With more than 25 years of experience in the insurance, venture capital and investment company industries, Jeff Elder ’82 has problem solving down to a science. On a recent campus visit, the account executive for the International Business Exchange Corporation shared his set of five steps to resolve any difficult issue, whether in business or in life with Mays undergraduate students.

“Networking is critical for finding a job and advancing your career,” Jeff Elder ’82 told students. “…after all, you don’t find the good jobs in the newspaper, but through networking.” (view more photos)

“In any situation where you have conflict, these will help,” he advises. When it comes to business negotiations, skills like this are vital. “Even though the deals are over money, there are still people and emotions involved.”

  1. Ignore the problem. Elder says that by ignoring the problem in the beginning, you are preventing it from disrupting your life.
  2. Deny you have a problem. In this step, you recognize that the problem exists but deny the fact that it poses a conflict or that it involves you in any way.
  3. Blame others for the problem. In using others as a scapegoat, he notes, you can examine the conflict from a detached and neutral position.
  4. Find solutions for the problem. Elder says that while steps one through three are easy to get stuck in, moving to this next crucial step is extremely important if you want to solve a conflict.
  5. Implement solutions to solve the problem. “This is where management skills take over,” Elder attests. If you can successfully reach this step, you can remedy any conflict in business and in life outside the workplace.

Elder says his experience at Texas A&M and his degree in accounting helped prepare him for the business world by teaching him these good negotiation and conflict resolution skills. “The education [at A&M] is far superior than I think you can get anywhere,” he claims, adding he is amazed at the current students’ knowledge base and developing social skills. These traits will help them immensely when it comes to networking after graduation, he says.

“Networking is critical for finding a job and advancing your career. It is extremely important to develop your relationships with people outside of your industry and in the business community; after all, you don’t find the good jobs in the newspaper, but through networking.”

Elder says his current role as a business broker sometimes seems more like a counselor. “A business is only worth what someone will pay for it,” he says.

In smaller-scale mergers and acquisitions, Elder advises sellers to make their businesses attractive and develop a solid exit strategy.

Since 1979, International Business Exchange Corporation has been a full-service business brokerage and mergers and acquisitions firm providing customized service to both sellers and buyers in many southern states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Tennessee and Alabama. Elder’s operational and management background provides insight and solutions to achieve bottom-line objectives, and his experience in the field and with this company has helped him to forge his five steps to problem solving.