John Yonkin, 1981 Lock Haven University graduate, enjoyed a three-decade career in which he ascended from salesperson to CEO. In February, Yonkin virtually visited LHU to chronicle his business experiences — connecting them to course concepts covered in Professor Cori Myers’ strategic management capstone class for senior business and accounting students.
After graduating from Lock Haven State College in 1981 and serving six years in the Army, Yonkin began his career in Littleton, Colorado, selling medical diagnostic equipment for American Hospital Supply. He was a top sales performer for the company in Cleveland, Ohio, before his division was sold in 1989 to a company called Medisense, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Leadership at Medisense made Yonkin a marketing manager additionally responsible for research and development of new products. There, he was responsible for multiple product launches and the development of many new technologies.
After Medisense was sold in 1996, Yonkin made stops in Menlo Park, California, and again in Cambridge as the director of business development for Telogy and the director of national accounts for Genzyme Genetics, before being named the corporate vice president of sales and marketing for Inverness Medical Technology Inc. in 1997.
From there, Yonkin continued to ascend the corporate ladder. He served as president of Inverness Medical Nutritionals/Pharmaceuticals from 2003-07, and eventually reached the position of chief operations officer for the parent company Alere. At the time, Alere was the largest rapid diagnostic company in the medical marketplace worldwide with more than 18,000 employees and annual revenue of $4 billion.
In 2012, Yonkin departed Alere for the opportunity to be the CEO of Immunetics Inc., where he was responsible for the strategic and tactical operations of the company as it began commercialization of its unique technologies. Yonkin led a successful turnaround of the company bringing it to profitability and finalizing the sale of the company, completing a positive liquidity event for the shareholders in 2016.
During his session with LHU students, Yonkin focused on topics like acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures, hostile takeovers, acquiring first-mover advantage, outsourcing, being a low-cost leader, international business, understanding culture, raising capital and more.
“John described relevant, rich examples of how his vast work experience illustrated
course concepts on strategic moves and positioning,” Myers said. “He talked about
how his companies gained competitive advantage using some of these strategies, and
also about lessons learned while developing and implementing strategies that required
out-of-the-box thinking and alternative pathways to garner success.”
Other areas of focus Yonkin wanted students to hone in on were leadership and listening skills. He said each of these skills are essential characteristics of any successful executive.
“You can accomplish anything if you have the right balance of money, people, resources and time,” Yonkin said. “Organizations often talk about leadership and they train on basic leadership skills like communication and delegation, but then they don’t go the extra step to train their managers and executives on things like tactical leadership, small group leadership and team leadership.”
He went on to describe how overseeing a group or several groups is different than being a tactical leader. Executives and CEOs need to be strategic leaders, he said. Their job is not to tell their teams what to do, but to provide strategic objectives with a vision for how to achieve them, while providing managers with the resources needed to execute the objectives.
He also stressed the importance for all good leaders to be active listeners. “Listening is a skill that every successful manager, executive and CEO needs to develop and hone on a daily basis,” Yonkin said. “If you can’t listen, it’s going to be very difficult to be successful.”
“When you become an executive or CEO, your job is to be a strategic leader,” he added. “You set goals and you provide strategic vision. Then you let your tactical leaders come up with the plan and as the CEO you acquire the resources needed to help your leaders achieve the goal.”
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Lock Haven University’s main campus is located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in the scenic mountains of Pennsylvania. The university offers 49 undergraduate majors and certifications with 47 minors and five graduate programs.
LHU is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.
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