Creative problem-solving has been a hallmark of William Putnam’s career. As an international corporate executive and leader, he spent time in Miami, where he received his Executive MBA from Florida International University in 2016. There, he met fellow students who were innovative, international and entrepreneurial in their thinking.
A year later, faced with a challenging business problem at Goddard Enterprises LLC, where he serves as a board member, Putnam turned back to FIU. In consultation with Managing Director Anthony Ali, Putnam led Goddard to sign on as the 2017-8 Corporate Sponsor of the Chapman Cup, FIU’s graduate case competition, in which teams of students put their analytical skills to work solving real-world business problems.
For FIU’s College of Business, partnering with Goddard presents an unparalleled opportunity for students.
“Goddard Enterprises is providing us with an amazing case on international business,” said Paulo Gomes, faculty director of the Chapman Cup. “The case will prompt students to analyze the company’s commercial strategy and operational model, and consider some of the challenging problems that may arise in growing a business in South America. It is a truly multidisciplinary opportunity to engage with issues of strategy, operations, marketing and corporate finance.”
Goddard Enterprises LLC is a 100-year-old Barbados-based conglomerate with 6,500 employees in the Caribbean and Latin America. It is a public company, with the Goddard family maintaining majority ownership. A pioneer in making food available on small planes in the Caribbean over 50 years ago, its primary focus remains airline catering, with additional related businesses in private jets, vending machines, offices, hospitals and other arenas.
Putnam’s work over the last five years has helped a sprawling conglomerate with a wide set of business interests in Latin America and the Caribbean focus on selected areas with growth potential that relate to its primary airline catering business. He credits a new generation of Goddard leadership, sophisticated problem solvers who are frequently called to consult with national leaders, for supporting the decision to engage FIU as a partner.
“Everyone at the company is seeing this as a win-win,” he said.
EMBA develops new skills for established leader.
Prior to attending FIU, Putnam’s achievements included growing international operations for Suzuki, Victoria’s Secret and Sharper Image, as well as eight-year role with Goddard. And while his background gave him a wide range of operational skills, he found himself looking for new skills for his career’s next stage.
“The FIU EMBA helped me immensely,” Putnam said. “It took me to where I wanted to be, and beyond. What I learned about areas like strategy, big data, employee engagement and leadership helped me not only join the conversation, but to steer the conversation.”
Walfried Lassar, FIU Business associate dean who leads the Chapman School, and Angel Burgos, executive director of MBA programs, have kept in steady contact with Putnam, who serves on the MBA Advisory Board.
“William Putnam has been an extraordinary ambassador for our program,” Lassar said. “It is beyond gratifying to see how our alumnus is reaching back to engage our students through the Chapman Cup.”
Lassar noted that the Chapman Cup encompasses more than a competition. It includes hands-on forums in which student teams build skills they need to perform case analysis skills, an invaluable professional asset. The Goddard case will be examined through a series of rounds in which students will be able to achieve a deeper understanding of the case as they progress in the competition. The first 2017-8 round opened on October 23, 2017, with students learning the identity of the case company and receiving the first challenge.
“With this partnership, we are raising the bar on the opportunities we can provide for students, offering sessions that help participants apply strategic and financial analysis to the given case, and training sessions on presentation skills,” Lassar said. The partnership has the potential to yield ongoing benefits for all parties, he added.
With the sponsorship, Putnam also sees the potential to engage with FIU students as potential members of the Goddard team.
“In the last five years, as a new board seeks out new opportunities, we are looking for the best and the brightest,” he said. “FIU is a natural fit. Their graduates have the qualities we are looking for, and as we grow in Central and South America, we’re hoping to build a bridge to FIU students and alumni.”