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

Membership: Member Interviews

Deborah Tomusko

(Interview continued from e-mail newsletter.)

Q. Do you think Northeast Ohio manufacturing can "lean" its way back to a good economy?
A. Lean is necessary, but not sufficient. Lean is not just about low cost. It's about high quality, timely delivery and focusing on what your customer values, and it's amazing to me how many companies still have not implemented the lean principles. Toyota, which is the master of Lean, still seeks out five to ten percent improvement a year. They truly understand continuous improvement. But even that's not enough to survive in today's global economy. Innovation is also key, and that's where we can truly excel. Lean and innovation go hand-in-hand. They are not mutually exclusive. Companies have got to do both.
Q. You mentioned a homing device; you really do have one, from what I hear.

Yes, I am a real homebody. I actually live in the house where I grew up. My father was a carpenter, and he built our home in Brooklyn, on the near west side, and I just couldn't bring myself to sell it. It's a great house, and has a lot of sentimental value to me as well, though I am gradually updating it to personalize it more. I have a nice yard with big beautiful trees and lots of quiet. So far, I share that space with a very spoiled bichon frise named "Foo-Foo."

Q. What is the best HBS NEO event you ever attended?
A. When I was first accepted into Harvard, there was a sailing event where George Kaull, the CEO of Premix at that time, took new admits sailing on Lake Erie, and then hosted a barbecue at the yacht club. It was so cool because I felt so welcome, and sailing on Lake Erie was such a Cleveland thing to do, and I had never had the opportunity to do it before. He was so gracious, and we stayed in touch.
Q. What could the club do better?

It would be nice to see us get more active in the turnaround of Cleveland, because there is such a great combination of brains and passion in the club and such a need in the city/region. It's sort of like GM; in my mind, the city is not focusing on the fundamental problems, and it's off doing things that don't have high impact. Until someone addresses the fundamentals, the problems won't go away. They will only get worse, but that doesn't have to be the end of the story.

See other Member Interviews.