Carl Anderson: A Force of Reckoning
By Nancy J. McCann
From his comfortable perch in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, with Hurricane Jose churning the waters behind him, Carl G. Anderson Jr., Alvernia’s Business Executive in Residence, calmly discussed his successful career. To those listening, it became apparent that no amount of driving rain, wind or rough seas was going to slow this business leader down.
Anderson spent decades in the business world. After earning his MBA from Lehigh University in 1972, he began his career at Procter & Gamble learning the ropes — and soaps — of business from the consumer products giant. As he deftly developed his business acumen, large companies recruited him for it — from Procter & Gamble to Nestlé to James River Corporation, ABC School Supply, Inc., and finally to Arrow International, Inc., a medical devices manufacturer, where he led the company as chairman and CEO, retiring in 2007.
Through the years he also served on a number of corporate boards and was a longtime trustee of Alvernia and Lafayette College. Not one to sail away into the sunset full time, Anderson remains on the boards of several companies and is a general partner of Cannondale Investments, a private investment company.
For the 2017–18 academic year, he will be offering his encyclopedia share of business and leadership knowledge to Alvernia students as the Business Executive in Residence through public lectures, classes, mentorships, workshops and more. This program is a partnership between the O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service and the university’s Business Department.
“The source of all business success is figuring out what the customer really wants,” says Anderson, providing a peek at what he’ll share with Alvernia students. “This must be done in an analytical way. It involves collecting data and analyzing it, figuring out how to make that product well — and doing it consistently. Figuring out how to keep costs down and how best to market it are also important. In a nutshell: the product is what matters. That’s extremely important to understand. Excellent products that meet the needs of the consumer.
“That’s principle number one. If you don’t do that, all the rest is a waste of time.”
When it comes to leadership advice, Anderson draws mostly on his service as an Army lieutenant stationed in Korea.
“I learned a lot about marketing and business from Procter & Gamble, and I learned a lot about investing from my partners in the private equity world. But when it comes to leadership I probably learned more from the U.S. Army than anywhere else,” says Anderson.
“The Army is about principles ... setting the example. You never ask your men to do anything that you wouldn’t do. If the enemy is up the hill, you don’t tell your men, ‘Go up the hill,’ you say, ‘Follow me.’”
Anderson believes that leading by example is just as crucial for business, too.
“If you want your people to put in long days and work hard, then the boss ought to be putting in long days and working hard. If you want your people to be ethical, then the boss has to be ethical. A leader must have high standards and high expectations,” says Anderson.