This week Mark Reardon spoke with Tom Zupon the owner of T. O. Zupon Construction & Develpment during the Washington University Olin Business School Executive Edge.
For more than 23 years, Zupon and his brother ran CGI Silvercote Inc., a family owned and operated business that manufactured fiberglass insulation products. Guardian Industries acquired the company in 2006. Now, Zupon runs a company that builds luxury homes in St. Louis.
“I always wanted an MBA. After we sold Silvercote, it was the perfect time to go to business school.”
Zupon says Olin’s Executive MBA program was “on his radar,” but he was sold on the program after a three‑hour conversation with Christine Taylor‑Broughton, Enterprise Holding’s senior vice president of North American Operations – and an EMBA 2010 graduate.
“The program taught me a lot about operations and manufacturing, including supply chain management. I really enjoyed the theme on Growth and Sustainability, but the leadership assessments were the biggest eye openers. Initially, I was convinced I had nothing new to learn from these exercises. I was wrong.”
Zupon operated in a male‑dominated, homogenous industry. “The program got me to step outside my comfort zone and to consider various perspectives before I formulated a business solution. As a result, I’m a much better team player.”
Capstone simulation draws on all areas of curriculum
“To prepare for the capstone simulation, we were given a 400-page manual. I read the whole thing.
“My team was a manufacturer of LED flat‑screen TVs. We had to buy components from companies across the globe, produce our products quickly and cost effectively, and ship our products to retailers around the world. The industry has many different standards, and our goal was to get people to follow ours. My role was to negotiate contracts.”
The teams had to work around acts of nature or unforeseen crises, such as a tsunami in Japan or a kidnapped CEO. Teams were awarded points based on the profits their companies made, and the final scores were close.
“Our team won. It was an incredible experience.”
Concerns about enrolling in the EMBA program
In his initial EMBA interview, he “actually tried to convince the EMBA team I didn’t belong in the program. I thought it was geared to professionals from companies like Boeing, Emerson, Enterprise, and Monsanto. But team members told me: ‘You’re exactly the type of person we want. As the owner of a small business, you deal with every aspect of management.’
“Enrolling in the program is one life decision I’ve never regretted. I wanted my name to be attached to Washington University. I’m an involved member of its alumni community.”