Charles Schwab CEO talks about prioritization at on-campus event

Sebastian Vega

Charles Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger spoke to McCombs students at the SAC Auditorium on Tuesday about his experiences in business and their application to students’ futures and careers. 

Bettinger discussed his views on failure, which he said he learned when he started his business career. 

“We fail as human beings, but failure is not permanent. Failure is temporary. We’re not failures,” Bettinger said. “Through my experience, failure is about what we can do to get out of it and what lesson we can take away from it to turn it into good.” 

During his senior year of college, Bettinger said he failed a final exam that asked him the name of the woman who cleaned the building. Bettinger said the test taught him what his professor said was the single most important lesson in business.

“It’s not about how smart you are,” Bettinger said. “It’s not about how strategic you are. It’s not about your ability to design what-if scenarios or war games versus competitors. Business is ultimately about people.” 

Bettinger said he was able to take this lesson from his professor and realize that business is an interaction between people based on trust, respect and an honorable serving to someone else. 

In order to be successful with others, Bettinger said, one must prioritize between work and personal life. When he was asked to be CEO, Bettinger said he told then-CEO Charles Schwab he would not be able to move because of his family.

“Where you spend your time is what matters to you,” Bettinger said. “Know your priorities and live your priorities. Understand what your priorities are and [the] work-life balance solves itself because you’re living life doing things that matter.”

Nick Sajatovic, supply chain management and geography sophomore, said Bettinger’s approach to handling business and life will stay with him as he moves further into his career.  

“Priorities are something that you decide for yourself,” Sajatovic said. “Going on into my future, I will assess what I do in my daily routine as well, and set my priorities [for] each day and for the week and for the month to see what really needs to be done.”

Business freshman Abhishek Ramchandani said the lecture helped him understand concepts not taught in class. 

“The advice he gave you cannot get in the classes,” Ramchandani said. “I came today for his insight.”