Executive Education Programs Deliver Actionable Results
by Joanna Corman
With industry demand rising for specialized training to keep senior managers ahead of the curve, the Graduate School of Management has launched an ambitious non-degree, custom executive education program, offering tailored and transformative learning experiences that have a lasting influence on the individual, the team and the organization.
At the helm is Wendy Beecham, a veteran executive with more than three decades of experience in the private sector and nonprofits. As managing director of executive education, she oversees the development of client-focused learning experiences that make a difference.
Nondegree executive education is fundamental to strengthening the School’s corporate relationships, adding another opportunity for executives to tap into the School’s management talent, internationally renowned faculty and broad network of experts.
“All business schools have deep partnerships with the business community,” says Dean Steven Currall. “We see executive education as central to our overall vision of a truly great global business school.”
Beecham and Currall, who taught international executive education courses in corporate governance while at London Business School, plan to pursue global executive education markets, including China.
The program is designed for groups of employees, rather than sending individual managers to conferences and hoping they pass along their knowledge to colleagues, Beecham says. Programs can be held at the company, off-site or at one of the School’s campuses in Davis, Sacramento and the Bay Area.
“It’s a much higher return on investment for the company because an entire team can learn a common language and common skills simultaneously,” Beecham explains.
An Extensive Background
Beecham brings an extensive background developing educational content for the corporate market, including the first non-U.S. version of the Westlaw online legal research service as CEO of the London–based Sweet & Maxwell. She also served as senior vice president of the $200 million Enterprise and Library Division of LexisNexis Group in Washington, D.C.
Most recently, Beecham was CEO of Watermark, a Bay Area nonprofit organization for women leaders that the Graduate School of Management partners with on its annual “UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders.” She also ran a San Francisco–based boutique consulting firm offering coaching to CEOs. As both a creator and participant, Beecham understands how nondegree executive education programs can help businesses meet their goals.
She is focusing on niches where the School can offer value and stand out in an ultra-competitive market. Part of that strategy is aligning with UC Davis’ research and faculty strengths in areas such as life sciences, health care, food and nutrition, and clean energy
Building an exceptional experience means carefully assessing a client’s needs to deliver actionable results. Beecham interviews employees to pinpoint the competitive issues and opportunities for their company, asking: “What does success look like?” That drives the curriculum and instructors.
“We are committed to getting the most appropriate and best mix of faculty, whether from the Graduate School of Management, UC Davis, the UC system, other top business schools or industry professionals from around the world,” Beecham says.
Even before the program starts, Beecham encourages leaders to work together by reading and discussing case studies and doing other exercises. After the program, Beecham works with clients on accountability measures to assess the effectiveness and ensure employees use what they’ve learned. Staying in close touch with clients is essential.
Long-term Value for Clients
Following up with companies is key to the program’s success, says Bob Lorber, a visiting assistant professor at the School who teaches in the MBA and executive education programs. “I think that will help us build long-term relationships with these companies—that they see us as a resource long-term, not just for one session,” says Lorber, president and CEO of The Lorber Kamai Consulting Group in Davis, Calif.
Moss Adams LLP Partner Jeff Gutsch contacted the School to develop a training program for the company—one of the largest regional accounting firms in the U.S. Gutsch says Moss Adams is looking to change its culture and turn its tax specialists and accountants into trusted advisors, able to help their clients with any business problem. Gutsch appreciated Beecham’s willingness to tailor a pilot program.
Lary Kirchenbauer, president of Exkalibur Advisors Inc. and a Moss Adams consultant, helped design the three-day program held in August at Gallagher Hall. Kirchenbauer joined Moss Adams employees from the food processing and agriculture group for sessions on business acumen and how to build trust with clients.
“I can say clearly the people that attended the program have received the tools to start looking at their client relationship differently,” Gutsch says.
Leadership at the Vacaville, Calif., manufacturing plant of Genentech—the South San Francisco–based biotechnology firm now part of Roche—is planning a second program for about 70 managers at the School in February.
Elissa Berrol, a strategic learning partner at Genentech’s Vacaville plant, says she appreciates Beecham’s commitment to connecting classroom learning to the business and promoting accountability after the session. Berrol says she likes Beecham’s approach to continuity. Bringing back one of the presenters from last year’s program ties the new sessions to what employees previously learned. It’s that kind of forward thinking that makes Genentech want to return, Berrol says.
“It sets a precedent that these are not isolated events but that the learning is continuous, and we build upon each building block of knowledge.”