Future executives from some of the top business schools in the country received an unexpected bonus Friday when they got the chance to talk with the dean of business schools at Wake Forest University.
Steve Reinemund spoke to business students at Davis Chapel before a public event with Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo and the featured speaker for the 19th annual Wake Forest MBA Marketing Summit. Nooyi sat down with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo at Wait Chapel on Friday night to talk about her company’s global marketing strategies and its advertising campaign for the Super Bowl, among other topics.
Eight MBA teams were at Wake Forest to compete for a $50,000 top prize in the 36-hour marketing case competition. Six teams of undergraduates also attended the summit and took part in a separate competition.
“You made the cut among the best and brightest graduate students around the country,” Reinemund told the students. Reinemund preceded Nooyi as PepsiCo’s Chairman and CEO. His career with PepsiCo spanned 24 years, which included, he said, “several different chapters and all of them were exciting.” His last six years with the company were as CEO.
Barron’s twice named Reinemund to its “World’s Most Respected CEO List,” and BusinessWeek twice included him in its list of “Top 25 Managers.” He was honored by BusinessWeek for “constant innovation and savvy moves” that took PepsiCo to new levels of success. The magazine said Reinemund’s “greatest achievement is in developing people.”
PepsiCo, he said Friday, experienced great success before he became its Chairman and CEO, and the promotion gave him time to devote to other issues he thought important, such as diversity and inclusion. “We made a major effort to have the company represent the marketplace – from the frontlines to the boardroom,” he told the students. “Diversity is good for business, but it’s also the right thing to do.”
Reinemund talked of his admiration for Nooyi, who, he said, wasn’t afraid to challenge him and to fight for issues and ideas for which she held a strong belief. A key to success, he said, includes surrounding yourself with people with skills that are different, or even stronger, than your own.
Nooyi, who talked to students briefly at Davis Chapel, spoke of her close working relationship with Reinemund, relating a story that happened as PepsiCo was trying to acquire Quaker Oats. The move was in front of the Federal Trade Commission, and Nooyi remembers e-mailing Reinemund at 3 a.m. to say she couldn’t sleep. “He e-mailed me back at 3:01,” with a similar response, she said with a laugh.
Reinemund and Nooyi didn’t always agree, however.
“I think he won about 70 percent,” said Nooyi, who still calls Reinemund “boss.” Reinemund said Nooyi was always willing to push back. “You gave me the opportunity to push back,” she responded.
Reinemund closed the meeting by telling the students to enjoy the journey as they finish their education and start their careers. "If you don’t enjoy the journey, then why would you do it?”