2016 Best EMBAs: David Postill, Duke University (Fuqua)

 David Postill Duke FuquaDavid Postill

Duke Fuqua School of Business – Global Executive MBA

“The biggest benefit from business school is not just the functional learning but the complete ‘tool-kit’ that you walk away with. I might not always have the right answer myself, but for every problem I will now be able to create a path to the solution.”

Age: 47

Location: Toronto, Canada

Family Members:  My wife Shannon and our three children, Gemma (age 17), Anna (age 15), and Jacob (age 12)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Queen’s University, Canada

Where are you currently working? Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), one of Canada’s major cultural institutions. The TSO is the country’s largest orchestra and renowned for innovative programming and arts leadership. I am the vice president of marketing and sales, responsible for 132 Toronto concerts, including a 43-week subscription season, single shows, benefits, festivals, and tours.

Extracurricular activities, community work, and leadership roles: Extensive leadership work on the boards of directors for Brigadoon Children’s Camp, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and Sacred Heart Schools. I am also engaged in extensive leadership contributions to my local church, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, the Knights of Columbus, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While completing my MBA at Duke I’ve also been involved in a massive turnaround project at the Toronto Symphony. Being successful in both — at the same time — is something of which I am very proud. It speaks to how the program really works for working executives. At Duke I’ve had a great experience and got great marks. It’s fundamentally changed me as an executive. And at work, I’ve put the TSO on track to achieve the largest audience in five seasons, leveraging my Duke learnings each week. More than 18,000 people have come to a TSO performance for the first time this year. And we’ve had our first-ever string of 28 sold-out shows — and the season is not even over yet!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career (and why)? The achievement I am proudest of comes from being the vice president of global marketing for Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC). I helped ONC become the number-one omega-3 company in the world, expanding our business into China, APAC, the European Union, and throughout North America. We grew revenue by 30% and EBITDA by 65% and then realized a shareholder value increase of 69% in just 14 months. ONC sold for 12x trailing EBITDA. That experience was what fueled my passion for an MBA.

Favorite MBA Courses? Tie between Strategy and Global Markets and Institutions (GMI). Strategy taught us how to bring together all the B-school disciplines (Finance, Ops, Marketing, Accounting) and use them as a whole. GMI taught us how to use that knowledge to bring together systems and institutions for global success.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Basketball. I’m a super fan. Seriously, the global outlook and structure to Fuqua’s program were the determining factors for me. Half the class was from outside the U.S., which was culturally enlightening. And the entire program’s outlook is global and its structure is all about team. It was brilliant.

What did you enjoy most about business school? My classmates. Meeting so many different but similar people and being able to work together and learn from each other made it like nothing else I’ve ever been involved in. They represented all aspects of business and I was able to learn from them like we were family members.

What was the hardest part of business school? Truly the hardest part of business school is balancing work, family, and school. This is not easy. You give up a lot to do this degree; money is frankly the least of what you give up. But it’s worth it. Do the work. Learn as much as you can and be nice to your family. They are the ones who really own this degree.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? Set up a plan and stick to it. To do this right, you will need to work on school and block out the rest. And then do the same thing for family and work. Keep all three in balance and make time for each. And always take the time to communicate what is happening. If you don’t explain what’s happening, then no one can help you.

 “I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I was having breakfast one Saturday morning at a local diner and I was urging our kids to get involved in this sport or that club or volunteer for something else and in the conversation I happened to mention that I always wanted to do an MBA. And my kids turned to me and said ‘Dad, just do it.’ And so I took their advice. And started the process that afternoon.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” A much less effective leader. Personal leadership and the charismatic elements of team management seem to have come easy to me over the years. But through our Leadership course I’ve come to realize that I have so much more growth and improvement to make. It has inspired and challenged me to become a better me.

What are your long-term professional goals? My goal is to be CEO of a small to mid-size company with revenues around $500 million. A company big enough to be global but small enough to need hands-on leadership from me. I’m a player/coach type of person who is willing to roll up my sleeves and get involved.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? No question, my wife, Shannon. She is the best thing that ever happened to me. Her partnership and support and faith in me has been a blessing beyond anything I could ask for.

Fun fact about yourself: Nearly had my backpack — and all six family passports I was carrying — stolen in Rome. I had to chase the guy down the streets of Rome until I made him give it up. My kids thought I’d went nuts.

Favorite book: Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Favorite movie: It’s a Wonderful Life

Favorite musical performer: David Bowie

Favorite television show: “Breaking Bad”

Favorite vacation spot: Rome, Italy

Hobbies? Road biking

What made David such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“The Duke MBA Global Executive Class of 2016 would not have been the same without David Postill. David is someone who has brought unity and positivity to the class. His poise, charisma and warm spirit are evident in his interactions with faculty, staff, and fellow students.

“At the core of every Duke MBA program is the importance and attention on teams, with the majority of coursework and assignments completed as a team. ‘Team Fuqua’ is a term that embodies the spirit of the Duke MBA and David is a prime example of someone who has excelled in the team environment. David brings not only a depth of experience, with over 20 years working in sales and marketing, but also leadership and innovation, having successfully built brands and led cross-functional teams both nationally and globally in both B2B and B2C sectors. David has leveraged his breadth of experience and transferred it to the learning environment of the program. He brings a very unique perspective to the classroom, but also embodies the Duke learning experience through all his interactions with his classmates, faculty, and program staff. His level of curiosity to learn and contagious positive energy is such a wonderful addition to his class and the program.

“David is currently the vice president of marketing for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, but has also held executive roles with Ocean Nutrition, Young & Rubicam, and Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO). He consults regularly for early-stage start-up companies and frequently mentors young entrepreneurs who are seeking to commercialize technology or secure early-stage financing. David is a respected leader and mentor not only in his professional career and community at home, but also within the Team Fuqua community. David’s professional achievements, along with his positive outlook and contributions to the learning outcomes of the program, make him an invaluable addition to the Class of 2016. He is always very thoughtful in everything that he does, and it can be reflected by all his personal interactions.”

John Gallagher
Associate Dean, Executive MBA Programs and Professor of the Practice
Duke University, Fuqua School of Business 

DON’T MISS: CLASS OF 2016: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST GRADUATING EMBAS