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Tech Data CEO shares successful business traits with Executive MBA students

Bob Dukowsky

At the end of each quarter, Tech Data Corp. CEO Bob Dutkowsky goes through his calendar items.

He grades himself for each event on an A-F scale. Did he execute to the best of his ability? Was he present and focused? Did he achieve work-life balance?

"It's glaring," Dutkowsky said. "You'll see some things you're doing really well, others you're not."

Recently, Dutkowsky shared the wisdom he has gained from years as an executive in the tech industry with students in USF's Executive MBA program. He said he has noticed five qualities that push businesspeople to the top: focus, execution, teamwork, a sense of urgency, and balance.

"There's nothing wrong with not being good at something you see on this list," he said, adding that students' willingness to examine and improve their deficiencies is very important. "Don't put your defensive mechanism up and say, 'No, that's not me.'"

He shared his observations on those qualities, along with some tactics for strengthening weak areas.

  • Focus. Dutkowsky told students that focus is being able to buckle down and get to work. "The ability to get a task done faster and more efficiently will set you apart," he told them.

  • Execution. Dutkowsky said execution is about being able to not only get something done, but to do it well. "If you don't have an unending drive to improve, you had better retire," he said.

  • Teamwork. Dutkowsky noted that executives generally don't get to the top positions without having egos. However, he said, the truly effective ones are able to put their egos aside to work with others. "The real world is not a bunch of lone rangers," he said. "The real world is about collaboration and teamwork."

  • Sense of Urgency. Dutkowsky admitted that he has strived to improve on the last two qualities on his list over the course of his career. For those who also want to improve urgency, Dutkowsky recommended instituting personal deadlines to manufacture that sense of being under the gun. He also noted that an innate sense of urgency isn't always a quality that wins popularity contests, citing the example of a student who says "Let's meet before we leave class."

    "You know who those people are," he said. "That person may aggravate you," he added, and students responded with laughter.

  • Balance. Dutkowsky warned students that if they didn't consciously work at maintaining a work-life balance, one of the two (career or personal life) may stall out. "Your company won't hand you balance on a silver platter," he said. "It takes you to willfully decide to strive for balance in your life"

Dutkowsky also encouraged students to consider a career at Tech Data. He noted that few tech companies worldwide have outlived the Clearwater-based technology distributor's 40 years because the tech world moves so fast. While Tech Data's competitors sell the same products that his company does, Dutkowsky believes that Tech Data's service level is what sets the company apart.

"The major thing that differentiates us from our competitors is the people in our company," he said.