The latest rendition of the Fairfield Dolan Dean’s Executive Forum saw Dolan School of Business Dean Zhan Li, D.B.A. and his co-moderator Instructor of the Practice of Management Chris Hamer, B.B.A., M.S., facilitating a conversation with Gonzalve Bich, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the BIC Corporation.
The event was held both virtually and in-person on Wednesday, March 1 at 5 p.m. Students looking to attend the event, titled, “Pens, Lighters, Tattoos?” had to register for the event online, but according to Li, some students were specially invited to sit in the audience and connect with Bich after the event.
“Traditionally, we hold three speaker events each year,” Eve Liptak, Manager of Dolan Communication and Events, mentioned in regard to the Dean’s Executive Forum. According to Liptak, herself and Li collaborated to create the “immersive” event.
The goal of the Dean’s Executive Forum, shared Liptak, “invites thought leaders and distinguished executives to discuss issues that have profound impacts on business and/or societies.”
The event kicked off with Li welcoming students, faculty and members of the BIC team to the event. Li began the presentation by speaking about Bich’s credentials and introducing his co-moderator, Professor Hamer. According to Li, Hamer has 15 patents and is an innovative, entrepreneurial leader in the Dolan School of Business.
Li credited his guest with being the third generation of Bich family members to lead the company, continuing a 75-year legacy. Bich shared that at the helm of the company, he is looking to ensure social responsibility and sustainability. One way he aims to do this is by attaining carbon neutrality by 2050 and reducing the plastic in packaging of BIC products.
One key to his mindset with BIC is “reimaging everyday essentials”. He shared that he sought to be “part of every heart and home” with BIC, and continued to corroborate this point by sharing how his brand can be such a personal part of someone’s identity with the product line “BodyMark”.
Li’s first question to kick off the discussion was about Bich’s tattoos, and what they meant to him. As a father of four, he has his children’s names tattooed, citing that some other ones are personal to him. The “passion project” of Bodymark, as Bich stated, is vegan, temporary, and allows the user of the marker to change their self-expression and self-value as they please.
Like the name of the presentation reads, BIC also produces stationary products, lighters and more. He mentioned the importance of producing certain products locally, and shared how over four million lighters are produced a day in their plant in Milford, Conn.
He also spoke to the way that the COVID-19 affected their business, and shared that their lighters sold extremely well while everyone was quarantined at home. The local production, according to Bich, allowed the company to stay open and produce during the pandemic.
In line with giving back to the community and staying socially responsible, Bich shared the efforts of the company to understand who is using their products in the community and how they can best support them. Collaborating with schools and emphasizing a great care for education and learning are two ways that he achieves this alongside his company.
Li and Hamer were curious as to the ways that Bich maintained a leadership mindset. Although he said that he was not looking for or waiting for the CEO position to fall into his lap, he took it graciously anyways with “eyes wide open”. He spoke to the value of devoting yourself to something you love that can change the future.
Being curious, learning something new every single day and being agile are some of the few main traits that have helped him find success as a CEO. “Being a great leader means being a great follower,” Bich shared.
Liptak took questions that students submitted via the webinar and asked a handful to Bich. Questions by students ranged from internship inquiries to curiosity as to how their advertising efforts have changed with time.
Although BIC was founded with a large presence of advertising, according to Bich, he now focuses on celebrity personalities to help out with ad campaigns. Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart, John McEnroe and Eric Andre are just a few stars that BIC has worked with.
At the conclusion of the event, both Li and Hamer concluded by thanking Bich for speaking at the forum and giving Dolan School of Business students high-quality yet “down-to-earth” advice on how to be a leader.
“Corporations and organizations want to recruit talented students of Fairfield Dolan,” Liptak shared. “So, the Dolan Dean’s Executive Forum provides a platform and opportunity for corporations and their executives to engage our students.”
Liptak spoke to what she hopes that students gain from such an event. “It connects students with business leaders, builds upon the current Dolan School of Business curriculum, and elevates the Fairfield Dolan student experience,” she shared.
Li echoed this claim, and emphasized where he hopes Dolan students will “utilize this opportunity to build professional connections with our speaker to broaden their professional network. And, we know that some of the students would become thought leaders or CEOs in the future because they are inspired by our speaker.”