Yale School of Management alumni head three of the top 100 corporations to work for, according to the latest ranking from Fortune Magazine.
Boston Consulting Group, directed in part by Steven Gunby SOM ’82 LAW ’82, who currently works as BCG’s regional leader for the Americas, was ranked 11th in its first year on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, which was released earlier this month. Carmax, Inc., the brainchild of CEO Austin Ligon SOM ’80, was ranked 93rd on the list, while Bright Horizons, established by former Yale Corporation fellow Linda Mason SOM ’80 and Roger Brown SOM ’82, came 94th. All of the alumni whose companies were recognized said they associate their success in creating encouraging work environments with SOM’s emphasis on the personal side of business.
Ligon said he thinks many of the workplace strategies that earned Carmax a place on Fortune’s list can be traced back to policies he learned as a student at Yale.
“We created a great consumer concept and stood behind it with a high-integrity and team-driven work environment,” Ligon said. “We ask ourselves, ‘What do we need to do to make our associates successful so they work well with customers and make us successful?’ That attention to human dynamics and team-building is something the School of Management stresses — they don’t forget to look at the people side of business.”
Gunby said he thinks SOM’s emphasis on interpersonal skills is directly applicable in the business world.
“The School of Management emphasizes both hard and soft skills — by that I mean quantitative analysis and problem-solving skills as well as skills related to organizational behavior and teamwork,” Gunby said. “My years at SOM marked the first time that I was exposed to those kind of skills in a systematic way.”
Brown, who is currently serving as president of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, said he and Mason decided to start Bright Horizons after two years of running the Save the Children development and relief effort in the Sudan. Now run exclusively by Mason, Bright Horizons provides work-site child-care, early education, and work-life consulting services.
“The idea came from a colleague who noticed several Boston-area companies starting child development programs for employees,” Brown said. “SOM gave us a wonderful dose of knowledge that certainly came in handy, but most importantly it reinforced our idealism that a well-run business could be a positive and powerful force to create something good in the world.”
Ligon’s company, Carmax, seeks to apply business policies used effectively in “superstore retailing” to the automobile industry, specifically the sale of used cars.
“Consumers love the transparency of it — it’s completely different from a traditional car offer,” Ligon said. “I think that creates a very pleasant environment because you know you’re selling a fun product. You really feel that you’re revolutionizing the world in a way that consumers like.”
Gunby said he is careful in his work at BCG to give employees a sense of their ability in addition to providing them with the necessary structure and training.
“Our values are very much consistent with the values that the School of Management was founded on,” Gunby said. “It’s all about how you create an organization that really motivates you, because the traditional model of hierarchical structure just doesn’t do that.”
Ligon also pointed to the high percentage of female Carmax employees — nearly 40 percent of its work force, compared to less than 1 percent at many dealerships — as an indication of the company’s accessibility and openness.
“Our job is to support the people who work in our stores,” Ligon said. “I think you’ll find that’s the goal of most if not all of the companies on the list.”
Fortune’s list, released in early February, ranks companies based both on the evaluation of the magazine and the opinions of company employees. Two-thirds of each company’s score is derived from the results of a 57-question survey on management, camaraderie and job satisfaction, which was administered to approximately 400 of the company’s employees.