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Executive-in-Residence Program Brings Top McDonald’s Executive Back to Class

April 06, 2009
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   Alvarez with student
The president and chief operating officer of one of the world’s most prominent multinational firms shared his success stories, lessons learned and other insight with students March 30 as part of the School’s Executive-in-Residence program. Ralph Alvarez (BBA ’76), who sets global strategy and directs operations for McDonald’s Corporation, spoke to students in an MBA strategic marketing class as well as an undergraduate organizational behavior class. He also met with students and administrators in breakfast and lunch meetings during his visit.

McDonald’s has been one of the most successful large companies during the economic recession and its stock was one of only two in the Dow Jones Industrial Average that ended 2008 with a gain. Since assuming his present position in 2006, Alvarez has been credited with helping McDonald’s extend a six-year period of growth by focusing on improving daily restaurant operations, adjusting menu prices, and keeping costs low.

During his classroom stops at UM, Alvarez talked about his career and presented background information on McDonald’s and the company’s growth. He then opened the floor for questions from students. Many students expressed concern over finding a job in the midst of the economic crisis and asked for Alvarez’s advice.

“Economic cycles will happen. I’d really look at the financial strength of a company and look to work for stable companies that are financially sound. If you’re not in a position to take a lot of risks, you double your risk if the company you’re going to work for isn’t in a good position,” he told students in one session.

Alvarez, who was born in Cuba and grew up in Miami, has also worked at Burger King and Wendy’s International Inc.

“Being an immigrant to this country, there’s nothing more I value than knowing that if you’re well educated and have the competitive spirit you have the chance to succeed. I see the proof at McDonald’s all the time because 50 percent of our top executives started working in one of our restaurants. Today, I’m trying to help people along the way as I was helped.”

The School’s Executive-in-Residence program brings successful business leaders into the classroom throughout the year. Joseph J. Echevarria, Jr. (BBA ’78), the U.S. managing partner and chief operating officer of global accounting giant Deloitte LLP, returned to campus in February as part of the program.

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