Ask a Busy Person to Do it
You've probably heard the bit of management folk wisdom that goes something like this: "If you ever have to delegate a task that absolutely must be done right, hand it to the busiest person on your team." It's a good bet that whoever first stumbled onto that truth had in mind someone like Robert Beyer, '83.
Beyer, chair of UCLA Anderson's Board of Visitors, currently heads Chaparal Investments LLC, a private investment firm and holding company. But don't think for a second that's all Beyer does. In addition to serving as a trustee of Harvard-Westlake School, he's also a director of two Fortune 100 companies, the Allstate Corporation and the Kroger Corporation, as well as a member of the advisory board for the Milwaukee Brewers.
So why does an incredibly accomplished leader like Beyer give so much of both his time and treasure to UCLA Anderson? To answer that question, Beyer relays a quirk of his personal history: "I think I remember just about every piece of advice I was ever given as I was growing up. I can probably remember every time I was treated with respect by an adult that had something to say." He acknowledges that it's different with UCLA Anderson students, who are already self-supporting adults. Yet he relishes the opportunity to offer counsel and support at critical moments in younger people's lives. "If I have the ability to give somebody something to think about, to give them some encouragement about the direction of their career, to make a contact for them, to hire them, or support them in some other way, it's a gift to be able to do that. I find that very gratifying."
Helping individual students is, however, only a part of Beyer's role as chair of the Board of Visitors. The most critical facet of his job, he says, "is to insure that the board is supporting the dean and the programs of UCLA Anderson."
Beyer and the rest of the board are currently faced with a familiar question: how to keep UCLA Anderson moving forward amid a sputtering economy and flagging state support. Beyer, who's been an official board member since 1991, has faced this challenge before. "We've already learned how to run on such a low percentage of state funding that now we're onto a different mission, which is being more excellent," he says.
Beyer cites three areas where the board's support is especially crucial: in helping the dean recruit and retain world-class faculty members, most often in the face of stiff competition from peer institutions; in doing whatever possible to improve the student experience, from bolstering the school's internship program to corporate outreach to job placement; and, finally, in raising money, which allows the school the freedom to do things it wouldn't otherwise be able to do within a very tight budget.
He has advice for alumni who aren't sure about volunteering time for UCLA Anderson. "People often think, I'm at a point in my career where I don't have time—maybe I have a young family or I have other interests. Well, you never really understand how to prioritize your time unless you take little tastes of all the ways you can do that. And we have plenty of opportunities to take a little taste of what it's like to come back on campus, to interact with students, and to see what we're up to."