About 180 people soaked up tips for tackling long-term business strategy and strengthened ties with their fellow attendees during Mays Business School’s 2012 Summer Learning Seminar.

During the daylong free event, “Tackling 100-year Decisions: A Fresh Look at Business Strategy” current Mays students and graduates enhanced their knowledge and networked with one another while reconnecting with Texas A&M and Mays.

Jason Cook, vice president of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M, spoke about the university’s move to the SEC and marketing efforts to “claim the state of Texas.” (view more photos)

“We pride ourselves in developing lifelong learners,” explained Mary Lea McAnally, associate dean for graduate programs at Mays. She said the program was designed to keep academic conversations going — particularly during the summer months. “As I see all the information we are receiving today, I am reminded of a quote that says education is not so much the filling of a bucket as it is the lighting of a fire. Today is designed to give you some fuel to burn. Take what you’ve learned today and become the spark.”

The seminar sessions examined the historic implications of Texas A&M University’s move to the SEC, analyzed innovative corporate strategy, investigated the importance of internal marketing and shared practical tactics for sustainable growth.

SEC switch all about Texas A&M

Keynote presenter Jason Cook, vice president of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M, spelled out the steps in Texas A&M’s switch to the SEC. He described some of the remaining steps to “claim the state of Texas,” such as billboard ads across the state and TV spots that highlight the academics of the universities in the conference. He said the impact of the move to a new conference was confirmed when the revelation of the new football uniforms was a national news story instead of just a local one.

“Texas A&M has always been an SEC school in terms of traditions and values, we’ve just been stuck in the wrong conference,” Cook said. “Now we’re on a good path with a new athletic director who knows the SEC and has been an athletic director there for seven years. The first thing he said is that it’s about student athletes and the fact that students can get a degree that they otherwise might not get. He sees athletics as a great marketing tool for the university.”

Cook said Texas A&M’s licensing income has increased more than 27 percent in the first six months of marketing SEC-licensed items, and that he anticipates income in the first year to surpass $3.2 million — topping $3 million for the first time.

Mindset matters

Michael Hitt, University Distinguished Professor of Management at Mays and Joe B. Foster ’56 Chair in Business Leadership, said the examples he cited could translate easily from the business world into an individual’s role as a leader. He urged the audience to stay innovative and keep a strategic mindset to remain competitive.

Attendees soaked up tips for tackling long-term business strategy from experts such as University Distinguished Professor of Management Michael Hitt.
Attendees soaked up tips for tackling long-term business strategy from experts such as University Distinguished Professor of Management Michael Hitt. (view more photos)

He said a strategic and entrepreneurial leader exhibits:

  • Vision
  • Continuous development of capabilities
  • Innovation
  • Building and sustaining a competitive advantage

“You have to have entrepreneurial alertness, and see opportunities others don’t,” he said. “Teams beat better teams because they see weaknesses in their opponents. You have to always be watching for your opening.”

Marketing within also essential

Paul Busch, professor of marketing at Mays and Regents Professor, called internal marketing — also known as employee relations — “the missing link in strategy implementation.”

“Use internal marketing to improve external marketing,” he concluded after several interactive exercises. “Recognize the cost effectiveness of internal marketing, and treat employees as customers.”

Leaders from Evolve Performance Group closed out the program with the advice that “employee satisfaction and employment engagement is paramount to a company’s success.”

AnnMarie Broussard ’12, a recent graduate of Mays, said she attended the seminar to keep her skills fresh and to visit again with Paul Busch, with whom she had worked for more than two years. “It was great to see him in action.”

David Levin ’13, an accounting undergraduate, said he found the information helpful, as well. “It was really good to see all the implications of strategic decisions, within and outside of companies. I enjoyed how the day progressed.”