By Aaron Tooyak
Alaska has seen drastic changes in its economic composition through Alaska Native Corporations created pursuant the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971. 44 years later, these vibrant businesses are thriving in the hands of talented, hard working people. Thankfully, APU has our MBA program to help educate and prepare leaders to keep up with the advancing demands of these corporations. Jason Metrokin, MBA (’09), mans the helm of Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) as President / CEO. Jason was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. Following his graduation from Service High School, Jason pursued his Bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing (’95) from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
What did you like most about APU?
One aspect I liked about APU were the small class sizes and the faculty having real-life working experience. The curriculum translates well with someone who is working full time. I can take what I learned in the classroom environment and immediately apply it to my work. I didn’t have to change my focus to a pure academic environment, or take a strictly academic experience and try to use it in a work environment.
I had a huge change in my professional life in the middle of my MBA program, I had my second child during that period as well. Working under the guidance of the professors provided enough flexibility and accommodation for someone dealing with significant life changes, it didn’t overly impact my ability to graduate. I appreciated that. It opened time to do my school work yet keep me focused on my work at BBNC. It helped me in the long run, I was able to be promoted into the position I’m in and I continue to use my education in all the work that we do here at BBNC.
What skills did you develop through the MBA program that you use in your day to day activities?
Given the class size and the personal interactions I had with the faculty, I learned a lot about collaboration. I worked to establish a relationship with the instructors because they’re there to learn and help you collaborate as well.
BBNC has spent a lot of time and effort acquiring a lot of new businesses over the last couple of years. The courses I took on mergers and acquisitions and evaluation of companies were directly applicable, I had an instant skill set to apply to what we were doing.
I took a class on organizational management, and in 2010 we began a multi-year corporate reorganization. When I was hired in January of 2009, I walked in to my role thinking “there’s not a lot we need to change, we are a successful organization as we are”. But as I began my new role “looking under the hood” of BBNC, I found there were significant structural problems from an organizational perspective. There were issues with governance, management, communication, lines of authority, and delegation. I quickly discovered we couldn’t be doing business that way, something was going to happen. I worked with our executive team in 2010 to put a plan forth to reorganize BBNC from the top down. It was pretty bold.
How has BBNC changed since it was created yet hold fast to its roots?
When we look back to the history of ANCSA, there was a certain way of doing business that served our corporations well for decades. As companies like BBNC evolved and became global in their presence, the structure of the corporation did not keep up with the times and evolution of the business. We put forth a plan to our board of directors that recognized those changes in evolution. To the public eye it really wasn’t much of a change, it was internal.
It’s important to recognize that as an Alaskan Native Corporation we are unique, there’s no other business like us in the world. We want to celebrate that uniqueness, we can’t say other tried and true models can’t be applicable to what we do. We took a best practice of the western business culture and applied to an Alaskan business culture and its been successful.
We’ve been doing business for over 40 years. How are we going to evolve doing business for the next 40 years? We can’t be doing business the same way we’ve been doing for 40 years and still be relevant in today’s businesses. Especially internationally.
Today we have 72 subsidiaries, in 46 US states, and 11 countries. The BBNC of June of 1972 cannot thrive the same way in 2016. We interact with a large number of organizations in order to be successful. Successful, by our standards, means we can continue to pay predictable dividends to our shareholders, we can manage our 3 million acres of lands, we can preserve our Native culture and our subsistence lifestyle. We can provide employment to our shareholders. In order to be successful at BBNC, we had to make some structural changes in order to be relevant.
What else contributed to BBNC’s transformation to suit today’s standards?
Not long after the restructuring, we completely rebranded BBNC. New logo, new messaging. We began advertising. We began truly marketing ourselves as a relevant successful but unique Alaskan business. The reaction from the public has been super positive. The BBNC of old would have never done that.
At APU, I learned what other students were doing in their businesses, but I also learned through courses like organizational management.
Why should someone donate to APU?
The ability for someone to give financially to APU provides sturdiness to a smaller, private university. Those dollars are important to support the programs and curriculum in a greater way than giving to a large university – where you are potentially one of many people, whereas at APU you’re one of potentially few. That’s what makes APU so special. It has a small student body, small faculty, small campus – your dollar can go so much further, you get a lot more “bang for your buck” by contributing to APU. That’s why I give.