Since 2004, Dave Sheehan and I conducted over 600 interviews of executives, managers and entrepreneurs in 14 countries around the world representing Acadia University. We now stream the most recent of these interviews as video cases through CaseNet.ca. There have been many highlights along the way. Here are five that stood out in my mind.
In the Fall of 2004, we had just received funding to create a database of interviews that we use in the classrooms of Acadia University for teaching. We were looking for a high profile individual to kick off the series. One day, I read in a regional newspaper a story about an alumnus of a competing institution who travelled back and forth from Texas to Nova Scotia to sit on an advisory board of that university. The story mentioned that a relative of his attended Acadia University. The individual in question at the time was Peter Bowler, who was then the CEO of American Eagle Airlines, the feeder airline or regional carrier of American Airlines. It took 60 minutes of phone calling to get through to his office. The hard work paid off as he ended up granting us our first interview and speaking to our students on his next trip to town to see his daughter.
Most thoughtful interview
Late in 2012, with the help of colleagues tied to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan and representative of the Canadian Embassy, we traveled to Tokyo and then up to Sendai to do an interview with Jun Terui, CEO of Sanchemipha Co. a manufacturer and distributor of industrial cleaning supplies. The memories of the March 2011 Great Eastern Japan earthquake were still fresh and indeed, two powerful aftershocks struck while were there. Terui shared with us the grief of losing friends due to the tsunami and some of the details regarding how his company rebuilt its operations. Off camera he shared some of his more personal thoughts about the experience. A somewhat funny comment had to do with the most important factor involved in getting employees to come back to work. He quizzed us on what our thoughts were. The answer turned out to be working washrooms. He learned from experience that if he wanted is employees in the office, he needed to make sure that the washrooms were still standing and the toilets were working. The case itself is about how to go about getting the right information to improve a production process.
Most Determined Interviewee
We are located in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. It a beautiful place to live with a low population base and agriculture as its dominant industry. However, the implication of this is that social media and advertising talent is not necessarily plentiful. Lori Cox is in that line of work and her company, Red Dragon Marketing does excellent work for small and large clients alike. In May of 2016 we created a case featuring Lori and her company. Sitting beside the camera, my impressions were of a very thoughtful and determined company owner patiently building a successful company client by client.
Most Camera Comfortable Interviewee
It was graduation day in May of 2006. Kevin Rollins was CEO of Dell Inc. at the time. He was one of the speakers slated to offer his thoughts to the graduating class of students on that Monday afternoon. He had not been scheduled for a video interview. Fifteen minutes before his arrival on campus, I received a phone call from the University’s Vice President of Advancement asking if we would like to interview him. Five minutes before his arrival he was asked to do the interview to which he agreed. Upon arrival, the walk from his car to the film studio was about 100 feet. Ten minutes after seeing the questions for the very first time, he sat in the chair and in front the camera, and with the lights shining in his face, he flawlessly answered each of the sixteen open ended questions posed to him. It was at that point that I clearly understood one of the important skills possessed by executives running very large corporations.
Most intriguing problem
We first met Birkir Holm-Gudnason in Rejkyavik, Iceland in the September of 2011. We did the interview in a hotel room. I think at first Birkir did not know what to make of us. We were on a limited budget and it was most efficient to film as many interviews as possible in this way. As CEO of Iceland Air, we posed to him the question, ‘Can you tell us about an important issue that your company recently had to deal with?’ His response left us floored. We ended up building a case about how his company responded to the volcanic eruption of 2010, one that saw much of European airspace shut down for weeks.
Conor Vibert PhD. is an innovative user and researcher of new educational technologies, a practitioner of flipped classroom teaching methods, a developer of evidence based instructional techniques, and a creator of streaming video multimedia cases available through CaseNet.ca. He trains individuals to use online information sources to understand company behavior and has published a number of books on the topic. Over 600 video interviews with entrepreneurs, managers and executives around the world positions him as a unique source of knowledge of business behavior.