Category Archives: Andy

Pace Setting

One of the many challenges that a new MBA student faces is the difficult decisions related to your pace in the program.  You will find a variety of resources available for guiding you on your own path.

For me, flexibility was one of the strongest selling points of the Elon MBA.  If you are balancing time and energy between family, friends, work, and all the other pieces of a “work/life balance” but still feeling like that graduate degree will drive your success, flexibility should be a factor for you as well.

There are many pros and cons to consider as you learn about how the scheduling works in the Elon MBA Program.  Much can be said for a more traditional MBA program that inserts the candidate in a cohort and drives the schedule through an efficient yet grueling completion.  I have friends who have been through or are currently in programs at other area schools and I will not deny the jealousy I feel at times when they talk about their progress and how quickly they will be done.
But there are two realities that balance it out.

First, if that is what you are looking for, there is nothing holding you back at Elon.  You can dive in and fly through on the fast track.  Just understand there will be many working with you who are on a uniquely different pace.

Second, I believe a program that is flexible enough to meet the needs of each student creates an environment in which each student gets the opportunity to get everything they are expecting from the experience.

I am on the slow track.

Taking my time is a function of ensuring a good balance.  It also allows me to customize the order of courses.  This is important because I need to complete foundation courses and wanted to make sure I could continue at a good pace without interruption.  Again, this is when the resources shine.

At Elon, you have one-to-one attention from a number of faculty and staff when you are setting your schedule.  There is freedom and flexibility, but with the support of a program that will not allow you to slip through the cracks.  To be honest, I enjoy being part of the MBA Program at Elon and am not in much of a rush to finish, yet.

I am sure it will take a toll over time, but also sure it will go by fast.  I just needed to be in a place where I knew if something came up that might throw my plans in shambles, they are ready and able to work with me to make sure they understand my goals and what might need to change for me to still achieve them at Elon.

Time to Get Out

No matter your reason for deciding to pursue your MBA, and no matter why you selected Elon, there is an added benefit that you should consider leveraging to the greatest extent possible —  the networking and opportunities to expand your network can add value as well as diversity to your MBA experience.

For many of us, before we started in the program, we likely spent most of our time in and around the circles of our professions.  Suddenly being in a business class with professionals from so many other walks of career lives is eye opening and engaging.

For me, it started from day one.

As I met more members of my cohort and started sharing stories I started to realize the similarities in terms of what we all deal with on a daily basis despite the uniqueness of our jobs.  The old “misery loves company” feeling was quite therapeutic.

Elon is somewhat unique.

As opposed to other programs in which you are placed on a track and schedule sticking with the same group of people, the flexibility can translate into a constantly evolving web of connections and friends.

I am only five courses through the program and already I can say there is not a single person who has been in each class with me.  Sure, there are pros and cons to this approach.  For me, it has been a pro.  But I have also taken it a step farther.

The program offers a great deal of options to network outside class.  Ranging from social to sporting, academic to athletic, and everything in between; my words of advice, take advantage of these as often as possible!

For starters they tend to be a pretty good deal.  Free food is sometimes enough to get me to make the long drive from Raleigh (funny thing is, I could just hit a local Chic-fil-A and get the same meal).

In my first year I have taken the family to a Durham Bulls game, an Elon football game (what a great spread of food, by the way), and a date night with my wife to see Rent (which was surprisingly edgy but very well done).  I have also hit a couple happy hours and taken part in a few somewhat random offerings to work with undergrads looking to start their own businesses and focus groups to discuss ideas for anonymous companies looking to take the next step.

We don’t all live in or near Elon, but they work hard to make sure there are always things to do across the region.  And for something like a golf tournament, who isn’t willing to drive 30 minutes for a day out on the course?

Not to mention, for a guy like me who went to a 30,000+ student commuter school, being part of the Elon community seems to add value to my degree.

Go the Extra (Thousands of) Mile(s)

One of the many pros of the Elon MBA I considered as I was making my selection of a program was the opportunity of the International Business trip.

Why is Elon better?  Like most other elements of the program, they make a strong effort to make sure the travel option is accessible for all students.

MBA 581 focuses on International Business.  A student can satisfy the requirement by taking a traditional session-long class, or by participating in the International Business trip.  They do a great job varying global locations and setting up world class experience.  When I started my MBA it was a goal for me to go on a trip.

The most recent trip has just wrapped up as our group returned last week from Southeast Asia.  We split our time between Vietnam and Singapore.  This offered a glimpse of a soon to be emerging market in contrast with a market that is probably ahead of our time.  The trip included an even number of MBA students and Elon Law School students.  The combination made for some fascinating discussions about business law, and gave each person on the trip a unique chance to make networking connections across the two industries.

Was the trip exhausting?  Yes.  The flights were long and the jet lag tough.

Was the trip worth it?  100 percent.

Any MBA student needs to put serious thought into working one of these trips into the mix.

A tip of my hat to staff and faculty who put this trip together and traveled along with the group.  They were able to put together an agenda that gave students a glimpse of all businesses in both locations.  We met with many Westerners now working in each location; hearing stories from the personal and professional perspective about their career choices and opportunities they have found working abroad.

I encourage you to recap our trip by viewing the blog at http://elon2011mbalaw.wordpress.com/.  All students on the trip contributed to the blog and it examines both the businesses we visited and some thoughts on the diverse cultures of Vietnam and Singapore.

Once Bitten

When I started my MBA experience it was with the goal of bettering my skill set as a manager in the field of civil engineering.  My specific area of expertise is water resource management and it is certainly something I have grown passionate about through the past dozen years.

My dad was a small business owner.  Not until now, as I work along with my wife to support our family and goals, did I fully understand the weight he carried on his shoulders.  The sleepless nights he likely spent wondering if the business could make it through the hard times.  Well, I applaud my dad.

His small business stood strong for much longer than most, and it provided a good life, but more importantly, great opportunities.  My dad was not a college graduate, but he committed to support me and my three sisters through college, so we could each go out with any and every opportunity we could imagine (and were willing to work for).  So, I have always said there is no way, no chance, not even a slight possibility I would ever be a small business owner.

Guess what…the MBA entrepreneurial spirit has bitten me, and I have made the leap.  Actually, in this case, it is more like a very small jump, like stepping off a low curb to a safe street.  Regardless, I now can claim that I am a Founding Partner of a small business.  Hearing so many stories from classmates, ranging from really exciting to really depressing, I just could not avoid the temptation of staking claim to something I could mold and grow as part of my own vision (yes, along with my other Founding Partner).

It also serves as a testing ground for the skills I am learning on the fly here at Elon.  See, the business is really intended to be more of a community or a resource, and the entire backbone of our launch concepts seems consistent with so much of what I learned in the elective Innovation Imperative.   Combined with an expanded understanding of social media from my Managerial Communications course, I am finding al kinds of avenues and ideas to implement simple visions.

This business model might never get off the ground, or maybe we will see some success.  Either way, it has been fun, and surprisingly low risk and low cost, just getting in the game.  My warning to those of you in or considering the MBA Program here at Elon, you are likely to feel the same bite at some point along the way.

If it’s a strong itch, go ahead and scratch it.  After all, you have already put yourself out there in pursuing the MBA, why not take that next step.  If you are reading this, chances are pretty good you have what it takes to get something off the ground.

Happy Holidays!

Moving Target

As an MBA student you might be thinking this blog will be about the changes and new developments with the monster retailer, Target.  Not so fast.

Although we all will spend our share of time and dollars in Target over the next few weeks, I am actually referring to the moving target that is your “to do” list.  I have always been a self-proclaimed poorly organized well-organized guy.  What does that mean?

Well, I keep a to do list like a running tab, but I do it on scratch paper with my poor quality handwriting, and often find myself rewriting it.  I believe one time I actually had an item on my to do list that read “rewrite to do list.”  There have been times when just rewriting the list made me feel accomplished.  Now as we enter the fun and action packed times between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am finding my to do list to be a daily moving target.

I feel like I wake every morning with a new items I was unaware of that has snuck onto my list.  As this is my first holiday season as an MBA student, I am quickly learning the art of balance.  I am sure many people deal with it in many different ways, but my best advice for myself and for you, make sure you create a balance without sacrifice.

We all hear the stories of being buried in workload and being too busy to breathe.  Bu the reality is, you need to be flexible, constantly adjust your targets, and do it with a focus on your priorities.  Keep family first, Elon will understand.  And don’t put yourself in the position of trying to decide what you need to give up in your life in order to stay on target.  A theme I hear over and over again is that many of us selected Elon because we appreciate the flexibility.  Put that flexibility in play.  Lean on your classmates.  Let your classmates lean on you.

Hopefully for all of us, that moving target will become a permanent fixture in our lives as we advance beyond the MBA Program and in our careers.  Use the Elon experience to learn how to create the right balance.  Finally, make sure you don’t miss any “can’t miss” opportunities to enjoy the holiday season!

iBlog

Social media has evolved.  Possibilities to develop the infectious message and seek out an audience seem endless.  As I am currently taking the Managerial Communications course, I have been exposed to many more elements of the diversity of social media.  Ironically, this being my first time as a blogger, I was tasked with giving a group oral presentation on blogs.  It was an eye opener.  I am starting to realize there is a whole other world hidden just under the surface of the digital world of mainstream internet.  The power of communities being created is driving professional and personal cultural change.

Businesses now turn to diverse social media to attract a consumer base, in many cases playing off the unfiltered emotions of an interested audience.  Even most of the traditional mainstream media outlets (newspapers, magazines, television and radio) are finding ways to integrate into the digital social media.  Although the digital social media is free by nature (and in many cases by cost) there is a fine line between how we use this resource in a responsible manner versus how we exploit others or put ourselves at risk.

Throughout the MBA Program I expect to continue to learn more about the value of social media in business.  As you, as an individual, begin to put your MBA experience to work, either in a professional or personal setting, and step into the world of digital social media, remember to act in a way that is ethical, responsible, and mature.  Take some time to learn about how things work, their potential value, and some of the risks.  And be careful, for better or worse, you might find it sparks the entrepreneurial spirit.

Get Motivated (to Buy)!

I had the opportunity to attend the Get Motivated! event in Raleigh on September 8.  How could I resist?

Here it is about 10 minutes from my office, and they made it so cheap to attend I almost didn’t even notice I was handing the guy a $10 bill just to park (why didn’t I get motivated and hitch a ride with one of the other 18,000 people in attendance)?

How often to you get to hear the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes and Colin Powell, among many others, all speak at the same event?  Something happened along the way.  About two hours into the event, I realized I was actually experiencing a sales pitch from a group of high power personalities looking to secure the numbers off my credit card.

The event ended up being a perfect refresher for me in the middle of my first MBA experience of the long break between Summer II and Fall.  During a course I took over the summer that focused on innovation, we talked about the basic idea of moving from selling a product, to selling a service, and ultimately selling an experience.

We studied how you can drive an innovative business product or process by creating a culture.  That culture, in many cases, is based in the virtual world of social networking and powerful internet tools and smart phone apps.

In this case, they used the Get Motivated! event to give customers the experience (much better than a free lunch seminar won through a business card fish bowl drop) and culture (selling a web-based program for people looking to take control of their own investments – including chat rooms on the site through which you can share ideas and knowledge about stocks and investing tips).

I was almost sold on the infomercial.

As the high energy finance expert was talking us through the tips and tricks, and showing off what I thought was a free website, I had visions of myself at home that night spending hours on the site trying to understand the value of the resources, and then debating whether or not I should risk some cash and get in the game.  I was hooked right up until the cost flashed on the brilliant video board overhead.

For the record, and only based on what I saw, the site does look very cool, and I believe the right person could use it as a tool to boost the performance of their investment dollars.  I was more interested in taking it all in, and I found myself studying on the fly the business model that was playing out on the crowded floor.

Innovative product, innovative process.

At the same time, it was well worth dealing with the sales pitch presentations to see such a great mix of political perspectives, business model analysis, personal stories, and casual recollections on past experiences.  I enjoyed how Colin Powell reflects on his career and speaks with a casual honesty.  It’s always good to hear some lessons learned from some of the greatest leaders in the world.  Not so sure if I left the arena feeling more motivated.  It was a nice break from the norm.

I’m looking forward to the fall, new courses, and meeting more of the Elon MBA students and staff.  I hope everyone is getting motivated to return.