MBA Course Offers Deep-Dive into Global Company

November 26, 2019

This semester, students in St. John Fisher College’s MBA Leadership Development course are learning about the organizational transitions that global manufacturer Gorbel®, Inc. has undergone, and how the philosophies of its leadership helps it to maintain a strong level of operational and customer excellence.

MBA students visited Gorbel® after studying how the company tranformed from a small family business to a global manufacturer.

The company manufactures and distributes jib and workstation crane systems, patented track overhead high tonnage cranes, electric chain hoists and intelligent lifting devices for a wide variety of uses in all industries that require product to be transferred and lifted. Their systems provide solutions to improve the safety and ergonomics for employees while driving production efficiencies as well. Their industrial product portfolio also includes customized solutions for fall protection through their Tether Track™ product when any employee is elevated from the ground performing work operations. Their medical division manufactures and distributes the SafeGait® product that is placed in rehabilitation facilities. This device assists patients learning how to walk again in their recovery after a stroke, brain or spinal cord injury. It also positively impacts physical therapists involved in the rehabilitation process.

Gorbel® was founded by Dave Reh in 1977 as a company with one location in New York and just a few employees. Gorbel® now has a strong presence in New York, Alabama, Arizona and China. Reh’s son, Brian, took over for his father as president and CEO in 2010. He has served in this role until just recently, when he decided to focus more on big picture initiatives. After a two-year transition process, in October 2019, he appointed Fisher alumnus David Pritchard ’83 as president and COO. David will be ‘looking inward’ running the business, and Brian will be ‘looking outward’ focusing on strategy development and technology innovations (the ‘new and the next’).

Fisher’s MBA leadership development course is taking a deep dive into Gorbel® to see how this transition works. Professor George Bovenzi, who leads the course and has close professional ties to Gorbel®, is teaching students about the intricacies of the transition and using the company as an example of how to bring a small family business into the global market. The experience has given students insight into this success through traditional classroom learning and provided direct access to the company’s leaders, who shared their leadership styles and best practices and what it takes to become market leaders.

The study culminated in a visit to the company, where Pritchard spoke to students about Dave Reh’s leadership and how the culture he built when he began the company continues to cascade throughout the entire company, being reinforced during Brian Reh’s tenure as president.

“Everyone in our business needs to be thinking like a CEO for their own processes,” Pritchard said. He noted that each employee knows their process best and can have valuable ideas that contribute to continuous improvement and to the overall success of Gorbel® while simultaneously providing extraordinary customer experiences.

This culture of employee engagement, empowerment and individual growth is something Pritchard feels differentiates Gorbel® in the marketplace from an employee talent acquisition and retention standpoint. The culture also has led to some of their most successful initiatives, empowering employees to find the most efficient ways to improve processes and efficiently bring the product to the customer, ultimately growing sales and providing opportunities for Gorbel® to reinvest into the business.

Dr. Carol Wittmeyer, interim executive associate dean of the School, helped to organize the event and attended. “I know this was one of the best nights we’ve offered our MBA students and one that they could only enjoy by being at Fisher,” she said. “I’m so grateful to Gorbel® and feel such pride in being a part of our community.”

The visit also included a tour of Gorbel®’s manufacturing plant, led by Pritchard and three of the production supervisors; a visit to their testing facility, where students observed and operated Gorbel® technology first-hand; and an in-depth presentation from the COO followed by a stimulating question-and-answer session.

Students were very happy to have had the experience. MBA Student Kevin Becker recognized the event as a highlight of his time in the program exclaiming, “I am so grateful to have had such a memorable experience, to learn about Gorbel®'s success, and to experience exceptional leadership in action!” Fisher student Rebecca Brant, who is taking the MBA course as an undergraduate student, spoke to the value of the visit. “It is always an honor to explore companies in Rochester who have been impacted so positively by Fisher graduates. Professionals such as David Pritchard and George Bovenzi have given us a strong foundation to become leaders of our own.”

The Gorbel® case study is just one way the MBA program offers students the opportunity to learn from global organizations at the top of their field and the individuals responsible for their success. The School plans to continue these efforts, expanding with deep dives to other firms.

This article was written by Ben Stallman ’18. Stallman graduated from St John Fisher College with a bachelor’s degree in business management. He is currently in his final semester of the MBA graduate program. Stallman works for the School of Business as MBA Ambassador, promoting the MBA and assisting with student outreach.