Their dedication to promoting a more sustainable future through corporate initiatives is inspiring to me. I think that a lot of companies simply pay lip service to their principles rather than make decisions based off of them. I think the biggest thing that business students can learn from Patagonia is the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Environmental sustainability has been a guiding principle for Patagonia since its inception and something that the company has remained dedicated to for its entire existence.”
Mitch Platman, University of Washington (Foster)
“I love the concept and mission of The Skimm. For a society that has more access to information and technology than ever before, it sometimes feels as though are as uninformed as ever. The Skimm actively combats this, while delivering the information in a fun, easy-to-read, and consumable fashion. I also love that it’s a female-run business, with two founders who, at a very young age, recognized the shortfalls of their industry and set out to do something about it. They have expertly paired their unique skills and backgrounds to create a highly successful source of media and continue to evolve The Skimm’s offerings.”
Kathryn Allen, University of Virginia (Darden)
“I would probably say The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney’s ideas pushed the boundaries of entertainment at the time. He had an amazing vision and took risks to realise it. This created a legacy that has brought joy to millions and significantly impacted the evolution of animated films and theme parks for the better. Today, despite its size, the company continues to find innovative ways improve and grow its product offerings (think Disney+) which still bring enjoyment and wonder into the lives of adults and children alike.”
Sarah Black, MIT (Sloan)
“I can only speak as an outsider looking in, but I’ve always been fascinated by Bridgewater Associates’ practice of “Radical Transparency.” Rather than keeping certain sensitive details behind closed doors, Bridgewater encourages open and honest communication within the company at all levels. That manifests itself in practices like allowing employees to see the salaries and performance ratings of all others at the company, all meetings being recorded and transcripts being made available, and all offices having an open-door policy. I think the company is participating in a fascinating corporate culture experiment and am interested to see if it continues to work for them.”
Brett Davidson, Yale SOM
“I’d say SpaceX, not only because it was founded by a fellow South African (Elon Musk), but also because they have pushed the boundaries of innovation. They have challenged norms, taking something that was thought to be a state-only function (space / scientific research) and turning it into an exciting, impactful, and profitable business. In addition to creating models and products that are driving down the cost of space travel, they are also working to create new opportunities for people by providing low-cost, high-speed internet to places where access has either been unreliable or even unavailable. SpaceX is a lesson in how out-of-the-box, experimental thinking can be turned into an impactful and profitable business.”
Tsepo Serakalala, London Business School
“I have never found myself particularly interested in retail, but my answer is Nordstrom – and not just for its annual sale. Nordstrom consistently ranks among the highest in customer loyalty and satisfaction and is cited by business books as an example of a company that revolves around the customer and was an early user of data to support that goal.
For business students, Nordstrom serves as a reminder to stay grounded in the people (customers and clients) we intend to serve. It is easy to be caught in the mindset of trying to prove you are the smartest person in the room. However, focusing on who we are working for and how we cultivate those relationships is more important.”
Dylan Geary, University of Chicago (Booth)
“I’ve always had a great respect for an underdog story and I’m a big fan of SpaceX. 10-15 years ago, the majority of people laughed at their aspirations. Today, they are reusing rockets and sending passengers to the ISS while the space industry is trying to catch up to their ground-breaking progress. They are a great example to business students that in order to achieve things that have never been achieved, we have to be willing and dedicated to do things that no one has ever done before.”
Drew McKnight, University of Michigan (Ross)
“Ellevest is an investment and financial planning firm founded by a woman and built for women, whose financial needs are often not taken into consideration in typical financial industry products (e.g. taking mid-career breaks, living longer than men). Ellevest also offers Impact Portfolios, which focus on investing in companies and funds that prioritize women in leadership, community development, and sustainable practices. Business students can learn ways to address previously underserved markets, whether they be defined by gender, race, or other designation. More importantly, they will also learn that addressing these needs is a good business opportunity as it meets previously unfulfilled demand.”
Linse Rose Kelbe, HEC Paris
“My favorite company is Patagonia because they embody the notion that doing good is good for business. Patagonia seems genuinely committed to their mission statement, which is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” As a B-Corp, Patagonia also values their employees, communities and the environment alongside shareholders in the decision making process. At the end of the day, Patagonia is driven to use business as a force of good. Business students could learn from the intentional approach that Patagonia takes and the role in which they see themselves. Specifically, Patagonia is primarily concerned about the long-term consequences of their actions, rather than being driven by short-term gains. When considering business problems and potential solutions, students should take into consideration Patagonia’s lens into the world: that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.”
Nataly Garzon, Washington University (Olin)
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