John Salerno (ILF2019)


Harvard Business School (USA)

Driving Profitable Growth

1) Application was relatively straight forward…. Biggest effort was choosing which course to undertake.

For me strategy is not my strong point so I looked at strategy course across Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Oxford etc.

I chose Driving Profitable Growth, because:

  • It fit my time (more than a week would have been too hard to justify)
  • It fit my schedule (there was a gap)
  • I’ve been to the US West Coast enough (Stanford) there was an East Coast appeal
  • The Harvard Brand.
  • I had done enough leadership courses…. Wanted something focused on strategy… its somewhere where I struggle.
  • Budget – this one had a flat fee of USD 10k which included lodging and meals… some of the longer courses had very large price tags USD 25k or more and that’s hard to justify assuming the ILF picks up a proportion of the bill.

2) Harvard

  • So the course was delivered at a newly built state of the art teaching facility on Campus at Harvard.
  • All participants were expected to stay on campus at what were effectively small but comfortable hotel rooms.
  • The Room was Amphitheatre style, sunken toward the presenter and created wonderful acoustics and a star wars type experience.
  • We had a class of 78 people, of which no more that 12 were from mainland USA…. Good contingent from South America (9 Brazilians, couple of Mexicans), Africa (Including a Prince from Nigeria), Middle East (A Kuwaiti Banker is visiting me next year), Europe (some Frenchies, English, Irish, Romanian), 3 Aussies and a small number for Asia.
  • Teaching was by means of case studies.  We’d have to read the cases ahead of coming or indeed the night before and then go through them in our small group study groups prior to lecture.
  • The days were pretty long…. Commencing around 8am with group discussion and concluding at around 7 for dinner and then a few hours reading most nights.
  • The wonderful thing about the lecturers were that they had prepared the case studies themselves and produced wonderful insights into what was going on.
  • I’m told that they chose a CEO from one of the case studies to be in the room to listen to what people say… In our case the presenter Steve Kaufmann and former head of Arrow was actually one of the presenters presenting the case.
  • We had some great bonding going on…. the application form asked for a nickname.  I entered “Captain” but clearly it seems they were looking for preferred name.  So for my stay I was “Captain Salerno” which clearly helped me to stand out.  On the last evening at the pub…. 30 or so people from all nations called out “Captain” and saluted when I entered the pub.

3) Summary

What a wonderful experience…. Part of this has to do with the brand of Harvard and the impressive stature of the buildings but part is also due to what was a wonderful line up of lectures and the case study method of teaching.   The broad mix of cultures and experience in the room should not be understated….at the commencement of the course it was mentioned that there were over 1100 years of business experience in the room and it made for very diverse and fun discussions.

There was a wonderfully warm, inclusive and participative feel to each of the study groups.

Amazingly we built some great friendships during the 4 day stay… one can imagine that the longer courses would go further in that direction.

Indeed it was revealed that the course I took would be extended by a day next time around and that seemed appropriate.

I return to Australia highly motivated and feel I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to both grow my business and assist others in taking up this opportunity.

Just wanted to say thanks again to Geoff Vogt and the ILF.