Jan Babiak, international corporate board member, awarded as Hero of Business

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Former Ernst & Young managing partner in the United Kingdom Jan Babiak was honored as the College of Business’ spring 2014 Hero of Business on Thurs., Feb. 6.

Babiak was founder and managing partner of Ernst & Young’s fastest growing and most profitable UK practice, which provided information technogy security, transformation, program management and advisory and assurance services. During this time, Babiak led several investigations of high-profile system failures. She also created and provided board-level sponsorship for numerous Ernst & Young diversity initiatives and has a strong commitment to active career mentoring.

Babiak retired to Leiper’s Fork, Tenn., outside of Nashville and now spends her time serving on the governing boards of three international organizations: Walgreens, Bank of Montreal and Royal Mail Group.

Lipscomb College of Business Dean Turney Stevens established the Heroes of Business Award to expose the university’s business students to ethical but effective businessperson role models. “Many of our students have grown up in an era when all they have heard about businesspeople are bad things,” he said, noting that scandals such as Enron, WorldCom and the housing crisis have blackened the reputation of the business world in young people’s minds.

But Babiak urged students not to believe the negative hype. After working in 15 countries throughout her career, she found that 90 percent of the people she works with are good people who are in business for positive reasons, she said.

“This award has much less to do with me, as it does with the wonderful teams I have worked with over the years,” she said. “We should all be champions for business, just like Lipscomb is.”

Speaking to the business students at Lipscomb’s weekly chapel service, Babiak outlined the course of her life, starting with her childhood money-making ventures in the trailer park where she grew up, to her time working in food service as a teen, to a short stint in law enforcement during college and finally to meeting her husband, who was president of the skydiving club at her college. Through the skydiving club, she met a partner in a Big 8 accounting firm at his lavish house, and decided that was the job for her.

Babiak advised the business students to be thoughtful in the examples they choose to follow. While there are plenty of unethical businesspeople out there, it is each person’s choice to be influenced by those people for good or ill, she said.  

To be successful and ethical in today’s business world, she encouraged students to have a good attitude, to display excellence in whatever job they are doing, to act with integrity, to over-prepare and over-achieve and to unite with fellow co-workers and team members to ensure success.

Past Lipscomb Heroes of Business Award winners include R.A. Dickey, 2012 Cy Young award winner; David Sampson, former deputy secretary of commerce during President George W. Bush’s administration; James W. Griffith, CEO of The Timken Company; and William Pollard, former CEO and chairman of the multi-billion dollar service company ServiceMaster.

Babiak also spoke at a luncheon of College of Business supporters held in her honor.