Executive Education

Peer Talk Profile: Bill Mohl

The global drive to conserve energy and water sources and to reduce carbon emissions creates vast new opportunities for utilities and other industries linked to the Internet of Things (IoT). That network lets smart grids, meters, and appliances communicate with one another to boost energy efficiency. So a dishwasher, for example, can turn itself on late at night, when it detects energy prices are lowest.

It’s not just things that are getting smarter. Smart industry leaders are continuing their education to keep up.

Navigating this sea change is the kind of leadership challenge that excites Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, and a 2014 participant in Chicago Booth’s Finance for Executives Program.

“You’ve got to make sure that you’re understanding what’s evolving, how that’s going to affect your business model,” says Mohl, who has spent three decades in leadership positions in the energy industry.

After being appointed president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities in February 2013, “I wanted a refresher from a finance perspective,” he said. “I looked at a number of the top-notch programs—Harvard, Wharton, etc.—and some of the folks who work for me and my peers had attended University of Chicago, and they highly recommended it. The combination of all those things is why I selected Booth.”

Mohl got a lot out of the one-week, hands-on approach of the Finance for Executives Program.

“You got to use real-life examples and you got to work in teams on how to solve problems, and the instructors were all top-notch, very impressive. And not stuffy,” he said. “The atmosphere was challenging but comfortable and, most important to me, practical. As you worked through the issues, there’s not necessarily only one right answer. There are different ways to think about things and we would have discussions about that.”

The course gave participants techniques to assess the desirability and value of investment projects, corporate assets, and acquisitions, which helped them have more fruitful discussions with their CFOs and financial executives.

The experience jibes with Mohl’s philosophy on life: Building a better organization is a leader’s top priority.

“The biggest change in my career was when I really started to embrace the servant leadership model, and it completely changed my leadership style and how I interact and run an organization,” Mohl said. “You transition through different phases of your life, but I think the servant leadership model where you really gain the understanding that your purpose in life is to build a successful organization and develop those underneath you so that you create a sustainable business is probably the single biggest thing that I would say in my career has made a difference.”

Mohl has other priorities too, of course. A college baseball fan and avid fisherman who enjoys the outdoors, he seeks out every opportunity to be with his family. He has a grandson and two sons, one of whom is an assistant baseball coach at the University of South Florida.

“I obviously follow him, but in general I just really enjoy college baseball,” Mohl said.

But in the fast-changing world of utilities, relaxing is a luxury. On the road about 70 percent of the year, Mohl keeps tabs on Entergy’s five nuclear power plants and remains engaged with industry as a speaker in different forums. He also is a member of several industry groups, including the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Edison Electric Institute.

Staying knowledgeable and current is essential. “I think it’s important for an executive to continue to learn and be exposed to that education, because if you don’t in this day and age, you can quickly fall behind.”