The Rawls Business Leadership Program (RBLP) welcomed its first guest speaker of the semester. Richard Valenstein, vice president of finance for Toyota, met a small group of students in the program for lunch, took a tour of the Rawls College and then met to speak with the entire RBLP class.
At the luncheon, students had the opportunity to connect with Valenstein, who shared his experiences in the business world.
"Our group was very fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to someone as knowledgeable and experienced as Mr. Valenstein," Lane Rossi, senior finance major, said. "His insights on corporate finance and organizational leadership were very helpful as many of us will be entering into the professional workplace soon."
Valenstein discussed his background, including his education, experience in the U.S. Navy and steps he took in his career to end up in his current role. He then answered questions from the students, and gave advice to the group on how to set themselves apart from others when entering the workforce in a large company.
During the RBLP class presentation, Valenstein led a discussion that focused on Toyota's business in North America, key business challenges, the evolution of finance in Toyota North America and financial analytics to drive decisions.
Valenstein emphasized the Toyota way of business, which draws from a more Eastern approach. Some of Toyota's core values include the Japanese phrases kaizen, which means continuous improvement and changing for the better and genchi genbutsu, which means "go and see for yourself" or, in other words, "get your boots on." He explained how these values emphasize respect for people and getting work done as a team, and compared the values to Chancellor Emeritus Kent Hance's quote etched outside the Rawls College building: "dream no little dreams."
Valenstein also discussed financial concepts, such as offering incentives, characteristics stressed to achieve a world-class finance organization and integrated revenue management. He also stressed the importance of knowing what sells and does not sell and how to maximize on those opportunities.
"I loved gaining insight on the world of finance from Mr. Valenstein," Garrett Robinson, senior finance major, said. "I think everyone in RBLP benefited from hearing from a leader in a major global company, but I especially loved the finance aspects of the discussion and the advice he gave to finance majors."
He also talked about the future of Toyota, including a more stylistic approach to Lexus vehicles and Toyota vehicles, such as the Camry and the new C-HR.
At the end of the discussion, Valenstein took time to answer questions from students. Questions included how Toyota deals with impacts from NAFTA, the differences between working in a Western corporate culture and an Eastern corporate culture, what inspired Toyota's move to Plano and how Toyota operates without laying off employees.
RBLP, established in Fall 2013, creates a dynamic learning experience designed to provide students with real-world knowledge and experiences to excel in leadership roles. The program focuses on developing "complete students" who possess both a strong academic foundation and real-world experience necessary to be innovative and ethical leaders. The four elements of the program include experiential living and learning opportunities, real-world application, international experience and interactive personal development with a designated professional mentor. While this program is not an independent major, it is designed to enhance one's learning experience at the Rawls College by providing students the opportunity to participate in action-based leadership activities applicable to all business majors.
For more information about the program, visit the RBLP website or contact Mayukh Dass at firstname.lastname@example.org.