The Business of Life

Author: Schorr, Natalie

A table filled with props was once confusing for twenty students, but their hour-long sessions with CEO of Glenair, Mr. Peter Kaufman, tied stories and lessons to each stuffed animal and crystal ball. Across three classes, Mr. Peter Kaufman explained how to live a full life through a unity of work and personal lives with morality at one’s center.

By explaining his seven-step ladder that enabled the person to achieve this tricky balance, Mr. Kaufman provided concrete steps to accomplish these goals. Supplementing these messages with true stories and the occasional guest speaker, Mr. Kaufman shared his wisdom freely. As Mr. Kaufman teaches, his students must “give it away to get it back,” promoting a pay-it-forward mentality. He offered pneumonic devices to remember these crucial lessons and gave motivational pens for answering questions correctly.

According to the students, one notable lesson that Mr. Kaufman taught was his way of scoring success in life – by a fraction. The numerator is one’s hopes and dreams added to one’s accomplishments, while the denominator is one’s regrets. Throughout one’s life, the numerator remains constant as hopes and dreams translate to accomplishments, but the denominator grows larger as one accumulates regrets. Mr. Kaufman’s lesson – keep the denominator as low as possible.

Glenair Site Visit 12.21.21

Though these sessions were quick, Mr. Kaufman’s impact endured. Following the sessions, he generously provided a trip to Glenair in Glendale, California for the students. While visiting the electronic connector’s manufacturing plant and headquarters, the students experienced firsthand how genuinely Mr. Kaufman interacted with his employees. Not only did he know each employee’s name, but he also checked in on their kids and reminisced on good memories when he spoke with them. Mr. Kaufman’s kind demeanor, impressive memory, and willingness to help differentiate him from other CEOs, giving him a competitive advantage. Investing in his employees empowered them to invest in Glenair, enacting this “win-win” mentality to shape his business model and its culture.

As student Jocelyn Orlando said, this course and trip “opened the door to new connections and definitions of leadership.” These connections were both with Mr. Kaufman, whom the students endearingly call “Uncle Peter,” and other students in the course. The students noted that interacting with one another outside of the classroom enabled them to connect more deeply than those connections from class projects or assignments. Experiencing the impact of Mr. Kaufman’s leadership style from employees of all levels illustrated the success of his mottos and lessons.

Mr. Kaufman kindly gave of his time and wisdom to our fellow Notre Dame students, paying it forward and inspiring us to do the same.

Glenair Site Visit Group Photo 12.21.21