Eric Boughner (MBA Finance ‘03) joined the Eli Broad College of Business MBA students to discuss his journey navigating sales, capital, cash transformation and several other finance areas within the automotive industry as a part of the Pung Speaker Series.
In his fifteen years at General Motors (GM), he held several responsibilities, which forced him to learn new skills along the way. He started to do audits for GM before he moved on to the OnStar New Business Development area which allowed him to travel to China and handle the initial start-up of OnStar China.
He found himself as the CFO for several product programs and the director of Global capital management before landing in his current position as the Finance Director for sales, service and marketing for GM’s parts and OnStar departments.
Reflecting on his time with GM, Boughner presented four key lessons that he believes to be true no matter where you are or what company you work for which can help current students looking forward to their future career plans:
- Lesson 1: Adapt to the changing market and its consumers
- Lesson 2: Be competitive
- Lesson 3: Be bold and speak up
- Lesson 4: Foster relationships
Being able to adapt to what consumers want in the market is crucial to consider for any business. As a business, it is important to think ahead of consumer trends, “How do we always try and think one or two steps ahead of them. You’ll never be able to do that perfectly, but it’s our challenge to try,” said Boughner.
In order to gain consumers’ traffic, businesses must stay competitive within their fields. According to Boughner, “One of the things that I’ve learned in my career is you want to be competitive, you want to do the best thing but how do you make sure you’re being competitive externally versus internally?”
Internal competition complicates the working environment and can cause distractions from other competitors and the overall task of focusing on consumers.
To fix internal and external issues it takes one person to come up with an idea or to take a risk and try something new. Boughner explained the importance of asking questions and that it only takes one person to be bold enough to ask the question everyone is thinking.
“In our careers, we sit there in class or sit there in our work lives and say, ‘what about this?’ But, I’m not sure I want to ask this question,” Boughner said. “I recommend always asking the questions because I guarantee you that there’s someone else sitting in that room that has the exact same questions. It is often hard to do but I challenge all of you to be bold.”
Lastly, there is nothing like the connections you have made and the people you know that helps you succeed in today’s world. The phrase, “it’s who you know,” has never been truer and Boughner agrees.
“I guess that the biggest thing that I have learned within this was: one, foster relationships throughout your career because you never know who you’re going to work with,” Boughner said. “There’s infinite power in that.”
Two students in the MBA program explained how Boughner’s lecture has either provided new insight for their career path or gave them a new perspective on how to take control of their future.
Sarah DiPietro (FTMBA 2019) said, “I will be starting at GM in May in their TRACK program. It will consist of three, one-year rotations. The speaker series did allow for me to not only get an inside scoop on my future employer; it also helped me to meet someone who has had a successful career at GM and get tips and thoughts as I embark on my journey.”
Gerry Griffith (FTMBA 2020) took away more than one new perspective from Boughner’s lecture and has even found ways to apply it to his future career plans as well.
“My big takeaway from Eric’s lecture was the importance of taking control of your own career by knowing what your priorities are and ensuring that your employer knows them as well. My second takeaway was the importance of gaining a diverse experience within one’s own field as a way to advance your career,” Griffith said.