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Lang to graduates: You have the power to change the world

  • Dawn Milne
  • |
  • Jun 19, 2019
Lang to graduates: You have the power to change the world

As he reflected upon his own career success, Donald Lang, HBA ’80, said the key to surviving in business is to anticipate and effect change.

Lang, Executive Chairman of CCL Industries, an international consumer products packaging company, encouraged Ivey’s HBA graduates to embrace change and use it to make the world a better place. He gave the advice at Western University’s 313th Convocation on June 18, where he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD).

Citing a Journal of the American Medical Association study that found only four per cent of heart attack survivors made the recommended diet and lifestyle changes to prevent a subsequent attack, Lang said humans resist change even when it’s essential to survival.

“Don’t get stuck in one way of thinking about the direction of your business or your career. Be in that small four per cent of humans who take advantage of all the change needed to thrive in a threatening environment,” he said.

Lang said he grew CCL from a moderately-sized company to a global leader with 170 manufacturing sites worldwide because he made some difficult changes. These included replacing a senior management team and divesting some of CCL’s underperforming businesses so the company could focus on one core competency.

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“We changed and we thrived,” he said.

Lang gave the graduates three other principles to live by.

Put the right people in the right positions and get out of the way:

“Small businesses are kept small when the owners don’t trust others and try to do everything themselves,” he said. “If you can find, motivate, train, retain, and trust good people – people who are willing and capable of adapting to changing departments – then you solve the biggest hurdle of turning around or advancing any business.”

Focus on ethics and character:

“Your reputation is everything. It speaks to your character. It’s a cornerstone of trust,” he said. “Both your business and your personal life will fall apart without it. With it, the possibilities are endless.”

Believe in yourself:

There are hard calls to make in business. Do your homework, listen to key advisers, and trust your ability to lead. Lang said confidence is infectious and it starts today.

“Today is your day for an exciting transition,” he said. “Embrace today with pride for what you have accomplished and optimism for the future – the future that you have the power to change to make the world a better place.”