This fall, Mays Business School at Texas A&M University has initiated the Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series as a forum to present the best in scholarly thought from an array of business disciplines. During this inaugural season, the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series will present C.K. Prahalad, Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. Prahalad will speak at Mays on October 16 at 10:30 a.m. in Ray Auditorium (113 Wehner). This event is open to the public.
Prahalad is an educator, entrepreneur, author, and consultant. He has been voted as the most influential living management thinker by Thinkers 50, The Times of London and Suntop Media, and has won the McKinsey prize four times for the best article in Harvard Business Review.
His accomplishments include writing or coauthoring five highly influential books on strategy, including The Multinational Mission, Competing for the Future (hailed as the best business book of the year in 1994), The Future of Competition (voted one of the best business books of the year by Business Week and Strategy + Business in 2004), and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid (voted the top business book of the year by The Economist, Fast Company and Amazon.com editors in 2004). His most recent book is The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value through Global Networks, coauthored with with M.S. Krishnan.
Prahalad studied physics at the University of Madras (now Chenai) before continuing his education in the United States, where he earned a PhD from Harvard. He has received honorary doctorates in economics (University of London), engineering (Stevens Institute of Technology), and business (Tilberg, The Netherlands and Abertay, Scotland). He was a member of the UN Blue Ribbon Commission on Private Sector and Development, which seeks economic reform solutions to create human development.
He is active and prominent as a business consultant, and his clients include some of the world’s leading companies. He sits on the boards of NCR Corporation, Pearson, plc., Hindustan Unilever Limited, TVS Capital, The World Resources Institute (WRI) and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE).
With all the festivity of a royal celebration, three Mays Business School graduates were recognized recently as outstanding alumni for their careers of merit and lives of service. Robert D. Starnes ’72, David W. Williams ’79 and Stephen B. Solcher ’83 were feted at a banquet Sept. 24 at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, where the escorts were the elite Ross Volunteers and the opening music was provided by the Singing Cadets.
David Williams ’79, Robert Starnes ’72 and Stephen Solcher ’83 were honored as Mays Outstanding Alumni at a banquet Sept. 24 at Miramont Country Club in Bryan.
It was the 18th year of the Outstanding Alumni Award program, the most prestigious honor Mays offers its graduates. The recipients are chosen on the basis of their personal and professional success in life, as well as their contributions to the greater good.
Loyalty, integrity, excellence, leadership, selfless service, and respect; these are the traits that define an Aggie. Annually, Mays Business School honors graduates that have led lives of distinction, embodying these Aggie characteristics with the Mays Outstanding Alumni Award.
“These three outstanding people certainly personify these values, and one thing all the recipients said was that this would not have happened without the great network of family and the great support of friends,” said Jerry Strawser, dean of Mays.
Recipients of this Award are from all industries, from automotive to accounting. They’ve served in the military, founded museums and nonprofits, been active in their churches and their communities. They’ve also served their alma mater, maintaining a relationship with Mays long after graduation.
Robert D. Starnes ’72
“At some stage you’ve got to start giving back to the entities that have contributed to your success. A&M has been a critical part of my life.”
From education to the environment to opportunities for veterans and children, Robert Starnes ’72 is committed to a wide array of charitable activities and organizations. This isn’t surprising to those that know Starnes, whose life is defined by a diversity of experiences as he’s moved from military officer to entrepreneur.
As a young man, Starnes was active in the Boy Scouts of America, a group he says was an important part of his development. With a scholarship from the Garden Clubs of Texas, he went on to A&M where he was active in the Corps of Cadets, as well as two agriculture honor societies. A distinguished student, he graduated with a BS in recreation and parks in 1972, then began a 10-year career in the Army. After duty assignments in Panama, North Carolina, and Virginia, Starnes was delighted to be sent back to College Station as a captain, where he worked with the ROTC program as an assistant professor of military science. Starnes says that there is a misconception that educators have an easy job. On the contrary, he says teaching was one of the most challenging things he’s undertaken. His time as an assistant professor gave him new appreciation for the high quality instruction he received at A&M and increased his dedication to giving back to his alma mater.
While stationed at A&M, Starnes’ wife, Robin (Hodges) ’76 earned a master’s degree in computer science. The material she studied piqued Starnes’ interest, and he began taking MBA classes at A&M. In 1982 he left active military duty so that Robin could focus on her career, but continued as a reservist for an additional ten years. With his newly minted MBA, Starnes took a job as an analyst for two years before launching his own venture, The Ontra Companies, Inc., in Austin. Over the past 25 years, Ontra has morphed into a large holding firm focused on real estate and healthcare. There have been many ups and downs for the company, says Starnes, but Ontra has continued to grow in employees, revenues, and services.
Today, Starnes divides his time between his company’s headquarters in Austin, his ranch near Lampasas, and College Station, where his wife teaches at Mays and his son is part of the Professional Program. His interests include organic and sustainable farming, wilderness conservation, volunteering with veterans groups, and being active on the A&M campus through involvement with the advisory council of Mays’ Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship and the board of Aggies in Business Properties. He is also on the board of several other professional and charitable organizations. Starnes said at the awards ceremony that he felt very humbled and honored by the recognition. “All I do every day is what all Aggies do: Get up and take care of business,” Starnes said.
Starnes then thanked his long-time mentor, agriculture professor Louis Hodges, who helped provide Starnes with guidance after his father died during his senior year of high school. He also lauded the faculty, staff and administrators at Mays. “You all have done far greater things than I could have,” he said, proceeding to read rankings the school had received in recent years.
David W. Williams ’79
“Perseverance pays off. You’ve got to keep at it and work hard.”
As the head of the second largest offshore drilling contractor, Noble Corporation’s David Williams ’79 says that whatever novelty there was in international travel wore off a long time ago. “My passport looks like a phonebook,” he jokes. That bulky, well-used passport is a testament to his dedication to the successful career that he has built over the decades, primarily in the oilfield services industry.
Williams, who serves as chairman, president and CEO of Noble, says he spends 50 to 60 percent of his time traveling for work. He can boast a visit to every continent on the globe, with the exception of Antarctica as, “They don’t do much drilling there, but when the time comes I am sure we will help lead the way. We go where our customers need us.” Recently, Williams and his wife Sue relocated from Houston to Geneva, Switzerland, Noble’s new headquarters. Williams says he wished they could have made such a move when their three children were still at home and could have benefited from the international experience. Instead, it’s a new adventure for the couple who have been married for 28 years.
Williams maintains an intense pace at work, as might be expected from the head of a company with 62 rigs working around the clock from the North Sea to India, and almost every region in between.
He brings the same level of energy to his home life, something he says he learned to balance at an early age. Throughout high school and college, he worked as a carpenter building bridges, using his earnings to support his education. At the start of his senior year at A&M, Williams decided that the finance degree he’d been striving for wasn’t what he wanted. With only two semesters left, he declared a new major in marketing and took as many classes as possible to complete the degree and graduate on time. Ironically, his first job after college was not in marketing, but rather human resources. Three years later, he moved into a marketing role at a drilling services operation and began his international travels. Williams progressed steadily in leadership roles in marketing in the energy sector. He has been with Noble Corporation since 2006 and assumed his current role in early 2008.
While Williams says that work and family commitments keep him extremely busy, he still finds time to serve as a board member of the American Petroleum Institute and the International Association of Drilling Contractors, as well as Spindletop International, a charitable organization managed by energy professionals. Williams has spent five years on the board of Spindletop, a position he enjoys as he is able to “direct some of the meaningful money that is given to help children in the Houston area.”
At the banquet, Williams said he isn’t sure he could gain admission to Texas A&M now. “When I went to school here, you just had to have an SAT of 800 and be able to sign your name,” he joked. Williams said he and his wife had lost touch with A&M over the years, but said he hopes to re-establish a connection. “I’m not sure the things I learned in the classroom are as important as the other things I learned at A&M,” he said, referring to the core values that are instilled throughout the campus. “The tradition, the spirit, the values have stayed with me my whole life.”
Stephen B. Solcher ’83
“We’re put on this planet to make it better. We’re here to make a difference.”
If one thing can fix our society’s ills, it’s education, says Stephen Solcher ’83. That’s the reason he’s made it his ambition to be involved in organizations such as Teach for America and Cristo Rey Jesuit College Prep School in Houston, whose missions are to bring high quality education to low-income students that are often under-served.
Education was something that was stressed in Solcher’s own home as he grew up the second of five brothers. Solcher says his father encouraged each of his sons to work from the 8th grade on in a manual labor environment to remind them of why getting an education is so important.
Though he followed in his older brother’s footsteps to A&M, Solcher bucked the family tradition by declaring an accounting major (his father and several brothers attended medical school). Prior to graduation, he was offered a job at Arthur Andersen & Co.
He had the technical skills needed for the job, but Solcher says he felt behind in the workplace initially: he’d never worked in a business setting before, and was uncertain of what was expected of him in that culture. Despite his inexperience, he excelled at Andersen, though he hasn’t forgotten that feeling of being out of place. As part of his dedication to educating today’s youth, Solcher mentors promising young people and encourages them to spend time in corporate settings.
Solcher spent eight years at Andersen, rising through the management ranks. He was on track to make partner when he was recruited by one of his corporate clients, BMC Software. He joined the public company as an assistant treasurer, mastered the job, and was promoted to treasurer six months later. He has continued to grow in the position for the past 19 years, adding more responsibilities as the company expanded. Today he is the senior vice president and CFO.
Credibility is everything when you work in the financial business, says Solcher. “My philosophy is to work hard and let my work speak for itself.” Solcher describes his job as fast-paced and unpredictable, qualities he’s come to appreciate. “There’s no yellow brick road, no path to follow,” he says. “You have to forge your own path. That’s what I get excited about.”
When he’s not working, Solcher can often be found in the great outdoors with his teenage son and daughter, and his wife of 20 years, Susan (Shillings) “81. Solcher’s enthusiasm for big game hunting has prompted several visits to Africa, South America, Alaska, and Canada. He also enjoys golfing, skiing, water-skiing and hiking. Another passion that the Solcher family enjoys is world travel. This summer, Solcher spent two weeks touring Italy with his family. Solcher is on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Houston, as well as the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Solcher said at the banquet that he feels honored to be in the company of past recipients of the Outstanding Alumni Award. “These are people who did not sacrifice their families to succeed in business, who did not sacrifice their faith,” he said. “They show you people you want to grow up to be like—people who have not only done well, but have also done right, and those aren’t always the same thing.”
In our current economic environment, we all scrutinize costs more; weighing cost versus benefit, investment versus return. Perhaps no commodity or service has been discussed more than the the cost of a university education. While tuition at Texas A&M University has increased in the past few years, A&M is not alone. Tuition has risen across the United States. Yet, comparing the cost of an education at our university with that at similar U.S. institutions, an education at Texas A&M is still very affordable.
This only views, however, the investment side of the equation. When considering the return, you’d soon come to the same conclusion as many of our students. Their investment in time and money at Mays Business School is the best one they will ever make in their lives. A select number of our rankings help illustrate the value of the education we offer:
Mays’ undergraduate program is consistently ranked among the top 20 U.S. public business programs and is highly regarded by leading corporations.
Mays’ MBA program is consistently ranked among the top 15 U.S. public business programs, with placement of students ranked among the top two for each of the last five years.
Smart Money ranked Texas A&M first nationally in payback ratioâ€”the earnings levels of graduates compared to what they paid for their undergraduate educations.
Yes, a university education is expensive. It’s expensive because we are dedicated to providing the best experience for our students and having them taught by the best faculty. We could teach larger classes, teach all classes online, choose not to hire the very best faculty, or forego the outside-of-class educational opportunities (e.g., Freshman Business Initiative, Transitions program, Honors program, study abroad opportunities, or Aggies on Wall Street) that provide our students with skills they’ll use for a lifetime. Yes, we could make those changes but the value of our students’ education would certainly decline. Given the large number of applications for the Class of ’13 and the outstanding qualifications of our incoming class of freshmen, I can safely say our students view their education as an investment with a return of great value.
A program is only as good as its faculty. That’s why hiring and retaining the very best faculty members is a primary goal at Mays Business School. For the 2009-2010 school year, ten full-time tenure/tenure-track faculty members have been added to the roster. They come from a variety of locations, from Greece to Pennsylvania, and have a wide range of research interests, from coworker relationships to e-commerce. What they all have in common is a dedication to their profession that distinguishes them from their peers.
Mays is pleased to welcome the following new professors.
Professor of Management, initial holder of the Cocanougher Eminent Scholar Chair in Business
PhD: University of Minnesota
Recent Affiliation: Arizona State University
“I like to get students involved and to practice using real life cases. My philosophy is to be highly participative and Socratic. I bring my experience, as much as possible, into the classroom.”
Luis Gomez-Mejia’s career perfectly aligns with Texas A&M University’s emphasis on teaching, research, and service. As an educator for more than three decades, he has honed his classroom skills at a number of American universities as well as two universities in Spain, and has offered seminars in both Spanish and English around the world. In 2004, he was appointed as a Regents Professor at Arizona State University, making him (at that time) one of only two such professors in the university’s Carey College of Business.
With more than 100 publication credits to his name, Gomez-Mejia’s research has been varied, from management in high technology firms to socioemotional concerns within family firms. His current research focuses on the timely issue of executive compensation and how financial incentives may be used to motivate people at work. His research has appeared in top-tier publications and his books are used in business classrooms nationwide. His work has garnered much attention and praise, including a 2008 faculty research award from ASU, selection to the Academy of Management’s Hall of Fame, and a research fellowship granted by the Ministry of Education in Spain. In 2004, he also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota; this recognition is extremely competitive since the recipient is chosen from among 300,000 graduates of the University of Minnesota.
Gomez-Mejia is highly active in his profession as well, serving as president and founder of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management, which covers Spain/Portugal, Latin America, and Hispanic faculty in U.S. universities. He has served two terms on the editorial board of the Academy of Management Journal and is editor and cofounder of Journal of High Technology Management Research and Journal of Management Research (the journal of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management).
In 2008, Gomez-Mejia was recognized for a lifetime of achievement with the title of Doctor Honoris Causa at Universidad Carlos III, Madrid. This is the most prestigious and highly competitive award provided by the university to external professors; candidates in any field in any part of the world are eligible for the award.
His interest in management as a discipline began when Gomez-Mejia worked as a consultant for Control Data Corporation in the 1970s. “My background was in economics and I was interested in macroeconomic policies and their effect on poverty but later I developed an appreciation for business issues at the organizational level,” he says. He taught evening courses at the University of Minnesota while working full-time, arousing his interest in teaching and research. At that time, he says he started to see research as a means to solve real-life issues as he realized how decisions could be improved by having more information. “I also learned to appreciate the proverb that “there is nothing more practical than a good theory,'” he said. That revelation spurred him on to doctoral studies and a long career in higher education.
At A&M, Gomez-Mejia will teach international management courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. “And I do expect to devote a large amount of time to research,” he says, “often spilling into the evenings and weekends as I truly love the process of discovery.”
Dan S. Chiaburu
Assistant Professor of Management
PhD: Pennsylvania State University
Recent Affiliation: Pennsylvania State University
“Being conversational and focusing on concrete situations are great inroads into getting the students’ attention. My classroom experience is a continuous movement between the conceptual and the concrete.”
Coworkers: some are fantastic, others you can’t stand, but they all impact your work. In fact, according to research from Dan Chiaburu and a coauthor, the effect of a colleague on a worker’s role perceptions, job attitudes, absenteeism, turnover, and performance is greater than that of a supervisor. The findings suggest that the strongest coworker effects are for how much employees come to understand the requirements of, and get deeply engaged in or reduce their effort toward, their tasks. Also, bad is stronger than good; that is, the impact of a negative coworker is greater than the encouragement of a positive one.
Chiaburu’s research is focused primarily on relationships and behaviors in the workplace. His recent work appeared or is in press in the Academy of Management Best Papers Proceedings, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Vocational Behavior, and the Handbook of Social Resource Theory.
A certified senior human resource professional, Chiaburu received the Excellence in Research-to-Practice Award from the American Society for Training and Development in 2004.
Chiaburu has served as an ad-hoc reviewer for several journals and was selected as an Outstanding Reviewer by the Academy of Management in 2007.
Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management
PhD: University of Texas, Dallas
Recent Affiliation: University of Washington
“I believe that my responsibility as a teacher is to provide knowledge that will help students in achieving their business goals. Hence, I want to develop critical thinking and problem-solving strategies in students.”
Subodha Kumar is interested in increasing efficiency through his research, which focuses on diverse areas such as e-commerce, mobile commerce, software development and maintenance, and information technology.
He currently has 13 papers in respected publications such as Management Science, Information Systems Research, Production and Operations Management, Journal of Management Information Systems, IIE Transactions, European Journal of Operational Research, and IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering. He has a number of papers still in the process of being published. In addition to his publishing activity, Kumar is also a patent holder, as he worked with a team to develop a robotic system control.
Kumar has both education and industry experience. He has taught for the past few years at the University of Washington, winning awards for the quality of his instruction. He came to academia after working as an engineer for Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company (India), and as a research assistant and scientist for FSI International (Dallas, Texas).
Kumar currently serves as the senior editor of Productions and Operations Management Journal. He is also a member of the editorial review board of Journal of Database Management.
Assistant Professor of Finance
PhD: University of Utah
Recent Affiliation: University of Utah
“My teaching strategy is student centricâ€¦The course is designed to encourage dialogue and foster innovative thinking.”
What is the market value of the right to vote embedded in common stocks? It all depends, says research from Shagun Pant and colleagues. They find that the value of the vote is an increasing function of the expected life of the stock. Quantitatively, they estimate the market value of the right to vote during a year as 5.4 percent. However, the value of the vote increases around special meetings and around M&A events.
It’s this sort of empirical response to theoretical questions that impact the way business is conducted that appeals to Pant, who says she first became interested in studying finance while completing a master’s degree in information systems. “I was particularly intrigued by the quantitative nature of finance, and the possibility of using mathematical formalism in gaining insights about complex financial issues,” she said. Her research focuses on corporate governance and issues related to corporate voting rights.
She has presented her research at numerous conferences in the U.S. and abroad. She has refereed work for Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis and Annals of Finance.
Her work is about more than just research. “I enjoy teaching and interacting with students,” says Pant. “I believe that teaching completes the intellectual experience of an academician.” At Mays, Pant will teach an advanced corporate finance class for undergraduates.
Assistant Professor of Information and Operations Management
PhD: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Recent Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“An ideal teacher embraces teaching as an opportunity to inspire, encourage, cultivate curiosity, and empower the individuals who enter the classroom to take responsibility for their learning.”
Her father’s job at a grocery store warehouse in Athens first piqued Olga Perdikaki’s interest in operations management and business. She was fascinated with the details he would share about his work. This led to internships in retail and a continuing interest in how businesses function.
Perdikaki’s research falls under retail operations and focuses on understanding the impact of retailers’ activities that are geared towards improving customer valuation on retailers’ profitability. In addition, she is interested in the temporal management of investments in demand-enhancing activities in the face of demand uncertainty and competition. Perdikaki’s research also examines store performance and specifically the effect of store labor and customer traffic on different performance metrics.
Honored with an outstanding Graduate Teaching Award and a Dissertation Completion Fellowship Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Perdikaki walks a fine line as both instructor and researcher. Perdikaki has three papers in progress and has presented her research at several conferences. Currently, she serves as an ad-hoc referee for European Journal of Operational Research and Production and Operations Management.
Michelle Chandler Diaz
Michelle Chandler Diaz
Clinical Assistant Professor of Accounting
PhD: Texas A&M University
Recent Affiliation: Louisiana State University
“I love working with students. It is one of the reasons I decided to begin an academic career and it is an extremely important part of my role as a clinical professor. My approach in the classroom continues to evolve.”
How can managers frame the implementation of new technology so that employees are more likely to learn and use it? Which of the employee’s personality factors will affect adoption of the new technology? These are questions Michelle Chandler Diaz has explored in her research, which has focused on accountants’ use of technology as well as the judgment and decision-making practices of auditors. Diaz’s work has appeared in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, and is forthcoming in The Accounting Review and International Journal of Accounting Information Systems.
Since earning her PhD from Texas A&M in 2005, Diaz has been active in her profession. Her papers have been presented at numerous conferences and invited workshops and she has served as an ad-hoc reviewer for several publications and organizations.
Lisa C. Troy
Lisa C. Troy
Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing
PhD: Texas A&M University
Recent affiliation: Texas A&M University
“I like to bring research into the classroom whenever possible so the students see the relevance of what they are studying. I also use research in the classroom to develop and reinforce critical thinking and analytical skills.”
What is the relationship between innovativeness and new product success? How does the performance of a chief marketing officer impact the company? What elements contribute to customer satisfaction and what role does it play in new product development? These are the questions Lisa Troy examines through her research in the field of marketing.
Troy’s research draws on her experience in both industry and academia. She worked for several years for Exxon Company, USA, as a financial analyst in their marketing and production department. She has also taught at University of North Texas and Utah State University. In 2008 she served at Texas A&M as a visiting professor.
In the upcoming year, Troy is excited to be teaching advertising and creative marketing communication and a course on advanced advertising, which will prepare a select group of students to compete in a national advertising campaign case competition.
Troy was recently selected to receive a teaching innovation grant from the Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence. She has been recognized numerous times for her teaching and research quality. In addition to her academic duties, Troy serves as an advisor to the American Advertising Federation student organization at Mays.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Information and Operations Management
PhD: University of Tennessee
Recent affiliation: Uurva Consultants, LLC, and MACOM Technology Solutions
“Involving your students is criticalâ€¦If you involve students from the first day and they believe that you truly want their input, you’ll find the classroom much more enriching.”
Madhav Pappu’s academic interest has taken him farâ€¦ All around the world, in fact. Pappu, who teaches supply chain, says he’s always been interested in travel and transportation. After earning an undergraduate degree in marine engineering, Pappu spent nine years as a sailor, building on his knowledge of how transportation systems work. He returned to school to study transportation engineering, followed by an MBA in strategic management with an emphasis in logistics and transportation, the area in which he also completed his PhD.
His variety of educational experience has made him a versatile instructor: he has taught marketing and engineering courses, in addition to his current position in Information and Operations Management.
Pappu reports that his students love it when he gets carried away telling stories about his international experiencesâ€”and that’s quite alright, as his stories are about supply chain and information management in the real world. Pappu’s current research focus is on new applications for radio frequency identification (RFiD) technology. He is most interested in how the technology could be applied in different ways to improve efficiency in the supply chain.
Pappu’s research has appeared in several publications, including Journal of Marketing Channels and Journal of International Consumer Marketing. He has also presented at seminars and conferences all over the globe.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Information and Operations Management
PhD: Florida State University
Recent Affiliation: Florida State University
“For students to optimize the learning experience, they must feel comfortable with their teachers and believe that their teachers truly care about their welfare.”
How is knowledgeâ€”the most valuable asset in businessâ€”created, distributed, and exchanged? How is that process altered by technology? These are the questions Cindi Smatt examines as she studies the intersection of digital and social networking and its relationship to knowledge management. Her findings suggest that though it is intended to increase the effectiveness of knowledge exchange, technology may actually inhibit the exchange of certain types of information, as it can diminish the personal contact that is often required for exchange of more complex knowledge. Smatt strives to understand how technology affects the exchange of different types of knowledge, and how an individual’s position in the knowledge network affects his or her performance.
Smatt says her focus on interpersonal relationships and business efficiency stems from her years working in her family’s businesses, including a supermarket, a security company, and a shopping center. She discovered her love of teaching as a graduate student. In her classroom, Smatt is concerned with more than just teaching her subject matter (Introduction to Information Systems); she hopes to encourage critical and ethical thought that will have an impact on the industry via her students.
Smatt has several articles in print or forthcoming in publications such as Journal of Information Technology and Information Management. She has also authored a book chapter on social network analysis and has presented at a number of conferences.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Information and Operations Management
PhD: The University of Alabama
Recent Affiliation: The University of Alabama
“My primary objective as a teacher is to provide for a stimulating learning environment in my classes to develop and nourish critical and creative thinking in students.”
“The best solution to any given problem is the simplest possible solution.” This is the essence of operations management, says Sudarsan Rangan. This phrase is always in his mind as he examines issues in his field. His current research examines supply contracts between parties with varying risk preferences, with the aim of creating a practical contract framework for the industry. His other research interests include supply risk management, operations strategy and revenue management, operations in emerging economies, and pricing and purchasing decision analysis. He has presented his research at a number of conferences.
At Mays, Rangan teaches Statistical Methods to undergraduates in addition to his research. Excellence in the classroom is as important to Rangan as research: as a graduate student, he won two teaching awards for his dedication to his students and discipline, and his students have ranked him highly in course evaluations. His classroom philosophy is simple: “Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn,” he says.
In addition to his degrees in Operations Management, Rangan also holds degrees in electrical engineering.
“So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”
– President Barack Obama, February 24, 2009
“Healthcare in America is sickâ€¦It costs too much, wastes too much, errs too much, and discriminates too much.”
These are the conclusions Leonard Berry reached after eight years of research that combines his dual areas of expertise, marketing and medicine. Berry’s is only one of the many voices in the U.S. calling for healthcare reform. As President Obama has committed to making such reform a priority of his administration in his first year in office, the question remains: what is to be done? It’s easy to point out the flaws in the system, but difficult to create affordable and effective solutions. From socialized medicine to mandatory insurance to digitization of medical records, where should the government begin, and what is the role of the individual and corporations in creating a healthier America?
“Healthcare in America is sick,” says Mays Distinguished Professor of Marketing Leonard Berry. “It costs too much, wastes too much, errs too much, and discriminates too much.”
Berry has a few ideas.
A Distinguished Professor of Marketing and professor of humanities in medicine at Texas A&M University, he has written extensively about healthcare after in-depth analysis of arguably the best healthcare available in the U.S.: the Mayo Clinic. He spent the 2001-2002 academic year as a scientist-in-residence at the clinic, examining what they do right and how practitioners everywhere can learn from Mayo to improve their service and their patients’ health. His partnership and studies with the clinic have continued for the past several years, culminating in a book titled Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic (McGraw Hill, 2008), co-authored with Kent Seltman, chair of marketing for the Mayo Clinic.
Berry’s findings have lead to numerous journal articles, including “Confronting America’s healthcare crisis,” in Business Horizons in 2008. In the article, he cites four general changes to the system that “are essential to meaningful improvement, and demonstrate the salient roles that individuals, the medical community, government, health insurers, and employers must play.” His recommendations are highly pertinent as the conversation about healthcare continues to evolve.
Heathcare reform starts with you
“Wellness cannot be delegated,” Berry says in the article. “Responsibility for health begins with each individual.” While this statement seems obvious, its truth of its impact is often overlooked. Berry cites a study that examines the impact of five factors on health: genetics; social circumstances (education, income, housing, crime, etc.); environmental conditions (such as toxic agents); behavioral choices (diet, exercise, chemical abuse, stress, etc.); and medical care. Guess which has the biggest impact on health?
“While recognizing the interconnectedness of the categories, the researchers concluded that the most deathsâ€”approximately 40 percentâ€”are caused by modifiable behavior patterns,” such as smoking and drinking less, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating right, says Berry.
A prime example of the importance of behavior modification is the American obesity epidemic. A 2004 study showed that between 1987 and 2001, 27 percent of the overall increase in healthcare costs went toward obesity-related illness, such as diabetes and heart disease.
“A 2004 study showed that between 1987 and 2001, 27 percent of the overall increase in healthcare costs went toward obesity-related illness, such as diabetes and heart disease.”
While the onus lies with the individual, Berry says that society has some responsibilities as well: to educate people about risky health behaviors and to provide affordable, healthy food as well as opportunities for physical activity (e.g., safe parks and playgrounds). “Individuals must take responsibility for their lifestyle choices, but society needs to assist; the health of people and the health of healthcare depend on it.”
A place to call home
Berry says an important feature of healthcare reform is the need for a “medical home” where a patient can establish an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician. The continuity of care that such a relationship provides is key to prevention, early detection, and management of disease, as well as coordination of care with other health services. Part of this benefit is that the more a patient sees the same doctor, the more likely it is the patient will adhere to that doctor’s recommendations, such as behavior modification (more exercise, improved diet, etc.).
Based on other’s research as well as his own ((Berry, L. L., Parish, J. T., Janakiraman, R., Ogburn-Russell, L., Couchman, G.R., Rayburn, W.L., et al. (2008). Patients’ commitment to their primary physician and why it matters. Annals of Family Medicine, 6(1), 6-13.)), Berry concludes that having a strong patient/doctor relationship can help the patient to formulate and stick to a personalized strategic health plan, more accurately decide when hospitalization or other medical treatment is needed, and effectively plan for end-of-life care.
End-of-life care is something that Berry is passionate about, as he believes it is too often full of needless expense and suffering, for patients and families. He cites several studies to back up his conclusions, commenting that about 27 percent of Medicare’s total budget goes to medical care for patients in the last year of life ((Appleby, J. (2006, October 19). Debate surrounds end-of-life expenses. USA Today, pp 1B-2B.)). Related to that number is the sobering statistic that 85 percent of Americans indicate they would rather die at home than in a hospital ((Kuehn, B.M. (2007). Hospitals embrace palliative care. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298 (11), 1263-1265.)). Having a medical home and a strong relationship with a physician means that patients are more likely to get the care they need at this critical time. “If America invested far more resources in palliative care and hospice care, it would spend far less on healthcare overall,” he says.
There are a few impediments to the patient/doctor relationship, including a medical payments system that rewards “episodes of care” rather than comprehensive, whole-patient care. Also, the number of primary care physicians in the U.S. is dwindling, as specialized medicine can be much more lucrative. These are issues that must be addressed as part of healthcare reform measures currently under scrutiny.
Insurance is a must
The need for adequate insurance coverage for all is something Berry and the Obama administration agree on. While details about universal coverage, mandatory policies, and single-payer options are still being hammered out, the President did sign the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act in February 2009. The act provides quality health care to 11 million kids in the U.S., 4 million of whom were previously uninsured. This was step in the right direction, but Berry says more action is crucial, as nearly 50 million U.S. citizens are without health insurance.
Having so many without insurance is inefficient, says Berry, as “three-fifths of uninsured people have no regular doctor or medical home, making them much less likely to receive preventative medical care or to properly manage chronic medical conditions” ((Ayanian, J.Z., Weissman, J.S., Schneider, E.C., Ginsburg, J.A., & Zaslavsky, A.M. (2000). Unmet health needs of uninsured adults in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(16), 2061-2069.)). This leads to higher costs as this population has more dire healthcare needs, often met in expensive emergency rooms.
Though the President has taken much flack for the huge expense of the healthcare reforms he proposes, it cannot be overlooked that there is already a huge cost involved with caring for those without health care who can’t be denied some level of service at a hospital, whether they can pay for it or not. Berry also points out the economic drain caused by loss of capital and income by the ill and uninsured is extremely high each year.
Berry believes that the smartest approach to insurance reform is to build on the best features of the current system, rather than implement a new system that offers free universal coverage. “I believe America would be best served by a health insurance system in which individual households, employers, and government share responsibility for its funding,” he says. “The government must mandate that all citizens have sufficient health insurance and must enable those who cannot afford health insurance to obtain it.”
The new bottom line: healthy employees = healthy company
Health insurance for employees is one of the top expenses for most companies, however, Berry believes that employers will receive a better return on their investment by focusing on employee wellness. Berry cites a study that indicated absenteeism and “presenteeism” (when the employee is at work, but performing below capacity due to illness) cost U.S. companies more than $60 billion annually ((Stewart, W.F., Ricci, J.A., Chee, E., Morganstein, D., & Lipton, R. (2003). Lost productive time and cost due to common pain conditions in the US workforce. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(18), 2443-2454.)).
“The phrase healthy company typically refers to a company’s financial health. Managers need to broaden the meaning to include the health of employees,” says Berry, who sees corporate involvement as a major component in improving health care. Employers have a unique opportunity to influence employees’ behavior, the business smarts to make a program profitable, and the financial incentives to make it worthwhile, he says.
Berry offers suggestions for companies that want to save money by developing a culture of wellness within their organizations: on-site medical clinics for employees and their families; weight loss and smoking cessation support programs; exercise breaks during the workday; health screening fairs; healthier food options in the cafeteria; and reduction or elimination of employee co-pays on essential medication for chronic conditions, such as high cholesterol. “The most progressive managers believe that healthy employees are more likely to deliver healthy profits,” says Berry.
Berry acknowledges that healthcare reform is a complex issue that offers no easy, comprehensive solutions. However, he asserts that it is too important an issue to ignore any longer. “America does not need to spend more on health care. Rather, it needs to stop wasting so much of the money it does spend and spend differently.”
A company in Syria is doing business with a company in Louisiana. How can investors on both sides of the ocean be certain of the companies’ financials when their reporting systems are different?
As business becomes an increasingly international or multinational endeavor, accounting for assets is an ever more complicated job. To simplify the process, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) have been developed by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). As IFRS is adopted throughout the world and may perhaps soon replace American standards, the faculty at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University is making proactive changes to the accounting curriculum to prepare students for this shift.
The differences between IFRS and the U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP) are subtle. In fact, they’re about 95 percent the same, says Mays Professor of Accounting L. Murphy Smith. “But that other 5 percent can make things quite a bit different,” he said. “For some companies, it may have a significant impact. Their net earnings may go up or down a material amount because of something in that 5 percent of difference.”
Simplicity, at a price
One key difference between U.S. GAAP and IFRS is how you account for certain types of assets on the balance sheet, such as inventory. For example, a popular inventory valuation method in the U.S. called LIFO is not allowed under IFRS. And the devil is in those minor details, says Lynn Rees, professor of accounting at Mays who headed the task force that suggested changes for the Mays accounting curriculum.
As IFRS is adopted throughout the world and may perhaps soon replace American standards, the faculty at Mays Business School is making proactive changes to the accounting curriculum to prepare students for this shift.
“Although both U.S. GAAP and IFRS follow the same general principles, when it comes to implementing those principles into standards, there are many minor differences between IFRS and US GAAP that collectively, can cause significant differences in companies’ financial statements,” said Rees.
“Even for a particular company where the standards will not result in significant change, that doesn’t mean there is no cost for that company to adopt IFRSâ€¦There could be a lot of small differences that the company has to be aware of,” especially as those changes may influence the company in the next reporting cycle, he continued.
“And they may have to do a lot of legwork to determine that [the new standards] won’t change anything,” added Shannon Knight, a lecturer in the accounting department.
Currently, more than 100 countries have adopted or accepted IFRS, including the European Union. In 2007, the U.S. moved to accept, but not adopt IFRS; that is, they allow companies headquartered in countries where IFRS are used to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange without restating their financials in accordance with GAAP, but U.S. firms must still use the American standards.
In August 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced a timetable that would allow some U.S. companies to report under IFRS as soon as 2010, with total adoption by 2014. Under the new presidential administration, however, this timetable is being questioned, partly due to cost: adoption of these new standards could add substantially to already burdened companies in the challenged U.S. economy.
Curriculum modification ahead of the curve
A recent article in AACSB-International’s BizEd states that a fall 2008 survey of 500 U.S. business school faculty members revealed 62 percent had not taken any significant action to incorporate IFRS into their programs ((Shinn, Sharon. (2009) Ready or not, here comes IFRS. BizEd, 8(4), 44-50.)). This is not the case at Mays. According to Rees, while other schools were still formulating a plan, Mays had already begun implementation of IFRS curriculum. During the planning phase at Mays, in addition to Rees’ task force, experts from KPMG spent a day on the A&M campus in December 2008 to address the entire accounting faculty about IFRS issues. Nine faculty members also attended offsite IFRS training programs to learn the latest about this issue.
Rees says that within the accounting curriculum, broad concepts are taught before the nuts and bolts. Since the reporting systems are very similar conceptually, implementing more emphasis on IFRS hasn’t been a huge challenge.
The first changes were implemented in “Intermediate Accounting I” sections in the fall 2009 semester. The changes are being introduced on a rolling basis, so that by the spring 2010 semester, IFRS information will have been added to “Intermediate Accounting II”, as well as the “International Accounting” course. IFRS is addressed systematically across all three courses with research cases in each that focus on the difference between GAAP and IFRS. The Mays curriculum won’t do away with teaching GAAP standards until adoption of IFRS is certain as, at this point, graduates will still need to know how to function within both systems.
Rees says another key curriculum change that has come in tandem with the IFRS reform has been a greater emphasis on valuation, as that issue is at the heart of the current economic crisis. Previously, specifics about valuation were only touched on at the undergraduate level, and explored in slightly greater detail in the graduate classrooms.
“The nice thing about the way we’re doing it is even if the U.S. never adopts international reporting standards, all people that work in business will benefit by having this knowledge. It is very possible our students will use this information eventually,” regardless of adoption, says Smith.
One positive outcome of these changes is that the demand for accountants will increase says Knight, and Mays graduates, with their advanced knowledge about IFRS and valuation standards, should lead the pack. “We’ve been more aggressive than most other schools have been, more proactive. We’ve started much earlier,” she says.
Adoption “imminent” but not without barriers
Smith believes that U.S. adoption of IFRS appears “imminent” and that universal adoption at some point in the future is very likely. In his article “Are International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) an Unstoppable Juggernaut for US and Global Financial Reporting?” ((Smith, L. Murphy. (2008) Are International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) an Unstoppable Juggernaut for US and Global Financial Reporting? The Business Review, Cambridge, 10(1), 25-31.)) Smith, examines the pros and cons of adopting the international standards.
For countries that already have strong financial disclosure requirements, as does the U.S., there is less incentive to adopt IFRS, says the article. Motivation then stems from increasing the ease of doing global business. Though GAAP standards are effective, there is obvious benefit from participating in uniform reporting, as it simplifies information for investors, lenders, financial analysts, accountants and auditors. This simplification can lead to an improved stock price, contends Smith.
While universal adoption makes sense, Rees says there is a significant barrier for the U.S. beyond cost: it’s a question of philosophy. Does America want to give up its sovereignty over its national accounting standards, ceding power to the IASB? Rees noted a recent incident where pressure from the European Union caused the IASB to modify a certain part of IFRS and settle for a lesser quality standard–a decision that made U.S. regulators nervous about the IASB’s ability to withstand political pressure. If IFRS are fully adopted in the U.S., the U.S. Federal Accounting Standards Board would have to bow to IASB regulation. “Does the U.S. want to maintain control of what we require of companies, or do we want to let that control go out to an international organization?” asked Rees.
Knight also mentioned that though universal adoption would hold all countries to the same standards, not all countries’ enforcement of those standards would be similarly stringent. “Even if you have a common set of standards, actually enforcing those standards could be quite differentâ€¦Can we rely on the equivalent of the SEC in other countries?” Knight wonders.
Despite these challenges, Smith says he believes that at some point, universal adoption will occur. “It’s not guaranteed, but most people think it is very likely,” he said. Until official adoption occurs, Mays will continue to infuse the accounting curriculum with both US accounting standards and international material to prepare students for all eventualities.
In the last 10 years, more people have died worldwide from diarrhea as a result of unclean water than all the lives lost in armed conflict since World War II. In fact, today while you read this there will be another 6,000 lives lost due to unsafe drinking water and 90% of those victims will be under the age of 5. I have 3 daughters; ages 6, 3 and 1 month old. If we lived in a developing nation it is highly likely they would be part of this statistic. And the statistics go on and on. They are the headlines to the stories of human lives lost, and I cannot deafen their sounds any longer.
My journey starts in Hereford, Texas, as the son of a hard working, successful entrepreneur who sent me to the college of my choice: Texas A&M University. I am the first Merrick to graduate from college, let alone go to college, in all the generations in my family’s historyâ€”an accomplishment I don’t often forget as it was a very challenging task for me to finish. I pursued various start up businesses during college and realized consumer goods was the arena where I wanted to earn a living. The years passed and I got to be part of selling numerous products, having many a failures and a couple of successes. I had all I could ask for and more, but something was missing from my life.
Project 7 makes commonly used consumer products and uses the profits from its sales to raise awareness for critical areas of need around the world.
Then it happened. A couple of years ago, I was at lunch one day with a friend, bending his ear about this personal void in my life. This was the moment when I first learned what a Social Entrepreneur was. It was one of those “slide show” moments in life that I’ll never forget. It was like a street magician had written my name on a piece of paper before he met me and surprised the audience with his tell. How did he do that? How did that just happen? I felt like someone just put clothes around this dream I’d been chasing for all these years in my head. I had a vision for my life. I would use business as a way to work towards resolving social problems.
My vision isn’t just a personal calling, but one shared by many. It’s everyone’s responsibility to look out for your fellow man. So I started a business that hopes to call on society to do just that. My company, Project 7 (www.project7.com) makes consumer products that people use everyday. Through the sales of these products, we raise money and awareness for the seven most critical areas of need in our world. Those seven initiatives are:
Heal the Sick
Feed the Hungry
House the Homeless
Build the Future
Hope for Peace
Save the Earth
Help those in Need
It may sound like a daunting task, and it is. We can’t do it by ourselves, but we can inspire, be a voice, conduit and way for those wishing to make a difference in the world to do exactly that. We connect consumers with the nonprofits who are already trying to make a difference but need financial resources to continue to do good works. We have adapted our business model to compliment the American lifestyle. We have all watched a movie or 60 Minutes piece that inspired us to do something good, yet, by the time the snooze button has been hit we are back to our self-absorbed way of life. We came up with a business that uses everyday extraordinary products as a daily interruption or reminder that society can and should help out those in need. We draw attention to and educate about social issues through our packaging, with the cause being the “visual star.” The consumer picks the cause they wish to support with the respective funds going toward changing that specific need.
We offer our quality products at a comparable price and keep our overhead lower to ensure we give away as much money as possible each year to the selected non-profits. We ask nonprofits that are making a difference in these seven areas of need to apply for our funds. We then select finalists on an annual basis and ask our consumers to vote on our site for their final nonprofit selection for each cause. We offer a level of transparency for our consumers, showing the progress being made in each of the projects we fund. We want people to know that the funding they wish to pass on is getting into the appropriate hands. This provides credibility to our business model.
I am a capitalist, but I believe we should use our gifts for good and not evil. We have all seen the byproducts of professionals who have become drunk on their own success while neglecting the needs of those that have less. So I pose the question, what if we all used our God-given talents to not only make a living for ourselves but to help solve real world problems like clean water availability?
And, I’m not the only one who has been asking this question. Big business and consumers have helped us validate this thought with the growth we’ve seen in our first year of selling product. In December, we will give away our first round of funds the amount of $105,000. By the end of this year, our products will be in over 2,000 retail doors across the country. We have wonderful partners like Caribou Coffee, the 2nd largest coffee chain in the U.S., who exclusively sell our bottled water, chewing gum and breath mints. We’re in Whole Foods, Books-A-Million, and Java City nationally and in various grocery chains, drug stores, coffee shops, and gift stores on a regional level. We have a clothing line that is made out of organic cotton and five recycled plastic bottles. This October we will debut our new “bio bottle” bottled water around the country. This bottle is something very exciting for us as it increases the sustainability of our product, naturally breaking down in 1-5 years and at the same time it is also recyclable.
I am proud to be a part of a school and group of people such as Texas A&M that fosters an environment of serving your fellow man. What if an Aggie engineer helped lead the fight for economical clean water drilling technology or a water purification system for developing nations? What if an Aggie architect became the pioneer in green or LEED housing? How about an Aggie Ag Sciences professional who helped developing nations create a hardy crop that was more drought resistant creating a renewable food supply? There are many Aggies that have done great things that we are all proud of along with the quiet servants that nobody ever sees. It is my hope that someone reads this article and has “clothes put around their dream.”
An innovative course on entrepreneurship specially designed for disabled veterans wounded since 2001 and made possible by generous donors made an impact on 14 would-be business owners. This is the second year that the program was offered at Mays, one of a five-school national consortium.
The program consists of a three-week online self-study, a nine-day residency period on the A&M campus, and a year of mentorship with an A&M faculty member volunteer as participants launch their new ventures. Here are a few of their stories.
Once on the front line, now ???
Honey Rodgers is a veteran soldier and a mother of four, but you would never guess it. She appears young enough to be fresh out of college, and she has a keen artistic eye and a true love for photography. She recently started a landscaping business with her husband, and they already have customers. Rodgers is looking to make her landscaping business blossom. She knows that if they don’t grow roots quickly, their business might not survive.
The participants of the 2009 Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans at Mays Business School, along with opening keynote speaker Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell (front row, far left)
Dancing is her passion, but a foot injury Jessica Northey suffered while in the Army has kept her from pursuing it as a performer. Still, she is determined to share her love for dancing with those around her. Her dream is to open a studio in Dallas where she will teach the art to future generations. The performance cannot begin until she finds a stage, but Northey knows she will need the right tools before she can open the curtain.
Serving in the Army gave Amarylis Lopez the opportunity to break away from the traditional standards expected of women in Puerto Rico and to travel the world. Plus, to her surprise, many of her friends and family have trusted her with managing their investments. The light bulb moment came the day her grandparents handed her their retirement check of nearly half a million dollars and said, “Here, we know you will do good for us.” Starting her own consulting firm would be the investment of a lifetime, but Lopez wonders if she has all the information she needs for a good return.
The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), hosted by Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, is designed to give veterans wounded in service since 2001 like Rodgers, Northey, and Lopez, a foothold in the market, providing the tools they need and teaching the skills required to make informed business decisions.
From August 15-23, participants attended classes, visited successful businesses of other entrepreneurs, and learned from some of Mays’ most knowledgeable professors and other distinguished faculty at Texas A&M. They were challenged, inspired, and given the knowledge they need for success in business.
THE FOUR “C’s”
Texas State Senator Steve Ogden built his keynote remarks on the concept of four “C’s” that define success: confidence, communication, character, and courage.
Having the confidence to move forward boldly, even when you know the journey will be difficult, is often the difference between success and failure. Every entrepreneur needs confidence in order to be able to make the tough day-to-day decisions that face any self-made businessman. “It’s your job to say “Follow me,'” said Senator Ogden as he discussed the importance of confidence.
Communication, though it is not the most obvious or glamorous skill, is nonetheless invaluable. A deep-seated trust must be constantly communicated and reaffirmed in the employer-employee relationship. Honesty in correspondence ensures that when problems arise, everyone is on the same page, and the problem gets solved that much faster. Senator Ogden made it very clear that a company can crumble to ruin over night if it lacks good communication.
Having excellent character builds the foundation for an excellent enterprise. When every decision you make is conscious and moral, it will reflect directly and positively upon your company. A company with good character will have no problem obtaining clients, and will also be a formidable competitor.
The last trait, courage, intertwines itself with the others because without the courage to do what is right in every situation, you cannot be a successful entrepreneur. The courage to meet with a challenge, or the courage to walk away takes an equal amount of strength.
Senator Ogden, who graduated from the Mays MBA program shortly after establishing his own oil and gas exploration company, says these four traits are essential. “[Entrepreneurship] is a powerful part of the American dream. I think it’s your birthright,” says the Senator. For a room full of men and women who have spent a great part of their life fighting for freedom, those words ring true.
At Saturday night’s opening dinner, the EBV participants were given their first taste of one of Texas A&M’s greatest resources: its network. Before the first course had been served, the veterans were making connections with several distinguished guests and alumni. “It gives me goose bumps,” says Northey when she was introduced to the Aggie network. Several of the veterans were astonished to learn how far the Aggie network extends. It soon became apparent that they would not be on their own when it came time to open their business doors.
When one dedicates one’s life to the service and protection of others, sacrifice comes with the job description. At this opening ceremony of their on-campus intensive training week, each soldier’s eyes shone with the weight and honor of such service. Entrepreneurship also involves a great amount of sacrifice, as well as innovation. Rodgers hungers to pursue photography full-time, but she has four children, ages thirteen to two. “I know other mothers who do [photography] full-time, and they barely get by. I want something a little more stable for my children.” But she has integrated her photography into the landscaping business by shooting the photos for her marketing materials. She has already learned how innovation can be a valuable tool for entrepreneurs, and she is eager to learn more about how to combine what she loves doing with making a living.
Though her company caters to a shrinking upper-middle class, Rodgers has weighed the risks and has come to this conclusion: “It’s true that people are cutting back, but they are buying. Now, they may buy a $7,000 pool instead of a $10,000 pool, but they are still buying.” The ability to make an informed business decision like that is a skill that many of the participants looked forward to learning from the EBV program. For participants like Lopez, who already possess an eye for investment, EBV is an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of making such decisions.
All 14 of the EBV participants desire one essential thing to come out of their ventures: the means with which to help other wounded warriors. These veterans want to build their businesses so that they have the opportunity to support fellow veterans. Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, a wounded Marine and the guest speaker at the dinner, put it this way: “Look at the whole picture, or you might miss the meaning.” He told the EBV participants that the most important things are to trust yourself, even when you make a mistake, and to never forget your comrades in arms. Keeping the same attitude while in the work field as on the battlefield is essential to entrepreneurial success: when you take a hit, get right back up and keep going.
EBV concludes and the adventure begins
Frank Shaw is a Louisiana man. He graduated from Tulane University, has a thick New Orleans accent, and an irrevocable love of Cajun cuisine. Shaw is also a military man: he retired from the U.S. military after serving several years in combat overseas. He was called back into service shortly after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were declared, and he lost everything back home the day Hurricane Katrina filled his house with 11 feet of water. Now a resident of Plano, Texas, Shaw laments that the shrimp there is often imported frozen, so he makes several trips to Louisiana each year to bring back fresh-caught shrimp in large quantities.
Frank Shaw, one of this year’s EBV participants, received an MBA from Cambridge University and his currently working on his doctoral dissertation.
While stationed in England, Shaw earned his MBA from Cambridge University, and he mentions nonchalantly that his dissertation for his doctoral thesis will likely be approved in November this year. “This is for me. I’m doing this for me,” says Shaw, as he talks about the ring he has commissioned in recognition of his PhD. Two words describe that ring. “Super jumbo,” he grins, making an OK sign with his fingers to indicate the stone in the center of his ring will be roughly the size of a cue ball. “They had to make a special mold for me, and they’re calling it the “Super Jumbo’ size.” For Shaw, this ring is the tangible reminder of his academic achievements, and the large stone depicts the intensity of his hard work.
At the closing ceremonies, the evening’s atmosphere was celebratory. Though eager to begin implementing their business plans, these veterans reluctantly prepared to part. “Coming here, to Texas A&M,” said Shaw, “I had preconceived notions about what this school was going to be like. But ya’ll blew me away.”
For more information
Interested in making a financial contribution to the 2010 Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans? Contact Dick Lester at (979) 862-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the program, or to find out how you can apply for next year’s EBV, visit mays.tamu.edu/ebv.
When Matt Harris ’10 stepped off the plane in New Dehli, India, he stepped into another world.
The 14-hour flight had completely changed the atmosphere: there were no neat lines, no order, just masses of people surging like a living ocean, sweeping past him in powerful waves.
Lean-to shops lined the packed streets and people swarmed around the dirt roads, unaware of the blaring horns of swerving taxi drivers who dangerously negotiated the streets. One-way roads were converted to two-way roads, alleyways were parkways, and the streets were sidewalks.
Harris, a junior finance major at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, had traveled to India to intern at a micro-finance firm in Dehradun. After spending a couple of days at the firm, however, Harris decided the position wasn’t going to be as instructive as he’d hoped. A few emails later, he headed off to Bangalore, the technology capital of India, where he began interning with investment consulting firm PeakAlpha.
Junior finance major Matt Harris ’10 (far right) attends a traditional Indian wedding with his friends.
When he arrived, the company was arranging a business deal with a $3M revenue potential. Harris wasn’t sure where he would fit in, but the director of PeakAlpha soon had him constructing business plans and building the financial models that would play an important role in the success of that deal.
The assignments were challenging with Harris often working on financial models from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.. The work conditions made the job more interesting, and more difficult. “India runs on hydroelectricity, and the monsoon was weak this year.Â So the power kept going out all the time,” said Harris.
“I didn’t realize how cool what I am doing is,” Harris wrote in the blog he kept while abroad. “Usually, companies hire whole investment banks to raise funds, and I’m getting to do it as an undergrad.” Harris says he was impressed with PeakAlpha’s commitment to building a strong ethical foundation upon which the financial market of India can be rebuilt.
Working at PeakAlpha was only part of the adventure Harris. Traveling on the weekends gave him the opportunity to engage with fascinating people from all walks of life. From hiking through the wilderness with a renowned Indian trekker, to playing soccer with interns from all over the world in the shadow of the Himalayas, Harris’s out-of-office education was every bit as valuable as his cubicle time. The friendships he built challenged his cultural perspectives and opened his mind.
“I think the media feeds us things that we don’t realize affect our feelings towards people,” Harris said, reflecting on his cultural encounters. “You see a guy in a turban walk into the room and you suddenly realize “Wow, I don’t have good feelings towards him.’ But then you meet him and realize that he is one of the nicest, smartest guys you have ever met.” Harris working in India overturned many of his prejudices and preconceived ideas.
One of the main cultural differences to adjust to was eating with his hands. But he did quickly. “I love Indian food!” Harris writes repeatedly in his blog, “It’s so healthy.” Even while at black-tie dinners with CEOs and company presidents, Harris would enjoy the traditional fare in the traditional manner.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson Harris learned was the difference in values across cultures. In American business, only the strong survive and the competition is fierce. In India, the business mindset is different. “Whenever we would have meetings to discuss important business decisions, everyone would be more concerned with how the competition would feel about them than making a profit,” Harris recalls.
Harris is the co-founder and president of the A&M club GENTS (Gentlemen Enabling Nations to Succeed) that is open to all majors, and actively participates in Horizons (a business networking organization) and Titans (an organization focused on learning about real-world business scenarios through studying literature classics) at Mays. Harris hopes his India experience enables him to contribute meaningfully to each but especially to GENTS, as one of the focuses of the organization is international networking as his career aspirations have now expanded beyond U.S. borders.