A meal with Alan B. Miller: Miller hall’s “Patron Saint”

Prior to his dedication of the William and Mary Entrepreneurship Center, Alan B. Miller (CEO Universal Health Services) requested to have breakfast with members of the MBA class of 2017 that were service members.  Mr. Miller, an alumnus of the William and Mary ROTC program, continues to find great pleasure in reading about military history and thought the opportunity would give him a first hand account of the contemporary military environment.

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Asked by the program officer, eight members of the Major General James Wright Fellowship volunteered to share in this experience. Introduced personally by long time friend (and current Dean) Larry Pulley, the doors shut for a small group discussion over eggs and bacon with a leader who commands a company with annual revenues that exceed $9 billion.

The Fellows were quickly put at ease by a very gregarious and candid man who began the conversation by saying he had no agenda for the meeting, and just wanted to talk about things that interested us.  Quickly put at ease, the conversation drifted from politics to sports to military history and eventually onto leadership.  Mr. Miller (who insisted on being called Alan, not Sir) answered one prompt about the challenges of leading such a large organization by saying “if your people haven’t bought in [to your vision]–and you force it–they will find a way to pay you back.”

He went on to say that great organizations are made up of great people, and shared his enlightening litmus test for knowing who the real assets are: “tell me who you would be crushed if they left.”  He continued his discussion on talent management by saying that “if you have good people, you will do well.  Good people don’t tolerate bad people.”  But Alan added the reality check that whether in corporate America or the military, this is still a challenge. “Managing people?  Everyone has these problems–Julius Caesar had these problems!”

The MGJW Fellows eventually shuffled back to class, lingering to shake hands and refill coffee cups as the meeting closed.  Mr. Miller was off to dedicate another space named in his honor, after having carved out 8 more in the memories of those in attendance.