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Michael Boyd MBA'08 chose the Willamette MBA for Professionals program to help him move up the ranks at Boyd Coffee Company.Michael Boyd MBA'08 chose the Willamette MBA for Professionals program to help him move up the ranks at Boyd Coffee Company.

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Boyd says he uses skills he learned through his MBA every day at Boyds Coffee.

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Coffee executive turns to Willamette MBA to build management skills

Michael Boyd MBA'08 has held just about every position at Boyd Coffee Company, from barista to forklift driver to risk management director to his current job as coffee buyer.

That's to be expected when you're part of the fourth generation of a family that owns one of the most recognized coffee brands in the Pacific Northwest.

His present position has him traveling to Central America to visit coffee growers and meticulously tasting blends to ensure they meet the qualities Boyds seeks. He is also carrying on the company's family-run tradition by apprenticing to eventually become vice president of coffee operations.

First he needed to learn more about running a company — which is why he enrolled in the Willamette University MBA for Professionals program.

"I already had basic skills from my business undergraduate degree, but I thought that earning an MBA would help me take my knowledge to the next level," he says.

Real-World Lessons

Because Boyd Coffee Company is based in Portland, Boyd researched MBA programs in the Portland area, looking for one that would allow him to continue working full-time while earning his degree.

He found the Willamette MBA for Professionals, a two-year program with sites in Portland's Pearl District and at Willamette's Atkinson Graduate School of Management in Salem. The program holds classes in the evening and caters to people who are already employed and want to build their management skills.

"I needed a program that would be flexible about my time commitments at the company," Boyd said. "The Willamette program was also well-rounded — we combined math-based courses in accounting, statistics and finance with classes about negotiating, marketing and human resources. It seemed that every class I had tied directly to a project I was working on at Boyds, or vice versa."

Boyd remembers taking a negotiation class at the same time his company was navigating a tough negotiating process with a large regional food service distributor.

"I was able to go back to the negotiations and say, ‘Okay, I understand what the distributor is trying to do because we just talked about this in class.' I used some of the tools that I had learned to help our company."

Using His Degree

As part of a cohort of 14 students, all of whom were working professionals, Boyd sometimes learned from his classmates as much as his professors.

"Many of them were experts in their fields and presented different ideas in class about how to do things in the business world. It was very collaborative. We also had a chance to network as we went through the program together. In fact, we recently hired one of my classmates to work as a reports development manager at Boyds."

Boyd says the impact of his degree was immediately evident.

"I have started looking at our operations at Boyds with a more critical eye. At the same time, I'm able to teach other team members how to raise the level of what they're doing, and give them tools to help them do a better job. Everything I learned through the Willamette MBA became engrained in what I do on a daily basis."