HBS-NEO Harvard Business School Club of Northeastern Ohio HBS-NEO

Membership: Member Interviews

Nathaniel Leonard

(Interview continued from e-mail newsletter.)

Q. Given the great amount of logistics and supply chain expertise in Northeast, should someone lobby to make this one of NEO's "clusters."

No. I have a hard time understanding how Northeast Ohio could turn supply chain or logistics expertise into an industry, product, service or knowledge base that we could market to the rest of the country. Now, there are a lot of companies here that need supply chain capabilities to succeed, so maybe we need to bring together our supply chain experts to help companies that rely on supply chain expertise to do better.

It's naïve to think that here in Northeast Ohio we will become Silicon Valley. But, we do have the opportunity to figure out how to apply technology to manufacturing operations. That's what will make us different—if we build on what some people see as a weakness. That's what Goodyear is trying to do.

Q. What area companies or leaders do you think are most inspiring?

This will sound sycophantic, but the person who impresses me is Mal Mixon because he didn't just create a company, he created an industry. Also, Tom Murdough, who founded Little Tikes and then Step2, because he succeeded two times around. And, he's just a good person and you don't find that combination very often.

Q. Do you have recommendations on any business books?

I read the Harvard Business Review, and I like it because of the variety of topics. You can read the whole article, or the first couple paragraphs, or the summary of the article in the back. These days, I don't have patience for a 200 page book—I keep pretty busy with two kids, two dogs, two gerbils, a hamster, and...well, we gave away the bird, and we killed the fish, but we now have a horse, too.

Q. What is the best club event you have attended?

The FreeMarkets event, because it happened at the peak of "the bubble," and the cultural divide between what the FreeMarkets guys talked about and what the behemoths (institutional Cleveland) in Cleveland were thinking about was profound. And then you saw everything shift within a few weeks, literally, when the bubble burst.

Q. So, does the bursting of the bubble mean that institutional Cleveland was right and FreeMarkets was wrong?

I think that's how the traditional Ohio companies saw it, but if you look at how they adopted FreeMarkets' technology, the reality is that there was a bubble, but at the same time the e-business companies had a point. In the past three to four years, most industrial firms have made e-commerce the way they do business, from supply chain to finance to customers. And, nearly every one of them has a contract with FreeMarkets.

See other Member Interviews.