Completing Undergraduate Degree Fuels Business Owner’s Success
Why would the founder of a multi-million dollar company pursue an undergraduate degree in business leadership and organization behavior?
“I needed to know what I didn’t know,” says Jim Becker, founder and CEO of Becker Logistics, Inc., a transportation company that took in about $14 million in revenue last year, a figure he expects will more than double in 2015. “I wanted to grow 60 to 90 percent — not 20 or 30 percent like we had in the past. I also didn’t like being the guy without the degree who insisted on hiring BAs and MBAs.”
Becker began attending college right after high school, but working full time to pay his own way was a challenge. He was making a good salary and saw no reason to stay in school. But he continued learning informally by working hard in various transportation businesses, studying the industry, and eventually starting his own company. But as the company grew, so did his awareness that something was missing.
“Despite our success there were some failures along the way,” he recalls. “I needed to learn the language and concepts of business and how organizations work so we could stay on the right path. What got me here wouldn’t get me to the next step.”
He chose Northwestern for its strong reputation; the flexible business leadership bachelor’s degree program in the School of Professional Studies was the right fit for his interests and needs.
“I looked at the curriculum and thought, ‘this is fantastic; the topics are exactly like what’s happening in my own business,’” he says. “Classes every other Saturday let me come home, unwind with my wife and kids and then focus on homework. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or filled with empty content. You have to push yourself.”
Becker is confident that his coursework, faculty with real-world experience and a diverse, supportive cohort has benefited his business and his employees — and he has his eye on an MBA after he graduates. “You gain the core competencies you need to move forward and add value to your company or, if you’re an employee, to get to that next level,” he says. “It has definitely made a positive impact on my company’s growth.
Article by Linda Behzad