Michael Osanloo, '96

Michael Osanloo

CEO, PF Chang's
Member, Kilts Center Steering Committee

2014 Profile

Michael Osanloo, ’96, wanted a change after working as a lawyer for three years. He turned to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for an MBA, which put him on a more fulfilling career trajectory that would incorporate creativity, business, and general management. Today, Osanloo serves as the executive vice president and president, meals and desserts, at Kraft Foods Group, a position in which he excels, thanks to his rigorous training at Chicago Booth.

Preparing for a new career

I had a liberal arts background, and I didn’t have a strong understanding of business fundamentals. Since I was making a major career change and really investing in myself, I wanted to make sure that I went to a place where I could develop an incredibly strong foundation. Booth’s program is grounded in the fundamental disciplines of business, which is why it was the perfect fit for me.

My academic training has prepared me extremely well for my new career path. You can throw me in a lot of different industries, and I feel like I have a solid foundation from which to pull. 

Questioning conventional wisdom

One of the things you learn at Chicago Booth is how to learn. You learn to ask questions and challenge yourself and the people around you. In a big corporate setting, not giving in to groupthink can be difficult. This critical skill has served me well in driving successful marketing initiatives.

Chicago Booth breeds critical thinkers—people who think for themselves, people who are not afraid of asking tough questions, people who don’t just go along with the pack, and people who are always questioning, “why are we doing this?” 

Improving returns with analytics

It’s easy for marketing to become a qualitative subject. Marketers often become enamored with advertising and the beauty of making a great ad. But it is a lot more impactful to think about pricing, promotions, and product placement—the fundamentals of marketing that you learn so well at a place like Booth. It’s the part of marketing that shareholders care about and that drives enormous value.

In the meals business, we’ve had an incredible run by thinking about marketing from an analytical perspective. As we’ve been more analytical about our marketing, we’ve had a 6 percent growth on the top line and a 10 percent growth on the bottom line. This is a dramatic turnaround of revenue and profit performance for a company that already had very high margins.