Healthcare customers are a unique type of consumer reluctant to purchase, at risk and often highly stressed. During a visit with business students in the Improving Service Quality in Healthcare course, J.R. Thomas, executive vice president of Optum, shared some of the complicated challenges healthcare providers face today.

The visit was the second day of a trip to Mays for Thomas and Optum senior executives Doug Hansen ’89, Allison Miller ’99 and Kevin Kuhn. The first day, Thomas presented to Business Honors students in the Executive Speaker Series, followed by a networking session and student dinner sponsored by Optum. The second day Thomas and his team members from Optum spoke with MBA students and to students from the School of Public Health.

Leonard Berry, University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, taught the lecture for the Improving Service Quality in Healthcare course discussion and facilitated discussion between students and their visitors. The focus on Healthcare is one of Mays’ Grand Challenges.

Managing stress

In the discussion, Thomas underscored one of the most important issues facing healthcare providers: stress. “Patients and their families are faced with life-altering decisions, nurses and doctors work long hours and endure emotional exhaustion to provide the best service possible, and management is stressed with striking a balance between good will toward those who can’t afford expensive healthcare and staying in business,” he said.

The key, he said, is to remember that patients are more than customers; they’re people. He provided an example of an end-of life scenario: “If a patient is dying, it’s important to personally talk to the family. Give them your instinct. You can’t always prevent death, but you can control how it will happen.”

He elaborated on another complex situation: “Some customers can’t always afford healthcare. But remember you also owe it to patients to stay in business.”

Technology creates new challenges, opportunities

Thomas also shared how technology is changing the landscape of medicine. “Routine visits and checkups for common maladies are moving towards telemedicine, such as simple phone calls instead of expensive in-office visits,” he said. “But for the more serious cases, the value of a personal touch in an in-person visit will never go away. Patients need that.”

Marketing senior Rachel Claggett said she was impressed by the amount of involvement the business side of healthcare has in the lives of patients. “It’s reassuring to know that there is humanity and passion in this industry – it’s not just about profits.”

Thomas received his master’s of business administration focusing on finance and management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Arkansas.

Categories: Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Health Care, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

As a Mays Business School student, Hans George ’91 decided to combine his passions for marketing and sports into a meaningful career. However, his career path took unanticipated detours through high-end men’s suits and mac-and-cheese before George reached the holy grail – a position working at sportswear giant Nike.

George shared stories and lessons learned during his career, including his two decades at the global athletic wear company, with Mays Business Honors students at a recent roundtable discussion. “My biggest takeaway from Hans was the importance of pursuing your passions strategically,” said Loryn Setterquist ’18. “Through the decisions he made in his career, he developed tangible skills, fostered important relationships, and learned about the retailing industry.”
…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, Students, Texas A&M

30077345983_ab4ac9d1af_oStrike when conditions are good and exercise restraint when they are not, Bruce Petersen ’83, said of succeeding in the real estate market. On his recent visit to Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, he sat down with a group of Business Honors students to discuss his experience navigating an ever-evolving – and often volatile – real estate market over the last three decades.
…Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Real Estate, Texas A&M

30624496395_4326378b01_zBen Keating ’94 and Don Whitaker ’96 believe in disrupting the marketplace and then strategically investing in their business. Their success in growing the Keating Auto Group — a family-owned company that includes a number of popular Texas dealerships selling domestic and foreign cars — underscores the wisdom of their approach.

Keating’s and Whitaker’s approach to entrepreneurship resonated with a group of Mays Business School Business Honor majors who listened to their recent presentation. “I learned how having a broad perspective, possessing strong analytical skills and thinking long-term were some of the key elements that enable them to thrive in such a competitive field,” said Bao Nguyen ’20. “As the lecture progressed, it dawned on me that there was more to their business than simply selling cars, trucks and other vehicles for profit.” …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

30003351720_4583b600c2_oFew professionals can say they’ve been with the same company their entire career. But Gina Luna ’95, chairman of JPMorgan Chase in the Houston region, is an exception.

Luna has been with JPMorgan Chase since she graduated from Texas A&M in 1995. On her visit to Mays Business School, she had lunch with Business Honors students and shared how she has navigated such a large corporation for so many years. For more than 20 years, her willingness to plunge into new challenges and optimism about new relationships has guided her through positions in finance, recruiting, operations and marketing.

Luna leads the Middle Market Banking business and is active in recruiting, mentoring and leadership development within the organization. “I’ve held many challenging but rewarding roles at JPMorgan Chase,” Luna said, “Each one has taught me something new and has been a wonderful opportunity to build relationships.”

She believes the challenge is always worth it because of her coworkers. “Every day I get to work with such high-caliber, intelligent individuals.” …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Departments, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Finance, Management, Mays Business, News, Programs, Texas A&M

After seeing how much their daughter Grace learned in a new “Strategic Philanthropy” course at Mays Business School, Wil and Jennifer VanLoh donated money to fund the next two courses. A portion of their $140,000 gift to Mays through the Texas A&M Foundation will provide grants for students to distribute to local nonprofits through the course, while remaining funds will help cover operating costs.


Philanthropy is a way of life for the VanLoh family – from left, Grace, Mary, Wil, Jennifer and Sarah.

The course that debuted last spring gives undergraduate students at Mays first-hand experience in the world of nonprofit work. In the first program of its kind to be offered at an SEC school and the first at a business school, students get the chance to learn about various facets of philanthropy, hear from philanthropic leaders and experience the grant-making process from a foundation’s perspective.

Wil VanLoh, founder and CEO of Quantum Energy Partners, said his family routinely holds meetings to make philanthropic decisions for their family foundation. “My wife and I are intentional about including our kids in our decisions,” he said. “We think being good stewards of the resources we are given is a big responsibility, and something we don’t think a lot of people take seriously enough.

“We believe modeling generosity for our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them as it helps them understand that one is more blessed to give than to receive. We get tremendous joy out of giving and we want them to experience that at a young age to set the tone for the rest of their life.”

VanLoh said he was impressed with the course, which he said should be offered across the university – and not just at the business school. “This is an all-around great set of skills for these students, and it benefits the community they live in while they’re attending college, so it has a significant ripple effect,” he said. …Read more

Categories: Business Honors, Donors Corner, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Christopher Bybee ’17 is one of 36 college students in Texas selected as a Future Texas Business Legends Scholar by the Texas Business Hall of Fame (TBHF), which carries a $15,000 scholarship award. The TBHF recognizes students who define entrepreneurial ventures with impact to future business in Texas.

Christopher BBybee is a business honors and finance major. He won a Texas A&M Class Star Leadership Award for the class of 2017, and a 2016 Texas A&M Fraternity Man of the Year Award. He has served as a Texas A&M Maroon Coat, which enhances the impact of the Texas A&M Foundation through ambassadors, stewardship and selfless service by meeting with and spending time with current and prospective donors of Texas A&M; and served as President for his fraternity Phi Gamma Delta. He was also a participant in the Horizons program, an intense Investment Banking program focused on professional and technical development, as well as interview preparation.

Bybee also has worked at Startup Aggieland, where he has helped form two companies.

Eric Newman, assistant director of Business Honors and Business Fellows at Mays, said Bybee stood out as a young entrepreneur from the moment they met. Bybee had already successfully launched Sno Boat, a floating snow cone stand on Lake Austin. “While Christopher has remained involved with entrepreneurship during his time at Mays Business School, what stands out more is his commitment to his own development for the service of others,” Newman said. “His peers admire him and follow his leadership. They trust him for both his character and his ability.”

Bybee will join the other 2016 recipients at the Annual Scholarship Luncheon in San Antonio in October.

The TBHF Foundation is a non-profit organization of 70 directors who are business leaders from cities throughout the state. The organization’s mission is to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of Texas business leaders, to perpetuate and inspire the values of entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and community leadership in all generations of Texans.

Categories: Business Honors, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

With a legacy dating back 163 years, the King Ranch enjoys a reputation forged through the vision, hard work and loyalty of generations of family members and employees. Bill Gardiner ’76 believes maintaining the company’s iconic brand is critical to the ranch’s continued success in the face of economic and environmental challenges.

In a presentation to Mays Business School’s Business Honors students, the senior vice president and chief financial officer of King Ranch, Inc. said the company brand is built on the King family’s legacy and the ranch’s reputation and livestock as well as its famous logo. Gardiner, who received an accounting degree from Texas A&M University, said the company’s brand promise is to “share the unique history of uncompromising quality and integrity.”

However, Gardiner said care needs to be taken to maintain and extend a company’s brand. Gardiner, who has been with the company since 1996, noted that many individuals and businesses would like to use the King Ranch’s well-known logo on their products. “People want to be associated with something that is real and authentic,” he said, pointing to the company’s well-known collaboration with Ford Motor Company on the F150 King Ranch truck. However, King Ranch’s leaders also regularly protect their brand through taking appropriate legal action to stop unauthorized users.

A strong brand is not a given; a company also can easily destroy or ignore its brand, which causes the brand to drift away. Gardiner pointed to Buick, which lost its footing as one of the nation’s premier automobile companies after its heyday in the 1960s. He noted that the company is now spending millions of dollars to create advertising to revamp its brand to appeal to younger generations.

Understanding the value of sharing the King Ranch’s brand with new generations, the company embraces the opportunities inherent in social media. Two decades ago the King Ranch was primarily known by white men over the age of 50; now the company is active on Facebook, YouTube and Google+. “Social media has been a godsend to us,” Gardiner said, adding that a King Ranch video about its quarter horse business accumulated 150,000 views in eight hours after being uploaded to Facebook. The Houston native also noted that a picture of two bobcats snapped during a King Ranch wildlife tour had a strong reception on Facebook.

A private company with seven divisions

Now in its seventh generation of owners, the King Ranch, Inc. is a private company that is run like a public company with the exception of SEC filings. Gardiner describes King Ranch as “a land-based agriculture production resource management company.” The ranch was founded on the strength of its cattle business, but diversified into oil production in the mid-1930s. It then expanded into farming, followed by citrus farming in 1993. Its primary niche is livestock and crops. The company has seven core business areas: ranching and wildlife, Texas farming, Florida farming, citrus, retail, minerals and corporate activities, and owns properties in Texas and Florida. The diversity helps the company remain viable during off years caused by drought or other agricultural issues.

Business Honors major Frances Andrews ’19 said Gardiner’s most impactful statements came toward the end of his talk. “He told us that confidence is one of the most important qualities to have as you enter the business world. He said natural confidence is rare and people will want to work with you if you have this.”

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

Kathy Milthorpe ’82 is one of the few speakers at Mays Business School who will encourage the students to play while on the clock. The chief financial officer and treasurer for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and The LPGA Foundation said time on the golf course is a tried-and-true process for developing business relationships.

“It’s one of the few places where you can get three to four ho16045_044urs of uninterrupted time with a client, a customer, a colleague or a supervisor – and with a scramble type format used in most corporate and community events, it’s not necessary to be an experienced golfer,” said Milthorpe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M University and was named an Outstanding Alumna of Mays in 2015.

Milthorpe started her career at professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, then went to work with the LPGA, which was a client. This is her third stint with the organization, each time in different roles. Now she oversees IT, finance, human resources and strategic planning. She said she enjoys the varying roles, and its entrepreneurial feel.

David Jordan ’16, a Business Honors and finance major, said he enjoyed learning about the LPGA’s utilization of its global television presence, which will allow the sport to thrive while developing a stronger domestic presence. For instance, Milthorpe said every time an LPGA event is broadcast, it is distributed to more than 170 countries with an average 182 million viewers worldwide.

Milthorpe said she enjoys working for the LPGA because it is global, the players are very engaging and the sponsors generously support the organization’s goals. She urged the students to develop the mindset of athletes on their jobs. “Have that passion and that drive to not give up,” she said. She also encouraged them to get involved in civic organizations, serve on local boards and work with local charities. “That way, you can develop leadership skills outside the workplace while also making a positive impact in your local community.”

Business Honors major Daniel Moore ’18 said he gained insight on some of the skills necessary to hold a high position within a company. “She explained how having sound technical skills is important, but having excellent leadership and social skills can be the key to setting oneself apart,” he said. “Furthermore, this opportunity reminded me that accomplishing simple tasks – such as writing a hand-written thank-you note or attending social events outside of work – can open many doors within the business world.”

Milthorpe also reminded the students they can start networking before they leave college. “You have the power of networking right here in your building,” she said. “You can talk to your professors and to representatives from companies that visit and recruit at Texas A&M. And you should be working toward finding a mentor – usually someone a little ahead of you, with a little more experience. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It’s actually a sign of a good employee, and one who wants to advance professionally.”

Connor York ’16, an accounting and Business Honors major, said Milthorpe affirmed the adage: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” “Mrs. Milthorpe solidified this concept even further and it caused me understand the need to use your network to spread your interests, work hard to achieve those interests, and be open to new opportunities,” York said. “The most prominent way to further your career is to express with enthusiasm and passion what your goals are to those who are willing to listen.”

Business Honors major Catherine Carbery ’19 said Milthorpe’s talk motivated her to develop her Linkedin profile to make new connections and help find new opportunities. “She stressed the importance of finding a career that you are passionate about and that exposes you to many different things,” she said. “She explained the importance of networking and encouraged us to create our own personal brand that is unique to us.”

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M


“We are problem solvers and path finders – we work with our clients to realize their full potential and to help them become high-performing businesses or governments”, Blake Pounds ’89 told Business Honors students at Mays Business School. “Examining symptoms, diagnosing the problem, prescribing a solution and working with a business to improve productivity and efficiency is what consulting is all about.” Pounds shared his experiences and observations about the field, and described how students can thrive in an industry that demands problem solving, flexibility and interpersonal skills.

Pounds, a 25-year veteran of the field, is currently the managing director of Accenture’s Houston office. Since completing his bachelor’s in finance from Texas A&M University and an MBA in international business from The University of Texas at San Antonio, he has worked continuously with Accenture. He also serves on the board of directors of the Greater Houston Partnership and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

“I was attracted to consulting for three things: The opportunity to work with sharp people, the variety of the work and the continuous learning,” he explained. “You’re constantly learning and being challenged, and you’re always encouraged to grow – personally and professionally. These are the things that have kept me at Accenture for more than 25 years.”

At the Houston office, Pounds oversees 1,800 employees in five divisions – strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Under his leadership since 2013, the office has accelerated acquisition and recruiting efforts. Pounds has also been active in leading Accenture’s efforts to give back to the local community through its multiple Houston partnerships with organizations such as Genesys Works, Junior Achievement, KIPP and the Prisoner Entrepreneurship Program among others. “I like taking ideas, seeing an opportunity and working to grow it,” Pounds said of the progress of Accenture in Houston.

Throughout his career, Pounds has traveled to more than 30 countries, worked abroad on extended multi-year assignments to Mexico City and London, and gained experience working with clients in a variety of industries including financial services, chemicals, utilities and oil & gas. He shared his insights into how students can succeed in consulting.

  • Be comfortable with ambiguity

“The people I see struggling in this industry are those that don’t deal well with ambiguity,” he said. “These people want to be told exactly what to expect in any situation. But the folks who are successful are those that are confident and resourceful in any situation and say to themselves, ‘Wherever I am, I have the resources I need and my firm behind me, and we’ll be able to figure out any problem.’”

  • Work well with others

Pounds said consulting projects are similar to group projects in college courses, and that the team dynamics are not very different. “On a team, there are classic behaviors: someone who emerges as a leader, others who are hard workers and those who will contribute as required on specialist subjects. ” he said. Team-working is essential to the demands of the consulting industry.

  • Be digitally savvy

He shared advice for Aggies preparing for jobs: Stay abreast of digital technology. “Digital technology is changing so quickly, and it’s disrupting long-standing business models,” he said. “Staying up to speed is incredibly important, irrespective of what you study in school.”

His secret to success

Consulting is all about building relationships and partnering with the right people to solve problems, Pounds explained. No matter which industry, he believes that staying in touch with clients on a regular basis is crucial to success. “There can be a tendency to be opportunistic – only reaching out to a client when they have a problem,” he said. “But it is important to know your clients and to stay in touch with them, irrespective of whether there is a current opportunity. When the time comes when they have a challenging problem to solve, they’ll tend to call the person with whom they have an ongoing relationship based on mutual trust.”

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M