Watson Graduate School of Management students had the pleasure the listen to Rod Whitson, OSU alumnus, speak about his career and advice Aug. 26. Whitson provided background on his banking experience and explained what people can learn from failure and mistakes.
“You find out how good you are when you make mistakes or when things are not working well,” said Whitson, who earned both a bachelor’s degree in economics (1981) and his MBA (1983) from Oklahoma State University.
Whitson started out in the banking business in the 1980s, and since then he has tried various aspects of the banking world, and even ventured into consulting. He returned to banking in 2007 as President of Bank2 in Oklahoma City, making the bank one of the most profitable for its size in the nation.
“Rod gave some very insightful advice on knowing when it is time to make changes in your business career,” Mason Evans, MBA student, said. “He is a wonderful speaker, and I very much enjoyed his speech.”
In his 20s, Whitson tried his hand at turning around a struggling Oklahoma National Bank. He was successful and credits this experience with accelerating his career learning by 10 years.
“When thoughtful and successful people share important points of learning, they rarely share when things are going right,” Whitson said. “They are more likely to share when things go wrong.”
After years of experience in the business world, Whitson offers some insight he has learned about business strategies. First, unexamined assumptions are always the most costly and are usually related to arrogance. Second, take the approach of ready, fire, aim, which refers to experimenting ideas, then perfecting them later.
“To be successful, you must take risks, and capture the learning in this process,” Whitson said.
Next, a recipe for success is to dream big, start small, and build deep. Whitson then refers to a saying by Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A company can place a lot of effort on strategizing but if the strategy does not match the culture of the business, culture will override the strategy. Another aspect of success is being in the right place at the right time.
Finally, Whitson emphasizes the importance of doing endings well. Many people try to avoid endings, but they are a natural part of business and life, so it is helpful to learn how to master endings. Whitson admits he is an introvert and says one of his biggest challenges is waiting too long to end things.
Students also expressed how much they enjoyed interacting with Whitson.
“Mr. Rod Wilson was a great source of knowledge and I am happy that he was able to not only come and speak but also to go to lunch,” Ricky Boyer, MBA student, said. “His unique experiences in business highlighted some great things to keep in mind when putting together a business strategy.”
“I found the presentation helpful because he spoke about the banking industry, which I am interested in going into after I graduate,” Korbin Irwin, MBA student, said. “He also provided a real world perspective on success and failure, which you normally do not get from most speakers.”
Whitson is proud he attended OSU, and credits much of his success to things he learned to prepare him for his career.