In the research world, the emphasis on statistically significant research results is so strong that often the art of the research process gets left behind. Luckily, a team of researchers at the School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management (STHM) at Temple University recently offered a unique behind-the-scenes look at how they are advancing the commonly accepted research methods in their field.

Collaborative Self-Study: An Innovative Qualitative Research Method

Lead researcher Bradley Baker, PhD ‘17, found there was a lack of substantial progress in innovative methods, especially qualitative, in the sport management field. The antidote to this “lack of creativity, theoretical impact, and practical relevance” is to look past the traditional qualitative and quantitative approaches to embrace a novel way to do research: collaborative self-study.

Collaborative self-study, Baker explains, is a type of qualitative research where researchers study themselves and their own social environment, as opposed to traditional methods where the researcher is a separate, objective onlooker. While this method is still relatively new, it has already been embraced by similar fields, such as the sociology of sport. It provides a unique potential to break through barriers of access to data and research participants, while encouraging a deeper self-reflection by the researchers and strong collaboration between team members.

In their paper, “Collaborative self-study: Lessons from a study of wearable fitness technology and physical activity,” Baker and his co-authors—current STHM doctoral students Xiaochen Zhou and Anthony Pizzo; James Du, PhD ’17, and Professor Daniel Funk—use their experience with this method to advise future researchers on when and how it may provide additional, unique insights. Published in a special issue of the Sport Management Review focused on contemporary qualitative research methods, their paper gives an insider view on how the method worked in practice: “[researchers] ask research questions,” says Pizzo. “But the way we get at that data, that is the focus of this paper. It’s the story behind the story.”

Experiencing the Experiment

Seven sport management graduate students formed a research team to look into how collaborative self-study could be used as a research method. The team consisted of a mix of genders, ages, fitness levels, ethnicities, and professional backgrounds.

Each member received an Apple Watch to wear for one month to record their experiences, thoughts, and exercise levels in a daily journal. The team later shared their experiences in group discussions, identifying common themes found while interacting with the technology, such as social value and attention, influence on physical activity, and anxiety. The experiment gave them a deeper insight into using collaborative self-study as a research method, specifically the possible advantages and disadvantages.

Reflecting on Self-Study: Transparency, True Experience, and Teamwork

On the benefits side, the researchers stated their data had deeper insights and it was faster and more efficient to collect than traditional methods. By not having a barrier—physical, temporal, cultural, or otherwise—between themselves and participants, the researchers had a potentially unlimited, unfiltered data source. Additionally, discussing as a team provided an environment where they could further elaborate on their experiences, stimulate reflection in others, and bond. This collaborative discussion made the data insights more thorough than a simple content analysis of journals, as the researchers were able to clarify their experiences through reflecting on the experiences of others.  

However, breaking the barrier between researcher and participant, though innovative, brings up questions of ethics and validity of data, as well as privacy and data security.

“Objectivity is the dominant tradition,” Baker says, “but now things are changing. […] Even what research question you are asking is already breaking absolute objectivity. In all studies, but especially in self-study, you have to be very transparent in your role and your perspective, what biases get integrated in your data.”

In order to ensure data validity, the researchers combined the deep reflection of self-study and the collaborative aspect of using multiple voices to combat the assumed presence of unchallenged assumptions, or researcher “blind spots.” Another possible detraction of this method is the nature of collaborative work: the need to agree, compromise, and end up with a coherent narrative formed by many different voices. This is where in-depth discussion and making sure all voices were heard helped enhance the experience.

Though having pros and cons like any other research method, collaborative self-study gives unique insights into people’s lived experiences and should be considered a valid method in any researcher’s arsenal. “Our hope is that the current work provides a measure of guidance regarding key ethical issues, benefits, challenges, and opportunities inherent to the approach,” Baker says. “We encourage other researchers to consider the potential benefits of collaborative self-study for their own research.”

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The Fox School of Business Alumni Association (FSBAA) held an election for new leadership at its annual meeting in May.

Four new directors-at-large were elected and, along with the six other directors-at-large and the executive committee, they will help the FSBAA plan events, develop professional development opportunities, manage the budget, and much more.

We spoke with the new directors-at-large to learn more about their involvement in FSBAA and the one piece of advice that changed their lives.

 

Sasha Buddle

Sasha Buddle, BBA ’16

Job: Human resources system specialist, AmeriGas; Supply specialist, U.S. Army; Fox School MS candidate

Best thing about FSAA: “I love the alumni association. There is a wide variety of events—like seeing individuals who are also successful and have the same educational background as me—and it really shows that greatness does not quit. And I love the ability to network with and meet new people I did not have a class with.”

Best advice ever received: “To be myself—to be my true and best self. This advice has stuck with me for years and at times when I feel like I have nothing more to give, I remember I am not a quitter and if I ever quit I am not being myself. I may fail, which gives me a chance to learn and try again, but I never quit.”

Fun fact: “I was born and raised in Jamaica. And I love dancing, even though I was never taught professionally.”

 

Anuja Deshmukh

Anuja Deshmukh, BBA ’09

Job: Manager of business systems analysts and product development, Change Healthcare

Best thing about FSAA: “Meeting people: alumni from different graduating years, alumni working in different industries and jobs, families of alum. Temple Owls really are everywhere!”

Best advice ever received: “It has come to me in different forms of an Epictetus quote that goes, ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.’”

Fun fact: “Most people are surprised to learn I was born in Louisiana even though I’ve been in the Philadelphia area since I was five-years-old.”

 

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson, CLA ’14, MBA ’17

Job: Director of finance and administration, Philadelphia Futures

Best thing about FSAA: “I love connecting with and learning from fellow alumni across Fox’s powerful network.”

Best advice ever received: “Take ownership in everything you do.”

Fun fact: “The first time I left the country was on an international immersion trip with the Fox School. We went to India and it was really inspiring. You have this massive country with such rich history and vibrant culture, thousands of years old, that is also a world leader in disruptive innovations in technology and engineering. There is also a tremendous energy, optimism, and ambition among entrepreneurs and business leaders that is infectious.”

 

Corey Lewis

Corey Lewis, BBA ’17

Job: Global brand digital assistant, Essity

Best thing about FSAA: “The ability to be involved. Fox has contributed immensely to my professional development and it’s an honor to give back and pay it forward.”

Best advice ever received: “It came from my business ethics professor: The hardest thing to do is usually the right thing to do.”

Fun fact: “When I was a kid, I worked on ‘The Sixth Sense’ with a few of the set designers, but not on set. The movie itself was filmed in various parts of Philadelphia, with Bruce Willis’ character living on Delancey Street in Society Hill. We were in Maryland picking up some vintage pieces from a local auction in Crumpton, Maryland. My role as a 15-year-old was to mostly help move these heavy pieces from Maryland to a storage location. It was a short assignment, but an experience I was able to take advantage of due to some very exceptional networking on my part.”

Learn more about the Fox School of Business Alumni Association.

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Dave Covington talks with students in Alter Hall.

When Fox School students return to Alter Hall to begin Fall classes, they may notice someone is missing. Recessed lighting still brightens the lobby, but an electric smile no longer lights up the room—the smile’s owner being now-retired security guard Dave Covington.

To know Covington is to have experienced a warm, light-hearted greeting each day.

“Good morning!”

“Howdy do?”

“You’re going to be late for class!”

Wednesdays seemed to be Covington’s favorite day, as he would utter his iconic line, “Happy Hump Day,” to greet the masses at the week’s midway point.

Since Alter Hall opened in 2009, Covington has been its gatekeeper. He began his career at Temple University on July 17, 1977, in the bookstore. Then he worked in Speakman Hall through the 1980s.

“I worked in shipping and receiving for three years,” he said. “Some of my fondest memories there were the Christmas parties we had—after the boss left, we sang Christmas carols over the PA system.”

After a switch to a “nice, easy job” in security on December 3, 1980, Covington was in for a surprise.

“They threw me to the wolves,” he said. “My first assignment was the dorms—J&H, 1300, Peabody, and McGonigle. Finally I told them, I need help!”

Encouraged by his colleagues to enter the Temple Municipal Police Academy, Covington completed the training in 1984 as part of the “Centennial” class of officers. However, he eventually returned to TU Security and was promoted to work in Speakman Hall, the business school building before Alter Hall was built.

“I’ve met some good folks in security over the years,” he said. “We used to have annual cookouts in Fairmount Park.”

Even with his salt and pepper hair and kind expression, there have been a few people who have dared to get past Covington. As a self-described “customer service” security guard, Covington has experienced people trying to push past, sneak by, or ask to “use the bathroom.” His years of service have added up to an instinct that is rarely wrong.

“I’ve learned to trust my gut,” he said.

Covington, a diehard Philadelphia sports fan who earned a certificate in small business while working at Fox, grew up at 35th and Allegheny. As his city has changed, he has watched Temple and Fox do the same.

“It’s like an obstacle course around here,” he said. “There are so many new buildings.”

Over the years, food at Temple has been a pastime for Covington. He’ll miss gyros from Ernie’s Lunch Truck—a beloved food truck that’s tenure on campus hasn’t matched Covington’s, yet—the most. He liked his quick breakfasts of sausage, egg, and cheese in the quiet, secluded third floor PhD lab.

Retirement, for Covington, will take some getting used to. With a songlike rhythm to his voice, he spoke about what lies ahead. He’s been an early riser for the past 41 years, with a 6:30 a.m. roll call at Temple each day. His morning pleasantries, doled out by the hundreds for decades, will now be shared with just one special person: his wife, Naomi, a Temple graduate.

“She’s already got a honey-do list at home in Mount Airy,” he said.

An endless stream of well-wishers had kind words of farewell for Covington on his last morning in mid-August.

“I’ll miss messing with the pizza guys that came in to deliver at the student organization events,” he said. “Temple’s been good to me—what a journey, what a journey.”

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Just a few short months ago, Joël Da Piedade, Nassera Seghrouchni, and Habibou Djima met as classmates in their Fox Executive MBA program in Paris, France. Today, they are business partners. These three EMBA graduates decided to take the work from their capstone project and create an actual consulting company.

“Our capstone customer was the COO of a French [tourism] organization,” explains Nassera. “We rapidly developed a consulting relationship while doing the strategic audit. We enjoyed the collaboration together, how we managed the challenges constructively to successfully help the COO transform his organization and manage the risks.”

Throughout their experience working on the capstone project, Joël, Nassera, and Habibou soon realized the market need for a dynamic tourism consulting firm. The group researched several existing companies experiencing similar challenges faced by their capstone customer. This demonstrated there was a significant opportunity coming to fruition.

The most impactful part of the group’s capstone experience was the individual relationships they created. Joël quotes the group-spirit, learning from his classmates, and challenging each other as the most memorable part of his capstone experience. “Each of us was engaged to deliver the best [product] and help each other.” The support provided by their teammates gave the group the confidence to take their capstone project to the next level and launch their company.

“Axiom Et Associes is a consulting firm in strategy and transformation,” says Nassera. “The goal is to help organizations such as SMEs [and] non-profits define and implement their strategies and transform by being innovative, ambitious and pragmatic. Axiom Et Associes provides consulting and solutions in transformation (360, digital), customer experience, operation excellence, and business development strategies.”

Learn more about the Fox Executive MBA program.

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“Life is a boomerang,” exclaimed Anthony J. McIntyre, BBA ’80, during his keynote speech Thursday for the Fox School of Business’ 2018 graduation ceremony at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.

McIntyre, speaking to more than 1,200 Fox School undergraduate and graduate students earning degrees, as well as an arena packed with friends and families, was discussing how important it is for those who are successful to give back.

This was one of the many lessons offered to the Class of 2018 by McIntyre, the chairman of the Mid-Atlantic region for international insurance brokerage and risk management firm Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., and a member of Temple’s Board of Trustees.

Find Out Where These 2018 Fox School Grads Are Going Next

He also discussed the importance of finding the right work-life balance, and spending time with family while simultaneously achieving professional goals. The Temple alumnus referred to his own family as an “Owl Family”—his wife and one of his daughters also graduated from Temple.

McIntyre talked about the importance of taking risks. “When you take risks, you reach your full potential,” he said, nodding to the innovative spirit of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. And he emphasized that taking risks makes you a better, stronger leader.

The student speaker was Kasey Brown, BBA ’18, a Management Information Systems major and member of the Association for Information Systems, a student professional organization.

Kasey Brown, BBA ’18.

“Like many of you,” said Brown about her time at the Fox School, “I discovered I had a deep desire to use the power of business to serve the poor. Here at Fox, I found my own definition of greatness right there, at the intersection of business and service. Right in the sweet spot between skill and kindness, hard work and charity.”

Brown’s next move will be to Wisconsin, where she will work as a Catholic missionary.

“Though your journey toward greatness may be confusing and challenging and hard to explain, one thing I know for sure is that, thanks to the Fox School of Business, you have everything you need to reach it,” Brown said. “You are an exceptional group of people, with endless talent, and an unquenchable thirst for helping others—and you’ve already changed the world.”

For more stories and news, follow the Fox School on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Alumni of the Fox School of Business at Temple University gathered with business leaders and guests at the Second Annual Accounting Achievement Awards on May 2, 2018, to celebrate their shared Fox School heritage and honor five noteworthy graduates of the Department of Accounting.

The annual event provided a great opportunity for the Fox School community to connect with fellow alumni from classes spanning 50 years, as well as make new industry contacts, meet current faculty and students, and learn about the recent achievements of the Department of Accounting at The Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia.

Among the nearly 250 guests were five alumni who received awards reflective of their impressive professional careers and civic service in the Greater Philadelphia region:

  • Rising Star Award — Kapish Vanvaria, Senior Manager, EY
  • Public Accounting Award — Robert W. Fesnak, CPA, Partner, RSM LLP
  • Corporate Award — Kathleen C. Bock, CPA, Principal and Head of The Americas Region, The Vanguard Group
  • Community Service Award — Harris L. Devor, CPA, Partner, Friedman LLP
  • Lifetime Achievement Award — Wayne O. Leevy, CPA, Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer, StoneRidge Investment Partners

The excitement of the honorees was obvious and their positive energy contagious as each expressed appreciation for the Fox School and enthusiasm in being recognized by their alma mater.

“There are many successful and accomplished accountants who are Temple Alumni.  Many of them are sitting here tonight.  So I am honored and thrilled to have received this award,” stated Robert Fesnak, Partner for RSM LLP as he reflected upon receiving the 2018 Fox School of Business Accounting Achievement Award for Public Accounting.

“I am ecstatic about being honored by Temple University with the Community Service Award because, for more than any other reason, it has little to do with accounting and everything to do with Community Service,” stated Harris Devor as he received his award. “If I had one thing to tell those young people here tonight, it would be that your achieving success does not make it optional, but instead obligates you to help those who never had those same opportunities, that is, if you believe that we are here in this world to achieve justice for all. Think about the impact you can have on those who cannot advocate for themselves, like low income seniors, like those frightfully short on food, clothing and shelter. Never, never forget that obligation.”

In addition to engaging and reconnecting with alumni and friends, attendees also supported the next generation of accounting professionals by raising funds for the Accounting Achievement Awards Term Scholarship Fund, a scholarship created to support high-achieving accounting students in pursuing their undergraduate and Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degrees.

Eric Press, Chairman of the Department of Accounting, noted that “Several of the honorees at the  Second  Annual Accounting Achievement Awards made it a point to ask the audience to work for social justice and equity causes. Not only Harris Devor, but Kathleen Bock and Wayne Leevy shared their experiences as gender and racial minorities, and emphasized how satisfying it was to receive recognition for career-long efforts from the Fox School.  Another aspect of the event was the opportunity to reconnect with lost friends, faculty, and acquaintances.”

The Third Annual Accounting Achievement Awards is slated to take place in Spring 2019. The nomination process will open in Fall 2018.

There is still time to support the Accounting Achievement Awards Term Scholarship Fund. You can contribute online at www.giving.temple.edu/givetoaccounting


Learn more below about this year’s winners and their connection and affinity for the Fox School and click their names to watch videos.

2018 ACCOUNTING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

Kapish Vanvaria received the Rising Star Award, presented to a public or private accounting professional who has demonstrated leadership skills and a commitment to the Fox School. Vanvaria, BBA ’09, is excelling as a senior manager in EY’s advisory practice in Philadelphia.

Robert Fesnak, CPA, received the Public Accounting Award, presented to a professional for outstanding success in the public accounting sector. Fesnak, BBA ’78 and MBA ’90, is a partner and management consulting leader with RSM in Philadelphia; furthermore, he has served as a board member for several companies and organizations, including the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies, where he is currently a member of the board of directors.

Kathleen Bock, CPA, received the Corporate Award, presented to an executive-level professional who has reached a level of success in the non-public accounting profession. This individual has primary responsibility for the financial statements or operations of their organization and has demonstrated technical and/or industry expertise. Bock, BBA ’86, is a member of The Vanguard Group’s International Leadership Team and Head of the Americas Region, where she is responsible for all aspects of The Vanguard Group’s businesses in Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Harris Devor, CPA, received the Community Service Award for outstanding contributions to the accounting profession and local communities. Devor, BBA ’73, is a partner at Friedman LLP. He has served both the Philadelphia and Jewish community in various leadership positions including: President, Gershman YM/YWHA; Board of Directors, Senior Law Center; Chairman, Greater Philadelphia American Israel Public Affairs Committee (“AIPAC”) Leadership Council; and member of AIPAC National Council, Board of Trustees; Federation of Jewish Agencies.

Wayne Leevy, CPA, received the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to a professional who has advanced the accounting profession through their sustained leadership in public accounting, business, or academic communities. Leevy, BBA ’66 and MBA ’97, has had a distinguished career in the Philadelphia area, demonstrating professional excellence as a managing partner and vice chairman of Mitchell & Titus LLP and currently as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of StoneRidge Investment Partners LLC, all while actively participating and holding leadership positions in both civil service and the accounting community.

The Stone family is celebrating two new doctors.

Thomas W. Stone and Thomas J. Stone, father and son, both complete their doctoral programs this month, successfully defending their dissertations for Temple University’s Fox School and the College of Liberal Arts, respectively.

For many, completing a doctoral degree is a long, solitary process of researching and writing. For the Stones, while their research topics and processes were distinct, they experienced this journey together.

The elder Stone, graduating as part of the Fox School’s Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) 2018 cohort, completed his dissertation on the productivity of lean software development. Working alongside his cohort and with managers at his former company (previously Siemens Healthcare, now Cerner), Stone enjoyed his interacting with other business professionals in pursuit of his degree. “I began writing on this topic when I started in the DBA program three years ago and spent years developing it while working at Siemens,” says Stone. “The Fox School does a great job of building up to the dissertation.” He praises his advisor, Sudipta Basu, and his cohort classmates for their encouragement throughout the experience.

The younger Stone completed his doctoral degree in the College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Spanish and Portuguese. He studied how Latin American authors address historical events in their narratives and critique the “great man” theory, which treats the biography of notable men as the basis of history , under the guidance of his long-time advisor, Dr. Hortensia Morell. “These writers understand characters as part of both fiction and historical writing,” he says. The works are narratives about four Latin American individuals: Aztec emperor Montezuma, political leader Simón Bolívar, explorer Christopher Columbus, and revolutionary Che Guevara.

The pair empathized with each other’s experiences, understanding the challenges they faced and celebrating the completion of milestones. While they embarked on their own research journeys—father running field experiments and collecting and analyzing data, and son diving into literature with support from his advisor—the two shared a support system. “We both struggled to get through this,” says the father, “but we made it to the finish line together.”

The father’s pride is evident. He applauds the younger Stone’s success, praising his diligent work ethic in completing this accomplishment on his own terms. Both father and son will graduate together May 10 at Temple University’s 131st Commencement.

The elder Stone felt lucky to have his son go through this process with him. “He reminded me to order my cap and gown,” Stone laughs.

Learn more about the Fox School’s Executive Doctorate in Business Administration program.

For more stories and news, follow the Fox School on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sheila Ireland, BBA ’93, was recently appointed the executive director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Workforce Development. “There is no one better suited to lead this work than Ms. Ireland,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a press release. “She comes with decades of experience in workforce development, including national recognition for her expertise in coordinating industry partnerships. Her ability to understand and address the needs of industry in a way that is also acutely aware of the challenges facing Philadelphia residents will serve the people and businesses of our city well.”

Ireland, who majored in Human Resources at the Fox School and earned a master’s degree at La Salle University, has worked for many years in human resources and workforce development in both the public and private spheres. Her previous position was as deputy director of the City’s Workforce and Diversity Inclusion program.

We recently spoked to Ireland about her new position and some of the goals of the newly established Office of Workforce Development. She also gave some advice to high school students heading to college, and to college students heading off to new jobs after graduation.

What’s the biggest challenge of your new role?

“In order to implement the strategy, it’s going to require systems change. A lot of times when we look at Workforce Development, it’s program-based or service-based, and it’s based on a certain set of participants. But in this case, when you look at the strategy the way I look at it, it’s about systems alignment. When you see all the metrics, the ones for me that will really change things, will be where systems start to change and be more coordinated. Funding streams in the City of Philadelphia really need to be organized around quality, delivery, and services, where now it’s a hodgepodge of different things. Shared goals and common data systems are in the plan, and those will make a big difference that we’ll see in unemployment in Philadelphia.”

What excites you most about this position?

“What’s most exciting is that, in the city’s history, I’ve never seen the major players come to the table together like they are now. You never see the School District, and Philadelphia Youth Network, and Philadelphia Works, etc., at the same table talking about how we, as collaborators, can affect change in the city. It’s usually this conversation where if you put a lot of people into the same room a fight breaks out. Everyone advocates for their particular issue and it always ends up being that kind of conversation. We never have the conversation where we realize all these different services need to be offered in coordination so people can lift themselves out of poverty or return to employment. I think for the first time we’re starting to have that conversation, about how education connects with employment, and how workforce connects to employment. We’ve had those conversations before, but never in a coordinated way. We’re doing that now.”

Sheila Ireland, BBA ’93, executive director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Workforce Development

I read “Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine,” the new citywide workforce strategy, and I noticed a big emphasis throughout on long-term job training. Now, with traditional pathways to employment and promotion structures eroding, and the rise of the gig economy, and so on, how do you accommodate for those changes through the lens of long-term job training?

“I’ll ask you to look at it differently. The center is the career pathways model. The focus is that it’s informed by the way people usually go through their careers versus the reality. The myth is, you go to college, you do well; you get a job, you do well; you advance, you advance, you advance. The reality is those people’s careers are more like Slinkys. Stuff happens. Bad stuff happens. Unemployment happens. Industries contract. Enron. I could go on and on. People need the opportunity to partake in a system where there are entry and exit points no matter what the skill level. If you look at the career ladder, it starts at very low skill. Things like First Step Staffing, whose sole focus is getting people off the street and employed in two weeks is one end of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum is when we talk about our tech industry partnerships, where people talk about the real digital skills required to engage in what is one of the fastest growing sectors in Philadelphia and the country. So we’re talking about this systems based approach where, wherever you are, we as a city need to provide you to the resources you need to connect to work.”

As Philly high school students enter college, what skills do you think the city needs its future employees to have, and what should they be studying?

“It’s interesting that you say that because I normally get a different question. I normally get the question about how is Workforce connected to kids going to college, and the answer is they need the same skills. People use a lot of different terminology: soft skills, power skills, twenty-first century skills, etc. It’s emotional intelligence and the ability to delay gratification. It’s the ability to work effectively in a team. Team work says you don’t always get your way, that you work toward a common goal. It’s all connected. This is what employees look for, and they’re the hardest skills to get. It’s much easier to focus on tech skills, or quantitative skills. Really, the skill is about how to build a career, and how to envision moving away from the now and seeing the bigger picture of where you could be. I remember my first job, I worked for money, and I didn’t care what I did. I had a part time job in high school typing for a PhD candidate; I was in the tenth-grade typing letters because I had no idea what she was writing about! It was data entry. It was awful, but I learned so much. My parents said, ‘You can’t quit, you have to get it done because you made a commitment.’ That always stayed with me. That skill is important: tenacity in the face of unpleasantness. You can’t build a career without that.”

And for students graduating this month from the Fox School of Business and Temple University, why should they stick around to work in Philadelphia rather than take a job elsewhere?

“I’ll tell you my personal piece. I’m from Chicago; I’m not a Philadelphia native. I’ve had opportunities to leave the city, but I love it here. There’s a particular pace and charm that makes it very distinct from New York or D.C. Philly is a small big city. I enjoy that in a lot of ways. Despite the things that we struggle with, there are so many positive things happening here. In New York or D.C., you’re just a cog in the wheel. As a young person in Philadelphia who’s building their career and their vision about the impact and change they’re going to make in their lives, there’s an opportunity to be a part of the future of the city.”

Learn more about the Fox School’s Department of Human Resource Management.
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The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute‘s 20th annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl®, where Temple University students and recent alumni live pitch their bold business ideas, happens Thursday, April 19, at Alter Hall, home of the Fox School of Business.

The 12 finalists will compete for $200,000 in prizes, which will help launch their businesses and take them to the next level. For more information, and to RSVP to the live pitch contest, click here.

In preparation for BYOBB® 2018, we spoke with several past winners and finalists to learn more about the state of their businesses back when they competed, where they are now, and what their next big move will be.

 

Joe Green, Affinity Confections

AFFINITY CONFECTIONS

Founder: Joe Green, BBA ’12

Major: Entrepreneurship

About Affinity Confections: “Affinity Confections creates pastries and desserts featuring premium natural ingredients without any artificial flavors or colors. All of our confections are created to be portion controlled and seasonally inspired to highlight seasonal flavors.”

BYOBB® 2015 prize: Third place, upper track ($5,000)

Then: “We were in the growth stage of the business, framing out additional revenue streams, but we were already profitable as a company during the pitch. We wanted the prize money to build out operations.”

Now: “We are currently in another growth phase, expanding our baking operations and creating more packaged products for retail sale. We’ve also gotten several contracts in Philadelphia, with institutions such as University Of Pennsylvania and CHOP.”

What’s next: “We’re working on building production and retail space.”

 

Jung Park, Cocktail Culture Co.

COCKTAIL CULTURE CO.

Founder: Jung Park, BBA ’16

Major: Marketing

About Cocktail Culture: “Cocktail Culture Co. offers a booking platform for immersive experience-based activities such as cocktail classes and whiskey tastings. We teach the art & craft of mixology with freshly squeezed juices, homemade syrups, and premium ingredients. Our interactive classes offer a promotional channel for liquor brands to market their products for consumer purchase and usage.”

BYOBB® 2016 prize: Third place, undergraduate track ($5,000)

Then: “We were going through the formation/ideation phase. I was still brainstorming the concept, sizing the target market, figuring out how to create value for the consumer, and how to make the idea scalable.”

Now: “We are in the middle of the validation stage. Last year, 2017, was our first real year in business! The first six months were kind of scary, but we saw all our hard work pay off after August. After August was still scary, but a different type of scary, because we were getting flooded with sales and it was definitely overwhelming for our small staff. Some other big changes and growths we had since we were in the BYOBB® ? Well, our website isn’t on GoDaddy Website Builder anymore, so that’s good! That was definitely an ugly time for us. In the beginning, when you don’t have money, resources or help in general, you’re forced to do everything yourself, even when you’re not good at it). We also got a real logo and we’re building traction on corporate sales. We’ve served major names, like Viacom, Microsoft, and ATKearney; and we’re doing an event with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, so that’s exciting. We’ve been chasing bachelorette parties for a whole year (and some change), so we’re happy to see our hard work pay off. We have bachelorette parties all the time now and they’re almost always $500 to $1200 sales.”

What’s next: “The next step for Cocktail Culture Co. is more sales! We’re trying to figure out the maximum market potential in Philadelphia right now. Last year was proof that it’s a profitable concept. We’re getting our numbers up at our current location and figuring out if it’s a good idea to open a second location in the Philly suburbs. We’ve been talking a lot about Atlantic City in the past two months, so I’m hoping that works out by the end of this year or beginning of next year.”

 

Andrew Nakkache, Habitat

HABITAT

Founder: Andrew Nakkache, BS ’16

Major: Economics

About Habitat: “Founded in 2013, while at Temple University, Habitat is a Philadelphia-based company passionate about helping local businesses and committed to accelerating new ways to live and work within the ‘convenience economy.’ Today, Habitat helps restaurants by providing them a single delivery fleet for all of their orders. We do this through aggregating orders from various ordering sources (Grubhub, Eat24, Phone-ins, etc.).”

BYOBB® 2015 prize: First place, undergraduate track ($21,000)

Then: “We were trying to do too many things then. Our app was a hyperlocal marketplace that looked like Instagram, and functioned like Craigslist, but only for college students and local businesses.”

Now: “We pivoted twice since the BYOBB®. Our first pivot was to focus on food delivery on college campuses: think Caviar for campuses. This pivot gave us focus and insight into the market, which ultimately led to our more recent and successful pivot. We realized that restaurants had a much bigger pain around managing online orders rather than receiving more of them. We’re now B2B, working behind the scenes, and the best part is, as Grubhub gets bigger, so do we!”

What’s next: “This year is all about distribution partnerships that give us scale. We recently signed two partnerships with online ordering companies that have over 50,000 restaurants combined!”

 

Nick Delmonico, Strados Labs

STRADOS LABS

Founder: Nick Delmonico, GMBA ’17

MBA concentration: Health Sector Management

About Strados Labs: “For clinicians seeking critical respiratory data, Strados utilizes proprietary technology to collect and transmit data in a simple, non-invasive manner, improving outcomes and saving money.”

BYOBB® 2017 prize: Grand prize; First place in the Urban Health Innovation track ($60,000)

Then: “Strados Labs had designed a proof of concept prototype and conducted several customer journey maps and studies. As an early start-up, we focused heavily on understanding the pain points of our stakeholders, both patients and caregivers in managing and monitoring exacerbations and complications due to airway compromise. We found that there was a major data gap between what patients knew about their own signs and symptoms and what care teams know about patients in advance of a hospitalization event. We competed in BYOBB® to raise the necessary funding to further the development of our product, and to refine our value proposition to health organizations.”

Now: “Since 2017, Strados has raised more than $200,000 through a combination of business competitions, grants, and early investors. We have finalized our minimum viable product (MVP) and are in the process of conducting a clinical study at a major health system in New York. We have also participated in three globally ranked accelerator programs including NextFab RAPID, Brinc.io Global IoT, and Texas Medical Center Accelerator (TMCx) Cohort 6. The programs not only provided access to capital, but enabled our company to create collaborative partnerships with leading health institutions and care platforms across the country. Strados expanded its management team to include a highly experienced medical device CTO with successful exits and a clinical advisory team that includes physician leaders in pulmonary medicine and respiratory therapies with multiple successful medical devices and drug launches.”

What’s next: “Strados will be launching pilot studies with clinical partners over the course of the summer and will be moving the Strados product further through a full commercial launch. We have some additional partnerships in the pipeline that we are excited to announce in the near future.”

 

Lisa Guenst, ToothShower

TOOTHSHOWER

Founder: Lisa Guenst, BA ’13

Major: Community and Regional Planning

About ToothShower: “ToothShower is an oral home care suite for the shower.”

BYOBB® 2017 prize: First place, upper track ($20,000)

Then: “It was our first business plan ever written and there was no revenue. We were in the prototype stage.”

Now: “We have our tooling completed from money we raised on crowdfunding—we raised more than $325,000 through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. And our first run sample has been tested and we are waiting for our second sample to test.”

What’s next: “Once we deliver the product to our crowdfunding backers, we will move into ecommerce sales.”

 

David Feinman, Viral Marketing Ideas

VIRAL IDEAS MARKETING

Founder: David Feinman, BBA ’15

Major: Entrepreneurship, Marketing

About Viral Ideas Marketing: “At Viral Ideas, we create to inspire. We work with companies as their dedicated video partner. We are a modern video production company built for new media. We believe in the power of defining companies why and sharing their why through video and modern media production.”

BYOBB® 2017 prize: Second place, upper track ($10,000)

Then: “Two and a half years ago, while still in college, Zach Medina and I started Viral Ideas with $250 of our own money and just one client. At the time of BYOBB, we had 42 clients and were working out of our office space in Southampton, Pennsylvania. Other than BYOBB® winnings and our original $250, we are proud of the fact that we’re entirely self-funded while sustaining 2x year over year growth.”

Now: “Growing the business hasn’t been easy. It’s meant putting our heads down to focus only on work, overcoming the challenges that most startups face, giving up a social life and making significant sacrifices along the way. Now, less than three years into the business, we were voted Best in Bucks for Media production by Bucks Happening and have more than 120 clients while also working with some of the most significant brands in the world. In 2018, we’re on track to double our revenue again and fully launch our technology platform.”

What’s next: “We’re working to simplify the process of creating a video. After building more than 700 videos for some of the most significant companies in the world, we’ve learned that the process can be drawn out, time-consuming, and complicated. We intend to solve this problem by creating a technology which reduces the amount of time required to develop a video through a technical solution.”

 

Left to right: Felix Addison, Kelley Green, Ofo Ezeugwu, and Nik Korablin of Whose Your Landlord (Photo: Durrell Hospedale)

WHOSE YOUR LANDLORD

Founder: Ofo Ezeugwu, BBA ’13

Major: Entrepreneurship

About Whose Your Landlord: “WYL is a web platform empowering and informing the rental community by providing landlord reviews, neighborhood and community-driven content, and access to more than 500,000 listings across the U.S.”

BYOBB® 2014 prize: First place, upper track; Best plan by a minority entrepreneur ($20,500)

Then: “We had just launched, with maybe 10,000 or 20,000 users.”

Now: “750,000 users, people looking for reviews/rentals (25% MOM growth). 70,000 blog readers/mo (43% MOM growth). More than 500,000 active listings nationwide. Renter search queries, 230% MOM growth. 10,000 landlord reviews in the Northeast. Corporate partnerships with American Express, Allstate, Roadway Moving, Dominion, etc. Recent coverage in Forbes, New York Post, NowThis, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Blavity, Curbed, Newsweek, TechCrunch, etc.”

What’s next: “We are raising capital at republic.co/whoseyourlandlord (go invest!) and working with Univision on a podcast focusing on the following: ‘WhoseYourLandlord (founded in 2013) is a web platform empowering and informing the rental community through landlord reviews, neighborhood-focused content, and by providing access to quality listings across the United States. Their brand has become synonymous with realness, community, and growth. In a time where multicultural communities are under attack in many places across the world, The Take Ownership podcast highlights insightful stories and people who are really doing the work to enlighten folks on mentally and economically taking ownership of the spaces they live in.'”

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Anthony M. DiJulio, 33, wanted to be a scientist. After earning a BA in chemistry from Muhlenberg College, in 2006, he immediately landed a job as an associate scientist at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, a Swiss multinational company and a major player in the pharmaceutical world.

“They were a big, bad pharma company and I was this 22-year-old kid who didn’t come out of Harvard or MIT,” recalls DiJulio. “I didn’t have that kind of pedigree, but they took a chance on me and I delivered. I was so happy because I loved chemistry—it’s like cooking on steroids! You can take compounds and materials, do the reaction, prove the reaction, and ultimately create a substance that goes into toxicity trials and eventually becomes a drug. I thought that was so cool.”

New career doors open

DiJulio’s goal was to earn a PhD in chemistry. In 2009, while still working at Novartis, he completed an MS in chemistry at Seton Hall. Then something happened that altered his career path forever, and spun his love of chemistry in a completely new, exciting direction.

“A huge opportunity arrived—Novartis gave me a couple million dollars to set up a new lab,” DiJulio says. “Suddenly, I was handling budgets, planning, negotiating, and I loved it. This changed my whole trajectory and made me realize I wanted to do business. I knew that, in order to move up to a leadership position, I needed an MBA.”

Choosing an MBA program

DiJulio was living in New Jersey and traveling regularly to Switzerland for Novartis. He needed a flexible MBA program to accommodate his hectic professional life. And he found the perfect match in the Fox Online MBA program.

“The Fox MBA program allowed me to immediately use what I learned in business situations and it made the finance and the accounting and the economics courses more real to me,” he says. “At that stage, I’d already been through grad school and was more mature as a student, so it was my most enjoyable piece of education, by far.”

DiJulio had great success at Novartis. He climbed the ranks to become a senior scientist, and then a financial controller. However, after completing his MBA in 2012, he decided to take a bold step and move more firmly into the business world.

Finding the perfect job

DiJulio worked for a couple years as a commercial development and strategy associate with Air Products and Chemicals, and then for a few more as a pharmaceutical business development manager for Ashland Inc.

Then, in 2017, DiJulio was offered a job as a business development manager for Lonza, a Swiss chemical and biotechnology company. The new job offer uniquely synthesized his passions for chemistry and business.

“Now I do business and chemistry every day,” he says. “I have to hit numbers, I’m held accountable, and sites are dependent on me to bring in work. I interact with major pharmaceutical companies to develop their products; I work with virtual companies and startups, too. I’m engaged on a business basis and as a chemist, covering everything from finance to formulation and synthesis. It’s a two-pronged approach that links up perfectly with my background.”

Globetrotting

One perk DiJulio discovered along his professional path is travel. In addition to traveling to Switzerland and across the U.S, he has been to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, China, Ireland, France, and Belgium, among other countries.

“I’ve improved myself as a person by becoming more well-traveled,” he says. “I’m really happy about that.”

“The MBA got me where I am and where I want to go in the future,” he continues. “The opportunities I’ve had in business development would be very rare without an MBA. And I’m definitely more of a resource to a company with an MBA. It was a big investment, for sure, but now I am reaping the benefits of it.”

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Harry A. Cochran, Dean, 1934-1960

Since its founding a century ago, the Fox School of Business has produced outstanding thinkers, innovative doers, and formidable trailblazers.

Distinguished research has been at the forefront of Temple University’s initiatives since the 1940s. Following World War II, the federal government had a vested interest in funding research centers all across the country.

Harry A. Cochran, then dean of Temple’s School of Business and Public Administration, predicted that this movement towards research would steer this university to great heights.

“Harry Cochran was smart enough to figure out how to take advantage of this,” said Dr. William Aaronson, PhD ’86, former director of the Fox PhD program, and current associate professor at the College of Public Health. “He had a vision of a research enterprise with the business school that is very much still alive today.”

In the mid-1940s, Dean Cochran led the Fox School’s research agenda, creating a Bureau of Economic and Business Research and establishing the school’s first journal, The Economics and Business Bulletin, to disseminate its findings. It was over a decade later that a watershed report from the Ford Foundation highlighted the trend of business schools changing from trade schools to research institutions. The Fox School was ahead of its time, already a large and prestigious business school as others began to recognize the importance of a research agenda.

Dr. Harry A. Cochran, left, and Dr. Millard E. Gladfelter admire Dean Cochran’s portrait in 1967. The portrait now resides in the Office of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives on the third floor of Alter Hall.

While Dean Cochran retired in 1960, his legacy grew. His successors recognized the need for a doctoral program to support the mission of leadership in high-quality research, so in the early 1960s, the Fox School established its PhD program, which awarded its first doctoral degree in 1969 to Lacy H. Hunt.

The doctoral programs at the Fox School grew to encompass PhD programs in Statistics, Decision Neuroscience, and Business Administration. In 2014, the school once again blazed a trail, instituting an Executive Doctorate in Business Administration (EDBA) program, a unique opportunity for industry executives and business leaders that few schools offer today. “The DBA focuses on applied research,” said Paul A. Pavlou, senior associate dean of research at the Fox School. “It plays a very important role in creating the next generation of seasoned high-level executives who can inform their organizations through rigorous research.” And Dean M. Moshe Porat constantly offers strong support for the doctoral programs at the Fox School.

Cochran’s vision became a virtuous cycle. Research would not be something we merely did, but who we were. By creating an environment that would house brilliant minds, past and present deans of the Fox School have demonstrated their commitment to support leaders in both academia and industry. From its roots in 1918 to its continued success in 2018, the Fox School continues its tradition of distinction through work ethic, innovation, and research impact.

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Stanley Wang, MBA ’72.

A $2 million gift from Temple University graduates Stanley and Franny Wang will support a fully endowed chair professorship at the Fox School of Business.

The couple’s philanthropic support allows the Fox School to create an endowed fund for the Stanley and Franny Wang Chair in Business and Management. This fully endowed chair will be held by a leading scholar in a department soon to be chosen, said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, the Fox School’s dean.

The Wangs’ gift to the Fox School, which was founded in 1918, ranks among the largest in the School’s history for the purposes of academic leadership.

“I am continually humbled by the generosity of our school’s graduates, and Stanley and Franny Wang serve as shining examples of this philanthropy,” said Porat. “The Fox School has a proud tradition of providing leading and cutting-edge business education. Stanley and Franny’s transformative gift will significantly enhance our efforts to attract the world’s top professors and most-renowned researchers—both now in our centennial year and throughout the school’s next 100 years.”

Stanley Wang is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of the Pantronix Corporation. Based in Fremont, Calif., Pantronix is a national leader in advanced packing, testing, and microelectronics assembly for industries ranging from semiconductor and automotive, to medical, computer, and military.

The Wangs earned MBAs from the Fox School of Business in 1972, with Stanley’s concentration in management, and Franny’s in accounting.

The Wangs have long supported the development and growth of the Fox School of Business. The school’s home in Alter Hall, which opened in 2009, houses the Stanley Wang MBA Business Center. The couple’s philanthropy has supported the building of schools and scholarship programs in rural China and California.

“Franny and I are lifelong advocates for the importance and value of education,” Stanley Wang said. “It is our hope that supporting the Fox School of Business in this way will launch bright futures for dynamic students and create a better world through education.”

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What was it like to be a woman earning a doctorate degree forty years ago? Dr. Gloria Thomas, PhD ’80, has firsthand experience.

Today, Dr. Thomas is an accomplished researcher, a dedicated professor, and an esteemed administrator at Baruch College.

But in 1980, she was a trendsetter for women at the Fox School of Business.

As the first woman to obtain a doctorate from the Fox School, Thomas received her PhD in marketing, a field that is now predominantly women, but was all men during her tenure at Temple. “Women were very uncommon in business PhDs, even marketing, when I was in school,” she recalled. “And I rarely saw women at conferences.”

Dr. Thomas is currently a professor of marketing and the Director of the Zicklin Undergraduate Honors Program at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, City University of New York. Thomas praises her experience at Temple University for the appreciation she has developed towards public institutions.

“Temple has taught me to believe in public education,” Thomas professed. “I went to Baruch right from Temple and we have really smart students from all over the world with parents who don’t speak English or have any money.” After years of private schools, Thomas’ experience at the Fox School helped her appreciate the value of diversity in education. “Cultural exposure makes public institutions more valuable and it gives students opportunities they normally wouldn’t have,” she said.

With undergraduate degrees in math and art history, Thomas pursued a doctorate in marketing. Following graduation, she went straight to Baruch, where her roles included professor, associate dean, and director of the doctoral program. She currently serves as director of the business honors program.

“My current role is my most favorite,” Thomas said. “Many students at large public schools don’t get the attention they would at a private school, but I make sure to give that attention in my honors program.”

Thomas credits her mother, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s law school in the 1940s, for her then unconventional educational choices. “I grew up thinking everyone was equal. I never thought that [by going to business school] I was going into a man’s profession,” Thomas said.

That ‘man’s profession’ has changed. Today, 50-percent of PhD students are women at the Fox School, compared to 45-percent for all business-focused doctoral programs in the United States, according to the Council of Graduates Schools’ 2017 report.

Thomas did not let any obstacles get in her way of her goals. “It never occurred to me that women couldn’t do whatever they wanted to,” she recounted. “In reality, many women [at that time] didn’t even know they had options.”

“It never occurred to me that I didn’t.”

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Lisa Peskin, MBA ’86, never thought she’d work in sales.

“I had the same negative connotations most people do of the pushy, obnoxious car salesman,” says Peskin, whose focus in the Fox School of Business MBA program was marketing. “But my opinion of sales certainly changed; now I’ve been doing it for 31 years.”

Peskin started her own sales training and management company in 2003. In 2010, it evolved into Business Development University.

“BDU works with salespeople, and if they’re underperforming, we help them get their numbers,” explains Peskin. “If they’re average, we figure out how to get them good. If they’re good, we get them great. And if they’re great, we figure out how to turn them into superstars. We maximize the performance potential of the people we work with; we help each person and each team drive the numbers.”

Peskin, in addition to being the CEO of BDU, is presently writing a book. The topic? Sales!

“The focus of the book,” she says, “is what I wish people told me back in 1986 when I started in sales. I had to make so many mistakes, and I wish someone had taught me the fundamentals so I didn’t have to figure it out on my own.”

With her upcoming book in mind, we asked Peskin, who in the past has worked with Temple University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute to create workshops for students on similar topics, to share some of her sales secrets.

1. Have a well-defined game plan

“Most salespeople wing it every day; there’s no rhyme or reason to what they’re doing. How many coaches come into a game without a game plan? Doug Pederson, the Eagles’ coach, clearly had a well-defined game plan in their game against the Vikings. Salespeople need that, too. They need activity goals and result goals.”

2. Build strong networks

“In 1986, when I started in sales, it was dialing for dollars. There was no such thing as the Internet, or email, and it was all about knocking on doors and picking up the phone. The best way to fill your pipeline with good prospects is building a strong network of centers of influence who will be able to refer business on a consistent basis. The close ratios will be much higher if they come through networking.”

Lisa Peskin (far right) appeared on the cover of a Fox School magazine when she was an MBA student in the 1980s.

3. Leverage your existing customer base

“I have a concept called ‘squeeze the lemon.’ It’s not making lemonade out of lemons, it’s making the most out of every opportunity, every meeting, every day. Everything we do should be purposeful. A lot of times salespeople aren’t purposeful when it comes to their existing client base. The best way to get referrals is from happy customers.”

4. Uncover key information

“You must uncover the prospects needs and what they need to know. They need to know qualifying information, decision-making process and criteria, timelines, budget, and so on. Most salespeople are good at uncovering what the prospect needs, but not what they need to know to make the sale. They need to take a consultative approach.”

5. Prepare a customized presentation

“Most salespeople do what I call ‘showing up and throwing up.’ They go into presentation mode before they find out what the prospect cares about. When you walk into a physician’s office, they hand you a clipboard. Then you go into another office and they ask you the same questions and they take your vitals. Then the doctor does a full examination and they send you to get more tests and then they offer a diagnosis. Salespeople need to act more like doctors and not offer a diagnosis before they’ve done proper discovery.”

6. Handle objections effectively

“Most salespeople don’t try to handle objections, and the ability to properly and effectively handle them at the beginning and end of the sales process is critical. Objections aren’t a bad thing; salespeople have to stop thinking about it like that. Instead, they need to examine specifically why the prospect is objecting. There are six different objection handling techniques that we use to train people.”

7. Formulate a solid closing strategy

“Closing begins at the very beginning of the sales process. If you don’t set it up properly, you’re going to sound like a pushy, obnoxious car salesman trying to close at the end. There are about nine closing techniques. My favorite is the assumptive close, where if you’ve done everything right, you should be able to assume the sale.”

8. Maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated

“This is the most important thing. Are you willing to do what it takes to be successful and are you committed to it? The fact is you’re going to get way more ‘Nos’ than ‘Yesses,’ so you need a strong attitude, work ethic, and to stay motivated. In sales, you never get to take a breather because you’re only as good as your last month, last week, and last quarter. Attitude and motivation trump everything.”

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J.W. Pepper & Son chief strategy officer Scott Grady, MBA ’17.

“I started at the bottom, literally at the lowest position in the company,” says Scott Grady about the job he landed in 1996, the year after he graduated from high school. It was with J.W. Pepper & Son, the 142-year-old Pennsylvania company that’s now the world’s largest sheet music retailer.

“I walked around the warehouse pulling customer orders all day,” Grady continues. “The way the orders were organized—and we’re talking about a thousand orders a day—was illogical to me. So I devised a system to help the order flow be smoother. That was noticed by upper management and it sent me on my way.”

That was 22 years ago. Grady still works at J.W. Pepper & Son, but now he’s in a C-suite position. In 2017, the same year Grady earned his MBA from the Fox School, he was promoted to chief strategy officer (CSO).

Upward bound

Grady began climbing the ladder at J.W. Pepper & Son soon after devising that new order system back in his warehouse days. In 2001, he was relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and tasked with opening a new sales and marketing office. In his nine years out west, he earned a business degree and rose from being operations manager to vice president and regional marketing manager.

He returned to the Philadelphia area in 2010, this time as J.W. Pepper & Son’s vice president of brand strategy.

“It was a defining moment for me,” recalls Grady. “I had worked in many different roles, from operations and management to marketing, but this was a senior leadership role working closely with the core brand and new brands. I had to learn how to be entrepreneurial inside of a company that was 140-years-old—that’s when I decided I needed to get an MBA.”

The Fox Online MBA experience

Grady entered the Fox School’s Online MBA program in 2015. As a working professional with a hectic schedule and senior level responsibilities, he was drawn to the flexibility of the online format. He was also skeptical, namely about the lack of direct interaction with fellow students. But the program’s in-person residency, held at the Fox School’s Alter Hall at the beginning of the first semester, was a major perk.

Online MBA students meet during a residency held at Alter Hall, home of the Fox School of Business.

“I was afraid that, since it was an online program, I’d be too far removed from people,” he says. “But the residency brought us together and it was a defining experience. I learned so much and I’m still friends with many of the other students. It was great to work and network with professionals who were already in the field doing great things.”

“Every day,” he says about his two years in the program, “there was so much practical work application for what I was learning. Balancing the work load wasn’t the biggest challenge, it was figuring out how to apply everything. What I learned from the entrepreneurship class, about business models, is something I apply in almost every business meeting now.”

The C-suite demands confidence

Grady, in his current role as CSO, is responsible for managing a portfolio of projects and initiatives, a team of developers and business analysts, and new mergers and acquisitions. One of Grady’s main focuses with J.W. Pepper & Son, whose biggest client in the sheet music game is public school music programs, is bringing new technology initiatives to music classrooms. He recently helped launch Cut Time, a group management tool for music educators. And last year, he oversaw his first acquisition.

Grady regularly applies what he learned from his MBA at J.W. Pepper & Son. He says the most important skill he acquired was how to be a confident decision maker.

“At this level,” says Grady, “you have to be a confident decision maker. You have to earn people’s trust and you have to be decisive. You have to look at all the angles and to make sense of all the incoming information, and then make decisions that will effect the entire business. Being able to make these big decisions is the number one thing the MBA gave me.”

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