After working for the government for 12 years, including positions at the White House and the National Security Council, Frank Lavin wanted to transition into the business world and saw an MBA from Wharton as the key to accomplishing that goal.
It didn’t take long, as he joined Citibank in Hong Kong immediately after graduating in 1996 from Wharton’s EMBA program. “Wharton’s MBA Exec program helped enormously because I wasn’t just changing jobs, but careers. I needed a new skillset to move into banking and Wharton provided those tools.”
In addition to the curriculum, Lavin notes that his classmates were one of the best parts of the program. He explains, “It was exhilarating to be around achievement-oriented people who were aiming for excellence. You want your peer group to be comprised of people who are serious about getting ahead and making a difference because then you perform better yourself.”
After working for several years in banking and finance, Lavin was able to combine his interests in government and business, serving as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore and the under secretary of commerce for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce where he became known as America’s “salesman-in-chief.”
Now, he’s continuing his work with companies on market entrance and international challenges as chairman of Edelman’s public affairs practice in the Asia Pacific region and founder of Export Now, a startup headquartered in Akron, Ohio that helps U.S. companies sell directly to China via China’s e-commerce platform.
“China has the second largest economy and strongest e-commerce ecosystem in the world. There is a huge demand for U.S. goods and Export Now eliminates hurdles for U.S. companies exporting merchandise there,” explains Lavin, who is the coauthor of a new book titled Export Now.
As for why he moved into entrepreneurship, Lavin says that it’s been a natural progression based not only on his government and finance experiences, but also his Wharton education. “There is a strong entrepreneurial culture at Wharton where we aren’t just trained to be performers in a system, but to have the tools to lead and shape a system or even create a new system.”
He adds that the Wharton alumni network has come in quite handy during this launch phase. Hiring EMBA classmate Joe Rosamilia as Export Now’s CFO, he also turned to EMBA classmate Cory Morowitz for accounting support. “When you see someone perform in class, you get an honest measure of their depth, intelligence, and work capability. We’ve got a great pool of people we can work with on projects – it’s a terrific reservoir!”
Dividing his time between China and the U.S., Lavin also is enjoying his ability to deepen his Wharton connections in both countries. He says, “Wharton embraces lifelong learning, which is a fantastic model because we are all students and teachers. Sharing what I’ve learned and coming back to talk to students as well as alumni is a lot of fun.”