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Jeff Rich
  Jeff Rich

ACS Executive Presents Lesson on Outsourcing and Getting Ahead to Incoming BBAs

9/27/2004 --

"You will spend the majority of your waking hours working so if you don't love what you do, leave it," says Jeff Rich, BBA '82.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – When guest speaker Jeff Rich, BBA '82, began his talk to incoming BBA students at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, only five students recognized his Dallas, Texas-based company, ACS, a leading provider of business process outsourcing and information technology.

"Our policy of not advertising is working," he joked. "There are only 20,000-25,000 people we need to know. Our market relies on referrals. They all know each other and they all talk."

Rich, CEO of ACS, quickly brought students attending the September 3 orientation session held in Hale Auditorium up to speed. ACS, a Fortune 500 company, has 43,000 professionals in nearly 100 countries, including China, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ghana, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain and the United States. ACS, whose customers include such household names as AT&T, Sprint, Aetna, Allstate, UPS, General Motors and Motorola, operates the New York-New Jersey Easy Pass System and manages health claims processing for eight out of the top 10 health insurers.

"We move low-end tasks offshore. It is a pretty boring business, but there is a lot of money in boring," said Rich, who joined ACS as chief financial officer in 1989, one year after the company's inception. He was named president and chief operating officer in 1995 and has served as CEO since 1999. For the past four years, ACS has been ranked in the Forbes Platinum 400 List of Best Big Companies in America.

Rich shared with students five life lessons he predicted they won't learn in school:

  • Life is an adventure. Plan to have many. "Don't get caught up in mapping a life strategy. You're not qualified to lay out a life strategy yet. Be prepared for life's twists and turns."
  • There is no such thing as a bad job. Life is a lot of trial and error, and part of the process is finding your passion. "You will spend the majority of your waking hours working so if you don't love what you do, leave it. I have more respect for an owner of a small bicycle repair shop who loves fixing bicycles than someone who is earning a quarter of a million dollars and hates the job."
  • What's hot today will not be hot tomorrow. Be careful of getting into overheated industries, currently hedge funds, overseas construction and private equity.
  • Keep first things first. ACS's highest priorities are sales, satisfied clients and strong financial performance. "Do what you can to help make the sale. CEOs love people who bring in revenue."
  • Acquire equity. "I've met a lot of wealthy people. None of them became rich earning a salary. Initially the equity may be worth nothing, but equity has an enormous multiplying power."

    Rich seeks in new hires:

    • Personality. "If you don't have one, start working on one. All leaders have great personality. People like doing business with people who are fun and engaging."
    • Achievement at an early age. "People who have ambition have a history of accomplishment. I can't teach ambition."
    • Intellect. "I look for people with raw smarts who think and talk fast and are able to analyze issues quickly."
    • Diversity, in age, gender, race, cultural and life experiences. "I like to hang out with people who are different than me."
    • Passion. "I like people who are excited about what they are doing. If they aren't, I tell them to find another job in ACS or go outside."

    The future of outsourcing is scary, admitted Rich, citing personnel costs that are 10 percent to 15 percent lower in India and China than in the United States. "Politicians couldn't save the small farmer in the 1960s, the U.S. automobile industry from the Japanese in the 1960s and 1970s, the IBMs in the 1980s, and they can't save me or our industry now." To remain a superpower, the United States must remain on the technological forefront, Rich added.

    For more information, contact:
    Mary Jo Frank
    Phone: 734-647-4626