Professor Jan Heide’s journey towards becoming a distinguished academic is rather unique. Jan was originally an undergraduate business student at the Norwegian School of Management. After graduation, he took advantage of an exchange program with the University of Wisconsin to pursue his MBA at Wisconsin. Though he majored in Finance as an MBA student, it was a marketing elective class on “Product and Price Management” that helped him realize that his true interest was in marketing. The faculty member who taught that class became one of Jan’s closest mentors, and encouraged him to pursue a doctorate in marketing.
In his first semester as a doctoral marketing student at Wisconsin Jan attended a Ph.D. seminar on marketing channels, and was fascinated about how channels work, and how channel decisions can influence business results. Jan ended up gravitating towards channels in the doctoral program, studying, among other things, strategic partnerships between channel members. His work focused on frameworks that can help businesses decide when it makes the most sense to vertically integrate, when to rely on “arm’s length” spot transactions, and when “hybrid” strategies would be most appropriate. For instance, his research shows that establishing “close” relationship with industry partners, despite the frequent recommendations of such an approach in the business press, doesn’t universally lead to better business outcomes. Rather, firms should match their relationship management strategies in a discriminating fashion to their particular circumstances – in some instances a “transactional approach may very well be the best option.
Part of Jan’s role involves helping shape how Wisconsin MBA students approach marketing problems. Jan teaches the Marketing Management course that is part of the core curriculum for all MBA students. He approaches this course with the hope of giving students frameworks that they can use for effective problem solving. He also aims to enable his students to ask the right questions, and thereby improve their firms’ marketing decision making. He is a firm believer in the case method of teaching, partly because students are more likely to remember conceptual points if they have spent time applying and discussing them in the context of a company case. He finds teaching MBA students to be highly intellectually stimulating, as students bring their previous work experience and knowledge to bear on the class material. More often than not, he leaves class on a given day with new insights and ideas that emerged through the discussion with his students.
Jan’s involvement with the MBA experience stretches beyond the classroom as he is a passionate advocate for the Special Olympics, and a big driver for student participation in the annual polar plunge. The polar plunge is an event that raises money for special Olympics and athletes in Wisconsin.
Jan believes the research-oriented business faculty at Wisconsin, many of which are thought leaders in their respective fields, exposes MBA students to cutting-edge thinking and practices. Standard textbooks are often years behind the field, and the exposure to current research that takes place in the classrooms at the Wisconsin School of Business gives the Wisconsin MBA program a distinct edge in Jan’s mind.