Topgun on Wall Street
When Jeffery Lay, highly decorated Naval aviator turned entrepreneur and author, went looking for a new challenge, he found it at latitude 39.148476º North, 84.547505º East—otherwise known as 3800 Victory Parkway. As a former F-14 fighter-wing commander, graduate of the vaunted Navy Fighter Weapons School (a.k.a. Topgun) and co-author of the book Topgun on Wall Street: Why the United States Military Should Run Corporate America, Lay wasn’t looking to just spiff up a résumé when he entered the MBA program.
“Even my wife asked me ‘What are you doing?’ ” Lay says from his downtown Cincinnati office at Oxford Financial Group where he is both a partner and managing director. “I’ve had lots of experiences, started my own businesses, but I’ve never tested my beliefs in a business school setting. Plus, I wanted to add a formal theoretical background to my own experiences in the real world.”
Of course, Lay’s real world experiences are anything but ordinary, evidence the first paragraph on the inside book cover of his combination memoir and manifesto: “Topgun on Wall Street chronicles one man’s extraordinary journey from the cornfields of Ohio, to the cockpit of an F-14, to the boardrooms on Wall Street ... that brings a provocative, ground-breaking advice to the business landscape with a revolutionary answer for stabilizing corporate America: business—the military way.”
So how did the concept of business the military way dovetail with business the Jesuit way? To Lay’s surprise, quite neatly. He readily identifies with “original entrepreneurial spirit” of the founding Jesuits. And their enthusiasm. “I believe in the Jesuit mentality. The founders were shot out of a rifle.”
It’s not a stretch to imagine that a religious order occasionally referred to colloquially as both “God’s Marines” and “The Company” would resonant with a retired Navy lieutenant commander turned businessman. Plus the environment of open and free inquiry at Xavier also appealed to Lay, allowing him to express and put his Topgun business philosophy to the test.
“It allowed me to challenge myself through a frank and open dialogue that the Jesuit method is famous for. I liked being encouraged to have an intellectually challenging conversation.”
So while a priest may never graduate from Topgun, Lay sees numerous commonalities between the military and ministry in developing a total person.
“I’m a big servant-leadership fan. A lot of corporations are hiring veterans thinking they’ll be getting highly motivated and discipline employees. Which is true. But what’s even more important is that these people grew up in a military system that put service before self. A Jesuit education is very much the same. It’s centered on the idea you’re here to serve.”