John Stroup, MBA 95

Measure of Success

Technology CEO tracks the human side of business

John Stroup, MBA 95

President and CEO, Belden Inc.
St. Louis, Mo.

The movie Field of Dreams may have popularized the saying “if you build it, they will come,” but Belden CEO John Stroup’s motto is a little different: If you measure it, it will change. For the better.

“I’ve long believed that what gets measured gets done,” Stroup says, “so I’m a fanatic about tracking everything we do. And not just the typical numbers stuff, but also human resources—the company’s talent and culture.”

When Stroup signed on with Belden in 2005, he joined a company with a rich history. Founded in 1902 by Joseph Belden, the firm started as a manufacturer of magnetic copper wire used for telephone coils. Thomas Edison was an early customer. More than 100 years later, it provides both software and hardware—cables and connectors, servers, routers—to broadcast, industrial, and enterprise clients in a wide range of industries.

Stroup’s “measure everything” credo has brought a fresh energy to the firm. In the past decade, its enterprise value has increased from $1 billion to $5 billion; it has made 14 acquisitions, including broadcast technology companies Grass Valley and Miranda Technologies and automation and networking firm Hirschmann; and it has developed an active strategic-planning process.

“When I arrived at Belden, I discovered there really wasn’t any strategic planning being done,” he says. “Now there is, but we’re still learning. In a planning meeting, people bring up their pet projects. I want to encourage their ideas, but I also want to help us all link our projects to the overall strategy.”

Berkeley Haas taught Stroup that it was important to connect the quantifiable with the qualitative. For example, he has established a survey process that measures how engaged employees are in their work.

“We found that the highest correlation with company engagement has to do with an employee’s relationship with his or her boss,” he says. “If the relationship is good, there’s a higher chance of that employee being engaged. And vice versa: If an employee isn’t feeling connected, it’s often because there aren’t sufficient opportunities to interact with management.”

Berkeley Haas also helped Stroup measure his own mettle, since he was attending the school’s evening program while also working full time at precision-engineering manufacturer Parker Hannifin in Rohnert Park—and raising a young family.

“As much as my classes were helpful, one of the most important things the program taught me was how to manage my time,” Stroup says. “It was rough, sometimes, leaving work for class when my buddies were heading out to play pool. But I certainly discovered just how much I could take on, personally and professionally.”

Going forward, Stroup continues to track Belden’s vitality, specifically by charting its percentage of revenue from products that are less than three years old. “In the past 10 years, our research and development budget has increased tenfold,” he says. “Since R and D is an important measure of a company’s health, it’s an area of particular focus for me.” —Kate Madden Yee

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John Stroup, MBA 95, at the Portland, Oregon-based office of Belden’s newest acquisition, cybersecurity firm Tripwire. Stroup will deliver the MBA commencement address in May.