This fall I had the great honor of being selected as a Young Challenger at this year’s Global Social Business Summit. What’s a Young Challenger? Good question. What’s social business? Now that’s a great question.
Social business is a growing concept where basic for-profit business principles are used to solve social problems. Instead of simply donating money to charity to address an issue, social business involves building a sustainable business around the issue in an attempt to solve the problem in a lasting way. The person who coined this specific term and achieved widespread success is Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank, who developed the idea of microfinance to address poverty in Bangladesh. The Global Social Business Summit is the leading forum for social business worldwide, and brings together experts from corporations, civil society, governments, and academia. The day prior to the summit, selected Young Challengers – youth under 25 from around the world – meet to discuss the concept of social business. They then attend the main summit, armed with questions and perspectives aimed at challenging the political and corporate leaders in attendance, regarding their vision for the future. This year the event was held in Vienna, Austria. And it was amazing.
The Young Challengers’ meeting and the following summit were incredible. To paint a picture of this experience, I got to sit at a table with an investor from Luxembourg, a government professional from the UK, a microfinance manager from Norway, and a corporate executive from Paris, all there to discuss social business funding ideas during an exploratory workshop. I spoke to a social entrepreneur from Bosnia who is using a beekeeping organization to merge communities that are on opposing sides of the Bosnian war conflict from over 15 years ago. I got to know peers from several different countries who are already mobilizing movements to change the world. I presented in front of the Queen of Spain. And, I got to meet Professor Yunus, hear him speak in many sessions, and watch him perform the “Gangnam Style” dance. No joke.
As a humble guy from Renton, Washington, I was positively overwhelmed by my week in Vienna. But, as a recent graduate from Foster School of Business, I was hit with a serious call to action. All of these interactions with so many inspiring and influential professionals showed me that social entrepreneurship is no longer a topic meant to be studied, with only an aspiration of doing “something” in the future. The global stage welcomes entrepreneurs of generation Y to come forward with business ideas that disrupt the current way of doing things, now. I hope to mobilize a social business idea during 2013, and I hope that I am accompanied by other Foster graduates who do the same. Bringing social business into the mainstream of corporate America could define our generation, but not unless young entrepreneurs take action and start something now.
Recently on a trip to the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, I was asked, “how does one lead when they are not sure where they are going?” Many might say, just watch our U.S. politicians if you want to see how! More seriously, the more dynamic environments become, the more likely leaders are going to need to lead not knowing exactly where they are headed. As I thought about this question I went back to a recent trip I had taken to Peru. Peru is one of those South American economies that is shedding its past – recent past in terms of military dictatorships – and growing at a healthy clip, at least for the more educated class in places like Lima. Peru has a rich history that dates back well before many of the world’s other well-known societies, starting with the Incas which are considered one of the modern ‘older’ civilizations. There are two civilizations that pre-dated the Incas going back at least 5,000 years.
As Peru accumulates wealth, it is now able to invest in discovering its past. It is not an overstatement to say the Inca culture, traditions, food and history are becoming an economic force in Peru. Just see Machu Picchu and you will understand what I mean. This is one of the most amazing cities built by the Incas high atop a mountain that is one of the true wonders of the world. Going to Peru and its many historical Inca sites, taught me a lot about how advanced this society was. For example, the Incas knew which foods to eat that had low cholesterol, they knew how to build structures to withstand earthquakes, and they knew how to do brain surgery. And the answer to that question posed to me in London, Ontario lies in how the Incas built buildings. They built buildings by seamlessly integrating them into the rock upon which they were built. The Incas saw mountains as sacred. Rather than dig a big hole and then build the foundation, they built the building into the existing foundation, which took more time and care, but as we can see, lasted longer. This was the case for all buildings throughout Peru, ranging from temples to residences for Inca workers.
How does the Inca foundations help me answer the Ivey question? One must build an authentic foundation for leadership on which the rest of the structure can be created. We see organizations that have no ‘firm or genuine’ foundation, no core values and therefore no solid basis to lead into an unknown future. Many times we have to go backwards in order to move forwards and answer where we are going, which in this case is into the unknown. And I promise I will avoid writing a pop book “7 glorious Inca Principles of Effective Leadership.”
Guest post by Staci Stratton, Evening MBA 2014 She attended the MBA “Perspectives on Leadership” Speaker Series. The speaker was Colleen Brown, CEO of Fisher Communications.
Colleen Brown shared her thoughts on leadership and her personal journey to becoming CEO of Fisher Communications. She talked about how we are a combination of both predisposition and learning how to be a leader. She also said in many cases leadership arises out of necessity. For Brown, she was the eldest girl in her very large family and took on responsibilities like grocery shopping and laundry very early on. She said these experiences helped her to develop a “get it done” attitude she still has today.
She also shared her four important characteristics of leadership:
Character: understand who you are and why you are who you are.
Resilience: develop, if you haven’t already, the ability to get back up after rough periods, mistakes, etc.
Commitment: be committed to who you are and what you believe in. It has the effect of being contagious to others.
Continuity: develop consistency and continuity in your behavior, as this helps your people to know what to expect from you-no surprises.
Brown feels the most important decisions you make on a day to day basis are about PEOPLE, which is why it’s so important to know yourself and be consistent in your behavior.
Watch highlights from Brown’s talk. Here she covers the importance of consistency, Aristotle’s leadership insights, and how to minimize office politics.
The next speaker is Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks, on December 6. Learn more.
For most full-time MBA students, a summer internship can be a major turning point in the program – and in their career. For students, it’s an opportunity to apply newly acquired knowledge and skills, test a new career path, audition for an employer, and (with luck) line up a great job after graduation. Employers get an opportunity to try out a promising recruit, see what the intern can contribute, and determine where he or she will fit best in the organization, if hired. Whether or not an internship results in an offer of employment after graduation, a student can learn a lot about possible career paths, organizational cultures, and types of roles in which he or she is likely to succeed.
It’s not easy to gain access to prime internship opportunities. Foster MBAs are fortunate to have support from the staff at MBA Career Services to aid in the search. The ability to reach out to a large network of alums in major corporations, including Starbucks, Boeing, Amazon.com, Nike, Microsoft and T-Mobile — and in the consulting arms of companies such as Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers – is also a major advantage.
View the videos to learn how nine Foster Full-time MBA students from the class of 2013 lined up internships with major employers and made the most these opportunities.
UW undergrads Hayden Krall, Hannah Hanson, Hanna Klemm, and Megan Smith beat out 20 other schools and won the 2012 “Can’t Beat the Experience” National Team Selling Competition at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Guest post by Megan Smith, UW undergrad and Sales Certificate student
We received the case approximately two weeks before the competition. The case was an internal sale and we were a “special task team” of employees that needed to make a presentation to our company’s CEO and VP of Human Resources. Our company was a research firm called “Abaci.” As the special task team, we were charged with creating a Workplace Wellness Program that introduced a new fitness device: the GetFit wristband.
The two weeks leading up to the competition were filled with preparation, devising plans, and a lot of coaching. We had fantastic support from our coaches and advisers: Jack Rhodes, Jeff Lehman, Joe Vandahey and last year’s NTSC team (Eric Hotaling, Dorine Rassaian, Julie Reynolds, and Neil Carter).
The competition day was split into two presentations: a morning session for needs analysis (15 min) and an afternoon sales presentation (20 min). The need analysis was a meeting with the VP of HR, “Casey” whom we were able to talk to about the issues facing the company, the data we were given, and uncover any other information that wasn’t included in the case description. Discovering all of the company’s needs was vital for success in the afternoon presentation. In the three hours between our morning session and afternoon presentation, we modified our presentation to incorporate the needs uncovered in the morning session and fit in as much practice as we could. We presented our Wellness Program to the company CEO, “Doug,” and our VP of HR, Casey. We addressed all their questions and received approval to implement the program.
Winning was surreal. There are not words to describe the feeling of having many late nights and hours of practice pay off. It is impossible for us to give enough credit to our coaches for their unparalleled support and guidance. Their support in combination with how well our team was able to work together made it possible for us to create a comprehensive and creative Wellness Plan that pulled us through to win. The amount we learned and the enjoyment and excitement of the competition truly made the experience unbeatable. Watch the morning and afternoon sessions.
The Sales Certificate Program at the Foster School provides students with the knowledge and real-world experience necessary to be successful in sales.
Gerard Seijts interviewed Bruce Avolio, professor of management and executive director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking at the Foster School, about his research on leadership. Professor Seijts is executive director of the Institute for Leadership at the Ivey School of Business. In the interview he asked Prof. Avolio what are the big leadership questions that will advance the field.
According to Prof. Avolio, one major question is, “Is the source of leadership followership? If so, in what way?” He goes on to say this isn’t a topic we have delved into because we assume the source of leadership is the leader. But a key discovery in Prof. Avolio’s research is that followers who have a sense of ownership in their work, don’t let their leaders go off the cliff or in other words, make poor decisions.
He also said he can tell a lot about an organization’s leaders without ever meeting its leaders. This is because followers are a reflection of what they see in their leaders. “If followers are independent, willing to challenge, feel safe to do so, own what they are charged with, and feel a deep sense of making it right, they change the leadership lens of the organization.”
Another takeaway from this interview is Prof. Avolio’s finding that financial analysts consider a firm’s leadership when valuing a firm. They can discount a firm anywhere from 5% to 20% based on their perceptions of its leadership.
Today the Foster School held a naming dedication for its newest facility: Dempsey Hall. The building is named after Neal and Jan Dempsey, who have been incredible supporters of the Foster School. Neal is a 1964 alumnus of the Foster School and has been engaged in myriad ways over the years. He has served on the Foster School Advisory Board for more than two decades and is a past chair. Alongside Mike Garvey and Ed Fritzky, he co-chaired the successful Foster School capital campaign that raised $181 million between 2000 and 2008. He has also given over $10M to the Foster School.
Dean Jiambalvo said at the dedication, “Neal is action oriented and unwavering in principle.” When Neal spoke, he called the next generation to action and encouraged them to give their time, energy, and money to the Foster School. He asked everyone in the crowd to raise their hand if they agreed to give back to the Foster School. Everyone’s hands were in the air. Neal took it a step further and shot of video of everyone with their hands raised–proof they would do what they said. He said it’s been a, “fantastic road to the finish line.” And he looks forward to seeing the next generation of supporters give back.
Jennifer Wallis is the Division Manager for Chase Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada. Jennifer is a Foster MBA alum and member of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board.
Tell us a bit about your career in Banking. What do you like the most about your position? Which aspects are the most challenging? I came directly out of the Foster School and went to work for Wells Fargo as a banker to Middle Market companies. Middle market is defined in this case as companies that have annual revenues between $20MM and $1B. I coordinated a team of people to provide a full suite of financial services to middle market companies including credit, investments, cash management, and international financial and trade services. Based on my education and interests I specialized in banking companies that had an international component.
Later I had the opportunity to move to London with the bank to build the Financial Institutions business in the UK, Western Europe and South Africa. In this position I traveled a great deal and was in Europe during the worst of the financial crisis. It was an anxious time. We were all trying to understand the quality of assets held on each other’s balance sheets. Some of my banking partners in Europe had purchased US mortgage assets via special investment vehicles to invest their excess cash and many of those investments included sub-prime assets. Ireland, Greece and Italy were in my territory and each of these countries was showing signs of strain. Banks became cautious about overnight lending to one another and so the ECB and the Bank of England stepped in as did the FED in the USA. It was a fascinating, yet incredibly tense time.
In 2011 I chose to move back to Seattle to be close to my grown children. With the move I accepted a position with JPMorgan Chase back in the Middle Market and am currently the Division Manager for Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada.
Banking financial institutions in Europe was fascinating but I also enjoy the middle market which is why I returned to it. While financial institutions are quite similar, middle market companies are quite different. They are involved in diverse industries, offer distinctive products, local and global, and large and small. Their competition varies as does their competitive advantage in the market in which they conduct business. It is the banker’s responsibility to know his/her client’s business thoroughly – and this is the most interesting part of my job.
The most challenging part of my business is competitively providing what a client needs while maintaining an adequate risk profile for the bank.
What would you tell business students about the world of global business? One of my managers once said, “Everyday the world is getting more global.” While that sounds a bit obvious, it is accurate! These days almost all business has some global component. We get closer and more integrated each year across borders. My advice to business students is to take advantage of opportunities to move beyond your own country and learn all you can. I’m sure they all understand that top management in most companies must have some understanding of global business. There are great opportunities out there in the world, but barriers and pitfalls remain. A strong manager is not naïve about these challenges but is aware of them so he/she can guide his/her business to take advantage of a world full of opportunities.
Read more about Jennifer’s background and experiences.
Meet Jennifer Wallis, Division Manager for Chase Commercial Middle Market Banking for the Eastside, North Puget Sound and Western Canada. Jennifer is a Foster MBA alum and member of the Global Business Center’s Global Business Advisory Board.
What were you like as a young person that set the stage for your career? I didn’t expect to have a career in banking. As a young person I had other interests aside from money. I loved to read and learn about places outside of the USA. We had a number of books in the house that fed this interest. As I grew older, I purchased used travel books from Fodor’s and Lonely Planet and would read them as others would read novels. Throughout school I studied language (French, Spanish, Italian, and German). I majored in International Studies at the University of Washington gaining a BA from the Jackson School.
What made you decide to get an MBA, and what were your most valuable experiences at Foster? I decided to get an MBA because I was returning to the workforce after time off to raise a family. I felt I would be better situated for a strong career with an MBA. I concentrated on Finance, but also earned a certificate in International Business while in the program. My most valuable experiences at Foster have to be the international experiences. I studied in Bangalore, India in my second year and traveled to Indonesia with the first MBA study tour. Even though I tried to prepare by reading as much as I could prior to being on the ground, I always ran into the unexpected. The learning that takes place during these experiences is not necessarily focused on what you would expect to learn in an MBA course. That was why the experiences were so valuable to me.
Can you tell us about the international places you’ve lived, worked, or studied, and some of the things you’ve learned through your global experiences? While in school I lived and studied in Costa Rica and India. I traveled to Indonesia and China with the Foster school MBA study tours. I worked and lived in the UK and covered the UK, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Greece, Cyprus and Africa and spend considerable amounts of time in each country. I learned that you can never underestimate the impact of culture in business or in personal interactions. I always assume that I know this, but then I will unexpectedly encounter a misunderstanding or simply a different way of looking at things that I did not expect.
Read more about Jennifer’s experience working in Europe during the financial crisis.
How a UW technology becomes a startup and its developer an entrepreneur, with a little help from a lot of friends around the Foster School and beyond
It began with a problem. A glaring inefficiency of the modern hospital that is as pervasive as it is puzzling.
In this age of digitized everything, the status of virtually every patient in virtually every medical department in America is manually tracked by erasable marker on an overcrowded white board.
Such a simple, central organizational hub works great as a framing device for the bustling casts of ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and other fictional hospital dramas. But in the real ward, it makes for a shockingly outdated nerve center—error prone, incomplete, and far too taxing of staff time better spent on patient care.
Ben Andersen (TMMBA 2012) understood this completely when he took up the challenge of modernizing the tracking system in the department of surgery at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. Before enrolling in the Technology Management MBA Program at the Foster School of Business, Andersen was a perceptive young IT guy working on the informatics team at Harborview, a branch of the UW Medicine Health System.
Fast forward a few years and his one-off solution has become a nascent company called PatientStream with broad ambitions in the $2.5 trillion health care industry.
Andersen’s jump from developer to entrepreneur is a study in technology commercialization at the University of Washington—of an innovator who is educated, mentored, focus-grouped, funded, challenged and championed by a fabric of experts and entrepreneurial organizations around and affiliated with the UW at large and the Foster School in particular. Complementary nodes in an ever-expanding network.
When Harborview opened a second surgery site four years ago, coordinating patients and medical staff on twin white boards proved unwieldy, to say the least.
The job of finding a solution fell to Andersen. He first sought an off-the-shelf fix, but found it didn’t exist. So he offered to custom-build a solution. And his entrepreneurial manager, Peter Ghavami, gave him the green light.
Andersen immersed himself in activity around the white boards. “I wanted to capture their language, every mark they made,” he says.
His solution was deceptively simple: an electronic patient tracking and operations management system that drew and displayed information from existing hospital systems on a flat-screen television (or any networked computer). A digital white board.
It was useful. More importantly, it was usable.
“Normally when we roll out a new system, there are groans and moans and no one wants to learn it,” Andersen says. “When we implemented the digital whiteboard, after about five minutes of training they said, ‘That’s it? I can do that.’ Support calls were almost non-existent.”
The Electronic Whiteboard (EWB), as Andersen named the digital display system, worked from the start. Easy to use. Effective. Efficient. Patient waits fell markedly. Accuracy increased. Medical staff no longer had to cruise the white board all day to track their schedule. And administrators could view instant metrics on operations and performance.
Word spread quickly. Other departments began clamoring for the EWB, first at Harborview, then the UW Medical Center. Today, over 50 departments throughout the UW Medicine system are running on the EWB.
“When I began getting request after request from other departments, I realized that this is a need that’s not being met,” Andersen says. “Maybe this deserved to be in other hospitals as well.”
Andersen had founded a company before. It was the right-place-wrong-time story of a workflow management firm serving property management/landscaping companies—launched unsuccessfully at the start of a historic housing crash.
Delivering a kindred tech solution to the health care industry, he knew, would be exponentially harder.
But Andersen held a few advantages. He had an author’s knowledge of the software and a proven track record of implementations in real hospitals. And he was enrolled in the Foster School’s TMMBA Program where he added a full suite of management skills that would be essential for a software developer to make the jump to CEO.
Suresh Kotha’s technology entrepreneurship class, in particular, was pivotal to Andersen’s ambitions. The course helped discern whether the opportunity and technology were market-worthy, yielded a working business plan, and, most importantly, demystified the entrepreneurial process for Andersen, equipping him with the requisite confidence to start a business.
“I build my course around the premise that there is nothing special about entrepreneurs—they are not some superior beings,” says Kotha, the Foster School’s Olesen/Battelle Excellence Chair in Entrepreneurship. “They simply have the skill set and confidence to do it. And these can be developed.”
Andersen got one more essential from the TMMBA Program: a team. He assembled an entrepreneurial A-Team of classmates expert in each function that would be critical to developing the business: Marc Brown on sales and custom support, Jason Imani on marketing, Anoop Gupta on technology, and Glen Johnson on finance.
Andersen found the experience exhilarating from the opening investment round, a kind of entrepreneurial trade show where 36 start-up teams fast-pitch to more than 200 roving judges over four crazy hours. “The pitch we started with and the pitch we ended with were radically different,” Andersen says. “We learned to key in on the part of the story that made their eyes light up.”
In a word, traction. More than 50 installations across three medical centers, each one delivered on-demand. Andersen polished the narrative until it was irresistible. “Ben started with a very real problem, came up with an elegant and efficient solution, and demonstrated a tremendous capacity for making people understand what he was out to do,” says Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the Buerk Center. “He has a compelling story to tell.”
That story took Xylemed to the final four, where it won the $10,000 second prize. “The money was great,” Andersen says. “But much more valuable are the connections that we made.”
“That’s a wise assessment for an early entrepreneur to have,” says Aaron Coe (MBA 2003), one of those connections. “There’s great value in connecting with people who add knowledge, add perspective, and challenge assumptions.”
Coe, a Foster MBA grad who helped launch 2003 BPC champion Nanostring and had an even bigger success with a pharma company called Calistoga, coached Xylemed before the semifinal, then later secured them a spot at the Technology Alliance’s Innovation Showcase.
There were many others. The team’s semifinal judges included investor Greg Gottesman of Madrona Ventures and serial entrepreneur Terry Drayton of Rainier Software and HomeGrocer.com. Both opened their personal networks to Andersen. “I’ve been amazed at the caliber of people who approached me and offered their help,” he says.
It’s no surprise to Bourassa-Shaw. At the end of the day, the Buerk Center is in the connection business.
The UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) is in the licensing business. When Andersen’s digital white board first reached the inbox of Angela Loihl, associate director of technology licensing, she shopped it around to a variety of software and health care companies. It’s a common corporate strategy to cherry pick R&D out of university labs, and C4C has negotiated more than 100 licensing agreements of UW intellectual property since 2005.
Recently, Loihl says, an increasing number of faculty and staff are expressing interest in launching their own ventures around their innovations and discoveries. So the C4C has evolved into a hybrid transaction/partnership model—a kind of bus dev team for researchers and innovators.
After the digital white board found no initial takers, Andersen—by this time well into the TMMBA Program—began changing the conversation. What if he sold the software himself?
And while Loihl oversaw the negotiation to license Andersen’s software, she also served as advisor, advocate and fan. “It was obvious that Ben had been taught well at the Foster School,” she says. “He came to us prepared, asked the right questions, and knew exactly what he wanted to get out of every meeting—in the nicest possible way.”
The kind of entrepreneur you want to root for.
Today, Andersen is a recent Foster grad, a former employee of Harborview, and a full-time entrepreneur. He has rechristened his company PatientStream, a name that sounds less like a pharmaceutical and more like a software company that tracks hospital cases. He’s incorporated the business, finalizing license negotiations, developing a mobile app, seeking investors, and closing in on several key hires.
Even on his own—his TMMBA colleagues have returned to their lives and livelihoods—Andersen is still breathing the rich air of the UW’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Success in the Business Plan Competition earned PatientStream a spot in the Jones Milestones/Foster Accelerator, a resource that provides expert mentoring and advising, work space in the Buerk Center’s new Herbold Innovation Lab, and a chance to earn up to $25,000 in additional seed funding if Andersen can achieve several important milestones over the next few months.
He’s pitching for considerably more money from the newly instituted W Fund. The public-private partnership aims to invest nearly $20 million over the next four years in promising start-ups spinning out of the UW and other research institutions across the state.
For PatientStream, a business that needs to act fast and first, a small slice of that pie would be a veritable feast.
Time will tell whether his company’s promise is proven on the open market, in the notoriously difficult-to-crack health care industry. But Andersen has a viable technology, a running start, an ever-expanding network of powerful allies, and a robust entrepreneurial education, in and out of the classroom.
“Between the incredibly rare opportunity to develop a technology in a hospital IT department, the skills and confidence that the TMMBA Program gave me to start a company, and the networking that came out of the Business Plan Competition,” he says, “the past few years have been a perfect storm.”
Perhaps the most telling testament to Andersen’s growth was his preview presentation of PatientStream, by all reports outstanding, to the newly formed W Fund investment committee—an intimidating collection of the region’s premier entrepreneurs and investors.
“To go in front of these guys as a young IT guy and hold your own is pretty impressive,” says fund investor Dave Marver, the former CEO of Cardiac Science. “Ben wasn’t intimidated in the least.”
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