Mark R. Wasserman, owner and operator of the Chick-fil-A in San Antonio’s Medical Center, visited the H-E-B School of Business and Administration (HEBSBA) in June to talk to Dr. Jeannie Scott’s Capstone I class about the importance of effective leadership.
Wasserman, a retired Air Force colonel, has been speaking to classes on the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) campus every semester for about four years, sharing his experiences and advice with students.
“I think more importantly it gives the students an opportunity to see what’s out there outside of just an academic environment and to see it from a different perspective,” Wasserman said.
Scott, associate dean and professor of business administration, said she continues to have Wasserman speak to her classes for the same reason – to allow students to hear from a different voice in the business world.
“The feedback I hear from students is always positive. They want to hear from people that have succeeded and are actually doing the job, not just talking about something in a classroom,” Scott said.
She said Wasserman’s discussions focus on sharing the traits he has learned to be necessary for an effective leader. He hopes students receive the message.
“From my perspective, if they would just take away the fact that leadership is dynamic. Leadership is flexible. Leadership is not stagnant, but it’s very critical in any organization,” Wasserman said. “And when they take the tools that they’re getting from an academic perspective, and then (we) give them the opportunity to put it into a practical perspective, if they can kind of get that connection, then I think we’ve been very successful.”
He said his interest in speaking to college students began when he realized the value and basis of his business was people.
“I think my passion for people goes hand-in-hand with leadership. Business, Chick-fil-A, (the) university, what is it all about? It’s all about people. And if we’re not investing in others outside of ourselves, then we’re really squandering the gifts that we’ve been given by God,” Wasserman said.
"Despite the stereotypes of millennials, students here at UIW really want to learn."
He’s confident his message is not falling on deaf ears – something he credits to the leadership at UIW and the instruction of Scott.
“Despite the stereotypes of millennials, students here at UIW really want to learn. They’re eager for information, and that makes it easier for me as a presenter,” Wasserman said. “I’ve been at this for four years and I haven’t had one person come close to falling asleep. So that tells me they’re interested in the topic.”
Wasserman said students need to take advantage of real-world opportunities outside of the classroom in order to better themselves to be successful after college. He said students should look for someone in their desired field who will “strap them to their hip.”
“It goes back to mentoring. Mentoring doesn’t have to just be done by somebody you’re working for or somebody that you go to church with or a professor. Mentoring can be somebody in your interest of study. And if you’re not going and finding out what people are doing in the area that you want to (be in), then you’re missing out on a golden opportunity,” he said.
Wasserman said students need to allow other people to tell them “no,” and not do it themselves. He offered an example of an exchange he had with a student following his recent presentation, which illustrates his point.
“One of the gentlemen I was just talking to, his ultimate goal is to own the Dallas Cowboys. I mean, that’s a huge goal. Well, he needs to take the first step and that is, ‘I need to go intern with the Cowboys.’ I said, ‘Write Jerry Jones a letter,’” Wasserman said. “Well, go to the man. Let the man say no.”
Wasserman’s discussions with students are designed to inspire and prompt them to take the necessary steps to better themselves and further their careers.
“These students today are going to be the future leaders of tomorrow. And even though I’m an old codger and we differ by about 40 years of age … I can learn from them -- and I do -- and they can learn from me. So it’s a win-win for both of us,” he said.