Forum to feature key interviews, business advice


By Mike Scott
Legal News

The leadership needed to shepherd companies through difficult economic times is essential.
But existing entrepreneurs can often learn from the successes and mistakes from some of the country’s most accomplished business leaders.
That will be the focus of a seminar offered by the State Bar of Michigan’s Business Law Section as part of its Small Business Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
The session, scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Troy, will feature Larry Fobes, the director of the Institute for Industrial and Organizational Competitiveness (IOIC) at Wayne State University. As an educator and 30-plus-year Ford employee and executive, Fobes has interviewed more than 100 such leaders as part of a locally produced, Emmy Award winning show.
Fobes will host “Leadership in Business During Uncertain Times,” a Small Business Forum presentation where he will show attendees clips of leaders he has personally interviewed on “Leaders on Leadership,” a television show that appears on Detroit Public Television and other public stations across the state.
Fobes will pick some clips from episodes that already have aired, and discuss how and whether entrepreneurs can learn from some of the topics he has discussed with his guests.
“If I am doing my job in the right way, this will be a highly interactive forum for people in attendance,” Fobes said, adding that he has led such discussions many times in front of large and small groups. “You get people who are talking with each other from across the aisle and are very involved and engaged in the discussion. You will get some strong opinions, too, and that is good.”
Fobes’ university studies include an engineering graduate degree from Wayne State University, the Global Executive MBA from Duke University, and The Executive Program at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.
He created, hosts, and co-produces with Detroit Public Television, the Emmy award winning television series, “Leaders on Leadership.”
Leaders from a wide range of global organizations share their leadership experiences, and insights with a studio audience of students and broadcast viewers in selected markets of the U.S., Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Canada.
Fobes’ corporate experience includes 30 years service at Ford Motor Company in product design, scientific research, operational finance, and global business strategy.
Larry built and led a globally dispersed team supporting 150 national markets on five continents for eight Ford corporate brands.
Many of the guests Fobes as interviewed on his show are leaders that seminar guests will recognize.
Sixth season guests included Stephen Polk, chair, CEO and president of R.L. Polk & Co.; Charles Haldeman Jr., CEO of Freddie Mac; and Bob Fish, CEO and co-founder of Bigby Coffee.
The session will be very “practitioner based,” even though Fobes also is an educator.
“We want to get perspectives from the audience about how these high-level executives have made decisions in the past,” Fobes said. “There is some real benefit not just to existing business owners and executives but to middle managers and even young professionals because you get a great perspective at how business success relates from one industry to another.”
This type of seminar approach, where Fobes will walk around the office and engage with guests, encourages the sharing of opinions, allowing him to focus on two key elements of their presentation.
First, attendees can quickly address the issues that they care about most since they are largely in charge of the content being discussed. Second, the approach allows Fobes to guide the conversation, where he serves more as a moderator than a presenter.
The challenging economic situation is forcing businesses to think of unique growth opportunities, and to develop ideas that are outside of the proverbial box, said Douglas Toering, partner with Grassi & Toering in Troy and chair of the Small Business Forum for the State Bar’s Business Law Section.
“Having seen Larry speak before, I feel like he has some interesting answers of what business owners can do,” Toering said. “For six years dozens of business leaders and other executives have shared with him how they tackle their problems. He has culled out principles of leadership that may apply now.”
What attendees will get out of the seminar varies from one individual to another, Fobes said.
Young professionals, for example, might get a better understanding of the responsibilities held by high-level executives and can seek to find that level of experience in their own careers.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs may discover some strategies to increase sales or market their products and services that they will want to try out or invest in.
“One thing I have found is that the viewers of (“The Leaders on Leadership”) and some of my students are impressed when the leaders I interview admit to making a bad decision and can talk about what they learned from it,” Fobes said. “They are also impressed with the fact that many of these executives weren’t born into money and weren’t always wealthy. Many of them came from lower or middle class backgrounds and had to overcome some real challenges in their lives.”
Toering said by sharing his video clips, Fobes transitions into unique group discussions.
“It’s interesting and we expect some very involved discussions,” Toering said.
“Leaders on Leadership” is a partnership between the Wayne State University School of Business Administration and Detroit Public Television, and is underwritten by Greenleaf Trust. Hosted by Fobes, the show won a Michigan Emmy for “Best Interview/Discussion Program” in 2004.