#9 U.S. Public program ranking highlights Mays Business School’s former student’s success
Texas A&M’s Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) program has been named the #25 program in the nation and #9 U.S. public program, according to the inaugural 2022 rankings released by Fortune. The methodology used includes a heavily weighted outcome score (65%; including median base salary, mean base salary, and job placement rate), brand score (25%; based on Fortune/Ipsos brand survey to hiring managers, March ’21), and Fortune 1000 score (10%; number of MBA alumni in C-suite and MBA graduates in Fortune 1000 organizations).
“Our whole team is extremely excited about this ranking outcome because our main focus is getting the right faculty and the right students engaged in the MBA program at Texas A&M University,” said Arvind Mahajan, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Graduate Programs for Mays Business School. “The rankings are another data point that show we are making progress to ‘Advance the World’s Prosperity,’ which is Mays Business School’s vision. We are fortunate to have the incredible Aggie Network that actively recruits our graduates, bringing them into world-class organizations, altering their careers and lives.”
Texas A&M’s FTMBA excels at providing each student with individualized experiences that emphasize effective leadership practices. Faculty and staff are committed to knowing all degree candidates personally and to understanding their previous experiences as well as their professional and personal goals. Program leaders mentor MBA students so they can confidently assume leadership roles in all areas of life.
The intensive 18-month FTMBA program offers hands-on experiences in managing challenges, time, and resources. The program’s cohort format allows MBA students to establish meaningful connections with peers, faculty, career coaches, and program leadership. Outcomes of doing so include developing cutting-edge professional knowledge and skills including critical thinking. These skills are foundational to the ability of FTMBA graduates to assume leadership roles immediately upon completing their degree.
“We at Mays Business School take pride in the ability of our students, faculty, and staff to contribute positively to companies and the broader society through their dedicated efforts. This top 10 U.S. public program ranking from Fortune provides evidence of the quality of our program and certainly the talent of our students,” shared Duane Ireland, Ph.D., Interim Dean for Mays Business School. “Important to the accomplishments of our FTMBA program is our decision to center the activities of our graduate programs’ office around student success. Our staff and faculty collaborate to identify ways to support our students in their drive to learn and grow as a means of enhancing their professional and personal lives.”
Applications for Texas A&M’s MBA programs – including Full-Time, Professional, and Executive – are being accepted now for the class of 2024. For more information, visit: mba.tamu.edu
Dr. James Gaines, chief economist and director of research at the Texas Real Estate Research Center, and Research Economist Dr. Ali Anari have retired.
During his 15 years at the Center, Gaines specialized in housing and land development issues. He was the author of more than 50 Center reports and articles and the organization’s principal speaker.
Previously, Gaines spent 16 years with KPMG and Arthur Andersen providing real estate consulting services. He also served five years as president of the Rice Center, an urban research center affiliated with Rice University.
His decades of experience included a broad array of professional activities, primarily in real estate research and education, urban economics, land-use analysis and development, and project risk assessment. Gaines worked extensively with major corporations, developers, investors, financial institutions, and government agencies across the country. …Read more
Mays Business School’s master’s in management degree gives students in-classroom and high-impact experience
On December 2, students and faculty of the Master of Science in Business (MS-B) program gathered virtually to celebrate and share their semester-long projects from the Integrated Business Experience (IBE) class.
Handy Mask, one business run by MS Business students
Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Arvind Mahajan said, “It’s an important day for our students as well as for our program. MS Business admits diverse undergraduate majors and invests in many ways to develop them as transformational leaders with entrepreneurial mindsets. This course is a perfect example of that change.”
The MS-B program is a graduate degree designed for non-business majors who want to grow their business knowledge to supplement their bachelor’s degree.
Century Tree Soap Company’s soaps
MS Business Program Director, Richard Castleberry, said of the students, “Other than students with great academics and backgrounds, a primary component we look for is students who show the Aggie Core Values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service. We insist these traits display in our students, and I can say that the 62 students that are here today exhibit those Aggie core values.”
Dr. Eli Jones, the dean at the Texas A&M Mays Business School, and his colleagues at The PhD Project are leading the charge to get more people of color in significant academic roles.
The list of strategic initiatives at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School include many of the goals set by other institutions: high-impact research, impactful teaching and learning and transformational leadership.
But at the very top, strongly and purposefully, is this: Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement.
“We made that one the first priority,” says Jones, Dean of Mays Business School. “That sent a signal to the organization that this is a really important issue for us. I’m glad that we did. To me, this priority is about setting our culture and climate more than anything else.”
The culture Jones would like to see at his school, and others across the country, is one of belonging – a place for all students to feel welcome. Texas A&M is still a primarily White-student-serving institution. In fact, Black students comprise less than 4% of the population across its campuses, including College Station. The divide in numbers at Mays Business School is just as pronounced: Of its 6,300 students, just over 4,000 are White and 147 are Black. If changing the culture starts with belonging, then closing that gap is a must.
It is not only student enrollment that matters. Leadership positions at colleges and universities need to be more inclusive as well. Not counting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Jones is one of only a handful of African-American senior administrators in the country.
“Think about that for a minute,” Jones says with a pause. “There are more than 800 AACSB accredited business schools, and only a handful of African American business deans at non-HBCUs. Obviously, we have a long way to go.”
Despite that seeming futility, there is hope, and Jones sees change coming. It is starting in the classrooms and it’s weaving its way through MBA and master’s programs and into Ph.D. programs. A number of universities this year have placed leaders of color in president positions. Still, it is a long road to climb.
The opportunity costs are high. To get there requires sacrifice and countless academic steps, sometimes leaving a high salary at a well-known company to become a graduate student. It could take 15-20 years on a tenure track to build the reputation needed to be considered for a senior leadership position in academia.
However, the payoff long-term can be worth it. And it is Jones and his colleagues who are trying to convince more to pursue those tracks. He is part of a non-profit initiative called The PhD Project that aims to diversify business college leadership … and thus change the makeup of leaders in the corporate world by increasing the number of people of color in the classrooms and in academic leadership.
“We’re talking to people in corporations about considering a career change to become a professor, and we’re helping them navigate and matriculate through PhD programs across the country,” Jones says. “These are critical career decisions.”
Peathegee Inc/Getty Images
The 1-2 punch: COVID and George Floyd
Not everyone needs to rise to the level of dean to make an impact, Jones says. He notes the continual increase in people of color in important positions in higher education – professor, center director, department head, and associate dean. Their status and leadership have provided reasons for young, under-represented minority students to want to attend classes, enroll in programs and further other academic pursuits.
In fact, The PhD Project notes that since its inception in 1994, the numbers of minorities who have completed Ph.D.s has risen from 294 to more than 1,500. The group is currently guiding more than 300 doctoral students and over 1,300 business professors of color. Their success at these institutions is staggering: 90% of those impacted complete the Ph.D. program, crushing the 70% median rate. Their retention rate is even better – 97%, compared with U.S. national average at just over 60%.
“More people of color are making the sacrifices in the short term so that they can make a long-term impact by becoming professors and helping students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.” – Dr. Eli Jones, dean at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School
Jones points out that change is happening, but it is slower than desired. The pipeline in the past wasn’t there. An infusion of new minority professors and senior leaders, however, is beginning to make a real difference.
“If you happen to be in a classroom, and you see someone who looks like you, sounds like you and has a similar cultural experience, that could make a great impact as a role-model,” Jones says. “More people of color are making the sacrifices in the short term so that they can make a long-term impact by becoming professors and helping students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”
Speaking of impact, there may not have been anything more significant to the movement around diversity and inclusion than two major events in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd murder. Jones calls it a “1-2 punch” that created a combination of fear, anger and frustration that led to both a heightened awareness and extreme discomfort over the Minneapolis Police Department’s mishandling of the Floyd arrest – the feeling that “this is not right.”
“People around the world had a chance to see on video how grossly wrong that was,” Jones says. “It was very visible to them and they reacted. We’ve been given lip service about diversity and inclusion for many, many years. But that tragedy and others made it real.”
It not only sparked mass protests involving all races and genders but also ignited conversations among CEOs at businesses, who leaned on Jones and other academic leaders when drafting their statements on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I heard from senior leaders at companies, statements such as, ‘I’m not going to just make a blanket statement that says yes, we believe in diversity, equity and inclusion,’ ” Jones says “I want to put something out that is more meaningful. Could you sit and talk to me so I can better understand the underlying issues? So, I think it’s more than lip service now. There’s a level of sensitivity about it.”
Jose Luiz Palaez Inc/Getty Images
The play that changed the SEC
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is best known as the home of major college football – Alabama and Nick Saban, LSU and Death Valley, and of course Texas A&M and its 12th Man. But the SEC recently proved it is more than just gamesmanship on Saturday afternoons.
When the George Floyd murder occurred, the deans of the business schools in the SEC put out a collective statement together – 14 strong – to back diversity, equity and inclusion. And not with a nod to the moment but a lean to the future.
“We are soundly committed to fostering a sense of community that is welcoming to and respectful of all individuals — students, faculty and staff,” the statement said. “Likewise, it is our duty to prepare our future business leaders for careers in an international and increasingly diverse workforce. We strive for inclusion, equity and diversity where all voices, viewpoints and backgrounds are valued and supported.”
It was a special moment for Jones. He is the only African-American dean in that contingent and the one who spurred the call to action.
“We have been talking about doing something together, and what a great opportunity to show how cohesive we are on an issue that truly matters.”
Moments like the Floyd murder – and the resulting response – have opened a lot of eyes and a lot of minds.
“I’m now sensing that people really want to listen,” Jones said. “I’ve had lots of non-minority colleagues say, ‘we’ve never really talked about this, Eli. Maybe we should grab dinner and talk through some of what we’re seeing nationally.”
On a more macro level, the work of The PhD Project continues. There is an annual conference for potential doctoral students interested in a number of disciplines, including accounting, finance, management, marketing and entrepreneurship. The cadre of business school leaders hope that those discussions will spark interest and lead to others follow the same paths that Jones and others have taken.
Jones believes that sooner or later, it will happen … where incidents like George Floyd no longer occur, where the pool of students is forever diverse and where belonging is just happenstance.
“I think we’re positioned now to really make some substantive changes, that will actually help in the future,” he says. “I’m thinking about my grandkids. I want my grandkids to have a better future where they’re not having to struggle through these issues.”
The PhD Project resources
There are a number of great resources on The PhD Project’s website, including a chance to connect with 1,500-plus minority faculty and doctoral students, plus thousands of minority professionals.
It also features a frequently asked questions page with details about the program, the benefits of pursuing education and preparing for a doctoral program.
COLLEGE STATION, TX – November 19, 2020 – The student team of Alexander Kondziolka and Jonathon Thierer from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has won the $40,000 First Place prize in the Humana-Mays Health Care Analytics 2020 Case Competition sponsored by health and well-being company Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) and Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.
Over 700 master’s level students representing over 70 major universities in the U.S. registered for the national competition to compete for $70,000 in total prizes. The fourth annual competition was held virtually and was open to all accredited educational institutions based in the United States. Full-time and part-time master’s students from accredited Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Information Systems, Master of Public Health, Master of Business Administration programs, or other similar master’s programs in business, healthcare, or analytics, were eligible to enter.
Alexander Kondziolka and Jonathon Thierer received the top prize following a virtual presentation on Thursday, Nov. 12 to an executive panel of judges. The Second-Place prize of $20,000 was awarded to Christopher Painton, Yilun Sun, and Ruiwen Wang from the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business, while the Third-Place prize of $10,000 was presented to Kamala Pillai, Jack Sampiere, and Chloe Xu from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Anderson School of Management.
“Advanced analytics have helped Humana identify those members who are at the highest risk for COVID-19 in order to make quick and personal outreach to them,” said Heather Cox, Chief Digital Health and Analytics Officer for Humana. “This is just one example of how analytics can enhance our industry in resolving challenges and help us deliver better care and improve outcomes. This year’s participants applied similar ingenuity and thoughtfulness to their approaches and ideas, and their dedication to finding solutions was remarkable.”
The analytics case received by the students was designed to be multi-faceted and complex, similar to a real-world business problem. This year’s competition focused on social determinants of healthcare that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Transportation challenges are one of these determinants. Students were asked to create a model to predict which Medicare members are most likely struggling with these issues. The goal was to propose solutions for overcoming these barriers to accessing care and achieving members’ best health.
“Mays Business School is a model academic institution championing responsible research and teaching on every aspect of decision making in businesses. To that end, I am pleased that the students’ analyses will help Humana shape the way the industry delivers healthcare,” says Arvind Mahajan, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at Mays Business School. “This case study is an example of how students learn to apply their analytical skills to solve complex business problems which can have a social impact, and in this case, improve the lives of patients and their families.”
The teams were judged based on the following criteria:
Quantitative analysis identifying key business insights
Professionalism, data visualization, and presentation skills
Ability to provide meaningful implications and recommendations based on results/insights
This is the fourth year of the competition, which has grown to be one of the top healthcare analytics case competitions in country.
Mays is a full-service business school that steps up to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 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 programs and for faculty research.
Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is committed to helping our millions of medical and specialty members achieve their best health. Our successful history in care delivery and health plan administration is helping us create a new kind of integrated care with the power to improve health and well-being and lower costs. Our efforts are leading to a better quality of life for people with Medicare, families, individuals, military service personnel, and communities at large.
To accomplish that, we support physicians and other health care professionals as they work to deliver the right care in the right place for their patients, our members. Our range of clinical capabilities, resources and tools – such as in-home care, behavioral health, pharmacy services, data analytics and wellness solutions – combine to produce a simplified experience that makes health care easier to navigate and more effective.
More information regarding Humana is available to investors via the Investor Relations page of the company’s web site at www.humana.com, including copies of:
Annual reports to stockholders
Securities and Exchange Commission filings
Most recent investor conference presentations
Quarterly earnings news releases and conference calls
The Global Consortium for Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC) recently honored the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship with the 2020 Exceptional Contributions in Entrepreneurship Research Award. GCEC awards are designed to showcase and celebrate the very best of university entrepreneurship.
The award for Exceptional Contribution in Entrepreneurship Research honors a center that is dedicated to supporting the creation of new entrepreneurship knowledge through research that advances the discipline. Dr. Michael Howard, Academic Director of the McFerrin Center, commented, “the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M supports and advances world-class research in the field of Strategic Entrepreneurship; the study of how and why some organizations – whether start-ups or established firms – are successful in identifying and pursuing new entrepreneurial opportunities, while others are not. Our scholars have established an impressive track record of entrepreneurship research, publishing and often serving as editors or editorial board members in top academic journals, demonstrating the broad impact of our center in the academic community.”
This is the 2nd GCEC award for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. Blake Petty ’98, Executive Director of the McFerrin Center, commented, “GCEC represents the world’s premier university-based entrepreneurship programs, and the McFerrin Center is incredibly proud to be recognized for Texas A&M’s world-class research across such a wide spectrum of entrepreneurial topics.”
Entrepreneurship Centers who receive this award are evaluated upon the following criteria:
Volume of research produced by those associated with the entrepreneurship center or program
Quality of outlets in which the research was published or disseminated
Potential of the research to significantly advance the discipline of entrepreneurship
Number of faculty and staff involved with entrepreneurship research
Support for research in the discipline of entrepreneurship beyond publishing (e.g., reviewing, journal management, hosting conferences, serving as discussant)
Demonstrated ability to connect research efforts to other aspects of center programming (e.g., teaching, co-curricular programs, community engagement)
In addition, Texas A&M University won 2nd place in the 2020 SEC Student Pitch Competition. Stephanie Young ’21 represented the University at this year’s competition where she pitched her vet-tech startup, SKYPaws, LLC. SKYPaws is a novel medical device that provides accurate, real-time post-operative animal patient data for veterinarians and their staff. The device is an integral tool for saving patient lives and identifying postoperative complications. The McFerrin Center is responsible for identifying a student entrepreneur to represent Texas A&M University at the annual competition. McFerrin Center Assistant Director LauraLee Hughes ’08 worked closely with Young to prepare for this year’s competition. “Stephanie is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit and student talent at Texas A&M, and we are so proud of her taking second place at this year’s SEC Pitch Competition. She worked persistently leading up to the competition on perfecting her pitch, which conveyed not only a very compelling business opportunity but her undeniable passion for making the SKYPaws device a reality. We are excited for Stephanie to add this as one of her many entrepreneurial achievements while at Texas A&M and look forward to her continued success,” said Hughes.
On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Texas A&M University was once again recognized by The Princeton Review as a top university for both graduate and undergraduate students interested in entrepreneurship. This is the fourth consecutive year that Texas A&M University has been included in the Princeton Review ranking. This year, Texas A&M was ranked #35 for Undergraduate students and #26 for Graduate students. The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship is responsible for providing a ranking application to Princeton Review each year.
The 2020 Raymond Ideas Challenge took place on Sunday, November 15. The day-long competition was converted to a completely online ecosystem to ensure that the 20-year tradition would take place regardless of the state of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The annual competition challenges undergraduate and graduate students at Texas A&M to dream up the next big innovation that will change the world. The mission of Raymond Ideas Challenge is to encourage students to develop their idea and their entrepreneurial mindset; the student’s ideas should be novel, feasible, and impactful while also solving a problem.
Although many students apply each year, only 40 teams are selected to participate on competition day. The Top 40 finalists compete in front of over 75 experienced judges and entrepreneurs from the business and academic ecosystems. Finalists are then invited to pitch their idea during two rounds of judging. The finalist’s presentation can only be 5 minutes long, and each finalist receives 5 minutes for Q&A. During Q&A, judges are encouraged to challenge the participants to think about their idea like a true entrepreneur. The interactive approach provides students with valuable experience in developing business concepts, writing skills, and presentation abilities that will be pivotal in their professional careers.
Julia Felder ’24 and Carmen Gaas ’24 won 1st place and $2,000 for their idea, Alzheimer’s Gamma Frequency Therapeutic Device. This non-invasive, wearable device emits gamma frequencies that suppress the production of amino acids found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. The device consists of two parts, a specialized pair of glasses and earbuds that work together to promote brain function without impairing the wearer’s daily life. “We want to inspire the next generation of inter-disciplinary female innovators to persist through the challenges they face and achieve things that they previously thought were impossible,” commented Gaas.
The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship would like to recognize the individuals and businesses that supported the 2020 competition. In particular, they extend thanks to the program’s underwriter, The Frank and Jean Raymond Foundation, and 2020 prize sponsor, Frogslayer. Combined, their financial support provided $10,000 in awarded prize money. Raymond Ideas Challenge is held each fall semester annually. For more information, visit mcferrin.tamu.edu.
2020 Raymond Ideas Challenge Winners:
First Place Award of $2,000: Alzheimer’s Gamma Frequency Therapeutic Device – Julia Felder ’24, Carmen Gaas ’24
Second Place Award of $1,500 sponsored by Frogslayer: Ai-RIS the Portable Retinal Imaging System – Marcus DeAyala, Tokunbo Falohun, Daniel Kermany, Harsha Mohan, Amir Tofighi Zavareh, Uthej Vattipalli
Third Place Award of $1,000 sponsored by Frogslayer: Wax-stic: The Wax That Replaces Plastic – Grant Hankins ’21, Jack Stewart ’21, Ty Thibodeaux ’21
Fourth Place Award of $850: Card Stock Exchange – Joseph Escobar ’22
Fifth Place Award of $650: Chronos 360 – Hassan Anifowose ’23
Sixth Place Award of $450: On.ai – Sanjay Kumaran ’23
Honorable Mentions – $250 Awarded to each winner
Construction Shield – Pepito Thelly ’22
InterChange – Laura Tolan ’21
Career Readiness Marketplace for the 21st Century Workforce – Naomi Woods ’24
Virus Breathalyzer: Detecting Bugs with a Single Breath – Nathaniel Fernandes ’24
In gratitude for the dedication and leadership of Mr. Bruce D. Upshaw, retired Sr. Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer and current member of the Merichem Board of Directors, Merichem Company endowed a scholarship in Accounting and Finance at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School. Mr. Upshaw has served Merichem since 1981 and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration – Finance.
“Leaders like Bruce are the reason why Merichem has delivered innovative solutions to customers for over three-quarters of a century. Our vision is scholarships like this one will enable more business leaders to rise up and I couldn’t think of a better place than Mays Business School for Bruce to select as the place to direct this investment,” shared Kendra Lee, Merichem Company Chairman & CEO.
Upshaw joined Merichem in 1981 after filling a variety of accounting and supervisory positions over eleven years with Shell Oil Company. He began his Merichem career as Accounting Manager, became Controller in 1985, and was elected Treasurer of Merichem Company in 1995.
In 1997 Upshaw was elected CFO of Merisol USA, the Texas Operating Company of Merisol, a Merichem-Sasol Joint Venture. In 1999 he rejoined Merichem and became CFO in 2002. Upshaw has served on Merichem’s board of directors since 2006.
“I was blessed to join an amazing organization and work with wonderful people in my career,” shared Bruce Upshaw. “I’m thrilled Merichem has this program in place and we, together, contribute to fostering the next generation of leaders.”
Bruce demonstrates his continuing passion for Texas A&M through support for The Texas A&M Foundation, The 12th Man Foundation, The Association of Former Students, the Aggie Band, Parson’s Mounted Cavalry and the Yell Leaders.
“The faculty and students at Mays Business School are grateful for the generosity of Merichem Company and Bruce Upshaw,” shared Eli Jones, Dean of Mays Business School. “Scholarships allow students an opportunity to experience all that Texas A&M has to offer and to fulfill our vision at Mays to advance the world’s prosperity. We are developing transformational leaders and support from individuals and organizations are how we raise up equipped and experienced talent.”
The Bruce D. Upshaw ’70 Endowed Scholarship in Accounting and Finance was established at Texas A&M University on August 21, 2020 for the benefit of Mays School of Business. Merichem Company of Houston, Texas provided the gift funds and the endowment honors Mr. Upshaw of Hays County, Texas.
About Merichem Company
Founded in 1945, Merichem Company serves the global oil and gas and petrochemical industries as a leader in full-service sulfur removal, caustic treating and spent caustic treatment technologies. Merichem also provides safe and reliable spent caustic handling services through beneficial reuse and recycling of spent caustics, turning would-be waste into valuable and viable commodities.
Dan Tinker ’96 has had many notable mentors and confidants who have helped to support him throughout his career. Now, as the President and CEO of SRS Distribution, Tinker wants to provide the same support structure for his employees. Tinker graduated in May of 1996 with a degree in Industrial Distribution from the Texas A&M University College of Engineering. He credits the Department of Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University for having a major impact on his career and success. “It prepared me really well for leadership and for managing people and leading teams.” Tinker went on to describe how the ID program provided him with a strong technical background while at the same time providing holistic business education. From finance to strategy, to operations it gave him a well-rounded view of how engineering and business can be used together as a powerful tool.
Tinker is a visionary who fully embraces the entrepreneurial mindset of “Dream big. Be Bold.” He isn’t intimidated by hard work and thrives whenever he faces a problem that seems insurmountable. Throughout his career, he’s lived by the adage of “Small goals don’t stir people’s souls.” Tinker has learned first-hand that when you challenge yourself and your team to achieve impossible milestones that is when the magic happens. It hasn’t been an easy lesson to learn and along the way people have doubted him. “I don’t know if anyone but me early on believed that we were going to achieve what I told them we were going to go do,” commented Tinker. Time and time again, he’s proven that there’s no value in shying away from your passions and goals. It’s only when you are all-in and fully committed to your dreams that you can convince others to do the same.
For Tinker, the best way to encourage others to buy into your big, hairy, audacious goals is by fostering strong company culture. He wants to hire talented people and inspire passion in them by creating a corporate environment that makes them excited to go to work every day. “I want people to get a speeding ticket on the way to work, not on the way home from work. You have to create the right environment to make that happen,” he commented. “I believe talent trumps strategy every time, but the talent is wasted if they’re not engaged and fully passionate about the work they’re doing, the vision of the company, and the mission of the company. Have you ever seen a company with good customer service but bad morale? It doesn’t exist! You can’t do it.”
Tinker engages his highly talented employees by actively living the Aggie values of Respect and Selfless Service. “We want to bring talent here and build wonderful careers for people and change their lives for the better. You end up serving them. As CEO, I’m the lowest person in the company and my job is to serve everyone above me. The front-line employees who serve the customer are at the top.” For Tinker, CEO stands for Chief Excuse Elimination Officer. He believes that his most important role is to eliminate all obstacles and provide all of the resources that their people need to succeed. “That’s my job. I want 5,500 people to come to work that are smarter than me and harder working than me and as a result, they drive the business and I provide them all of the resources and the environment for them to thrive and have fun.” That commitment to culture is evident in the SRS Distribution mission statement; “make money, have fun, give back.” Tinker commented that at SRS Distribution, “We’ve chosen to be a people-first and a culture-led company and a big part of that is a dedication to others and service to others.”
How do you inspire an employee workforce of several thousand individuals? For Tinker, it’s simple.
“The way you do that, in our mindset is to let [our employees] be the entrepreneur.” He wants his team to take ownership of their role in the company and let them be the strategist locally. Tinker wants his team to know that their input and decision-making skills are valued by the company and that they are trusted by leadership to make calls independent of the corporate mandate. Rather than trying to force a cookie-cutter approach on their 390 locations, SRS Distribution instead provides centralized tools and resources, such as technology support and talent management, and encourages their employees to leverage an entrepreneurial mindset. “All of our employees think of themselves as owners and founders of the company. They have a different level of pride and engagement.” This commitment to employee empowerment and success is evident through the SRS Distribution employee shareholder program. All 5,500 employees have some sort of equity in the company. “Every time we’ve sold the company or had a liquidity event every employee stockholder got a payout. In fact, we’ve already made over 115 millionaires in the company, from the employees, and my goal is to make hundreds more in the next 5 years. We have a warehouse worker in Portland who makes $18/hour and is already a millionaire because of his small investment in the company in 2008,” said Tinker. “That’s the fun part. You can have great financial success and not keep it all at the top. You can share it broadly if you have the right structure and right equity program.”
For an Aggie entrepreneur who is so fiercely passionate about selfless service and supporting the goals and dreams of others, it would be remiss not to include recognition of the individuals who have played a major role in supporting Tinker’s career. The most notable champion for Tinker’s career is his wife, Audrey Tinker ’96. “My wife is the smart one in the family. She has her Ph.D., Masters, and Undergrad all from A&M and has taught at A&M. All I know is how to sell stuff for more than I paid for it. She’s the real brains of the family,” said Tinker. The two met freshman year in college and have been together ever since. She played a huge role in his career since Tinker’s first job out of college. At the ripe age of 22, Tinker was able to convince the leadership at Cameron Ashley Building Products to promote him to the branch manager. “It was a hard sell, but they did give me the worst branch in the company which was in Little Rock.” Audrey agreed to uproot her life in Texas to move to Arkansas so that Tinker could pursue his career. In just 1-year Dan turned that branch from “dead worst” to branch of the year out of 165 locations. During his time reinvigorating the Little Rock branch, Tinker experienced tremendous growth as a leader. He learned how to motivate your team to be passionate about their work. He discovered the impact that a talented, experienced employee can have on a team’s morale and a business’s bottom line. Tinker distinguished himself as a force in Little Rock. It wouldn’t have happened without Audrey by his side.
Another individual who was monumental in supporting Tinker is Mr. Ronald Ross, Chairman of the Board at SRS Distribution being one in particular. Tinker met Ross while he was a student at Texas A&M and Ross was serving on the advisory board for the Department of Industrial Distribution. For over 2 decades Ross has served as a mentor and font of wisdom for Tinker. “We have a great friendship. I consider him to be a second father to me. He was a mentor right out of college and taught me how to acquire businesses, how to value companies, and the operations of the business as well,” said Tinker. Ross was actually responsible for hiring Tinker at Cameron Ashley Building Products. He is also a co-founder of SRS Distribution alongside Tinker. “It started with buying a small bankrupt company in Florida that only had 6 locations and 30 million in sales. In the past twelve and a half years we’ve done 84 acquisitions, 133 greenfield new openings, and our sales are now approaching 4 billion.” Ross’s wisdom, leadership, and mentorship have been integral to the leader that Tinker is today.
Dan Tinker ’96 is the President and CEO of an almost $4 billion-dollar company. He’s a living example of how the education and values provided by Texas A&M can serve as a springboard for success. But the greatest lesson that can be learned from the story of the 2020 Summit Award Recipient is that when you treat people with respect and invite them to be a part of your dreams, great things can and will happen.
An article forthcoming in the peer-reviewed American Accounting Association Journal, Issues in Accounting Education, has found that the James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School has the most underrepresented Ph.D. graduates and the most underrepresented accounting faculty of any top business school in the country.
The essay, the first-ever report of its kind on the state of the accounting academy, “Towards a More Inclusive Accounting Academy,” details the state of underrepresented minority Ph.D. students and faculty in the top 50 accounting departments. The number of underrepresented minorities has nearly tripled in the last 24 years, largely to the credit of The Ph.D. Project. However, despite almost tripling, the proportion of underrepresented minority faculty remains less than 5% of all accounting Ph.D. faculty.
Nate Sharp, Ph.D., the Nelson D. Durst Endowed Chair in Accounting and head of the James Benjamin Department of Accounting said, “Although we would all acknowledge that these results represent only one of many ways to measure a program’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the overall numbers of underrepresented faculty and Ph.D. students across the academy are low, I am proud that our department is receiving recognition for its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion among Ph.D. students and faculty.”