April, 2007 | Mays Impacts

It was Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz who convinced him to come out of retirement. To tackle an existing culture and find ways to get people engaged in the life of your company is the highest calling of business leaders, Schultz told now-J.C. Penney Company CEO Myron E. Ullman.

Ullman thought so, too – and that’s why in December 2004 he accepted the role as chairman and CEO of a century-old general merchant with a $33 stock price. By December 2006, Ullman’s practices and guiding vision for growth had blasted the company’s shares into the $89 range as JCPenney announced plans to add 250 new stores in five years.

“We do business today with half the households in America,” Ullman says of JCPenney’s 24 million customers. “This is a contact sport – you can’t just be nice and hold onto your share in the market. The customer votes every day based on what she finds and what she likes, and you better be there to provide that.”

That can-do vigor, coupled with a strong-growth game plan, earned Ullman the 2007 M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Award from the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. He spoke at Mays on Wednesday as he accepted the award, addressing a standing-room only crowd of business students, community leaders and retailing and marketing executives.

When JCPenney representatives went out into the field in 16 U.S. cities to ask shoppers what they looked for in a store, Ullman said they expected the answer to be about lower prices. But it turns out that what’s most important to consumers are the little things that help them experience every day life.

That led the once-stagnant general merchant into its latest phase, with the tagline “Every Day Matters.” From compliments on a new blouse to finding just the right gear for children’s after-school activities, Ullman explained that the every day defines JCPenney and its target consumers in middle America.

Providing an emotional connection to JCPenney as a brand and creating an exciting and easy place to shop have proven their value to a company that nearly shuttered its storefronts in the 1990s. Under Ullman’s leadership, JCPenney met its 9 percent operating profit target in 2006 – three years ahead of schedule.

But the former R.H. Macy & Co., Inc., chairman and CEO says he didn’t arrive at JCPenney with any plans other than helping his executive team find a way to grow the revived Penney’s into something bigger, better and more meaningful for customers and employees alike.

“This isn’t a story about a CEO at all,” Ullman told students. “This is a story about teamwork, making a human connection with your associates, and in turn making a human connection with your consumers. Everybody wants to be part of something meaningful.”

Categories: Executive Speakers

At Mays today, 354 students receive funds for 129 scholarships for a total of $1.5 million in scholarship support. Hundreds of those students gathered together with business-school scholarship donors for the first time in Mays’ inaugural scholarship banquet this March.

Pointing to the growing financial needs for running a first-rate business school, banquet speaker and avid Mays supporter M. Bookman Peters ’59 said voluntary giving makes it possible to recruit the kind of students who build academic excellence. But he turned quickly to address the students in the audience, telling them to lead by example and to maintain relationships with the donors who are funding their education.

His key message to the future Mays graduates: Return to Texas A&M, when you can, and reinvest in other students’ futures

 

Categories: Former Students, Students

Two of five students nominated Texas A&M-wide for Morris K. Udall Scholarships—$5,000 awards for sophomores and juniors committed to careers related to conservation and the environment—are business majors.

The nominees include:

  • Austin Carlson, a Professional Program student and accounting major who is a founding member of the Aggieland Beautification Committee and an active participant in REPLANT
  • Zane Schwarzlose, an agribusiness major who also helped found the Aggieland Beautification Committee and is interning this semester with U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions in Washington, D.C.

Categories: Programs, Students

Service and the American Accounting Association are nothing new to Professor of Accounting Christopher J. Wolfe, but his role with the international accounting education, research and practice association just got bigger. Starting this August, Wolfe will serve as the AAA’s Vice President-Finance Elect, becoming a full voting member in August 2008.

Wolfe, whose research delves into judgment and decision making in relation to accounting, auditing, and systems issues, has served in a number of AAA roles including a stint on the program advisory committee and time as treasurer for the AAA Information Systems Section.

His teaching and professional interests include security in automated environments, IT audit, and the use of database/ERP technology in accounting. Wolfe’s research interests are primarily focused on judgment and decision making in relation to accounting, auditing, and systems issues.

Categories: Departments, Faculty

Noontime siesta would empty the busy streets of the towns near Madrid. Meat hung in the open air from windows in restaurants, and though some of the freshmen in the group from Mays were fluent Spanish speakers, they would have to laugh at the way the Spaniards phrased things.

A group of 15 freshmen business Regents Scholars, or first-generation college students, spent their spring break strolling through the famed Prado museum in Madrid and the aged, Aristotelian country castles of nobles and kings in Segovia and Toledo. Thanks to the generosity and support of Mays donors, these freshmen – many of whom haven’t been outside the southern U.S. and Mexico – had the chance to experience a culture a world away from their own back in Aggieland.

That culture was straight-forward, blunt, and proud of its heritage, said freshman Angel Escobar, a Mexico City native who attended high school in Laredo and is already active in community service projects in his first year at Mays. “In Mexico and the U.S., we’re still very similar. We don’t say things right out, we soften our words,” says Escobar, who hadn’t traveled north of Austin before spring break. “But they get right to the point in Spain. If they think you are doing something wrong, they will make a little noise and cut you off short.”

It marked the second year Mays has been able to send a select set of its 60 total freshmen Regents’ Scholars on an all-expenses paid trip overseas. The goal: To send the most passionate first-time students to see what the world has to offer. Students aren’t asked to be anything more than careful learners as they navigate the Madrid subway system and trail tour guides through century-old cathedrals in the heart of an ancient culture.

Understanding international cultures and observing international practices is key to understanding the business of the world, says Associate Dean Martha “Marty” Loudder.

And whether that’s when to leave a tip for service (it’s not expected in Spain) or how to phrase a business proposal, these students are already beginning to understand. “I had to remember not to use any English words like we do in Mexico,” Escobar said. “And I had to think of their customer service differently: One waitress made us write down our order because she was too busy to take it down for us.”

Categories: Programs, Students

Federated Professor in Marketing Charles M. Futrell is the feature of a Q&A in Sales and Marketing Executives International, Inc.’s MarketingTimes in March. Futrell, named the organization’s 2007 Educator of the Year, fields questions about his expertise and approach to salespeople at http://tinyurl.com/2qd2gt.

Futrell will be formally recognized as Educator of the Year during a September conference.

Categories: Departments, Faculty

For children born with Down syndrome, learning to write can be a frustrating experience. But a team of Mays students, in cooperation with the Down Syndrome Support Group of Bryan/College Station, is hoping to change that for one group of young students.

The Down Syndrome Support Group is hosting a class this spring, called “Handwriting Class for Special Needs,” for children with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Seven Mays freshmen in the innovative Transitions cornerstone course will mentor and teach as a part of the class, which offers a variety of learning techniques including songs, repetition of coloring and tracing, and playing with different shaped sticks.

“I don’t expect miracles, just little milestones to get one step closer on his handwriting skills,” says Christy Knight, president of the Down Syndrome Support Group and mother of a 3-year-old Colton. “As a mom, I want my child to have all opportunities in life. With this class he will get one-on-one attention working with fine motor skills to help with his writing. I know without the help from volunteers giving their time to work with our children these classes would not be possible.”

The team of Mays students, who call themselves “Uniting Hands,” are working with the support group as part of their class service project. They aren’t alone in their efforts this spring: more than a dozen teams from Director of Undergraduate Learning Tim O. Peterson’s second-semester freshman leadership course and from his Mays Fellows 2007 group have set out to affect change through student-led community service projects.

Though it’s part of the curriculum to “go out and do good in the world,” Peterson quickly reminds students that it’s their own initiative and their own will to make a difference that matters with these projects. “This has to be their project and something they care about, or it won’t make an impact,” Peterson says. “But they also get the chance to realize just how important it is to take the time as busy students and professionals to put the community’s needs first.”

Categories: Faculty, Programs, Students

Our faculty are cited experts in more than 50 news shows, magazines and newspapers each year. Some references stand out each semester, including these tidbits that show our experts in a national spotlight.

Distinguished Professor of Marketing Rajan Varadarajan penned an expert’s article on innovation for a joint effort shepherded byThe Wall Street Journal and MIT’s Sloan Management Review. In his column, Varadarajan shares ideas on incremental innovation that can “help companies create interim fixes for industrywide problems when long-term solutions are still on the drawing board.”

Find the column, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal on March 3, at http://tinyurl.com/3baxlb.

Distinguished Professor Leonard L. Berry joined Varadarajan’s national-media status in March. He warns JetBlue operators in the March 5 edition of BusinessWeek to carefully craft and stand by their new service guarantee after Valentine’s weekend snafus left passengers stranded in airplanes on runways for more than three hours. “A well-executed service guarantee is very clear on what is guaranteed and what is not,” Berry explains. JetBlue CEO David Neeleman launched service guarantees—such as $100 refunds for passengers whose arriving flights don’t reach their gates for one to two hours—as part of an effort to rebuild consumer trust in the airline.

Categories: Faculty, Research Notes

Management and business consulting is one of the fastest-growing careers in America, predicted by sources such as MONEY Magazine to grow more than 20 percent over the next decade. But the path to landing a job in consulting isn’t always laid out for business students. That changed this spring at Mays, when a trio of former students brought a dozen consulting pros to campus for a consulting case competition.

In an intense weekend in March, 60 students in every field from accounting and finance to engineering had less than 24 hours to prepare a strategy analysis for a business-to-business wireless service provider facing a major transition. They pitched their ideas in teams to 12 judges from consulting kings Katzenbach Partners, Alvarez & Marsal and McKinsey & Co.—names that resonate as trusted advisors in the boardrooms of top businesses across the country.

It was the first time some company representatives had been to campus. And for many students, it was the first time they had even been exposed to possibilities in management consulting.

“In some ways, the focus on certain top companies has been too narrow and has not presented a broad array of opportunities available to students,” says first-place winner Graham Gilkerson, who will earn his BBA in accounting and master’s in finance this May. Though he’ll go on to a career in investment banking at Banc of America Securities, he says the foundation has been laid for more Aggie consultants in the future: “Events like this will help students learn more about prospective careers and the companies therein.”

The competition is the brainchild of three recent graduates who wanted to show students firsthand what a career in consulting might look like, while at the same time exposing the biggest names in management consulting to Texas A&M. Alec King ’00, a senior associate at Katzenbach Partners, joined the energy and drive of Alvarez & Marsal Consultant Payal Patel ’06 and KPMG Associate Clark Bosslet ’06 in breathing life into a competition that will become an annual to-do.

Though both Patel and Bosslet are only in the first year of their careers, they were inspired by lessons from their own education and the support of Mays Associate Dean Martha Loudder to fill a void in opportunities for students. Their idea is simple enough, and smacks of the service orientation many Aggies graduate with: If you see something missing, find a way to provide it.

“Our education at Mays made us see how much change is possible,” Bosslet said just months after graduating this summer, when the trio first made plans for a consulting competition. “You go out into the real world, you see graduates from other schools and the opportunities they encountered, and you see what else we could be doing. We’ve always been taught to do our best to make possibility into reality.”

Categories: Former Students, Students

“What can you say about outsourcing and Wal-Mart’s role in the loss of American jobs in manufacturing plants?”

The room of attentive MBAs fell quiet. Eduardo Castro-Wright ’75, the public face of Wal-Mart as its USA Stores CEO, responded without skipping a beat. “If you’re a capitalist, you can’t take the view of separate markets—the global market is where we live today,” he told the MBA questioner. “We favor U.S. products in our stores, even with a premium, but not to the extent that you’re going to pay for it as a consumer. Competition is a beautiful thing. It makes us better everyday.”

Making life better for consumers is precisely the mission the world’s largest big-box chain embraces everyday. That’s what Castro-Wright told students in a March meeting that marked a return to the Texas A&M campus since his days as an undergrad in mechanical engineering in the 1970s. And for a company that has grown $17 billion in international sales in the past year alone (more than the value of Google, eBay and Yahoo combined), such a human-first message is key to maintaining the chain’s quality growth and valued consumer experiences.

The Sam Walton vision lives on, today’s U.S. CEO explained. Wal-Mart has brought benefit along with change as it settles into the fabric of the communities it serves: from increased purchasing power through the Wal-Mart conglomerate’s scale and scope in 3,550 U.S. stores to community enhancements like green stores run on solar power (Colorado) or wind turbines (McKinney, Texas).

A new Wal-Mart in town can revitalize “urban deserts” and bring traffic to a previously withering retail market even if it might, in other places, threaten mom-n-pop business. Wal-Mart’s recent push for less packaging means the company’s truck fleet will haul less material and use 25 percent less fuel. Sheer size and scale also helps new energy-saving technologies make it to the retail floor, such as LED lights for freezer cases, which have proven costly to manufacture. Enter Wal-Mart’s 6,000 worldwide stores, each putting in LED lighting that creates a viable market for an LED manufacturer.

Benefits ripple out from major corporations Wal-Mart, Castro-Wright said, to affect change in more industry and business and especially within Wal-Mart communities.

“You can’t be successful in improving lives if you just bring products in at lower prices for consumers,” he said. “As the largest retailer in the world, we shoulder some responsibility for helping the world become a better place.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students