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“Auburn is a special place. Auburn University and the Harbert College of Business create a unique combination of family, value and real world experiences that will help you be a better employer or employee, but more importantly, a better person."”
Giving back -- Fred Blatchford believes in it and acts upon it. Whether it’s sharing insight with students, serving on the Harbert College Dean’s Advisory Council, or giving to the college by other philanthropic means, the 1985 Industrial Management alum cherishes the opportunity to engage with the college and watch it grow into an elite business institution.
“I want to take every chance I can to pay it forward,” said Fred, Vice President of Sales at Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company. “Auburn is a special place. Auburn University and the Harbert College of Business create a unique combination of family, value and real world experiences that will help you be a better employer or employee, but more importantly, a better person. Read the Auburn Creed. Those are not just words on a piece of paper, but actually a roadmap to being a great person and an even greater citizen.”
Fred’s Auburn journey took him through the old business building – Thach Hall – to Jordan-Hare Stadium to watch Bo and Little Train, into Eaves-Memorial Coliseum to cheer on Barkley and Person, directly into the business world. Now living in Tampa, Florida, Fred has served in several leadership roles at Johnson & Johnson for the past 27 years. But he keeps coming back to Auburn.
‘Don’t be afraid to take a chance’
"You've got to be willing to do things that others aren't willing to
“Watching students graduate and embark on their respective careers is my motivation to speak, engage and counsel students,” said Blatchford, who established the Fred and Norma Blatchford Scholarship – in honor of his parents – in 2007. “As I progressed through my leadership career, it became more important for my employees to be successful than for me to be successful. Watching people realize what they are capable of and then helping them achieve their goals and dreams is beyond any reward you can possibly give me. There is true satisfaction in servant leadership.”
Fred had the opportunity to share his story and engage with students in Megan Sumners' Principles of Management class on Thursday, April 16, via Zoom, as classes continue to meet remotely through the remainder of the Spring semester.
What did he tell them? Don’t be afraid to take a chance and differentiate yourself from others on the job, in life and even during the interview process.
Fred Blatchford encourages students to take advantage of the many
“You’ve got to be willing to do things that others aren’t willing to do,” said Fred. “That might mean taking on projects outside of your area of expertise. It might mean taking a lateral move to learn another skill. It might mean relocating to take on another role. Differentiating yourself builds your personal brand and experiences and makes you more valuable to an organization.”
Fred encouraged students to “not just attend Auburn,” but take full advantage of all the opportunities the university offers.
“I was a student that went to Auburn,” he said. “I mean, I showed up. I went to class, graduated and moved on. I didn’t seek out mentors, leaders or clubs that would have given me guidance or insights on how to be successful early in my career. I own that and it is a big regret I have from my time at Auburn. I always tell people, that’s why when I talk to freshmen and sophomore classes, I tell them, 'You’ve got three to four years to take advantage of all of these great things the university and Harbert College can provide.'”
Harbert College is ready to soar
What Fred didn’t take advantage of as a student at Auburn, he is taking advantage of as an alum through his engagement with the college. The long-time Dean’s Advisory Council member and past Council Chair enjoys having an input in the direction of the college and relishes watching it grow beyond what many once thought possible.
Fred’s business classes were at Thach Hall, while Lowder Hall, the main classroom and administrative hub of the college, was built in 1992. Last September, Horton-Hardgrave Hall – which houses multiple study , graduate programs, office space, event theater and innovation lab for entrepreneurship, was ceremoniously opened. For years, he’s had the opportunity to watch the college grow to a named school to a world class business complex on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Donahue Drive.
"We aren't done here at the College of Business -- we're just
“The buildings, the brick and mortar … we have finally caught up to that potential we always had,” he said. “We’ve always had the potential and capabilities to be a significant college of business in the country. Now watching Horton-Hardgrave Hall become a real thing validated what many people on the inside already knew. The Advisory Council knew it. The Dean knew it. And I think the university knew how special the College of Business was. The new building created a visual validation of how special the Harbert College of Business is.”
As Advisory Council Chair, Fred took pride in serving as a figurative bridge between the visions of former Harbert College Dean and current Auburn University Provost Bill Hardgrave, who changed roles in 2017, and current Harbert College Dean Annette L. Ranft, who joined the college in 2018.
“We aren’t done here at the College of Business – we’re just starting,” Fred added. “We have the bricks and mortar with the new building, but that’s not the end of this. That’s the beginning of it. We’ve gotten to a point now where we have the tools and the resources in place to now become what we aspirationally thought about for the last five to six years.”
‘Adversity creates opportunity’
Part of Fred’s role at Ethicon, which connects hospital surgeons to surgical devices and products used in the surgery suite, has been to lead the sales organization to show surgeons how to use the products – first hand. With the onset of COVID-19, non-essential personnel are not part of the surgery suite.
How is Johnson & Johnson handling the change? Creatively.
“Adversity creates opportunity. We must think differently because we can’t sit back and do nothing. My job as a leader is to figure out ways for the sales organization to provide solutions and value to the thousands of doctors and nurses that use our products to treat the sick.””
“On a regular day, our sales representatives are standing in surgery in the operating rooms,” he said. “Because we are not essential surgical people, we’re having to come up with creative ways where you’ve got sales representatives Zooming into cases while the surgeons are using our products, and you’ve got doctors listening to sales representatives on how to use the products. We’re doing the same thing, just with technology – the tools that we have available to us considering the circumstances that are out there. It will be interesting to see how this creativity changes the way we do business in the future. Johnson & Johnson is always going to try to be a beacon in the storm. Johnson & Johnson is always going to spare no expense and do what’s right for our surgeons, nurses and clinicians.
“We are in uncharted waters right now. The healthcare industry is in a totally disrupted period and we have a lot more questions than answers. But adversity creates opportunity. We must think differently because we can’t sit back and do nothing. My job as a leader is to figure out ways for the sales organization to provide solutions and value to the thousands of doctors and nurses that use our products to treat the sick.”
Fred noted that some of the best products in business have been invented, created or discovered during adverse times.
“Think about today and the adversity we are facing as a country and business… I can assure you that there are things being thought about, developed, and created that are going to change the way we do business,” he said. “From a personal perspective, companies will look at employees that try to be part of the solution versus someone that is paralyzed by adversity. It’s your choice on how you look at adversity.”
Fred Blatchford, center with football, helped a team of Harbert College administrators and Auburn Athletics staff celebrate the opening of Horton-Hardgrave Hall at Jordan-Hare Stadium prior to the Tigers' September 14, 2019, game with Kent State.