After graduating with a degree in psychology from the University of Windsor in Ontario in 1976, Chris Dewart took an entry-level accounting job with a local business in Ottawa.
Within a year, and as a complete shock to the young college graduate, the owner promoted him to manage a set of local stores. “I was supremely unqualified and managed to get fired!” Dewart recalls.
Despite the rather inauspicious start, you could say things definitely took a turn for the better for Dewart ’04 EMBA, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Konica Minolta Canada. Previously, he served as president of the Central Region of Konica Minolta Business Solutions in Chicago. Konica, a leader in advanced imaging and networking technologies, is a $300 million business covering 12 states and 21 sales and service branches for parent Konica Minolta Holdings, a $10 billion corporation based in Japan.
Dewart typically spends two to three days per week on the road visiting branches, reviewing operations, seeing customers and meeting with sales and service organizations.
But just how did he get there?
Early in his career, Dewart made good use of his accounting knowledge to land a job selling calculators and accounting machines for the Monroe Division of Litton Industries. “It was the beginning of my sales career, and I really enjoyed the competition, the freedom and the pursuit of the deal,” Dewart says.
In 1983, he was offered a chance to sell fax machines for Pitney Bowes, which had just entered the market. He quickly ascended through the ranks, from sales executive to branch manager to region sales manager to a position in London after being appointed vice president of European sales.
Following a company-wide reorganization, Dewart returned stateside and in 1998 was promoted to vice president of sales, handling multi-million-dollar accounts with big brands like Pizza Hut and Bank of America.
In 2001, Pitney Bowes announced it was spinning off Dewart’s division into a publicly traded company called Imagistics International, headquartered in Trumbull, Conn.
“I had been moving up the executive ladder for 18 years at Pitney Bowes and this change left me to consider ‘what if?’ What if I ended up on the job market competing with younger, better-educated individuals with just a bit less experience but better credentials?” Dewart says.
He began searching for a solid executive-education option that could accommodate his full-time job and extensive travel, as well as a home life. After reviewing several programs offered in Connecticut, Dewart decided to enroll in the EMBA program at UNH, which provided him the most flexibility.
“I was already a successful executive when I enrolled at UNH,” Dewart says. “I had a great time trying to share my experience with more junior classmates helping them see the bigger picture in business.”
His passion for mentoring others remains strong today.
“This is a people-oriented business; picking and promoting the right people, and maintaining a high expectation of performance is 90 percent of the challenge,” he says. “The most exciting part of my job is to see the development of people within the organization as they achieve success and develop their careers – to create an environment of success that teaches people the basics of sales, sales management and leadership skills.”