The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) brings prominent industry professionals to speak at SHA most Fridays during the fall semester. For 2014, students work in pairs each week to research, meet, and profile featured speakers, and then guest-blog here about the experience.
This week’s student authors are Adrienne Murphy ’15 and Jacob Schaffer ’16.
The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series brought another fascinating and inspiring alumnus back to campus the week of November 7: Mr. Rob Rush ’77, founder and CEO of LRA Worldwide.
The Rush family — Rob, his wife Randi, and their grown children Jennifer and Michael — arrived in Ithaca on Thursday afternoon from their hometown of Philadelphia. We joined the family for dinner at Taverna Banfi on Thursday night along with a small group of undergraduate and graduate student leaders. We all enjoyed a delicious three-course, Spanish-inspired meal prepared by Andrew, one of the student chefs at the Statler.
Over dinner, we had the opportunity to speak candidly with Mr. Rush about his experience at Cornell and the beginning of LRA Worldwide. Mr. Rush told us about the importance of finding good partners throughout life — in both business and personal contexts. He met both Randi and his business partner, Stan, shortly after he graduated from Cornell. More than 30 years later, he remains happily married and is still in business with Stan.
Mr. Rush mentioned that it is very rare to stay in business with the same person for so long, and he said he believes the key is to find people that are very supportive of your goals. In the early days of LRA, Mr. Rush needed his wife to step in and work for the company, and she was so supportive of his ambitions that she worked at the company for many years! Today, his children Jennifer and Michael both work in sales and marketing for LRA — it really is a family business!
In Mr. Rush’s lecture, he highlighted the vast array of companies with which LRA partners. LRA began as a hotel consultancy, running quality inspections for a single hotel. LRA has since grown into consulting for entire hotel companies, and has expanded into businesses that would not typically be classified as part of the hospitality industry. Mr. Rush highlighted his expansion into being a part of the guest experience of NFL games, which opens the door to a whole new industry. He spoke in great detail again about the importance of finding good partners, and attributed his success largely to working with great people.
Mr. Rush also presented a short video profiling other SHA alumni currently working for LRA. His message in presenting this short video was to showcase how valuable the SHA network is, along with the nature of the SHA degree as a business degree with a hospitality emphasis.
In the round table after the lecture, students had the opportunity to ask additional questions and gain greater insight into Mr. Rush’s business. To those looking to be entrepreneurs, he stressed the necessity of being able to be a sales person in order to gain the trust of potential clients. It is crucial to put in hard work to establish a brand name and value when a company is created, and then work to perpetuate this name. Then, through word of mouth, the company will be able to grow exponentially.