From Ford Motor Company to Guilford Technical Community College: Not that big of a jump says business instructor Carl Smalls

Published on: December 3, 2021
Carl Smalls GTCC associate professor of Business Administration.

Carl Smalls is living, breathing example that business and academia mix perfectly fine.

Smalls has traveled that dual highway most of his life. He has been an associate professor of Business Administration at Guilford Technical Community College for almost a decade.

Early in his career he was a senior financial analyst for powerhouse Ford Motor Company where he directed and coordinated the financial activities of a $1.4 billion budget for North America Sales Operations.

He founded and ran an investment management firm, graduated from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Decisions and Behavioral Finance Program, spent 15 years as a finance instructor and administrator at the University of Detroit Mercy in Michigan as well as several other colleges and universities in both Michigan and North Carolina. And as a bit of an aside, Smalls was a financial lecturer for the NFL.

Smalls’ migration to higher education was part plan, part happenstance shortly after he left Ford to start his own investment firm.

“I rolled out (of Ford) and started our own firm. A year later I’m attending an investment analyst seminar at the University of Windsor (in Canada), and was talking with one of the professors, and told him my background. He said, ‘You should teach,’” recalled Smalls, who graduated from North Carolina A&T University and did his graduate work at Atlanta University’s Graduate School of Business where he was a Volkswagen of America scholar.

“Before the end of that week’s seminar the professor told me that he had spoken with the chair of the finance department at Eastern Michigan University and that the position was mine and to send him my resume when I get back to the states.”

Smalls has been involved in academia since then.

He eventually grew tired of the harsh Michigan winters and decided he needed to head back south. Originally from Winston-Salem, that southward move subsequently led to his present position at GTCC.

Smalls’ real-world business acumen and philosophy quickly made him a popular instructor at GTCC. Students know a lesson learned from Smalls is one that will help either at a four-year institution, on the job or as a business owner.

Smalls is also in-demand as a speaker on business and finance.

He was recently invited to be a panel member for the Pathways to Economic Recovery Summit at his alma mater, North Carolina A&T University. The panel was comprised of business and financial experts like himself, and they addressed an audience of community, business, education, and government leaders.

“The goal of the summit was to show how businesses, — both nonprofit, and for-profit — and communities can work together. Communities have to help themselves. That is going to be the key,” said Smalls.

Smalls dealt with one specific topic during the summit: How a college professors can take their ideas to the marketplace.

“They wanted to know from a business perspective how to commercialize an idea,” said Smalls, who teaches a small-business and entrepreneurship class every spring.

“I told them the same as students, when you are looking at an idea, for it to become a viable business, it has to solve a problem. You have to assess to see if it’s big enough to have an economic impact. If it doesn’t solve a problem and making money after four or five years, it’s just a hobby.”

Coming from Smalls, that’s probably pretty good advice.

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