On September 24, 2012, Rose Stuckey Kirk came to the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business to speak about the role of business in creating long-term sustainable growth. The event was sponsored by the Smith School’s Center for Social Value Creation and attracted a diverse audience of students (undergraduate, MBA, PhD), faculty and administrators.
Kirk, a former journalist, has been in the telecommunications industry for about 30 years and currently leads Verizon’s philanthropic strategy as president of the Verizon Foundation – the fifteenth largest corporate foundation in the U.S. She has held numerous leadership positions including vice president of sales operations for Verizon Wireless, vice president of corporate employee communications and vice president of partner sales and customer service for Verizon’s small to medium business segment.
She talked about Verizon’s strategy of “shared success,” her views on the current attitudes of citizens toward business and the financial crisis, and how this up-and-coming generation is in a position to make a big impact on the future of business.
“We are delighted to welcome Rose to the Smith School,” said Melissa Carrier, assistant dean of global programs and social value creation. “Creating long-term value for business and society is one of the critical components of business leadership in the 21st century. And students today are increasingly interested in finding work that aligns with their personal values.” Carrier continued, “The Robert H. Smith School of Business is recognized as being at the forefront of social and environmental innovation, and find it to be extremely beneficial to connect students and faculty with companies like Verizon who are taking the lead in this space.”
During her visit, Kirk described how Verizon views societal challenges as opportunities for business innovation. Verizon’s shared success strategy is about using the company’s broadband and wireless technology to develop solutions that improve the quality of health care and energy efficiency, creating value for shareholders and for society.
As part of the interactive discussion, Kirk asked the audience, “How is it that on the one hand, American business is touted as the engine for future economic growth, while at the same time it is condemned as the villain who created the mess? Numerous polls tell us that Americans believe both things at the same time. What do our fellow citizens want?”
People want jobs and a better life for their children and “for the first time in decades, they do not think that is possible,” said Kirk. “And they want to be treated fairly — as employees, as investors and as consumers.”
She stressed the need for the next generation of business leaders to focus on long-term, shared value creation. “It was the short-term risk-taking, and extravagant profit-taking of the few that wiped out the long-term value for the many,” she said. “This is what broke America’s compact with business.”
Verizon operates high speed, wired and wireless networks that help connect 140 countries around the world. Verizon employs nearly 200,000 people and has invested more than $90 billion in the past five years. “This is the largest investment by a company in this country and second only to Exxon in the world,” she explained. “We believe in long-term value creation. It’s what we do.”
Kirk said that Verizon’s credo is simple: “We are good corporate citizens and we share our success with the community to make the world in which we work better than it was yesterday.” Just as Verizon has a commitment to excellence in customer service, technical and financial performance; it has an integrated, actionable plan for shared success.
Over the past year, Verizon’s corporate responsibility council adopted this model: “we will use the power of our technology and our people to focus on solutions and service.”
This focus area has a well-defined plan behind it, a timeframe and a measurable goal to judge success, she said. “Our job is to integrate both the approach and the ethic throughout the business. We believe that it is both in our business interest and our communities’ interests to work toward transformative solutions in health care and education and energy efficiency,” said Kirk.
“I began this talk by saying that we are facing a once in a generation opportunity to start anew. I believe that you are that generation.” She ended with some advice to the students on how they can affect change now, and by doing so, be the leaders of that new generation:
- Work for a company that aligns with your values
- Find a boss that challenges you
- Develop your own compass
- To be a good leader, you must first understand what it means to be a good follower
- Don’t be afraid to think that you are in it for the long term
Kirk took questions from the audience and the event was followed by an “Ice Cream Social for Innovation” – an event hosted by college campuses across the country on September 24 to celebrate innovative and entrepreneurial focused programs at their schools.