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"The chance to experience a different culture, look at industry in a different country, and really understand how commerce works globally, that was fantastic. It’s not just going to learn something, but broadening horizons and getting out of your comfort zone; it’s extremely important."

Tony Grant

CFO & COO
Northern United Brewing Company

 

As CFO and COO at Northern United Brewing Company (NUBC), Tony Grant manages operations and formalizes strategies for growth. He wears numerous hats in the small business, so his responsibilities can swing wildly day to day, from performing manual labor to crafting high-level legal documents.

In 2008 Grant invested in NUBC while working for Borders. After the company went bankrupt, he handled international mergers and acquisitions for Owens Corning as Director of Corporate Development. During 2012 Grant traded in his travel-heavy position with the Fortune 500 company for better work-life balance as a partner of NUBC.

Entrepreneurship was always in Grant’s blood. He launched a small web company while playing football for MSU and studying electrical engineering, but it took Broad’s MBA program to make him keenly aware of his interest in business development. When he discovered a love for retail through his internship with Gap Inc., Grant applied for a financial analyst position at Borders. His energy and entrepreneurial bent were recognized quickly, however, and he became Senior Manager of Airport Stores Division, a 12-store, $17–18 million chain.

With a recession looming and the industry changing drastically, Grant took over Borders’ international operations, selling off stores. Later, he led a team deciding how to reinvent Borders post-bankruptcy as Vice President of Strategic Planning, Real Estate, and International Operations. Grant says, “[My seven years] at Borders coupled with really technical finance experience at Owens Corning positioned me to look at things through a different lens and have one eye on what could be, in terms of mismanagement and not paying attention to a business’s fundamentals, as well as strategy.”

Had Grant not studied abroad in Brazil at Broad, he would’ve been less comfortable travelling the world, which he did frequently, in his roles with Borders and Owens Corning. He tasted life outside the U.S., learning about people, cultures, and places. “Studying abroad was a no-brainer,” Grant asserts. “The chance to experience a different culture, look at industry in a different country, and really understand how commerce works globally, that was fantastic. …It’s not just going to learn something, but broadening horizons and getting out of your comfort zone; it’s extremely important.”

A natural communicator, Grant interacted with peers, faculty, and recruiters to build a powerful network within the greater MSU community. Lessons on effective communication at Broad honed his skills, causing him to be surprised by colleagues who struggle to express themselves outside of face-to-face meetings. He notes, “People have problems with emails because ideas are misrepresented and taken out of context, causing a whole slew of other problems. So writing is extremely important.”

Also important, is the team environment Grant had at Broad. He found participation in the MBA Finance Association enhanced members’ soft skills and their discussions of industry experiences built upon case studies. Developing a collaborative mentality was a major gain for Grant because, as he shares, “NUBC has a very small team and there’s constant interaction because it’s so small and there’s so much to do. We have to be aligned and aware or else we could have big problems.”


Eli Broad College of Business

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