Ron Ford (HCB, ’84) was presented with an Accomplished Alumni Award on April 20 by Stephen L. Mangum, dean and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.
Ford, who is based in Los Angeles, is a member of the college’s advisory council, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Silgan Containers, and chairman of Malibu Holdings, an investment and advisory firm.
Mangum said Ford’s success crosses multiple industries in both entrepreneurial endeavors and corporate settings.
“Throughout his career, Ron has been actively involved in the communities in which he has resided,” Mangum said. “He shares his wealth of knowledge and experience in the classroom, having taught courses at the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, Pepperdine University and having guest lectured at many others. In short, Ron is a wonderful example of the range of activities and impacts that characterize an accomplished alumnus.”
After receiving his award, Ford shared advice and experience about mergers and acquisitions with a group of Haslam upperclassmen.
“All of you are – or are about to be – on the job market,” Ford said. “Here’s a question: If you are working for a company, how do you know your company is going up for sale? They’re not going to tell you.”
According to Ford, signs of a merger or acquisition can include: sudden pressure to drive earnings, the involvement of consultants, an increase in requests for data, turnover in upper management and/or upper management nearing retirement.
“If your company isn’t growing, then someone else will buy it, especially when capital is cheap, like it is now, and everyone is in play,” Ford said.
Ford told students about his own background, which led him from a difficult childhood in Lenoir City, Tennessee, to an undergraduate experience at UT, an MBA degree from Vanderbilt University and a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University.
When he was 12, Ford’s mother worked two jobs, including one as a bookkeeper in a plant. Ford told students that he remembers deciding to become an accountant at the time.
“There was this one man with a very nice office, and so I wandered in there to ask: ‘How did you get your job?’” Ford said. “He told me to major in accounting, and so I did.”
Kathleen Powers, assistant professor of Accounting and Information Management at Haslam, asked Ford to address what steps graduating students can take in order to best position themselves in their careers.
“If you want corporate experience, you should get it first,” Ford said. “Going the other way around from entrepreneurial into corporate is more difficult.”