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Carroll School of Management Graduate Programs

Daniel Kenary, CEO and co-founder of Harpoon, visits the BC Manager's Studio

A blog post by Lauren O'Neill, BC MBA '16

professional photo of Lauren O'Neill, BC MBA '16

I am in the middle of finalizing plans for my upcoming wedding. This may not sound like it directly relates to business school, but in my case it does. Just wait for it...

At the Boston College Carroll School of Management there is an unique format to guest speakers called the Manager’s Studio.  For those familiar with James Lipton’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio” television program, the format for Boston College’s Manager’s Studio will sound familiar.The speaker is first interviewed on stage by BC's Professor Bob Radin (who is currently my Managing People and Organizations professor). Then the floor is opened up to the students for questions.

So here is how my wedding is directly related to my MBA. The first executive for the 2014 Manager’s Studio was Daniel Kenary, CEO and co-founder of Harpoon Brewery. I happen to be hosting my wedding reception later this fall at the new Beer Hall at Harpoon’s Boston Brewery. So not only was I excited to hear from a local, successful CEO, but also I was eager to hear about the development of the beer hall since it will play such a big part of one of my major life moments. Before Dan arrived, I mentioned to Bob about my unique connection to Harpoon. He immediately encouraged me to bring this up to Dan at some point during the session.

After Bob introduced Dan to the packed room, he began his questions that he asks all of the executive that visit the Manager’s Studio. He asks questions like “what work experience did you have when you were younger that prepared you for the kind of roles you have now?” and “what are the challenges of motivating the workforce?” What was really great about Dan’s responses was that many reinforced what we had been learning in Bob’s class. For example, we completed a class module on core values and just wrote a paper about our personal core values. Dan emphasized the importance of companies living by their core values instead of just writing them to check that action off the list then immediately disregarding them.  He also told us that Harpoon’s core values are posted in the employee conference/break room (conveniently right next to the beer taps) so that the values are always visible and in the front of the employees minds.

For me, one of the other key take-aways from the discussion was hearing about Dan’s professional journey. He has worked in multiple industries; transitioning from banking, then to Harpoon, next into the startup world and now he is back leading the Harpoon team. This struck a chord with me because I am pursuing my MBA to make a transition from engineering/manufacturing to a broader strategic role in a different industry. Although I don’t expect to start a brewery after completing my MBA (Dan co-founded Harpoon after completing him MBA), I am encouraged that switching industries can be a very good move and I hope to find something as fulfilling for myself as Harpoon is for Dan. 

When the floor was open to student questions, my favorite question and answer was about how he and his team chose to serve pretzels at the beer hall. (Note: the pretzels are awesome and are going to be served as a late night snack during my wedding reception). Dan’s answer was that it wasn’t just about serving something that people would like to eat with beer but it was also about finding something that would go with the Harpoon brand of socializing over beer. The pretzels fit that mark and additionally, they are made with the spent grain and IPA beer from the brewing operation. After the interview and Q&A, I had a chance to introduce myself to Dan during the meet and greet reception. He was excited to hear about my wedding plans and was impressed that it was my idea, not my fiance’s, to host at the beer hall.

I am looking forward to the next Manager’s Studio with Tom Hynes, Co-chairman and CEO of Collier International/Boston. There will be significant differences in the application of management practices between the real estate industry and the craft beer industry but I’m sure a different perspective will only add to my understanding of how to be a successful manager.