Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2002Kellogg School of Management
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Friends and partners continued

Celsis International  
© Nathan Mandell
CIM Week pals Ken Shore '91 and Jay LeCoque '91 keep their friendship alive at Celsis International.

Jay LeCoque ’91 and Ken Shore ’91
Jay LeCoque and Ken Shore became fast friends during CIM Week. Impressed by each other’s intelligence and drive, the 1991 grads never missed a chance to work together during their two years at Kellogg.

“If we were ever in a class together, we were always on the same team,” LeCoque remembers.

More than a decade later, LeCoque, by then CEO of Celsis International, pondered his company’s latest job opening: vice president of product sales for North America. LeCoque knew he needed a good team player, someone strong in marketing but also possessed of an urgency that would reflect the firm’s post-start-up mentality.

He picked up the phone and called Shore.

“I said, ‘Ken, it’s great to work with someone who knows what BATNA means,’” referring to lingo recognized worldwide by veterans of the negotiations class taught by Kellogg Professor Jeanne Brett.

The opportunity seemed just right for Shore, who had spent the past six years working for entrepreneurial ventures in Minneapolis and Chicago and was eager to join a company poised for growth.

Celsis, which develops systems to detect and measure microbial contamination in consumer products, seemed to fit the bill. The company — which LeCoque had helped build as a member of Celsis’ original management team — had grown from $250,000 in sales in 1995 to $30 million last year. Marketing efforts in North America would be key to future growth. “It was clear Celsis had yet to reach its full potential,” Shore said. “As I learned more about the company and Jay’s vision for it, it seemed like a great fit.”

That may be because the company was built largely by Kellogg alumni. LeCoque, as the firm’s first director of global business development, had worked closely with then-CEO Arthur Holden ’81 and Bill Rusconi ’94 to develop Celsis’ strategic platform. Kellogg’s marketing and teamwork philosophies were built right into the infrastructure of the company.

LeCoque had already experienced the satisfaction of sharing success with a friend. He and Rusconi had been pals before they arrived at Celsis, and even though Rusconi is no longer with the company, LeCoque says their working relationship only enhanced their still-thriving friendship.

“There’s such a shared camaraderie when you make a business grow together,” LeCoque. “It’s definitely different than doing it with people who aren’t already your friends.”

That’s not to say that friendship eases all aspects of running a business.

“You’ve got the teamwork and the trust,” LeCoque says. “But it can be difficult when a deal falls through or the sales don’t come in. How do you give a friend feedback? You just have to be very honest and say, ‘This is what I’m seeing. What do we have to do to get things back on track?’”

Shore doesn’t find it difficult to be on the other side of that desk. “Our backgrounds are so similar that the feedback Jay provides is often very consistent with my own perspectives,” he says. “Our friendship enables me to take it to heart in a way that’s different than it would be with other people.”

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University