Alumnus Mike Kehoe Achieves Business Beyond Borders
By: Trevor Bell
With globalization and an increased demand for companies to engage in international business, the world is simply getting smaller and there is now, more than ever, a necessity for individuals to develop skills that will translate internationally. Rawls alumnus Mike Kehoe - who has 15 years of experience working in international brand management in North America, Asia, Western and Eastern Europe, and Latin America - found that becoming a global leader in business is predicated on flexibility and adapting to the new environment.
"Globalization is never going away. You're going to be working internationally, so you can choose to either be a leader or a follower," Kehoe said. "The most important thing to be successful is to be flexible; things change quickly and the business practices are not like they are in U.S. It's a different world."
Kehoe, who graduated in 1997 with bachelor's degrees in both Marketing and Management, currently serves as the Vice President of International Marketing for Bloomin' Brands, Inc. (BBI) - one of the world's largest casual dining companies with more than 1,500 restaurants throughout the United States and 21 other countries.
In Kehoe's line of work, there is no "typical" workday, which is why he stresses the importance of flexibility. Because a majority of his responsibilities include marketing in multiple countries, he has to focus on providing solutions to a variety of issues. For example, Kehoe detailed a previous day where he began his morning with a conference call in China; then spoke to representatives in Brazil; followed by a presentation to his CEO in the U.S. and a discussion with South America about new business ideas; concluded by a conversation with Korean business partners.
"In general, I have to move quickly between topics, and it's challenging but fun. On any given day, I could be talking to one market about a new product launch, while simultaneously working with my team to implement a three-year business strategy for somewhere across the globe," he said.
Kehoe did note, however, that his time at Texas Tech allowed him to gain the skills to succeed in such a rapid, ever-changing environment. Most notably, he detailed how developing a solid foundation of practical business knowledge and learning to be a leader made the biggest impact toward his post-graduate success.
As a student, Kehoe learned how consumer behavior and market research can be effectively used, and he explained that he still uses those principles in his work with BBI. Outside of the classroom, Kehoe was involved in numerous organizations throughout campus. He was a member of the Chancellor's Ambassadors, the College of Business Ambassadors, The Tech Marketing Association, and as a coach on the newly formed women's lacrosse team - all while maintaining a 3.9 GPA and earning honors as the "Top Marketing Student."
"At Texas Tech, there were so many opportunities for me to learn how to use my skills to become an effective leader," he said. "I still use these skills today, and I think students now have more opportunities than I did to experience the world and acquire the skills to make a difference."
Kehoe's other international experience includes extended time in Europe and Latin America. In 1999, he joined Procter & Gamble as an assistant Brand Manager for Hugo Boss fragrances. In 2003, he was named Brand Manager for the Western European operations of Procter & Gamble's Max Factor product line, which led to responsibilities in Central and Eastern Europe, overseeing sales managers and distributors of the Procter & Gamble. Kehoe eventually became Senior Brand Manager for Health and Beauty Care based in Argentina and Chile.
While in Latin America and after leaving Procter & Gamble, he enrolled in the "MBA for the Americas Program" from the Universidad de Chile and Tulane University. Upon graduation, Kehoe joined Bain & Company from 2008-10 in its São Paulo, Brazil, office as a Management Consultant, leading an international strategy project for a +$1B consumer packaged goods company. In 2010, Kehoe joined Coca-Cola as Senior Marketing Director. In his three years at the company, he assumed responsibility for Coca-Cola's international marketing and helped launch products in markets across five continents.
Despite the constantly changing working environment he's dealt with throughout his career, Kehoe would not change a thing. He remarked that the new challenges and experiences are what make his job so exciting. When reflecting upon his career, Kehoe offered advice for students who would like to pursue to international business route.
"While it's obviously a great idea to study abroad, I think it is important to put yourself out there. I've always believed that if you don't ask the answer is always no. Procter & Gamble didn't recruit at Texas Tech when I was a student and Bain didn't recruit me when I was in Chile. I didn't let that stop me, and I think students in today's business world should have that same mindset."
This supports the efforts outlined in the Rawls College of Business Strategic Plan. Learn more about the LEADER 2020 Strategic Plan and follow our progress on Twitter at #RawlsLeads.