UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Leadership perspectives: Lilly's Markus Saba


UNC Kenan-FlaglerMarkus Saba drew three rectangles on the chalkboard.

The first was labeled “Career,” the second “Money” and the last “Personal.”

In each rectangle, he wrote his goals: 5-year, 10-year and lifetime. He wrote down retirement plans and five-year financial projections and current assets.

Saba (MBA ‘93) spoke to MBA students about the importance of planning for the future at the annual Leadership Day at UNC Kenan-Flagler on Jan. 17. Leadership Day allows MBA students to attend interactive workshops, talks and simulations led by business professionals from a variety of backgrounds for course credit.

Saba attributes much of his success — he’s the senior marketing director of global commercialization for Lilly Diabetes Business Unit — to his excruciatingly detailed business plans.

Saba and his wife make one of these plans every year, covering their career, financial and personal goals. Having his end goal in mind helps him know how he wants to get his job done today, he said.

And he presented students with convincing evidence to make their own written plans: 90 percent of people don’t write down their goals, he said. If you do write them down, you’re 33 percent more likely to achieve them. And you’ll also earn 10 times more than those who don’t write them down, he said.

Though his annual plans have evolved over the years, they’ve always served as a guide for his career and life decisions.

Saba shares the career plan with his bosses at Eli Lilly so they’re all on the same page about the type of opportunities he is seeking. He has been at Lilly for 19 years, the first 12 years of which were spent overseas. His family moved back to the United States about eight years ago, settling in Indianapolis.

After Lilly, he wants to be a lacrosse coach. Other goals include owning a beach house, learning to sail and taking one family vacation a year. Every year, he takes conscious steps to meet those goals and he already has achieved some. He takes one of his kids overseas every year and he started coaching high school lacrosse in preparation for what he calls his “second career.”

“I wouldn’t be doing that consciously if I didn’t have it all mapped out,” he said.