First-Class Advice

By Frank Radosevich II
April 13, 2012

Steve Gorman, MBA ’78 has worn many hats throughout his highly successful management career and shared his vital experiences to a standing room only crowd of engaged students.

As head of North American operations at the doughnut giant Krispy Kreme, he saw how a brand can woo consumers and how its success can cloud the vision of managers. As president and chief executive of Greyhound Lines Inc., then on the verge of bankruptcy, Gorman walked through the steps needed to turn around the fledgling company. And as an MBA student at Bradley, he learned to temper his big ideas with the real-life experience of his classmates from the working world.

“We were great theorists,” he told a Bradley class of two-dozen MBA and MSA students learning about entrepreneurism, “but we were made realists by the other folks.”

Now the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Delta Air Lines, Gorman shared with students some nuggets of advice as well as several initiatives being carried out by Delta. He spoke with graduate and undergraduate students during his two-day visit to campus and learned about the University’s Convergence Initiative, which aims to bring engineering and business students closer together in a unique cross-curricular program.

“I really appreciate all the insights he gave us. I liked the comparisons he drew between working for small, family companies and larger corporations,” said Veronika Koubova, a MBA student from the Czech Republic.

Koubova, who is currently working at a small firm in Peoria, said she hopes to make her career in small business and enjoyed hearing Gorman’s personal experience in the industry.

Gorman noted that in small businesses “everything is personal and you don’t need policies. It’s about trust,” Koubova said. “I found it valuable and now know what to expect.”

Even with his active career, Gorman’s commitment to Bradley has continued. He is a former Bradley Trustee and founded the Gorman Entrepreneurship Education Fund, which provides resources and opportunities for entrepreneurship students. In 2011 he received Bradley’s Distinguished Alumni Award and was inducted into the University’s Centurion Society.

His roots in central Illinois run deep, too. A Bradford native, he is a graduate of Eureka College before coming to the Hilltop and helped run a family-owned printing business, Gorman Typesetting Inc. It was there he learned important lessons on management and finances.

Andrew Johnsen, a MBA student and Peoria native, took away several points from Gorman’s talk. Johnsen said hearing about how “cash is king” in keeping a business going and the importance of communication with customers and employees drove home lessons Bradley students discuss in the classroom.

“It’s exciting to see a Bradley MBA graduate that has done so much and had so much success and that he has come back and shared that with us,” Johnsen said. “You can study about it, you can read about it but to actually hear it has a lot more impact.”