Guest Speaker Andrew Park
l-r: Linh Trinh, Andrew Park, and Marge Johnsson
Written by Maci Killman
From his first job as a teenager at McDonald’s to his current position as a CEO, of PB Industries, Inc., much of Andrew Park’s career has been about successfully hurdling obstacles.
Park described some of those obstacles and how he conquered them, as he wrapped up the 2017 Entrepreneurial Speaker Series at Concordia University Chicago’s College of Business.
Making an instant connection with all of the international students in the audience, Park began his talk by sharing his experiences of being 14 years old and moving with his family from Korea to the U.S. Fortunately, by being heavily immersed in the English language and American culture due to attending high school every day and watching TV shows, Park was able to integrate easily and landed his first job, at age 16, working in a McDonald’s restaurant, where he first learned about customer service and operations.
After high school, Park graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering. After earning his degrees, Park got his first job in the logistics industry, as a salesperson in an airline cargo company. While bargaining prices with his first customer, Park said he learned a valuable lesson: In order to succeed you have to “know what pricing the market will bear in your business.” Park shared a story about negotiating with a customer who needed to fly cargo from Chicago to Jakarta. The customer tried to dictate prices lower than the pricing and term sheet Park’s employer had told him to use. However, Park’s boss told him to go back and give the customer a price that was more than double the price proposed by the customer. When Mr. Park balked at going back to the customer with pricing he was sure would be rejected, his boss pointed out that they were one of the only companies that had the proper equipment and resources to be able to open up the nose of a plane to allow the cargo to be loaded. Three weeks after rejecting Park’s revised proposal, the customer called back and accepted the higher price. Understanding the pricing a market will bear was one of the key lessons Mr. Park has successfully applied to the rest of his career in the logistics industry.
Mr. Park pointed out that often life-changing events result in creativity. After the birth of his first child, Mr. Park got his first invention idea. Park stated that between 2002 and 2004 he had over 100 new product ideas, and working with another CEO he knew, Park received his first patent in 2005.
“Your initial ideas will get rejected,” said Park. These rejections led him to ask others for information, advice and help. He recommended that students work to continually grow their network and connections. He suggested that people in your professional networks may be more willing to “tell you things you don’t want to hear,” than would your personal networks of friends and family who don’t want to hurt your feelings. These were personal barriers that Park was able to overcome.
Park’s persistence and strong analytical skills have helped him succeed in his current position as CEO of PB Industries, Inc., an intermodal trucking company, based in Elk Grove Village, IL. Park is a second-generation entrepreneur, having taken over the helm of the business from his father who founded the business. Since taking over the CEO position, Park has tripled the business from $13 million in annual sales to over $35 million, despite having to overcome several obstacles including climate change related natural disasters, political issues, winter vortexes, the global financial recession, and even the obstacle of losing a client that was 40% of his business, when that client, the 6th largest in the world in their industry, unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy.
During Mr. Park’s closing comments, he had a few more words of wisdom for CUC’s College of Business students, including that they should network now, while still being students, attend general innovation conferences, such as Chicago’s Ideas Week, and attend trade shows in their industry. In fact, attending the trade shows attended by his customers, not just by the trucking industry, is one of the key things Mr. Park stated helped propel his business to triple in size.