Social media judo

Guest post by Ryan Loren, Foster MBA 2013 and president of the Global Business Association
He attended the “Social Media: For Your Business?” roundtable, which was hosted by the Japan-America Society and Foster Global Business Center.   

Social Media: For Your Business?As any MBA student will tell you, networking is a must, but finding the time is tough. Meeting the right people, connecting with the right organizations—all are factors in where to spend your “extra” time.

For me, “Social Media: For Your Business?” was a no brainer; I had to go. Having spent nearly seven years living and working in Japan, as well as interning over the summer at one of the world’s largest PR and ad agencies (that also has a big social media team), I knew this would be a good opportunity to network and meet industry leaders who work internationally, have a connection to Japan, and are involved in social media.

Companies represented in the panel discussion were Starbucks, Microsoft, Ivy Worldwide, PSPINC, Nikkei Concerns, and Niconico. Each company representative gave a 10–15 minute presentation on their social media strategy and the impact social media has had on their organizations.

I learned effective social media strategy is about leverage, or as Nick White, partner and general manger of Ivy Worldwide, a word-of-mouth social media marketing consultancy firm, called it, “social media judo.” He said if your firm is going to have an effective strategy, you need to:

  • Listen.
  • Contribute on other sites.
  • Publish your own content and make sure to link back, cite, and propagate.
  • Don’t sell, rather soft sell your product or service.
  • Listen even more.

Seems simple, but in the ever changing social media world, it is anything but simple. The buying process has changed, the customers are changing, and the frameworks that we have grown to love/hate in our MBA studies are changing. Thankfully, events like these allow real-time perspective from industry leaders in organizations many of us will end up working for one day. The opportunity to meet, mingle, exchange business cards, and practice your elevator pitch with the panel and other attendees is a great way to go that extra mile and make genuine connections. You never know how or when you might come across the same people when searching for an internship, or in my case, a job.

Apricots, creativity and food trucks

Guest post by Sohroosh Hashemi, Foster BA 2011
He attended the panel discussion Food on Wheels – A Foodie Blogger Dishes with Food Truck Owners, which was part of Entrepreneur Week 2012. Panel moderator was Jennifer Lewis, blogger and author of Food on Wheels.

A local organic farmer’s fresh apricot harvest was inspiration for Molly Neitzel, founder of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. Neitzel placed a large order of apricots and began planning for the debut of her new roasted apricot ice cream.

Monte CristoThat was that start of the story, as Neitzel told the students and alumni in attendance at the Food on Wheels panel discussion. She went on to explain that her great idea—roasted apricot ice cream—was not what her customers wanted in October, when the new flavor would be on sale. Neitzel ended up with 100 pounds too many of apricots, which she turned into homemade jam. She used this experience to highlight a challenge she often faces, “a lot of times the creativity that we desire, or that you might desire as an entrepreneur, is the opposite of what your customer wants.” Neitzel’s apricot surplus also demonstrates the seasonality of her business. Molly Moon’s uses local ingredients, so any fruit or vegetable it sources is only seasonally available.

All of the other entrepreneurs on the panel—Josh Henderson of Skillet, Danielle Custer of Monte Cristo, and Marshall Jett of Veraci Pizza—also agreed that the seasons have a huge impact on their businesses. Both consumer preferences and the availability of local ingredients vary from season to season. Each of these entrepreneurs owns a company that relies either exclusively or in-part on food truck sales, and all of them find a large chunk of their revenues through catering seasonal events like weddings.

After the discussion, the audience question and answer session produced some takeaways. Danielle Custer, founder of the newly launched grilled cheese truck Monte Cristo, gave this advice: “Simplify. Specialize. Do that one thing very well.”

Entrepreneur Week is put on by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Watch highlights from the panel discussion.

Want to see more? Watch the full video.

Reinventing the Fremont Dock

Erik PetersenWhat do a sports bar and fishing boat have in common? If you’re Erik Petersen, quite a bit.

Petersen, an alumnus of the Executive Development Program at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, manages fishing boats for Iquique U.S. by day and is owner of the Fremont Dock by night and weekend. As a fourth-generation member of the commercial fishing industry, it’s in his blood. He grew up on fishing boats and worked on one in Alaska with his father during the summer between high school and college. His ownership of a sports bar is more recent.

In 2011 he became a silent managing partner in the Fremont Dock, and when it became for sale, he bought it. The Fremont Dock reopened in September, and business has been good ever since.

Petersen has been able to apply what he learned in the EDP, not only to his work at Iquique, but also to the Dock. The program emphasized maximizing return on investment capital (ROIC) and he’s applied that concept to both of his jobs by running lean businesses. He is relentlessly focused on maximizing profits and reducing waste and costs by tightly managing inventory and purchasing.

Petersen’s motivation for enrolling in the EDP was to gain more skills and advance his career with a minimal impact on his time. He credits the EDP with “changing his frame of mind.” At the beginning of the program he said he went from learning how to think strategically to thinking strategically in his day-to-day work activities. An example of this is leveraging the network that exists in the program. It didn’t take Petersen long to find connections between his classmates and his businesses.

The Fremont Dock is family owned and operated. Petersen’s wife, Sara, manages it and his brother and parents also work there. His 5-7 year plan is to establish and expand the brand to other waterfront towns and neighborhoods–à la Ballard Dock, Edmonds Dock, etc.

“I’m passionate about never stagnating and constantly improving,” Petersen says.

It’s a mantra he applies to both Iquique U.S. and the Fremont Dock.

Networking: a new strategy for an established activity

Guest post by Claire Koerner, Lavin student and Foster undergrad
She attended the Networking Secrets talk that was the kickoff event of Entrepreneur Week 2012. The speaker was Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments.

Dan Price“What do you dislike about networking?” That’s the question Dan Price used to open his Top 10 Networking Secrets talk. Attendees weren’t expecting to hear that the networking “expert” hates networking! But Dan is not your average networker. He started his now almost $100 million (gross annual) revenue business, Gravity Payments, at the age of 19 and has grown it to be the largest credit card processing company in Washington. And he has met President Obama three times! Yet even Dan openly admits there are many things about networking that are difficult, including knowing what to say, following up with everyone you meet, and making it beneficial for all parties involved. Therefore, he suggests a different outlook on networking: incorporate the following 10 key values in your everyday life and an effective, mutually-beneficial network will follow.

  1. BE TRANSPARENT – When interacting with people, it is okay to disagree openly with their opinions, but make sure to honestly engage with them in order to build lasting relationships.
  2. PRACTICE EMPATHY – Even in uncomfortable situations like forced networking events, listen to what others need, understand their perspectives, and try to help wherever possible. Truly empathizing with others’ needs will smooth your networking nerves.
  3. RECOGNIZE SHARED INTERESTS – Don’t pretend you are exactly the same as someone else, but be willing to find and make meaningful connections around mutual interests.
  4. BE HUMBLE – Oftentimes you will be networking with people more successful and wiser than you, so be humble and willing to accept help. People are often willing to help if you are a sponge to their knowledge.
  5. GIVE AND ACCEPT FAVORS – Reciprocity is one of the most important benefits of networking, and is important in building trust in relationships. Try to find three favors you can do for someone else every day. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will also improve your network.
  6. SOLVE PROBLEMS TOGETHER – Be open and honest about issues you see in the arenas in which your connections have influence, and work through solutions to those issues together. This builds relationships much faster than merely shooting the breeze.
  7. HAVE FUN – When you go out and enjoy life, chances are others will come along to share in the fun and this will only increase your network AND social life at the same time.
  8. BELIEVE IN SERENDIPITY – Networking isn’t always about setting out to meet the right people. Sometimes, the best contacts fall into your lap and you just have to be open to the craziest and best opportunities coming your way.
  9. DON’T BE A DOUCHEBAG – This one seems obvious, but integrity is extremely important in maintaining your reputation and the trust of those in your network.
  10. TREAT EVERYONE EQUALLY – You don’t have to seek out the people that will be most beneficial for your success. When you are friendly and incorporate the values above, the best contacts will come your way and stay to help out for the long haul.

Entrepreneur Week is put on by the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Learn more.

Leadership is aggressive listening

Guest post by Julius Ekeroma, TMMBA 2014
He attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Phil Condit, former Chair and CEO of The Boeing Company.

Phil Condit was an absolutely excellent speaker tonight. He was asked to speak on the topic of communication and narrowed it down to a more specific topic: aggressive listening.

I heard a quote once before that said, “Behind every successful leader is a multiplicity of great mentors.” Phil truly was one of those inspirational leaders. One of the biggest issues Phil emphasized tonight is that top leaders fail due to their philosophy of “My way or no way at all.” Phil says a good leader is one that listens to his team and his people; takes in what they say and determines a plan of action. Under each leader are a whole slew of intelligent and talented people. If you don’t use their knowledge, there is no reason to hire them.

My key takeaways from tonight:

  1. If you have a big decision to make, use the pros and cons from the people to support your account. If you don’t involve your team in your big decisions, yet you hear their feedback, they’ll frown down upon you–to point of even losing their respect.
  2. Listen intently and interact with your speakers. Show them a sense that you care of their issues. Value who they are and they will do the same of you.
  3. Being a good listener is not a skill that comes naturally: it is a skill you have to think about.
  4. If you’re willing to listen to your people, they’ll start telling you things they normally wouldn’t tell anyone — good and bad.
  5. Kick yourself! Be an aggressive listener. Listen to the people and what they have to offer before you say, “Here’s our direction.” Every team has skilled people — as a leader, use them.
  6. Every great leader has a moral compass. Be sensitive to the people. As a leader, your job is the success of the enterprise, not your personal success.

Phil concluded that as a leader, once in a while you need to be alone and reflect on yourself as a leader. Reflect on how people perceive you as a leader. Are you leading in a good way or bad? Have you done your job well? Have you sincerely met the expectations of the people? Are you an effective leader?

The next speaker is Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications, on November 1. Learn more.

Grow smarter

Seattle Bagel BakeryAJ Ghambari, 2007 University of Washington Foster School of Business alumnus, has owned Seattle Bagel Bakery since October 2010. The previous owner was ready to give the business up in the midst of financial hardship and Ghambari took this opportunity to turn the bakery around. This summer, he enlisted the help of a student consultant through the Business & Economic Development Center’s (BEDC) Summer Internship Program to identify ways to strategically grow his business.

“I’m a big fan of the leadership at the BEDC. I want to surround myself with people I want to be like…They are good people doing positive things in the business environment,” said Ghambari. As an undergraduate studying at the Foster School, he “loved the opportunity to collaborate with small business owners, mentors…learning problem solving, consulting…real world stuff…the BEDC really gave that.” Ghambari wanted to play a role in getting students involved and applying their classroom knowledge to the real world.

Since taking over Seattle Bagel Bakery (SBB), Ghambari has continued to deliver a high quality product – “old school kettle-boiled bagels.” But it’s not only the product that is prospering; SBB prides itself on the relationships it builds with their suppliers, customers and employees. All the employees have been with the company from five to 15 years. “We instill a strong sense of ownership in our employees – they feel empowered to do what they’re good at. And that really comes out in the product.”

Ghambari said he hopes to double sales revenue of SBB in the next three to five years, and “not just to make a quick buck, but sustainable growth.” In order to do this, he emphasized how SBB needs to look at its strategy and how it is growing. “We need to grow smarter, not harder,” he said. The BEDC Summer Internship Program is providing this. Student consultant Cynthia Chiou has been creating a “clearer, more focused strategy on growing business outside of the state of Washington,” said Ghambari.

“Everything the student and BEDC said they would do, they have done…they walk the walk,” said Ghambari. He recommends this program for “any small business looking for mentoring and guidance, a second opinion. It’s a great group of people to bounce ideas off of.”

Twelve businesses participated in the summer intern consulting program. Learn more about the companies.