CEO encourages the value of work

SUU’s Entrepreneur Speaker Series welcomed accomplished CEO Dave Peterson as this week’s guest lecturer.

Peterson is the president and CEO of O.C. Tanner, an American company that designs and builds employee rewards for more than 600 multi-national clients.

O.C. Tanner made Fortune’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2016, ranking at number 30. The company is based in Salt Lake City and serves large companies including U.S. Bank and Dow Chemical.

Peterson has worked in every department at O.C. Tanner, where he started working over 30 years ago.

Peterson opened his lecture with a company profile, which included a history of the company and a rundown of O.C. Tanner’s services and clientele.

He spoke about the value of people in any workforce and said people deserve recognition for their efforts and achievements because they are vital to the success of any enterprise. Peterson said O.C. Tanner operates on this foundational principle that “people matter.”

Peterson said nothing, including strategy, materials, customers or shareholders, matters unless you have a workforce of people motivated to succeed. He insists on building a company culture that promotes this what O.C. Tanner aims to do.

Peterson said a mindset focused on innovation and development is a necessary component in business, but is beneficial in any industry.

“Every company needs start-up energy,” Peterson said. “Wherever you land in your career, whether in business or any other industry, it needs entrepreneurial start-up energy and innovation.”

It’s this energy and start-up thinking that Peterson said has made O.C. Tanner so successful.

“I like to think of O.C. Tanner as a 90-year start-up because this is our 90th year,” Peterson said. “And in my opinion, it is still starting up.”

Bryce Drawe, a sophomore marketing major from Hurricane, said he liked the way Peterson emphasized the importance of innovation and progression in a company and his implication that if a company is not starting up, it is starting down.

“I thought it was very interesting how he was talking about how companies need to keep starting up and the reason why many people are failing is because they stop starting up,” Drawe said.

Peterson also spoke about the value of taking risks, evolving strategies and knowing when to pivot in business.

Peterson said that while sales goals are important and good numbers can be impressive, it isn’t what drives entrepreneurial success.

“Focus on the mission, focus on the purpose, focus on the passion and the numbers will follow,” Peterson said. “Performance is judged by the difference we make. The results will follow naturally.”

Hector Torres, a sophomore marketing major from Baker, Nevada, said he liked Peterson’s explanation of O.C. Tanner’s business strategy.

“I really like how he didn’t talk about the goal as how much money they’re making, he made it about purpose,” Torres said. “I think they’ve been so successful and they’ll continue to grow because they make that the key — the purpose, rather than money and the numbers.”

The Entrepreneur Speaker Series features a new guest lecturer every week. Lectures are held in room 104 of the Emma Eccles Jones Education Building Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and are open to the public. The series will continue to feature lectures from successful entrepreneurs throughout the semester.


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