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Jana Ahlfinger Bell ’86 on finding a company culture that fits with you

Jamison Moore, February 19th, 2018

Having learned what it means to find good culture during her time at Texas A&M University, Jana Ahlfinger Bell ’86 wanted to share with current students the insights she has gained in her career on her way to becoming the Executive Vice President and CFO of RMG Networks.

Bell, who received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M, also worked as the CFO of EF Johnson Technologies, Inc., as president and CEO of Simple Products Inc., and as the CEO, president, and director of @TRACK Communications, Inc. Bell recently visited with Mays business honors students as part of the Mays Transformational Leader Speaker series, which recognizes business leaders in today’s society and gives them the opportunity to share their expertise with the Mays Community.

“Interviewing is important for both the employer and the potential employee,” Bell said, when she explained her wish for the students in the session – that when they go to their first job, they find a place that is interesting and get to work with great people.

“But how can one decipher what a company’s culture is like just based on the first initial interview?” one of the students asked. Bell responded: “You have to interview as if you’re already there, inside the company. See yourself there, and then you will ask more in-depth questions.”

Bell continued to highlight other ways to discover a company’s culture:

  • Think about yourself actually working there and what that would be like. Delve into their daily happenings to gain that understanding.
  • Pay attention to the tone at the top of the company, what is important to the leadership of the company, because it really matters.
  • Do your homework on the company and the industry to gain insight into the culture. A defense contractor, for example, has a different culture as compared with a media company, or a technology company, or a professional firm, or an oil & gas company.

Bell closed the discussion by telling the students, “I love what I am doing, and I have found that ethical center in what I do. I love being a mentor.”

Bell advised the students to “make the most of the opportunities presented to you during your time at Texas A&M like these speaker sessions.” Bell told the students she wishes she had the opportunities that the students have now to network with speakers like herself, and she encouraged them to take advantage of all of the networking opportunities provided to them during their time here.

Students from Mays Business School recently participated in the annual YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) case study competition. Sixty of the top business, retail, and fashion design programs from universities around the country were represented – including Parsons School of Design, Harvard, Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute, and Academy of Art University.

As the premier educational fashion non-profit in the U.S, FSF seeks to identify and create career opportunities for students worldwide. FSF grants the largest sum of money and total number of scholarships in the entire fashion community. It also offers hands-on experience via internships with the world’s top fashion companies and most influential leaders – such as Nordstrom, Ulta, and Lululemon.

For the 2018 FSF case study, students were asked to explore a retailer of their choice regarding how the integration of digital technology with offline shopping can improve performance. They spent an entire semester developing a business plan, promotional campaign, and financial analysis.

“My project primarily focused on transforming the fitting room at and allowing customers to ‘virtually immerse’ themselves into an environment of their choice. They can see how they really look beyond the blank-space fitting room when trying on clothes,” explained marketing major Payton Cupstid ’19.

Eight Aggie students were awarded $5,000 each in scholarship funds. Cupstid received an award of $15,000 for a perfect score on her case study paper. Texas A&M was the only university in the competition to have a student that finished with a perfect score.

Students received their awards in New York City on Jan. 9 at a gala featuring special guests such as style icon Martha Stewart and fashion model Coco Rocha.

“It was a challenge, but a fun challenge. The ten-page business plan required a lot of work and many hours of my time, but I enjoyed every minute I devoted to it,” said Cupstid. “I was able to utilize my skills and passions, while also creating something that resembled the abstract thinking and hard work that I am willing to take on to succeed.”

Cheryl Bridges, Executive Professor of Marketing at Mays and mentor to the eight winners, reflected on the trip. “This whole process takes a tremendous amount of work and effort outside the classroom,” she said. “The idea is to get them excited about the industry, and prepare them to hit the ground running when they start their career.”

Students like Payton Cupstid understand the importance of transformational learning opportunities like the FSF case study competition.

“If you’re applying for an internship or full-time job, you’re already ahead of other candidates because you get to showcase your work,” she added. “Mays and the Center for Retailing Studies do a wonderful job of providing students with learning opportunities.”

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Mays Dean Eli Jones stepped up to teach his fellow deans from around the United States and Canada on advanced fund-raising techniques. He was one of two deans invited to lead sessions for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Advanced Development for Deans and Academic Leaders conference, held Jan. 10-12 in Philadelphia. More than 100 academic leaders from the U.S. and Canada attended.

Jones drew from his experience as a three-time dean – at Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas, and Louisiana State University – to teach skills such as how to develop targeted strategies for programs and how to enhance relationships with donors.

“Among other subjects, I talked about our Strategic Plan and the grassroots process we used to gain buy-in; the strong support of our incredible donors and how we approach our donor base; and the impact the financial support is having on engaging our faculty, such as the creation of the Mays Innovation Research Center,” he said.

In the two years since Jones began leading Mays, the school has

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Donors Corner, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

Dr. Martha Loudder and the Loudder Medal of Excellence recipients

Mays Business School recognized six undergraduate students as Fall 2017 Martha Loudder Medal of Excellence recipients for their willingness to invest additional effort into their academics. Anaelena Lopez, Diana Lopez, Katherin Sevilla, Brenda Pina, Fatima Solano and Ciara Jasso.

Named for Mays Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Accounting Professor Marty Loudder, the medal recognizes students who intentionally engage in their educations in and out of the classroom, and who engage in the reflective portfolio process to maximize their learning.

To be eligible for the medal, students first participate in a minimum of three high-impact experiences such as a peer educator position, an internship, or a learning community. Each student then completes a comprehensive learning portfolio, which includes self-awareness exercises and reflections on key experiences like those above.

The portfolio is showcased on a personal website, and serves as the final selection criterion for the Loudder Medal. Reviewers look for comprehensiveness, depth, and clear connections among stories, lessons learned, and future goals.

Loudder Medal of Excellence

Categories: Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

The American Marketing Association (AMA) and the American Marketing Association Foundation (AMAF) announce Leonard L. Berry as the winner of the 2018 William L. Wilkie “Marketing for a Better World” Award.

Berry is University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership, Regents Professor, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence at Mays Business School. He will receive the award during the 2018 AMA Winter Academic Conference in New Orleans in February.

Berry is a leading scholar in services marketing and retailing studies and, more recently, a leader in the study of healthcare service. He has been published in leading journals and has written 10 books, including Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic, Discovering the Soul of Service, and On Great Service. Berry established the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University in 1982, serving as director until 2000.

He has received numerous honors including the AMA-Irwin-McGraw-Hill Distinguished Marketing Educator Award, Paul D. Converse Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Research & Scholarship from the Mays Business School. In 2015, he was named an AMA Fellow. Professor Berry received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University, and in 2014 was inducted into ASU’s Carey School of Business Hall of Fame.

…Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

As a former research assistant and now a research associate with the Real Estate Center (part of Mays Business School at Texas A&M University), Wesley Miller has spent almost a year tackling topics from border economics to the effects of globalization on Texas manufacturing.

But it wasn’t too long ago that he was tackling wide receivers as a safety for the Buffalo Bills and playing professional football internationally.

Miller, who joined the Real Estate Center full time in fall 2017 and is working toward a Ph.D. in economics, began his ride to the NFL while playing football at the University of Texas at El Paso. The California native was working on a master of science in economics at the time.

[ PHOTO by JP Beato III – REAL ESTATE CENTER ]“UTEP had some good academic programs, and they gave me my best opportunity football-wise,” Miller said. “My first goal at the time was football.”

After UTEP’s Pro Day, when scouts watch players work out and evaluate them as draft prospects, Miller wasn’t signed to a team. However, he was invited to the Bills’ rookie mini-camp. That’s where his professional sports career began.

“They usually have about 20 new players that they’ve signed, and they need more players just to run a practice,” he said. “So they invite other potential rookies or seniors coming out of college to run a practice or mini-camp for a weekend. Most of the time you’re not offered a position, because the roster limit is 90, and usually those are filled before rookie camp. That’s what happened with the Bills, but when I got there, I impressed them. They cut some guy and signed me.”

Miller completed his masters while playing for the Bills. He was with them through the third preseason game, about four months. The following year, he moved to Germany to play football for the Saarland Hurricanes.

“Football’s big in Europe,” Miller said, “and the most hardcore fans I’ve ever met are German.”

After his stint with the Hurricanes, Miller returned to the States and settled in College Station, where his fiancée, Jessica Smith, is currently a veterinary student at Texas A&M. He was hired as a research assistant and later as a research associate at the Real Estate Center. His position there coincided with his decision to pursue a Ph.D. in economics. He’s on track to finish his degree in 2022.

Although much of Miller’s research with the Center has focused on international economics, he says he’s particularly interested in housing markets.

“I’d like to research the positive and negative impacts homeowners’ associations have on housing markets,” he said. “There’s not much data out there, but with the resources available at the Center, I think there’s some meaningful research to be done. I’m also interested in public sector economics and politics. Every day, important decisions are made that have economic consequences that need to be evaluated.”

Miller says the special thing about economics is the flexibility it provides a researcher. “You can create an economic tie to almost anything.”

Miller’s latest article, which he co-authored with Real Estate Center Research Economist Luis Torres, is called “Globalization’s Effects on Texas Housing.” It’s available online.

– By Bryan Pope, associate editor, Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University

Categories: Centers, Featured Stories, News, Real Estate Center, Spotlights, Staff

Seventeen members of Mays Business School’s Strategic Philanthropy class got to put their strategic philanthropy skills into practice over the fall semester, then allocate $62,500 to five local nonprofits after doing months of research.

One month into class, the student board evaluated 43 nonprofit applications for funding. The goal of this evaluation was to determine which 10 organizations deserved to receive a more extensive due diligence containing site visits, interviews, and a deeper understanding of the organizations.

Finally, five nonprofits were selected to receive funding. They deal with urgent hunger-related needs, homelessness, dignity for those unable to walk, and incarcerated individuals, men’s holistic personal development, and the need for specially trained dogs to assist the local police department.

the five nonprofits selected to receive funding, holding their checks

So far, the class has distributed just more than $250,000 to 18 organizations – 90 percent within the Brazos Valley. The funds come from The Philanthropy Lab and – new this year – the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation’s Community Grant Program. …Read more

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

By Venkatesh Shankar, Mays Business School at Texas A&M University

Courtesy: The Financial Brand

As we near the end of 2017, what’s in store for 2018? Will it be economically better for us? What technological shifts will we witness? How will it change our and organizations’ behaviors? What will be the major business trends? How will marketing change? How will retailing transform? Marketing Professor Venkatesh Shankar of Texas A&M University offers his predictions for such questions.

The world and U.S. economies are expected to continue their growth in 2018. Although the world economy is predicted to grow by about 3.6 percent, developed economies are anticipated to grow just under 2 percent. The U.S. economy will grow in the low-to-mid 2 percent level. Unemployment in the U.S. will remain in the low four percent level. Inflation will continue to be modest. U.S. wages might rise by 3 percent, but U.S. healthcare costs will also likely grow faster, by 6 percent. China’s economic growth might slow a bit, but China will march on in economic prosperity. Interestingly, next year, Chinese tourists will far outspend American tourists, a trend that will continue until 2025.

Courtesy: cioandleader.com

2018 will witness the emergence of Gen Z or centennials (those born 1995 or after), the first generation born with devices in hand. Currently numbering 70 million, members of Generation Z are entering college or the workforce and are rising in influence. Because they are more digitally native than the baby boomers and millennials, they will play a huge part in digital transformation. Regardless of the level of their influence, the interplay among three generations, baby boomers, millennials, and centennials will lead to interesting digital dynamics in the society and workforce.

Deeper into digital

More people will be connected and will be digital. For example, by the end of 2018, half of adults in developed countries will have at least two online-only media subscriptions.

Spurred by Pokemon augmented reality (AR) experience, AR will become more mainstream with AR enabled apps and smartphones. More than a billion smartphone users around the world will create augmented reality content at least once during 2018.

Livestreaming will become more mainstream. China will become the world’s largest livestreaming market at $4.5 billion, almost doubling in size from 2017.

Consumers will increasingly use visual and voice searches. In fact, as more devices, people, content, and services become intertwined, we will see a super digital network – or what Gartner calls a digital mesh.

By the end of 2018, digital will impact more than half of the $4 trillion U.S. retail market. Groceries, the last bastion of brick-and-mortar retail, will start moving more rapidly online. The role of sales associates in retail will diminish or dramatically transform.

Courtesy: vca.ag

Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to make rapid strides, affecting our daily lives, business decisions, and societal changes. AI will reshape customer experience. Chatbots will become the face of AI and will change the way apps are configured. However, these technological enhancements come with downsides. About 30% of the organizations will see a decline in customer experience performance.

Companies will use more of machine learning and AI tools to enhance their businesses. For example, about one-tenth of the purchase decisions will be guided by AI or machine-learning powered agents.

Behind the learning curve

The negative rub of the technology advances is that by 2018, the United States could face a shortage of 140,000-190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with big data analysis expertise. This creates huge challenges as well as opportunities for data science and analytics programs.

Courtesy: bitcoin.com

Finally, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin will surge in popularity. Blockchain technology, the backbone behind the cryptocurrencies, will start to take a stronghold in financial exchanges and collaborations. Speculation will keep the cryptocurrencies’ values wildly volatile, but they will rise in importance as a viable future alternative. In fact, if one had invested $1,000 in bitcoin in 2008, it would be worth over $40 million now. Similarly, litecoin has returned 5,700 percent in 2017 alone!

 

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Spotlights, Texas A&M

Michelle Hickox ’89 graduated from Mays Business School’s Department of Finance and has spent her time over the years since giving back in numerous ways – as a donor, a mentor, and a member of its executive board.

She is currently executive vice president and CFO of Independent Bank Group Inc. – an expanding, publicly-traded bank based in McKinney, Texas.

She and her husband donated a $30,000 gift to establish the Michelle ’89 and Rob Hickox ’90 Commercial Banking Program Excellence Endowment. It aims to support the teaching, research, service, and professional development activities of the Commercial Banking Program at Mays Business School. The flagship internship program in the Mays Department of Finance is designed to equip students with the best practices for a career in commercial banking. CBP provides a rich developmental environment by combining formal learning, industry experience, and professional mentoring.

Hickox said that before the large Texas banks failed in the late ’80s and early ’90s, most new bankers started their careers in those large bank training programs. Since then, there has been an absence of formal training programs for community banks. Now that the banking industry is vibrant again, programs like the one at Texas A&M provide a depth of bank-specific training to prepare students for their first job in a commercial bank.

James W. Kolari, JP Morgan Chase Professor of Finance and Academic Director of the Commercial Banking Program, said Hickox’s leadership on its executive board is important to helping ensure the success of the Commercial Banking Program. “Michelle is Director of the Student Recruitment Committee, which is engaged with all aspects of recruiting, both external and internal, of students into the baking program,” he said. “Michelle’s generous gift works to ensure that our banking program will be permanently endowed to support the education of young Aggie bankers in the future.”

Dwight Garey, executive director of the CBP, stated that Michelle is steadfast in her involvement in and support of the banking program. “Advisory Board members like Michelle are the sparks that inspire us to remain unwavering in our mission of educating and training the next generation of bankers,” he said.

Categories: Alumni, Donors Corner, Featured Stories, Finance, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Texas A&M

An important aspect of the Mays Business School Strategic Plan is connecting Texas A&M students to former students, industry partners, and employers. The M.B. Zale Leadership Scholar program is shining example of this vision.

Named for the innovative merchant M.B. Zale, the founder of Zale Jewelry Company, the program emphasizes professional development for top retailing students at Mays. The Zales Scholars program is open to all business majors, with a highly competitive application process.

Through hands-on learning experiences that span two semesters, Zale Scholars build industry knowledge through interaction with retailing executives from across the state and country. Some of these experiences include a trip to New York City over Spring Break to tour retail flagship stores and buying offices. Monthly Friday seminars teach negotiation, effective communication, and professional presence.

“I encourage all business students to apply to the M.B. Zale Scholar program. This program will give you the necessary tools that will launch you to success, and finding your dream job,” said Supply Chain Management student Allison McGraw ’19, who just completed her final semester in the program.

Students attend the annual Retailing Summit, an executive education conference in Dallas, hearing case studies from top 100 retailers to startups.

“As a Zale Scholar, I view all of the program’s experiences as professional development opportunities to gain a better understanding, and evolve my personal career mission. From executive coaching, lunches, and coffee chats, I have networked with numerous professionals and gained multiple perspectives on how to deliver value beyond the ‘perfect product’ and discover new methods to interact with customers in a relevant way,” explained Marketing student Aricka Anderson ’18.

Zale Scholars also participate in on-site visits where they can observe the workplace environment. In October, the group visited the headquarters of Francesca’s in Houston.

“I researched Francesca’s as a high schooler, and it was studying this company that I decided I wanted to study retailing. Being a member of the Zale Scholar Program has given me numerous opportunities for face-to-face interaction with Francesca’s recruiters and internship coordinators,” added Business Honors student Caren Valenciano ’20.

The M.B. Zale Scholar program provides impactful learning experiences for students, and helps develop transformational leaders for tomorrow.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Shifting consumer attitudes are favoring online shopping more and more compared to brick-and-mortar stores, according to the 2017 C-CUBES™ Benchmark Retail Study released by Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

Even with traditional stores adding more convenience services such as curbside delivery and in-store pickup, the shift toward online shopping has remained steady.

Four out of five consumers (81 percent) agreed with the statement that they “love the convenience of online shopping,” while 78 percent agree that “online shopping saves time and money.” Relative to physical stores, 62 percent agree that “online stores offer better value.”

The study is based on a nationally representative online survey of 5,881 adults conducted during October-November 2017. The margin of error is +/- 1 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.

“Our study identifies the two big drivers of retail—convenience and value—that are fuelling online growth. Yet, physical stores will not vanish,” said Shrihari Sridhar, Center for Executive Development Professor of Marketing at Mays Business School. “Results show that 69 percent really enjoy going to a store and window shopping. There is also some backlash against online shopping, with 38 percent agreeing that e-commerce has taken out all the pleasure from shopping. Traditional retailers are at a critical strategic juncture. They need to balance the value and convenience of online shopping with the pleasure of in-store browsing.”

To challenge Amazon’s dominance in online sales, traditional retailers are responding to these elevated consumer expectations for convenience.

Retail giant Walmart announced that it will offer same-day store pick up for a greater variety of hot products ranging from the iRobot Roomba robotic vacuum and Xbox One S gaming system, to a 70-inch Vizio 4K television. Not only does Walmart provide the option for customers to receive a text alert once an order is ready, they will also have the ability to collect items in-store as late as 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Target, with 1,834 stores, recently acquired grocery delivery startup, Shipt. The acquisition builds an important same-day delivery network for Target.

“Brick-and-mortar retailers can leverage their physical store locations to get products to customers as quickly as possible,” added Kelli Hollinger, Director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School.

The 2017 C-CUBES™ Benchmark Retail Study is conducted by the Collaborative for Customer Based Execution and Strategy, sponsored by the Center for Retailing Studies, and underwritten by the R.C. Barclay Endowed Library Fund. The goal of the study is to provide an evidence-based approach to incorporate the customer’s perspective in strategic planning and execution for retailers. The research team for the Retail Study includes Vikas Mittal and Kyuhong Han at Rice University, along with Biwong Im at Texas A&M University.

For more information, contact:
Kelli Hollinger, Director, Center for Retailing Studies
khollinger@tamu.edu; 979-845-5898

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M, Uncategorized