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During a Feb. 4 visit to the Kellogg School's Part-Time MBA Program, Andy Code, co-founder of Code, Hennessy and Simmons, delivered a lecture sponsored by the Kellogg Business Leadership Club.

Ethical leadership links opportunity and responsibility

Private equity CEO Andy Code tells Kellogg part-time students how values inform his business and life

By Todd Katter

2/21/2008 - At the turn of the nineteenth century 21-year-old William Wilberforce was elected as one of the youngest people ever to serve in British Parliament. Wilberforce used this position of influence to help abolish slavery in England, causing ripples of change that ultimately led to the end of slavery in the United States.

Andrew Code
Wilberforce understood that “with privilege comes responsibility,” said Andy Code, co-founder of Code, Hennessy and Simmons, a middle-market private equity firm in Chicago. He spoke to students in the Kellogg School’s Part-Time MBA Program on Feb. 4 at an event sponsored by the Business Leadership Club. Code challenged students to be grateful for the many opportunities they’ve been given and to use them to make a difference.

To make the greatest impact, Code emphasized the importance of being passionate about one’s work. “If you don’t wake up in the morning thinking about what you’re doing,” he said, “you’re doing the wrong thing.”

He added that it is important for leaders to think strategically, saying life is “chess, not checkers,” and that quality counts more than quantity when it comes to taking action. “It’s not a matter of how many hours you spend,” Code said during his appearance at Wieboldt Hall in downtown Chicago. “It’s how you spend those hours. All you need to do is make five good decisions a year.”

Code further noted the importance of living according to one’s values, encouraging students to work for a firm that allows them to balance a variety of obligations — work, family, hobbies and faith. “Find a place that can balance all four,” he said.

“Communication is incredibly important,” Code added, reflecting that good communication is a short-term investment that consistently yields long-term results. Putting this idea into action, Code said that his 45-person Chicago-based firm has held an all-staff meeting every Monday morning since it was founded in 1988.

Looking to have an impact beyond the firm’s boundaries is something Code also has done. He shared the efforts that he and other business colleagues have made in Honduras, where he said they have built an orphanage.

“Be generous to everyone,” he said, emphasizing that continuous acts of generosity serve as the building blocks of one’s enduring influence. After all, Code said, “We all desire legacy.”