December, 2013 | Mays Impacts

Kyle Lawrence with the Arab Student Association at Texas A&M
Kyle Lawrence with the Arab Student
Association at Texas A&M

Senior business honors major Kyle Lawrence is passionate about problem solving – analyzing processes and making them better. He has taken a special interest in technology and has spent time on his own teaching himself about IT and web design. “I like to think outside the box and teach myself new things,” said Lawrence.

His entrepreneurial spirit led him to apply his technology and problem-solving skills to help the Aggie community twice this year. Lawrence was instrumental in launching two new student organizations on campus — BUILD and Challenger 17’s Run of Heroes — by designing and building the websites for both organizations. He currently serves as media coordinator for Run of Heroes.

His commitment to serving others extends far beyond the Texas A&M campus. Another of Lawrence’s passions is helping others overseas, specifically the people of Lebanon. Lawrence has spent the past two summers in Lebanon working with Arabs for Christ to help Syrian refugees. After graduating this month, Lawrence plans on returning permanently to Lebanon, where he will continue to help with the Syrian refugee crisis.

“I love the Lebanese culture and the way of life there,” he said. “Everyone there is very communal.” He is also treasurer of the Arab Student Association at Texas A&M, where he has enjoyed getting to know others at Texas A&M from this cultural background.

BUILD, which was created in honor of the Aggie Bonfire tradition and those who died constructing the 1999 bonfire, BUILD aims to bring together students from across campus through a new tradition benefitting the local community. This year’s project encouraged students from across the campus to “swing a hammer” by partnering with Habitat for Humanity to help build a new home for a local family.

Lawrence designed the BUILD website to allow visitors to learn more about the family receiving the home, view photos of the construction progress, read testimonials and view more information about the organization’s purpose.

“It’s really great to be doing something that gives back to the community,” he said. “I admire BUILD’s vision of bringing together all kinds of people at A&M to work on one project.”

Run of Heroes is a 4.25-mile run through campus hosted by the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets’ Squadron 17. Run of Heroes aims to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, which offers services such as mentoring, stress recovery programs and family support for wounded service members returning to everyday life.

Among other features, the group’s website design enables visitors to view information about the event, sign up for the run, donate to the cause and connect with Run of Heroes through social media.

“There are a lot of problems that come with [soldiers] returning home and readjusting to normal life” said Lawrence. “Run of Heroes is a great organization that works to help service members overcome these issues.”

Lawrence expressed happiness at being able help others by doing what he enjoys. “It’s been a fun experience, and I really enjoy helping other people and organizations,” he said.

Lawrence’s long-term plans include using his business background to become an entrepreneur. He credits the business honors program for preparing him with a wide range of business skills. “As a business honors major, I was able to take whichever classes I was interested in,” said Lawrence. “I was able to take a wide range of classes in different areas.”

Lawrence was recently named the gonfalonier for Mays Business School at the upcoming December 2013 commencement ceremony. Gonfaloniers represent each college at Texas A&M by carrying the gonfalons (or banners).

“Kyle’s designation as gonfalonier is a reflection of his excellent academic record and the core values of Texas A&M that he has displayed throughout his student tenure,” said associate director of undergraduate programs Linda Windle. “Of special note was Kyle’s help with starting two new philanthropic organizations during his final semester.”

Lawrence expressed gratitude at being chosen to represent Mays. “Being named gonfalonier was definitely unexpected, but I’m excited and truly feel honored,” he said.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Featured Stories, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Interpersonal skills are crucial to the success of any student planning a career in business, yet proper business etiquette is a skill often overlooked.

“We already assume Mays students will have academic skills, but we have a tendency to overlook soft skills,” said Martha Loudder, associate dean and professor of accounting at Mays Business School. “Based on feedback from employers, we believe this is an important area on which to focus.”

As a result, several organizations at Mays, including Freshman Business Initiative (FBI), Business Fellows and Graduate Business Career Services, host periodic etiquette dinners to educate students on how to behave appropriately in a business context. “These dinners are enrichment activities for students that provide an opportunity to teach them how to handle themselves in a business setting,” said Nancy Simpson, clinical professor and director of the Undergraduate Special Programs Office at Mays.

Certified etiquette and leadership coach Randi Mays-Knapp is often the instructor of these events. She recognizes that “many students do not know what they do not know” and works to communicate how to apply the “rules” of etiquette in a way that will help students shine.

Mays-Knapp covers a wide variety of dining etiquette topics, including approaching the table, what to do with a napkin, how to sit at the table, what to do with a jacket, knowing which glass or bread plate to use, what menu items to order and appropriate tipping. A three-course meal is typically served so students understand the proceedings of a formal meal. Students learn to pass community items to the right, such as lemons and sweeteners, and are taught not to return used utensils to the table.

“Sometimes people don’t think about how important the little things are,” she said. “For example, making sure you rest your knife with the cutting edge toward you. And using silent cues to let the wait staff know whether you are still eating or you have finished your meal.”

However, teaching proper dining etiquette is only one aspect of these dinners. Students are also advised on how to network successfully with other business professionals before and during a meal, simulating a real business situation.

“I discuss the importance of small talk and using open ended questions to get to know someone,” said Mays-Knapp. “People love to talk about themselves, so let them. They will think you are brilliant.” Tips are often given on what topics to avoid over dinner as well as what subjects are appropriate. “My goal is to make learning fun,” said Mays-Knapp. “It is a gift to work with students and help them be the best they can be.”

Mays-Knapp’s biggest piece of advice to students and adults alike is to learn to untether yourself from your smartphone. She stresses the need to remain undistracted and to “focus on people and let them know they are the most important person when you are in their presence.”

Nathan Shaub ’17 said the dinner provided an opportunity to build new relationships, reconnect with old friends and learn new skills. “While I was given many tips about table manners such as how to pass bread or eat soup, the most helpful part was our conversation with our table host. Her advice on how to carry yourself in an interview or speak to a boardroom of intimidating businessmen is something I will carry with me for a very long time.”

Claire Clayton ’17 said she had assumed etiquette and table manners were “common sense and simple. “I was blown away by just how wrong I was and impressed by how detailed each etiquette tip our instructor taught us was,” she said. “Proper etiquette is important in making good impressions when dealing with people in the business world – this I knew – but I did not realize how significant and crucial etiquette truly is in the business world until I heard some of the stories our instructor shared.”

Etiquette dinners provide a unique opportunity for students to interact with faculty and staff members, who are seated at each table and act as facilitators during the events. Not only are the etiquette dinners a favorite experience among students, but faculty and staff members also appreciate the opportunity to get to know students outside the classroom.

Although freshman etiquette dinners were considered unusual when they were first instituted at Mays Business School in 1999, Mays has always held the mentality of “Why wait?” Loudder explained that by educating students on etiquette as early as their freshman year, Mays has a greater chance at helping students continue developing these skills over time.

“The ultimate goal of these dinners is to make students more polished and articulate in interview situations,” said Loudder. “We want to help students learn how to make a really good first impression and be able to tell their individual stories.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Departments, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Freshman Business Initiative (FBI)
Freshman Business Initiative (FBI)

Instructors Richard Johnson and Henry Musoma see a need for students in the Freshman Business Initiative (FBI) to gain hands-on research experience as early as possible. In the program that helps Mays Business School freshmen transition into college, small groups of freshmen meet with student peer advisors and faculty mentors.

For the second year in a row, students in FBI were given the opportunity to conduct a research project on a topic of their choice.

“Freshmen come in wanting to know the answers to many questions,” said Johnson. “The FBI research project helps satisfy their interests and helps them become better researchers so they will be able to find their own answers.”

Johnson described the semester-long research project he and Musoma co-created as a developmental opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to specific team situations. Students are especially encouraged to focus on applying the seven Mays core competencies: communication, problem solving, creating new opportunities, leading, managing, working with others and acting ethically.

Students in Johnson’s class chose topics emphasizing a need in the Aggie community, while those in Musoma’s class took a more global perspective. Some of the research topics were:

  • Whether Texas A&M meal plans should be extended to off-campus restaurants
  • Whether there is demand for an on-campus bike repair service
  • The process of acquiring trademarks in the U.S. and China
  • The advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing to India

Students were expected to prepare a five-minute pitch, a poster and a comprehensive business plan, which brought together individual project components, such as financial plans and marketing plans, designed to integrate key concepts learned at Mays.

Johnson said in order to keep the team experiences as authentic as possible, he and Musoma designed the project to have fairly open-ended requirements without step-by-step instructions. “Once teams submit their proposals, we provide guidance and help predict obstacles, but we let the students drive the direction of the project,” said Johnson.

The team projects culminated in FBI Research Week, at which more than 800 FBI students presented their research over two days to faculty, staff and students in the Wehner lobby.

One team, Ag’Merican Traditions, focused its research on mapping the process of acquiring intellectual property trademarks in the United States and China. The group created a logo and is collecting pre-orders for a T-shirt they designed.

Two of the six team members, Pierce Hellman and Carl Ivey, described their research experience as informative and eye-opening. “I learned what it really takes to start a business,” said Hellman. “Our research taught me what an extensive process it is for small businesses to acquire trademarks.”

Another group conducted primary research through surveys and interviews and secondary company research to analyze the pros and cons of outsourcing to India. Team members Megan Crafton and Rachel Gleaves explained that although the project was challenging at times, they were able to utilize the skills of each team member to accomplish the team’s goals.

“It was difficult to find substantial data since we were researching a broad topic,” said Crafton. “However, we used the different strengths of our team members to be successful and ended up learning a great deal about outsourcing.”

One of the most beneficial aspects of the program is the opportunity for students to reach out to faculty and staff at Mays or local businesspeople as part of the research process. “This project allows students to start making connections and begin establishing a network early on,” said Johnson.

He said many exciting and feasible ideas have stemmed from the FBI research program, and that he hopes students apply what they have learned to future teams. “I encourage students to pursue their ideas and develop their skills even beyond the conclusion of this project,” said Johnson.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Programs, Staff, Students, Texas A&M

Dan Feehan '72
Dan Feehan ’72

When Dan Feehan ’72 graduated with an accounting degree, he did not anticipate being the leader of one of the largest pawn shop chains in the world.

“When I was in school wondering exactly how my life and career would turn out, I had a lot more anxiety than answers,” he told a group of business honors students at Mays. “And being a public company CEO was not really on my list of options. What was paramount to me was to be a great husband and a great father, and that still is my top priority.”

Feehan came to Texas A&M wanting to be a college football coach. He played football until one of his coaches told him quietly, “You aren’t very big, but you sure are slow.”  He left the program soon afterward and contemplated going to law school. To fund such an expensive endeavor, his advisor in the marketing program told him he should consider changing his major to something more lucrative.  Accounting sounded promising, and when the Big 8 accounting firms came on campus to conduct interviews, Feehan got offers from several companies. He took one with a salary of almost $12,000. “I was so excited, I couldn’t pass it up. I asked my wife how we were ever going to spend that much money.”

A few years later he changed jobs to manage financial matters for a billionaire for several years, then “got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug” and in 1984, he created a real estate development firm.

His unconventional work path taught him the value of flexibility. “Always have your eyes and ears open to opportunity unless you are locked into something and are absolutely thrilled with what you’re doing,” he said.

Feehan said there is little correlation between real pawn shops and TV shows like “Pawn Stars,” which are popular but “all theater.” Feehan said even he walked in with “the biases most people have — largely because Hollywood has been casting darkness on the industry since the 1950s.” What his company actually does, he said, is “help people out in the most difficult times of their lives, when the bank won’t loan them money and they have nowhere else to turn.”

Pawn shops accept just about anything of value as collateral for loans, but unlike the common perception that most people do not redeem their notes and retrieve their valuables, Feehan said the redemption rate is about 75 percent.

When Feehan joined Cash America International, his job was to expand the two Texas shops run on a “Mom and Pop” model to a successful chain with solid management. “The board asked me to step in and help with the business, so I agreed,” he said. “Here I am 25 years later, still involved, with more than 1,000 locations in the U.S. and Mexico and almost 8,000 people working in all the disciplines you’d expect to see in a large retail business.”

The company, which operates under the brand names Cash America Pawn, SuperPawn and Cash America de Mexico, is the largest provider of secured non-recourse loans, commonly referred to as pawn loans. About half of the company’s earnings come through an online business that provides unsecured consumer loans.

Feehan’s alma mater recognized him in 2006 by naming him one of the Mays Outstanding Alumni. Feehan says he is proud of his success, but he cautioned the students that being a leader is harder than it looks. “There are lots of rewards, but it’s not a cakewalk. Every time you go up a rung, you’ll have that perspective that it still looks easier up higher than you are.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Texas A&M

Stephen Lovejoy
Stephen Lovejoy

Stephen Lovejoy smiled at the business honors student who brought a Starbucks cup to the conference table the day Lovejoy visited Mays Business School. “Good taste,” said the senior vice president, global supply chain for the Starbucks Coffee Company.

Affinity for one’s work place is a key element of job satisfaction, Lovejoy told the students. He says he feels fortunate to be at Starbucks, where he is responsible for the Asia end-to-end supply chain, global channels — including consumer products and food service — as well as global store development including the furniture, fixtures and retail offerings. “I just love the Starbucks mission: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.’ I get that. I give back to the community a lot as a person, so I want to work at a place that has those same goals and standards.”

Lovejoy started his professional career with Clorox out of college and worked there for 18 years, then worked for other companies before being recruited by Starbucks. He lives in Seattle, but over his career he has relocated eight times, and worked in 36 countries.

“I didn’t take the traditional path, but it was because I took the opportunities when they came up. I learned a lot that way and really benefited from it.” Starbucks recruited him in 2010 — when stock was $24 a share. The day he spoke at Mays, it was at $81.

The central message in his discussion with the students was advising them to find jobs that align with their own values. “It’s not just about the shiny penny, it’s about the day-to-day feel and smell of the place,” he explained. “If you try to talk yourself into it but it doesn’t feel right here (pointing to his belly), don’t do it. You’ll be miserable, and you’ll be looking for another job within a year or two.”

Lovejoy also advised employees to spend enough time at each position to really learn from it, even those that are less enjoyable. “The faster you go up, the narrower your foundation of experience and knowledge is.”

In 2008, Starbucks temporarily closed all its stores then “reset,” something Lovejoy called a “$30 million decision that paid off because everyone started over on the same page.” Now the company is on a high-growth path, with almost 19,000 stores worldwide. The 1,000th location just opened in China, Lovejoy’s largest market area of responsibility.

India is now the fastest-growing market, mushrooming from its first location a year ago to 29 today.

Starbucks is constantly exploring opportunities to enhance its base product line. New offerings include Teavana, a tea-centric shop in Seattle, and Evolution Fresh, a product line of non-heat-pasteurized juices and smoothies. “I love the pace,” Lovejoy says. “I will take growth problems over closing down a plant any day — it’s a lot more fun.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Students, Texas A&M

Every fall, a great deal of attention is given to universities competing against one another. Events are contested across the United States and rankings are released after each week’s competition. Of course, I am talking about NCAA football games and Bowl Championship Series Rankings. However, the competition is just as fierce in the business school world.

Categories: Deanspeak