Jim Skinner, who graduated from the Rawls College with his B.B.A. in Accounting in 1974, spoke with Rawls Business Leadership Program (RBLP) students April 6. His visit consisted of a luncheon with a small group of the students and a formal presentation about risk taking to all RBLP students later in the day.
Skinner is retired vice chairman of Neiman Marcus Group (NMG), a $5 billion fashion luxury retailer, and currently serves as an independent member of the board of directors for Fossil, Ares Commercial Real Estate and Hudson Group. Prior to his role as vice chairman for NMG, he served as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the retailer. Skinner was also previously the CFO for two publicly held companies: CompUSA and CapRock Communication. He started his career with Ernst & Young, where he served for 16 years, including the last four years as a partner.
During the RBLP luncheon, Skinner spoke with students about his background, different positions he held and how he found the right fit in his career. He emphasized the importance of trust in business; relayed multiple lessons he learned throughout his career; and encouraged students to learn, earn and have fun with every job they have.
Skinner began his presentation on risk taking with a story about how the founders of NMG gave up on an opportunity to work with Coca-Cola, which would have undoubtedly earned them money, to start up their own retail store. Throughout his presentation, he shared several other positive anecdotes about people who took risks.
He encouraged students to be a person who runs toward the fire whenever there is a problem and to be willing to put it out rather than taking typical or safer routes. He acknowledged that one's biggest risk decision is his or her career, reflecting on his decision to leave Ernst & Young for a startup company. He encouraged students to take risks like his own, but to make sure the decisions are well thought out and the students are willing to not turn back after they make the decision.