Mike Brewer and Dan Lanning

Insights from the Top

You never know what high-profile business leaders or coaches will be sharing knowledge with you in a Lundquist College of Business class.

In just one recent example, Mike Brewer, formerly of Nike and current chief operating officer (COO) for Crate and Barrel, shared insights with our undergraduate business honors program taught by senior instructor Eric Boggs—and he brought along head UO football coach Dan Lanning.

His current product line is a little different from Nike, but Brewer says successful companies have some things in common.

“I’m really enjoying Crate and Barrel because it reminds me of Nike in that we are winning as a team,” Brewer said. “You set your offense with the right talent, ensure they are working well together, which leads to delivering great results at the company. I think the biggest difference is the size and scale.”

Roles at various retail brands eventually led Brewer to Nike. He was at Nike for 20 years and held various operational roles with his last role as vice president, global sourcing and manufacturing.

Moving to Crate and Barrel, he said he has enjoyed engaging in the business in a much deeper way.

“I get to teach, coach, and help people solve problems.” Brewer said of his new role.

He described to students his three Cs of leadership—curiosity, communication, and competitiveness. This means curiosity in terms of "how do we make this better?”, communication with both peers and higher-ups, and the competitiveness to work through problems.

“Students need to understand the role business plays in a global economy,” Brewer said. “Your ability to understand that will make you better prepared to go out into the business world and be successful.”

Lanning, himself a former student-athlete and teacher, even asked Brewer a few questions, including one about the future of international manufacturing.

“Right now, where is business going?” Lanning said. “Where does it make the most sense for someone who is going overseas to do business?”

“Southeast Asia,” Brewer responded. “But like anything, you want to diversify. Shifting political systems make it difficult to have stability in a company’s supply chain. Now, companies like Crate and Barrel and Nike are designing products that can be made closer to the customer. You cannot afford to do it without a much higher use of automation in manufacturing processes.”

Since Brewer was a UO student, the building has changed, new courses have been added, and faculty expertise has grown, but business education fundamentals remain a key to success, even at the highest level.

He said, “My first job, I got because of my accounting classes, and years later I still use it every single day: inventory and balance sheets.”

—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications