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Peter Johnson

Director of the Institute for Family Business and the Westgate Center for Leadership and Management Development

Staff Spotlight: Peter Johnson

Featured in the Winter 2008 issue of the Strictly Business magazine:

Peter Johnson '94 MBA, has been at Pacific for almost a decade and is the director for the Institute for Family Business (IFB) and the Westgate Center for Management Development (Westgate Center). In this role, Johnson directs the initiatives of both centers, including programming, consulting with family businesses and providing solutions to help local businesses succeed.

Johnson started his career as the owner of a commercial painting business. This position helped him work through his undergraduate education at San Diego State University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in management in 1992. Knowing that he did not want to be in the commercial painting business forever, Johnson decided to begin working on an MBA. "I knew a master's degree would help me," he said.

His graduate degree was not far out of reach when he became a member of the inaugural MBA class at Pacific. One of twelve MBA hopefuls, Johnson worked earnestly through the program, applying the work ethic he had learned from his own business and utilizing the experience he gained in class to solve business problems.

Johnson started another business during this time with a fellow student. In this business, he provided companies with public data faster and more professionally than his competitors. This was Johnson's first experience with a family business. In this company, he employed his wife and mother-in-law for what became a successful venture. As part of a class project, Johnson wrote a feasibility study for the City of Stockton and Chamber of Commerce's Business Incubator Program. This experience helped him earn the opportunity to run the Incubator, where he helped local businesses set up office, and get access to resources such as attorneys and CPAs. In addition, the Incubator provided expertise in marketing, strategic planning, and general business assistance.

Johnson learned about the IFB director position from former Dean Mark Plovnick and was hired. Resources were eventually merged and Johnson became director over both the IFB and Westgate Center. It was a natural fit; he was helping president and CEOs manage their family business, as well as mid-and entry-level managers become better leaders. Johnson believes executive education, in a nutshell, is management and leadership training. "Managers and leaders take turns, so one does not have to be in an executive position in order to get an executive education."

Johnson believes executive education can expand on undergraduate degrees to provide the skill sets necessary to perform a job. For example, engineers in their undergraduate work learn to do such things as create and test equipment, but executive education can help them to manage people as their careers progress and they are placed in supervisory positions.

The Eberhardt School houses two centers which offer executive education and focus on the client as an individual. In the IFB, members are always relieved to know they face the same challenges as others in a family business. The topics are timely and practical. In the Westgate Center, mid-level managers in transit, banking, and other industries can enroll in a certificate program to learn more about management in their industry.

Johnson said the best part about his job is helping people with their challenges and acting as a conduit for finding solutions to their problems. "We work hard to ensure people have the tools to be successful in their careers and life," he said. Reflecting in his work for the Business Incubator Program, and on a daily basis in each of his centers,Johnson brings Northern California the necessary management and leadership training for the middle manager up to the CEO.

Johnson is married with three children and lives in Stockton. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, camping, playing games with his family and spending time with friends.