URI College of Business Administration Hall of Famers discuss timely topics at roundtable

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 25, 2000 — URI’s College of Business Administration Hall of Fame inductees gathered before a banquet April 8 at the Hyatt Regency in Newport for a roundtable discussion. The inductees: Sidney Cohen, ’55, former president of MGM Domestic Television Distribution; Howard S. Frank, ’62, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Carnival Corp.; George Graboys, ’99 Hon., former chairman and chief executive officer of Citizens Financial Group; Robert E. Liguori, ’61, managing partner of the law firm of Adler, Pollock & Sheehan; and Francesco P. Morsilli ’53, founder of Dryvit Systems Inc. Does a businessperson need more skills, or technical knowledge to be successful in business today? Or do the basics like good communication skills still have value? Graboys: I don’t think there is any particular formula because all of us probably had different career paths, and perhaps did different things as we moved along in our careers and moved up. There are a lot of basics in a formula, but there’s so much individualizing that takes place. Liguori: I don’t think it’s an either or. I think you need both. You need all the old-fashioned skills, and you have to do the best you can today to get up to speed on technology because none of us were brought up with technology like this generation has. It’s here, and it’s a great tool if you know how to use it. Frank: I think it’s really the wave of the future. Businessmen like ourselves have to recognize that even if we don’t know necessarily how to use it, but to recognize that there are opportunities, to use it in certain ways, and be willing to make changes, and to hire the right kind of skill sets to do it even though we may not be able to do it. Cohen: You really have to be flexible and you have to understand which way the markets are going today The one thing that you really have to do that people lose sight of is, you really have to continue to work hard. Morsilli: The one lesson we all had to learn and the younger folks coming along today is the real purpose of being in business. I talk to young people and I ask them that question. (They answer): ‘Well, the purpose is market share. The purpose is to build factories make the world safe for Democracy’. I say stop. The purpose of business is to make money. ‘O wow, you selfish man.’ No, you can only make money by doing three things equally, profit, ROI, and cash flow. And once you do that, you can do all these other things. You can build factories employ people, etc, etc. You can make the world safe for Democracy, have clean factories and clean streams…Let’s understand where we’re going here. Making money is the most unselfish thing any businessman can do. Are businesses faced with more and more legal challenges, and is society becoming too litigious? Graboys: Because of the technological changes, the Internet and the like, there are new bodies of law being developed constantly and the courts are, I think, are faced with matters of initial determination The whole issue of intellectual property, and what is intellectual property has changed as the Internet has developed. Frank: If you go around the world, there is no place like the U.S. in terms of being sued. Basically, differences of opinion in most places are resolved by negotiation. It’s only in this country where there is a desire to sue very quickly I think we lose a lot of value in our economy as a result of it, because it’s time spent in a very unproductive way. Cohen: Truly when I started you could make a deal on a handshake. There was never really any problem. As it was evolving, I used to live with the lawyers Liguori: I have been practicing law about 35 years. When I passed the bar, there were 1,500 lawyers in Rhode Island and about a million people. Today, there’s a little less than a million peopleWe have almost 6,000 lawyers in Rhode Island. I don’t know if they are all doing well. You guys want to talk about competition, let me tell you about competition. On the labor market Frank: It’s definitely a tight labor market In Seattle, (where Carnival has a portion of its cruise line operations), you can’t get any technical people, you can’t get programmers anymore. In Miami, (Carnival’s base) which is not a tight labor market, it’s still difficult to get quality people. Liguori: It’s especially tight at the non-professional level, at the staff level. It’s very difficult to get secretaries, office staff who are qualified. Graboys: In Rhode Island you’ve got to worry for a while about the brain drain. Youngsters graduating from the various colleges, they go where the opportunities are because of the size of the state and the nature of the businesses located in the state. There is a migration out of the state to those areas where there is growth, Arizona, California, the Middle West and the like. On the business climate in Rhode Island Liguori: The climate is better, but that doesn’t mean that it’s great. We still have a long way to go, but it has gotten a lot better. I think that the economy in Rhode Island is kind of flat I don’t see a lot of expansion happening. The numbers are deceiving. Graboys: They are very deceiving for a lot of reasons. We have almost artificial borders here. We have so many residents of Rhode Island who commute to Massachusetts, and vice versa. A lot the consumption that takes place, Rhode Islanders consume products right over the border because of the difference in the sales tax and a whole host of other reasons. -xxx- For Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116