All posts by Alanté Fields

Checking in on YEOC: The January and February Sessions

January: iCreate
Imagine going to a meeting and finding out that you and your team must write, film and produce a commercial for a client within a few hours. How do you think you’d do? This is exactly what Young Executives of Color (YEOC) students were tasked with during their January session. Upon arriving to campus, students were separated into groups, paired with a mentor and presented with iCreate. According to Korrie Miller, YEOC Program Manager, “iCreate allows students to create their own commercial for a client that follows their branding, strategy and business goals.” The client in this case was APLUS Youth, a non-profit based in Washington state that focuses on character development and education through sports. “APLUS Youth is launching a new running program and asked the YEOC students to act as consultants and create not only commercials (on our YouTube Channel), but also fresh ideas for their program,” says Miller.  Watch the session video below:

February: Information Systems
This session’s business activity was inspired by the ABC Show “Shark Tank.” When describing the project, Miller says, “On the show, investors called “sharks” consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product. At YEOC, students decided on a problem they wanted to solve and came up with creative solutions involving technology. Each team presented their product in front of the sharks, who were professionals from EY (YEOC sponsors).” Students also heard lectures on social image and online correspondence and information systems. Watch the session video below (and don’t miss the Seahawks gear!):

This blog post is a part of a series focusing on monthly YEOC student activities. Visit the YEOC page to learn more about the program.

CEOs and investment bankers give a rare glimpse into the IPO and M&A process

This event was hosted by Neal Dempsey, the Foster School’s visiting 2013-2014 Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership.

You’ve probably seen the headline; “Major company goes public.” Perhaps you’ve even heard the breathless analysis that follows when said company’s stock prices decrease. What you’re probably less likely to hear or read in the news are the debates between CEOs and investment bankers, the strategy CEOs use to discuss going public with their employees, and how bankers negotiate stock price. These are the exact conversations current Fritzky Chair Neal Dempsey had in mind when he invited Vice Chair of JP Morgan Chase Cristina Morgan, former Eloqua CEO Joe Payne, Guidewire CEO Marcus Ryu and Head of Capital Markets at JP Morgan Chase Mike Millman to participate in a panel discussion on the IPO and M&A process. Moderated by Foster Professor Jennifer Koski, the panelists gave what is probably the most inside view possible of going public. Below are a few of the questions they tackled:

How do companies decide they’re ready to go public?
All of the panelists agreed that there are several things you must take in to consideration before making a final decision. For Ryu, it is asking one’s self, “Why do you want to go public?” Payne agreed, adding “Going public as a sole goal is an empty goal.” When preparing to take Eloqua public, Payne said that he and his colleagues spent a lot of time thinking about their customers and how they would feel about the move. Speaking from the investment bank perspective, Morgan argued that “the worst thing you can do is take a company public before they’re ready.” Furthering this point, Millman said that companies must consider three points before they go public; 1) Currency 2) Branding and 3) Capitol.

How do you maintain enthusiasm among your employees during the IPO process?
Ryu believes it is important for companies to operate with a long-term outlook. Since the stock market isn’t exactly the most steadfast entity, he came up with a two-pronged strategy for communicating with his employees about the IPO process: 1) Talk down the IPO and 2) Get everyone to understand the fickleness of the stock market. Having survived the dot com bubble of the 90s, when CEOs gained —and lost— millions of dollars in a matter of months, Payne had a similar revelation. “The issue of stock prices and IPO is only as important as you make it,” he stated in agreement with Ryu.  In fact, Payne and Ryu said that they both designated a few minutes during staff meetings to answer questions about the IPO.

What is the biggest source of contention when going public?
When discussing the relationship between investment bankers and entrepreneurs, Morgan said “We’re [the investment bankers] representing the buyers as well as the sellers” and that all involved parties act as each other’s “checks and balances.”  Adding, “[There’s a] natural suspicion that the investment bank is slightly more in league with the other side than with the company.” Simply put, bankers are predisposed to believe that the company is trying to get the stock prices higher while the company believes investment bankers are trying to get the price lower.
For Millman, there are three sources of contention:

1)      Evaluation- It’s difficult to educate the company’s board on the IPO.

2)      Employee selling- It can be very confusing for employees to know when and if they should sell.

3)      Fees- Banks will argue with each other on the best way to “divide the pie.”

Speaking to Morgan’s “natural suspicion” comment, Ryu admitted that he was initially skeptical of investment bankers. However, having gone through the IPO process, he now understands the importance of the work they do. Looking to Millman, whom he worked with when Guidewire went public, Ryu stated “I can say emphatically that the fee is well-earned.”

Watch the discussion in its entirety below:

)

When the path isn’t always clear: Congresswoman Suzan DelBene on leadership

“A key part of leading is deciding. Deciding with imperfect data. Deciding when there isn’t always a path that’s clear.”

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene says she came to this particularly astute conclusion while working as a youth football referee. Like her positions at Microsoft and Drugstore.com (she served as vice-president) it provided her with two essential lessons; 1) the importance of decision making when there are still unknowns and 2) a leader must always provide a vision and a path forward.  Further qualifying this belief, the congresswoman stated, “With any organization, people are most effective when they have that vision going forward and they know where they’re heading and they know why they’re heading in that direction.”

A Foster MBA Alum, Congresswoman DelBene says she was inspired to run for Congress during her time at Global Partnerships, a micro-finance non-profit that provides loans to small business owners in Latin America and the Caribbean. After her first run for Congress in 2010 (in which she was unsuccessful) she was appointed by then governor Christine Gregoire to serve as the Director of Washington state’s Department of Treasury. In 2012, she successfully ran for a congressional seat in the newly drawn 1st district. Sitting on the House Judiciary and House Agriculture Committees, DelBene now deals with issues such as copyright laws, biotechnology and more.

Using terminology such as ROI (return on investment), the congresswoman routinely uses her business experience when approaching policy-making. Pointing to the seemingly unending federal budget debate, DelBene believes that too many of her colleagues are plagued by short-term thinking. She argues that Congress should approach budgeting concerns like successful CEOS, focusing on investment and long-term strategy. She points to the indelible benefits and returns from federal programs that invest in early learning, unemployment insurance, research and infrastructure as examples.

During her time at the podium, the congresswoman also stressed the importance of being good stewards of policy and citizen engagement, urging audience members to work in conjunction with business and community leaders to pressure Congress in to action.

Watch some highlights below:

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

YEOC students take on inequity in higher ed and business: The November and December sessions

For one Saturday a month, 145 high school students from across Washington State converge on the UW campus for their monthly YEOC session. YEOC, which stands for Young Executives of Color, is a nine month long college-prep program for sophomore, junior and senior high school students. With an average GPA of 3.47, this group of high-achieving students aims to increase the visibility of an under-served and under-represented population—themselves­— in the college and business worlds. The program provides participants with networking opportunities and a lecture series dubbed YEOC Talks and engages them in business activities.

Each session focuses on a different aspect of business. For the month of November, the session focus was on branding and marketing. YEOC activities consisted of super-hero team skits, a dress for success fashion show and a battle of the brands debate. The sophomore college prep session centered on leadership while the juniors focused on college fit and the seniors reviewed their college applications and essays. The students also heard from YEOC alumna/current mentor Jordan Faralan and Microsoft Product Marketing Manager Leona Locke. Check out some highlights in the student-made video below:

Finance was the well-timed focus for December. YEOC activities included honing their public speaking skills and a financial freedom game with YEOC mentors and community volunteers. The sophomore college prep session was devoted to paying for college while juniors gained insights into scholarships and seniors worked on scholarship essays. Students also attended a mentor lecture on personal finance with UW student Paulos Shiferaw and a YEOC Talk with Wesley Burns, a Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor. Watch some highlights below:

This blog post is first in a series focusing on monthly YEOC student activities. Visit the YEOC page to learn more about the program.

Men in cheaply made gorilla suits: How Avvo used the internet to disrupt the legal business

Mark BrittonDuring his introduction at the November Leaders to Legends Breakfast Series, Dean Jiambalvo jokingly referred to Mark Britton as having “the most dangerous job in the world.” Mark Britton is the founder and CEO of Avvo, a lawyer rating and legal Q&A forum website founded in 2006.

A lawyer with the firm Preston Gates & Ellis, Britton began working with major area clients like Microsoft and its then budding travel spinoff, Expedia. After experiencing what he dubbed the “meteoric growth” of Expedia while serving as their executive vice president of Worldwide Corporate Affairs, Britton decided the travel associated with the position was too much and moved to Italy with his family to teach finance for his undergrad alma matter, Gonzaga. Interestingly, he found that even though he was no longer practicing law, friends and family were still calling him for legal advice. It made him wonder, “Why are all of these smart people lost when it comes to the legal system?” At that time, Britton notes, there was no “Expedia like resource where people could go to get their questions answered.” Thus, Avvo–short for avoocato, the Italian word for lawyer–was born.

Like EBay, Amazon and TripAdvisor, Avvo is rooted in an internet culture where the “expectation has been built where you can converse with your friends [online] about a product and rate it.” And with the advent of Google, Britton adds, we have become accustomed to asking for, receiving and discussing information with zero cost to the consumer. A practice Avvo continues, providing their rating system and Q&A forum to customers for free.

Besides ratings and forums, Avvo provides advertising for lawyers. During his presentation, Britton referred to the “yellow page mode” of advertising. He found that even as recently as nine years ago, lawyers were spending $1 billion dollars in outdated phone book advertising. And to add insult to injury, the advertisements themselves were not good. To the amusement of the audience, Britton included some of the worst offenders, including ads that featured scantily-clad women, men in cheaply made gorilla suits and tricked out cars straight from a ‘Pimp my Ride’ rerun. Jokes aside, Avvo definitely hasn’t gone without controversy.

Towards the end of the lecture, Britton touched on some of the challenges Avvo has faced, including a lawsuit filed against Britton and Avvo a mere nine days after the company launch. Although it was later thrown out, the suit, paired with a year-long stagnation in online traffic and negative press, took a toll on the young CEO. However, Britton believes that the uphill battles built mental fortitude, stating, “The risk of failure, when you’re trying to cut something out of nothing, is approximate.” He also reiterated the importance of self-assurance and steadfastness, saying, “You need to believe and that’s the key. You have to be obsessed with something.”

Avvo currently has six million monthly visits, 160,000 lawyers listed, 10,000 advertisers and 117 employees. When asked about Avvo’s future, Britton stated, “We have a company trying to buy us but we’re not spending a lot time thinking about it…we know we can double our business.”

Mark Britton was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

Hit the ground running

Hayden Krall (BA 2013) is the youngest salesman at Barrier Audi in Bellevue. He’s also one of the best, consistently exceeding his sales goal by several vehicles. Under the title of brand specialist, Hayden is in charge of new sales for Audi, which means his job consists mostly of face to face interaction and building relationships with his clientele, most of whom are a generation or two older. When asked if the age difference between himself and his clients is a hindrance, Hayden takes it in stride saying, “It’s about using what you learn. I feel prepared.”

When it was time to pick an academic focus, Hayden was drawn to what he refers as the “tangible” outcomes of the Sales Program. “Getting placed at a job, as a junior [in college], that’s all you want.” When asked about his success, Hayden points to his professors and time spent role-playing in the Sales Program, stating, “[in sales] you hit the ground running.”

Although, he’s already achieved so much as a brand specialist, Hayden’s goal is to one day start his own business. For prospective sales students, Hayden advises them to “Take it seriously [and] have fun.” He also notes the prestige that comes with completion of the Sales Program, stating “Employers look at you and can tell that you’re ahead.”

Find out more about the Sales Program at the Foster School of Business here.