Every brand has a story to tell and they often need help telling it. This is where Lauren Moreno comes in.
Moreno, MS ’16, is the co-founder of Team 624 Communications, a Philly-based firm that develops and executes social media and content strategies for small- and medium-sized businesses in the fashion and lifestyle space.
“I’ve always loved working with small businesses,” says Moreno. “And I always knew I’d go into business for myself.”
Soon after completing her MS in Digital Innovation in Marketing at the Fox School, Moreno and longtime friend Kaitlin Cleary launched 624. Their many clients include Printfresh Studio, a textile design studio that runs a stationery brand and a fashion line, and Whimsy Greenville, a wedding-focused gifts and stationary company. We recently caught up with Moreno and asked her to share some of the big marketing mistakes brands make with their social and digital content strategies (and lack thereof). Here’s what she said.
5. Not Having a Unique Voice
“You can’t be everything to everyone. A lot of brands don’t intentionally try to do that, but they end up doing it by not paying attention to how they’re talking to their customers and to what message they’re sending. We develop brand voice to stand out from the competition and to have a consistency that builds trust. We work with clients to develop personas, and that makes it easier to speak to particular audiences and to what they care about. This makes it more tangible—to say, ‘A customer who cares about how her clothes are made is going to be more interested in the details of the clothing we’re promoting, in hearing the story behind the clothes, than how other people are wearing the clothes.’ One recent client saw that their main competition’s social strategy included a lot of social speak, like ‘omg’ and ‘lol.’ But the client was telling a very different story: They were more serious, more thoughtful. We developed their voice to capitalize on these brand traits and show how different they were from the competition.”
4. Not Engaging Followers and Building Community
“Social media is a great customer service tool and it’s important to answer questions promptly and respond to people’s comments. Beyond that, social media is also about being part of the conversation. When brands come to us and want to increase their Instagram following, posting pretty pictures and having a consistent voice isn’t enough: They need to interact with followers and other influencers. Otherwise, they won’t see the results they want. You have to be aware of the conversations your customers care about, then find a way to drive that conversation and be a part of it.”
3. Obsessing Over Going Viral
“Some clients are obsessed with the idea of things going viral, but things don’t just go viral. There’s a lot of planning and strategy, and most often a lot of money put behind it; it doesn’t just happen on its own. Distribution strategy is just as important as the content itself, and you need to look to paid social to get that content to the people who care about it.”
2. Posting Identical Content Across Platforms
“There’s no reason for your customers to follow you on Instagram if you’re posting the exact same content on Facebook. We work with clients to tailor content that fits into the ecosystem of each specific social platform and on strategically choosing which platforms brands use in the first place. We’d rather them do one platform really well than do two or three poorly, and just use the same content across them all.”
1. Not Having a Goal-Based Strategy
“We have a lot of brands that are active on all these channels, and they’re creating great content, but they’re not clear on how the work they’re doing is aligned with their business goals because they’re not taking time to develop a good strategy. There should be a good business reason, for instance, for creating an Instagram profile. And it’s important to plan the content and what you’re actually sharing so you can be consistent with your brand voice and image. What you’re putting into the world needs to have an impact on your business, otherwise you’re wasting your time. Small businesses have limited resources, so they need to make the most of what they have while ultimately providing value to their customers.”
Learn more about the Fox School’s specialized masters program in Digital Innovation in Marketing.
Education is a bridge—it equips students for the workforce, puts a promotion within reach, or paves the way to a new career. For employers, this bridge ensures a steady supply of committed individuals with the skills necessary to create value for a company.
Lately, that bridge has been looking a little rickety.
Today’s competitive landscape is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Business students must be adaptable and entrepreneurial enough to spot and capitalize on opportunities no matter what tomorrow (or the next day) bring.
Enter experiential education. If traditional education is a bridge, experiential education is more like Parkour. After years of relying on the case study method, a rhetorical analysis of issues faced by businesses, universities are shifting their approach to challenge MBA students with complex problems in real time. Through working on live projects that compliment their coursework, students blend theory and practice and gain invaluable experience.
The Fox School has incorporated experiential education into its curriculum for over two decades—13 years before the Kellogg school rolled out new coursework and Harvard introduced “Field Immersion Experiences,” Fox students put their MBAs to the test in live client consulting engagements through Fox Management Consulting.
“I went through the Executive MBA in the late 90’s,” Dr. TL Hill recalls. “At that time, all but two of our courses included live projects. It was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since.”
This experience is part of what prompted Hill, now the Managing Director of Fox MC, to seek consulting opportunities for students. Beginning with only a few projects, the program quickly spread across the Fox School, today manifesting as the capstone course for every MBA graduate.
Here are three ways Fox School MBA students benefit from experiential learning, creating a direct path between them and the companies whose jobs they seek.
1) Embracing Ambiguity
The Fox School makes a point of regularly checking in with industry experts about the skills they want from graduates. At the top of the list for many employers is proficiency in ambiguity. The problems facing modern businesses aren’t clear cut, and the most innovative answers often come from outside the business sector. Top leaders have to be able to cut through the fog to determine what steps to take and where to begin looking for answers.
Some researchers observe that young workers particularly struggle with ambiguity, showing a strong preference for structure. Traditional education caters to this desire, but experiential education challenges students to look beyond their comfort zone. “Students are shifting from mastering content in a course to addressing an unfamiliar topic with an unpredictable client,” says assistant professor of strategic management Marilyn Anthony.
Consulting projects do not have a right answer. Much like the problems facing industries today, success is not just reaching the finish line, it is redefining the race.
2) Thriving in Collaboration
While working with others has always been part of the business world, modern technology has embedded collaboration even deeper in the workplace. With teams regularly integrating diverse cultures, skills sets, and time zones, MBA graduates need to be self-aware and collaboratively adept.
Fox MC consulting engagements put students together in cross-functional teams with pressures similar to those they will face in their careers. “It’s a huge responsibility to deliver high quality work in a short period of time,” Anthony says. In addition to being graded, teams work for paying clients, and are well aware that the quality of their work could create an open door or a dead end to future employment opportunities.
Students are also balancing new relationships and working styles. “We had some pretty dynamic personalities on our team,” one former student remembers. “I knew one person on my team, but the other three I had never seen before.” Just like the work world, diverse personalities and working styles can’t get in the way of delivering high quality work for the client.
With more than 350 projects under their belts, through a combination of student dedication and program supports, every Fox MC team finds their way through.
3) Earning Executive-level Experience
An ambitious MBA student will complete their degree and enter the workforce in a mid-level management position. It will take them several more years to work their way into a role where they get to make major strategic decisions.
The Fox MC program pushes the fast-forward button on that timeline. “It can give students an experience 5 to 10 years ahead of where they are career wise,” says Hill. “It allows them to do work that would be beyond their ability on their own.”
Past Fox MC teams have selected acquisition targets for top investment firms, designed new product launches for Fortune 100 companies, and created an investment strategy for a large agricultural cooperative.
One reason this level of work is possible is that Fox MC teams have a robust support network. Each team is led by a project executive with years of professional experience relevant to the project they lead. The professors are industry veterans, curating course content to match industry standards. Teams also meet with advisors who critique their projects to ensure the best product possible reaches the client.
For businesses, experiential education delivers MBA graduates who are ready to lead. For MBA students, it sharpens their skills and prepares them for success. And for business schools, whose product is the leaders of tomorrow, it ensures graduates who are ready for the real world. After all, they have already proven what they can do.
Next year, Fox MC students will graduate and become leaders in the community. This year, for a limited time, you can access their experience, knowledge and hard work for a discounted price. To get their help for your nonprofit or business, leave your contact information.
This post is part one of a three part series. Return next week to learn five tips for making experiential education a success.
Temple University’s Fox School of Business will honor Mitchell L. Morgan as the recipient of the 2017 Warren V. “Pete” Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership.
The Musser Award, the school’s highest honor, recognizes distinguished members of the Philadelphia business community for their outstanding achievements, leadership, and commitment to the community.
Morgan will be honored at the 21st annual Musser Award reception and dinner, to be held Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Mitten Hall on Temple University’s Main Campus.
A Temple University graduate and member of the university’s Board of Trustees, Morgan is the founder and chairman of Morgan Properties, one of the largest owners of multi-family apartment communities in the country. He founded the company in 1985 and has served as its chairman since its inception. Under his leadership the company has grown to more than 37,000 units in 139 apartment communities located throughout 10 states.
“It brings me great joy to announce Mitchell Morgan as the next recipient of the Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership,” said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School of Business. “Mitchell is an inspirational business leader. He built his business and his career from the ground up, and through his many successes, he has always believed strongly in the value of giving back to his community.”
Morgan earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Fox School of Business. He subsequently joined an international accounting firm as a member of its tax department, before returning to Temple to earn his JD through night courses.
Morgan supports a wide variety of philanthropic endeavors. He currently serves as a Trustee at Temple University, where he chairs the Facilities Committee. He serves on the board of trustees at the National Museum of American Jewish History, Federation Housing, and Golden Slipper. He is a research sponsor at the Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center at the Wharton School, and a former trustee of the Penn Medicine board. He has served as President of the Apartment Association of Greater Philadelphia, and as a board member of the Royal Bank of Pennsylvania.
Through the Mitchell and Hilarie Family Foundation, he and his wife Hilarie remain committed to making a difference in the lives of others. Of particular significance to the couple is Morgan Hall, the 1,250-bed residence hall located on Temple University’s campus and named for him. This ultra-modern building has transformed the visual landscape of the campus and has contributed to the university’s efforts of creating a sought-after destination for undergraduate students.
The Fox School of Business has announced Dr. David Schuff as the new chair of the Department of Management Information Systems (MIS). Since joining the faculty in 2000, Schuff has played a major role in elevating the reputation of the department through his exceptional teaching, research, and leadership.
“David’s service to Fox and the MIS department has been invaluable since his arrival nearly two decades ago,” said Dr. M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School. “His creation of the Temple Analytics Challenge, for example, demonstrates the value he places on interdisciplinary research and experiential learning activities. I am confident the department will continue flourishing under David’s leadership.”
Schuff’s research interests include the application of information visualization to decision support systems, tools for self-service business intelligence, and the impact of user generated content on organizations and society. He has published over 40 journal articles, many in top research publications, such as Management Information Systems Quarterly, Decision Sciences, Decision Support Systems, and Information & Management.
In addition to teaching in the MIS department, Schuff has taught in the BBA, MBA, and Executive MBA programs at the Fox School’s campuses in Colombia and Japan; and he was the founding academic director of the Executive Doctorate of Business Administration program. His course topics include data analytics and information systems strategy, and he has won numerous awards, including the Musser Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, and the MIS department’s teaching award. (He won the latter 13 times—more times than any other faculty member.)
“Dr. Schuff’s accomplishments as a founding faculty member —and especially his commitment to teaching excellence—make him extremely well qualified to take on this role,” said Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, who preceded Schuff as MIS department chair. “I am confident he will take the department to even higher levels. It has been a privilege serving the department since its founding in 2000. I look forward to concentrating on leading the Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT) to further enhance industry engagement.”
Schuff’s impressive history with the Fox School gives him a unique ability to lead the MIS department into the future.
“I am proud to serve as chair of the MIS department,” said Schuff. “Together we’ve built an amazing foundation of highly ranked undergraduate and graduate programs with a vibrant faculty of excellent teachers and top-tier researchers. It will be exciting to see where the future takes us as we create new academic programs, explore new areas of boundary-spanning research, and continue to grow as a leading department.”
Learn more about the Department of Management Information Systems.
Bert Verhoeven is a university professor of the best course you never got to take—students in his courses spend their time writing TV commercials, designing wallets, and interviewing Muffin Break customers.
Verhoeven is part of a recent partnership between Flinders University, in Adelaide, Australia, and the Fox School to teach innovation and enterprise (INNO) curriculum to help Flinders students thrive in today’s competitive landscape.
Pulling from a variety of methodologies, including design thinking and lean start-up, the INNO curriculum challenges students to learn experientially. “Businesses struggle to teach theory,” Verhoeven explains. “Universities struggle to teach tacit learning. The goal of the INNO courses is to bridge the gap between the two.”
The curriculum design team for INNO includes several longtime entrepreneurs like Verhoeven, who has 25 years of experience creating and leading new enterprises. The team also recently welcomed Michelle Histand, director of innovation at Independence Blue Cross, as the new associate director of the Flinders project at the Fox School. Unwilling to let learning stop with the students, the INNO contributors push themselves to think like entrepreneurs throughout the curriculum design process.
Below, faculty from Flinders and the Fox School share five lessons they’ve learned for any institution hoping to apply an entrepreneurial orientation to collaborative course design.
1) Practice Opportunity Recognition
Every entrepreneurial journey begins as an insight. In the case of the INNO partnership, inspiration struck when TL Hill, managing director of Fox Management Consulting, learned that Flinders was instilling innovation as a backbone of curriculum across their university. Hill saw an opportunity to help build an inventive new program while simultaneously honing the Fox School’s skills as a leader in entrepreneurship education.
Recognizing opportunities can begin with some basic questions: What are the pain points in your courses and programs? How do things look and feel from your customer’s perspective? Who is doing it better? Where can you glean insight outside of the academic world?
Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, advises hopeful entrepreneurs to be “opportunistic collectors,” taking inspiration from poems, lyrics, or snippets of conversation. Whatever your sources, practicing opportunity recognition begins with believing that new and better curriculum opportunities exist—and staying on the lookout.
2) Create Shorter Learning Cycles
Thomas Watson Jr., of IBM, famously advised, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” This saying was born out in the well-known Marshmallow Challenge, a group exercise where teams were asked to build towers of spaghetti and masking tape with a marshmallow on the top.
The challenge gained attention when kindergartners were found to significantly outperform adults, creating taller and more inventive structures in less time. The key to the kid’s success was jabbing the sticky sweet on top immediately. While adults plotted and planned, the tots were busy trying and failing and learning. By shortening their learning cycles, the kids allowed more opportunities for failure and success.
The instructors creating INNO courses are practicing this process in real time. Their initial course curriculum was laid out only a year ago, and is already undergoing its third overhaul. While this pace can be exhausting, it is leading to courses that are quickly becoming some of the best attended at Flinders.
In addition to investing in curriculum adjustment, universities can create shorter learning cycles by sharing projects and ideas earlier. Welcoming feedback into a partially planned course, giving a presentation on a young project, or planning Skype conversations early in a partnership allows course designers to fail quickly and adjust accordingly.
“We keep asking ourselves, ‘How do we learn faster?'” says Verhoeven. The answer? Create shorter learning cycles.
3) Prioritize Reflection
Much like resting your muscles after a hard workout, reflection is necessary to ensure learning cycles lead to genuine improvement and growth. One of the most common ways universities practice reflection is soliciting student feedback. The Fox School has made a practice of broadening that approach to collect feedback from all stakeholders.
The first design of the INNO curriculum was based on the Fox School’s past experience, and on brief conversations with Australian business leaders early last fall. In October, the Fox School sent a team to Adelaide to conduct focus groups and extensive interviews; the next summer, Verhoeven traveled to Philadelphia to reflect after the first full semester of courses launched.
All of this conversation fueled the curriculum rewrites of the last year. Like a cat chasing its own tail, reflection generates new learning cycles which create fodder for more reflection.
4) Cultivate Your Culture
Creating the right culture is essential for new businesses, as Hill explains, “because they’re fighting so hard against the tide. They don’t have time to disagree about everything.” The same can be said for collaborative curriculum designers hoping to push the envelope.
Cultivating culture starts by articulating a clear vision. The INNO team is challenging students and faculty to relearn how to learn. Their motto is “differently think.” Paying attention to that vision, clearly communicating it, helps them stay on track.
A strong vision becomes a helpful litmus test for building a team. “There are many different ways of teaching entrepreneurship,” Hill says. By understanding their vision, and hiring to match that vision, the INNO team is developing a strong culture and paving the way for an effective team.
While culture can feel amorphous and hard to pin down, it is the secret sauce that every successful enterprise has to master. Universities practicing collaborative course design must tend their culture well or risk developing mediocre curriculum or short-lived partnerships.
5) Facilitate Conflict
Once a team is fully formed, it’s time to start storming. The INNO team has some unique challenges, working across universities, continents, and cultures, but any team will have differences. As Verhoeven puts it, “There’s always friction; that’s entrepreneurship.”
One way to ensure that conflicts remain productive is to designate a conflict facilitator. For the INNO team, the facilitator is tasked with paying special attention to all communications, and responding quickly to any concerns that arise.
Appointing one person to monitor group dynamics ensures that all parties feel heard, and nothing has time to fester. This frees up the group’s energy to move curriculum design forward.
Designing courses collaboratively while integrating an entrepreneurial lens is a messy process. Treasured ideas get thrown out, failure becomes routine, and there isn’t time to get comfortable.
Yet somewhere, at the end of all the frustration and pain, is a new idea, a better course, a fresh way of helping students grow their potential. Like a fluffy marshmallow suspended on a tower of noodles, the goal is to leave students with skills and insights that will stand the test of time.
Learn more about Fox Management Consulting.
Scott Bruce, a PhD student at the Fox School of Business, publishes in top statistics research journal, Biometrics.
Researchers are up to their elbows in data. But new methods are needed to address the increasing size and complexity of modern data structures, especially those with time-varying dynamics.
“Frequently, with biomedical experiments, you have time series data from many different participants, along with other clinical and behavioral information for each,” explains Scott Bruce, a fifth-year PhD student in the Department of Statistical Science at the Fox School.
“However,” he continues, “much of the statistical literature focuses on the analysis of a single time series, so there is a need for new theory and methods that can analyze more complex data generated from these kinds of modern biomedical experiments.”
Bruce’s article on his recent research—under the advisement of Dr. Robert Krafty (University of Pittsburgh) and Dr. Cheng Yong Tang (Temple University)—was accepted for publication by the prestigious statistics journal, Biometrics (and appears online through “Biometrics Early View”). He has developed a new method called “conditional adaptive Bayesian spectrum analysis,” or CABS, which can be used to analyze associations between the dynamics of time series data and other data of interest.
The University of Pittsburgh’s AgeWise Caregiver Study, which examined the relationship between stress and sleep in older adults serving as the primary caregiver for an ill spouse, was the motivation for Bruce’s research. Study participants were monitored during a night of sleep to obtain their heart rate variability time series data, and they completed a questionnaire in order to formulate an individualized sleep score (the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index).
The goal was to measure the association between physiological stress captured in the heart rate variability data and sleep quality measured by the PSQI score.
“This new method allows you to analyze these associations between the covariates and the time series,” explains Bruce. “It properly reflects the temporally-evolving nature of the relationship and helps us better understand dynamic biological processes. Researchers and practitioners who study time series data in conjunction with other types of data will be interested in this work.”
Bruce and his collaborators also developed user-friendly functions available in MATLAB that allow researchers and practitioners to use CABS in their own work. It’s available at the Biometrics website.
Learn more about Fox School Research.
The Fox School of Business at Temple University has received approval to begin an on-campus renovation project that will enhance the on-campus experience and better serve its growing student body.
Renovation of 1810 Liacouras Walk, which is located adjacent to the Fox School’s Alter Hall, will begin August 2017. The project will be completed by the start of the 2018-19 academic year, coinciding with Fox’s celebration of its 100th anniversary. Expansion into 1810 Liacouras Walk will create additional classroom space, improve the accessibility of its university-wide Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), and meet the needs of the Fox School’s growing student body and faculty. The building will offer 77,000 square feet of available space, with the addition of an atrium and an additional floor.
“I am pleased that we have received approval to begin this important project,” said M. Moshe Porat, Dean of the Fox School of Business. “The growth of our student body and our faculty is a testament to the momentum of our school and the rankings our academic programs have attained. The space at 1810 Liacouras Walk will support our commitment to several of our academic pillars, and improve the accessibility of services we provide.”
Expansion into the site at 1810 Liacouras Walk recently received approval from the Temple University Board of Trustees, as well as the Philadelphia Historical Commission. The façade of 1810 Liacouras Walk will not be altered, as it is protected as part of the city’s Park Avenue Historic District.
The renovation project, which is being financed through a combination of school and philanthropic contributions, includes the construction of an enclosed skywalk connecting the third floor of Speakman Hall and the fourth floor of 1810 Liacouras Walk. Alter and Speakman halls are home to the Fox School of Business and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management. The skywalk will allow for easier and safer transfer of technology and students between the buildings.
The project also will increase the visibility of Temple’s nationally recognized entrepreneurship resources. A university-wide resource available to students from all of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges, IEI will occupy the first floor of 1810 Liacouras Walk. In 2016, Temple was one of four universities nationally to have both its undergraduate- and graduate-level entrepreneurship programs ranked among the top 10 nationally by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.
Expansion into 1810 Liacouras Walk also will feature the relocation of several Fox-specific departments and academic centers.
The sixth floor will house Fox’s Online & Digital Learning Team, which designs, films, and produces video offerings for Fox’s renowned online-specific programs — including the No. 1-ranked Online MBA and No. 2-ranked Online BBA programs, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The Fox School’s Business Communication Center will reside on the second floor, along with members of Fox’s faculty who teach Business Communication. The school’s Marketing and Communication division will relocate to this floor, as well.
The school’s Department of Statistical Science and Fox’s Office of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives will occupy the third and fourth floors, respectively. The fifth floor will be reserved for Fox’s Center for Executive Education.
Temple University’s Fox School of Business has been recognized as one of the inaugural awardees of the International Insurance Society’s Global Centers of Insurance Excellence (GCIE) designation.
The Fox School became one of the first recipients of this distinguished honor at the IIS Global Insurance Forum, held July 17-20 in London. Research professor Dr. Randy Dumm attended the forum and the conferring of this distinction on behalf of Fox’s Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management.
Founded in 1965, the IIS is considered the world’s largest and most-prestigious insurance industry organization. It aims to drive industry growth by bridging insurance executives, academics, and policymakers from nearly 100 countries.
The GCIE certification program, formed this year by the IIS, recognizes only 20 universities worldwide as leading providers of risk management and insurance education, and serves to enhance their connections and reputations with the insurance industry.
Universities awarded the GCIE designation must meet or exceed criteria related to course offerings; graduate and industry employment rates; and professional involvement. Additionally, a university must demonstrate that its students are exposed to designated full-time faculty with appropriate qualifications and research expertise. GCIE designation is retained for five years and thereafter extended upon renewal.
“It is incredibly humbling to learn that the Fox School’s Risk Management and Insurance program has been chosen as one of the first colleges and universities worldwide to receive this coveted distinction,” said Dr. R.B. Drennan, Chair of Fox’s Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management department.
U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Risk Management and Insurance undergraduate program at the Fox School of Business among the top-10 programs nationally each of the last 10 years. The program dates to 1914, making it the nation’s oldest, continuously running program of its kind. Additionally, with more than 475 students, it is one of the United States’ largest-such programs.
The program is also home to the Sigma Chapter, the largest chapter of the international professional fraternity Gamma Iota Sigma. Fox’s Sigma Chapter has earned the Edison L. Bowers Award as best overall chapter in 18 of the last 24 years.
Top-5 national rankings have been awarded to two undergraduate programs from the Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management department at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
In separate metric-based ranking surveys, the Fox School’s Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program received a No. 1 national ranking, while the Actuarial Science program earned a No. 5 ranking among U.S. programs.
“Our undergraduate majors, both in Risk Management and Insurance and in Actuarial Science, have long been viewed as premier North American programs,” said Dr. R.B. Drennan, Chair of Fox’s Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management department. “These rankings are powerful affirmation of our rich history, talented students, and dedicated faculty.”
The Fox School’s RMI program is one of only 20 recent recipients globally of the International Insurance Society’s Global Centers of Insurance Excellence designation. The school’s program, which was founded in 1914, is the nation’s oldest, continuously running program of its kind. It is also considered one of the largest, with more than 475 students.
The RMI ranking methodology scored programs based upon the size and quality of their graduating RMI classes, whether the programs are housed in dedicated RMI departments, and student access to the Gamma Iota Sigma international professional fraternity, according to Online Accounting Programs, which ranked the nation’s top-15 undergraduate programs.
Additionally, the Fox School’s Actuarial Science major also received accolades. College Choice recently named it the fifth-best program of its kind in the United States, in a recent ranking of the nation’s top-35 programs. It also has been judged as the nation’s top-value actuarial science program.
The program has for many years maintained its designation as one of few Centers of Actuarial Excellence, earning recertification in 2016. A rare distinction, CAE designation is awarded by the Society of Actuaries by colleges and universities that meet stringent requirements in degree curriculum, graduate count, faculty composition, graduate quality, and beyond.
Founded in the 1960s, the Fox School’s Actuarial Science program integrates exam preparation into coursework and offers challenging curriculum, a wealth of networking opportunities, access to top industry professionals, and personalized service through advising.
Zach Pfeffer has always been goal-oriented.
His knack for scoring goals helped him sign a professional soccer contract by age 15. At the time, the native of Dresher, Pa., became the fourth-youngest player to join Major League Soccer (MLS), a professional soccer league based in the United States.
These days, Pfeffer is a rising junior at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, where his career goals revolve around his interest in finance.
“This is the right place for me,” said Pfeffer, a summer wealth management intern at the Philadelphia office of Morgan Stanley. “From my first day at Fox, I have immersed myself in the culture and activities here, and it’s been a great experience.”
At 21, Pfeffer is what some might call a non-traditional undergraduate student. His enrollment at Fox in January 2017 marked the first time Pfeffer had taken courses in a classroom setting in six years.
As an upperclassman at Upper Dublin High School, in Upper Dublin, Pa., Pfeffer had made special arrangements to continue taking coursework in person and online while pursuing a career in MLS. Each day, after a first-period morning class, he would travel to Chester, Pa., for practice with the Philadelphia Union, the MLS club with which he had signed.
“I thought it would be difficult to re-acclimate to the classroom, but it’s been great,” Pfeffer said recently. “I had taken some online coursework while I was playing professionally, which helped keep me engaged and in a student’s mindset. Really, everything at Fox has been a great experience.”
The Union signed Pfeffer in 2010, during the franchise’s first season of existence. The club had planned for Pfeffer, a goal-scoring midfielder, to figure prominently into their future success. Often in soccer, teams will loan younger players who are under contract to other clubs, to allow for that player’s growth and to give him more opportunity to play. Pfeffer’s first loan sent him to Hoffenheim, Germany. The opportunity, Pfeffer said, “helped me mature quickly.”
“It taught me the parallels between careers in soccer and in business, actually,” he said. “They’re both cutthroat and competitive lines of work, and if you’re not performing well, there is always someone who is waiting to take your job. I was able to learn a new language, and it gave me a chance to be independent.”
Pfeffer’s soccer career continued upon his return stateside. The 2015 season served as his apex with the Union. He played in 21 games and scored a pair of goals, none bigger than his game-winner in the final moments of a July 25 match against DC United.
“I remember that goal like it just happened,” Pfeffer said, smiling. “We were playing a home game, I came on in the 75th minute of a 1-1 game. And in the 92nd minute, I took a touch and slotted it home with my left foot. The crowd went wild. That was my highlight moment.”
The Union traded Pfeffer to Colorado before the 2016 season and, though he had options from a number of MLS clubs for the 2017 season, Pfeffer decided to hang up his spikes and pursue a degree in finance. Around the locker rooms in his various career stops, Pfeffer said teammates often called him “the finance guy,” because of his interest in the foreign and domestic markets. A handful of teammates actually requested that Pfeffer — who at the time was completing online coursework — serve as their wealth manager.
“Before practice every day, everybody would be in the locker room killing time by looking at their phones,” said Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath, a teammate of Pfeffer’s both with the Union and the Colorado Rapids. “Zach was very well known for checking stocks when the markets would open, or reading the news. (Teammates) would look at him so focused on his phone and people would ask. He was obviously passionate about it.”
MacMath praised Pfeffer for his ability to complete online classes while playing soccer professionally.
“I’m taking some classes now, and I can tell you it’s a very tough task to go back to school when you’re playing,” MacMath said. “But Zach, he’s a well-mannered kid who was raised well by his parents. He was going to be successful no matter what life or career path he chose to pursue.”
Pfeffer isn’t sure of the direction in which he will take his finance degree. He has two years to decide between career opportunities in investment banking, private equity, wealth management, portfolio management, or equity research.
For now, he’s dedicated to his education and his commitments to a few of Fox’s student professional organizations.
Next fall, Pfeffer will serve as the lead analyst for the financial sector of Temple’s renowned Owl Fund Seminar, a two-semester course in which students manage real money — approximately $250,000 — in Temple University’s endowment expressly designated for this class. Students in Owl Fund are required to first participate in Fox Fund, a non-credit virtual portfolio training ground.
“That’s how I first met Zach and, in our interactions, he has shown great initiative and great potential,” said Cindy Axelrod, Assistant Professor of Finance and Director of Financial Planning programs at the Fox School. “Last semester, he often attended Owl Fund classes as an opportunity to meet other students and network with speakers.”
Axelrod added that Pfeffer, in his role as financial sector lead analyst, will be tasked with recommending three stocks for Owl Fund investment during the semester, and analyzing existing stocks from his most-recent predecessors. “These are front-line responsibilities,” Axelrod said, “and Zach is ready to meet these challenges.”
Next semester, Pfeffer also will hold officer roles with the Financial Management Association (FMA) and the Temple University Investment Association (TUIA).
Pfeffer has no plans of giving up soccer entirely. He guided the Owl Fund’s intramural team to the championship round last semester. And through LinkedIn, he has connected with fellow former players like retired MLS goalkeeper Will Hesmer, whose post-playing career is in wealth management.
“Everyone I’ve met and spoken with has been so supportive,” Pfeffer said. “Having that world and work experience certainly made for a smoother transition and it almost feels like I have an advantage. I’m a competitive person, and that translates to my past and my education.
“Those skills are transferable, and I think that’s why my time at Fox has exceeded all of my expectations.”
Christopher Wallace, MBA ’10 | Managing Director, GrowthPlay
Hometown: Syracuse, N.Y.
“Sales teams often aren’t aligned with their organization’s strategy,” says Fox School alumnus Chris Wallace, managing director of GrowthPlay. In his recent Harvard Business Review article, co-written with author and Harvard Business School lecturer Frank Cespedes, Wallace discusses how organizations typically spend three times more on sales than advertising. Yet these companies deliver, on average, 50-60 percent of the revenue predicted in sales forecasts. An edited version of the old John Wanamaker quote is applicable: “Half the money I spend on sales is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” (Wanamaker’s original quote was: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted…”)
Throughout his career, Wallace has dedicated time, effort, and brainpower to solving unique sales effectiveness challenges like this one. This is still true in his role at GrowthPlay, where he partners with clients to drive revenue growth and elevate selling from a transaction to a value-added experience.
Recently, GrowthPlay conducted a study of over 700 sales professionals, middle managers, and senior executives to determine why organizations aren’t getting the return they expect from sales. The study concluded the problem occurs due to misalignment with communication, perception, awareness, sales team organization, processes, and other factors that hinder reps’ ability to deliver value to customers. It isn’t as simple as “our people can’t sell,” which is a trap many companies fall into. The findings prove that even in the digital age, sales remain a people-centric discipline.
Wallace’s passion for sales force effectiveness started early in his career. In 2006, he left his position in sales and marketing at the PGA Tour and joined the entertainment division of Comcast to sell cable television programming. He worked at Comcast as a regional director for over five years, and during that time decided to pursue an MBA.
“I looked at a variety of programs I chose the Fox School because of the flexibility of the Executive MBA program, the school’s reputation, and its vast alumni network,” he says. “I was very eager to advance in my career, and even more eager to learn what drives business and sales strategy, finance, and profitability.”
One year after he graduated from the Fox School, he founded Incite, a sales force strategy and effectiveness firm. In January, GrowthPlay acquired Incite in order to diversify its portfolio of clients and strengthen its position in the sales effectiveness market.
“I could never be where I am today if I didn’t earn my MBA,” he says. “It changed my career, and helped me see the value of putting people at the center of any business strategy. Today, I help develop better performing sales teams using the skills, knowledge, and business acumen I learned at Fox.”
When asked to give advice for prospective and current MBA students, Wallace says, “Start your MBA program with a plan, but be willing to widen the scope of what you think you can do. I never intended to be an entrepreneur, but I saw a need in the marketplace and reacted. Be open to changing your path.”
Jimmy Guardino, BBA ’10 | Associate Director of Facultative Reinsurance, Aon Benfield
All fun and games: One of Guardino’s newest pastimes is mahjong, a Chinese tile-based game. “Most of my fiancé’s friends are both shocked and delighted to hear that I’ve learned the game, mostly because they think I will be an easy target.”
Jimmy Guardino, BBA ’10, has lived and worked in Singapore since 2012, when he joined Aon Benfield. There, in one of the world’s leading hubs for the facultative reinsurance industry, Guardino oversees the brokering of reinsurance for insurance companies that are seeking unique facultative solutions for their property and casualty risks throughout Southeast Asia.
To stay connected, Guardino regularly consumes American programming like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The Daily Show,” and “Saturday Night Live.” “I live for shows like that. Most American expats here do,” he says. “In those first few months away from home, anytime I could catch an American show on TV or even just hearing Taylor Swift over the radio in a taxi, those moments were surreal. It was when I realized firsthand the sheer level of influence American pop-culture has even on the other side of the world.”
The Norristown, Penn., native took a circuitous route into his field. Guardino played in a touring band during his Temple days. The Economics major learned of an internship opportunity at Malvern-based Cevian Intermediaries, an independent reinsurance broker and intermediary. After graduation, Guardino worked with Cevian and, while on an assignment in Bermuda, began networking with an executive from Aon Benfield.
“I had returned to the Philadelphia area for about six months when I received a call in the middle of the night. That was when I found out about this opportunity in Singapore,” Guardino says. Aon Benfield offered to cover Guardino’s travel arrangements to Singapore from Philadelphia, including all moving expenses. If he didn’t care for the job, he was told he could move back at the end of his two-year contract. Guardino asked himself, “What is there to lose?”
The move has paid off. Guardino is an associate director of facultative reinsurance with Aon Benfield, assisting clients with the management and transfer of risk. He specializes in the placement and negotiation of facultative policies related to terrorism, political violence, property, power generation, and contingency.
Outside of his professional career, Guardino is a competitive cyclist on an amateur Asian tour, participating in racing events in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
He also is recently engaged to a Singaporean colleague whom he met for the first time at a work event in October 2013.
“Meeting Jacelyn was what really helped me to complete the transformation from ‘I am here on an assignment,’ to ‘Singapore could be my home for the foreseeable future,'” he says. On a personal level, as a result, Guardino considers himself fully engrained to life in Singapore. Well, at least most aspects of it.
“Singapore is located approximately 88 miles from the equator, so the temperature ranges from 70 to 95 degrees every day, with humidity,” he says. “The sun rises and the sun sets at the same time. It’s kind of like the (1993) movie ‘Groundhog Day.’
“There are days when the stress of work gets to you, and you envy friends and family back home. But I don’t regret moving here at all. It has paid off in more ways than one. I just don’t know where the time went. It feels like only last year that I was deciding whether to make the move. Now I’m here and my life has forever changed for the better.”
“Don’t be afraid to take chances,” says Richard Henne, BBA ’15. “You have to try something new even if you fail, because you can learn from failure.”
Henne is the co-founder of Ivory Ella, an apparel company that donates 10% of its net profits to Save the Elephants and other charitable organizations. Along with five friends, Henne launched the company in 2015. Now they have nearly 100 employees, a 40,000 square foot office space, and have donated over $1 million to important causes.
On Saturday, Henne gave the keynote address during Temple University Alumni Weekend’s Lead and Learn Summit. Hosted at the Fox School, the topic was failure, namely how a series of alumni entrepreneurs have been able to spin their failures into victories.
We asked Henne to share with us a few of the mistakes he made along the way to Ivory Ella’s success. From overseas raids on intellectual property pirates to driving a U-Haul truck around the country seeking inventory, here are some of the ways Henne learned from his mistakes.
1. Not Having a Business Plan
“We had no business plan, no customer service strategy, no idea what we were going to do. We took a T-shirt design, put it online, and it went viral. We were chasing our tail the entire time. It was hectic. We didn’t lockdown supplies, printers, employees, anything. We sold out 500 shirts in 15 minutes, so once we hit that preorder button, we were chasing demand for the next year. I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, but it was a good problem to have. Definitely have a plan in place before you launch.”
2. Not Having a Talent Hiring Plan
“When you’re in a situation like we were, we were desperate for help. We hired friends, family members, and pretty much anyone who would come work for us. We didn’t have a talent scout, we didn’t have people looking for experienced managers, we just brought in anyone we knew who worked hard and was willing. Things worked out, but it wasn’t the most effective approach. You have to be careful when you bring in talent; it shouldn’t just be a shotgun spread kind of approach.”
3. Trusting Everyone
“Not being in the industry for long, and not knowing how big business worked, we went from a company that started in a basement to shipping our millionth order last month. It’s stressful and you’re put in situations you aren’t prepared for. We would have a lot of suppliers tell us, “We’re going to get this to you, it’s going to be perfect, don’t worry about it.” And nine times out of 10, those promises were fake. People will tell you what you want to hear, then won’t deliver. With our company, we started off wanting to do the exact opposite: We set goals, then we try to blow them out of the water, and never come up short. Various suppliers promised us shirts, and that fell through, so I spent the first few months driving around the country in a U-Haul truck buying shirts and driving them back to our factory. It was crazy.”
4. Underestimating Scale
“When we started, we were in a basement. We quickly rented out a storage space, and outgrew that. Then we moved to a section in a strip mall, where we bought two printers, hired a big staff, and a had big front room. That lasted three months, then we rented out the car dealership across the street, which we used for storage. That only lasted three months before we outgrew it. Then we moved to Mystic, Conn., where we shared a building with Aqua Massage International, so on the other side of the building, these guys were making aqua massage beds. From there we finally found a 40,000 square foot warehouse in Westerly, R.I. I can’t imagine we’ll have to grow again, but having a plan in place for growth and space would’ve initially saved us a lot of time and money. Our new location is huge. We only use about half the space right now; the other half is a basketball court and recreation area for our employees. We have a lot of space to grow. And we’ve learned how to manage our inventory, so as long as we stay on top of that, we shouldn’t have to expand again. Who knows, maybe an international office is in the future.”
5. Not Preparing for Intellectual Property Issues
“We have counterfeits all over. We take down about 100 a week. We even conducted a raid on Chinese soil to shut down a factory, but when we got there it was abandoned. It’s been an interesting process, and it wasn’t something I knew about going in. Like with so much else, we’ve had to learn fast. Other manufacturers steal our designs, so if we sell a shirt for $31.99, they sell it for $9.99. We donate 10%, they don’t donate anything. It’s people who want to wear the brand but not pay the cost. Big brands deal with this every day, but not knowing from the beginning this was going to be such a huge epidemic for us, it left us unprepared out of the gate. IP is huge, so think about it and have a plan before you jump in.”
Sometimes it’s OK to use the “F word.”
In fact, sometimes it’s good to drop some “F bombs.”
Obviously, the “F word” here is “failure.”
That was the magic word at the Lead and Learn Summit held at the Fox School last Saturday as part of Temple University Alumni Weekend 2017. With a keynote address by Richard Henne, BBA ‘15, the co-founder of apparel company Ivory Ella, the panel featured five Temple grads talking about how, during the course of their diverse entrepreneurial journeys, they succeeded by learning from their mistakes. (Read our interview with Henne about “5 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Will Learn From” here.)
There were many valuable lessons learned from the success stories told by the Owls on the panel, which included Philly Startup Leaders executive director Yuval Yarden, KLN ’13, REC Philly co-founder Dave Silver, KLN ’13, and United By Blue founder Brian Linton, CLA ’08.
The big takeaway? Don’t give up, because there is wisdom in failure.
There were many more Alumni Weekend events on campus, including Dîner en Cherry, a massive dinner held at a secret location where everyone dressed in Cherry and White. Check out some photos below.
Photos courtesy of Temple University.
Greg Silvesti, MBA ’09 | Director of Global Customer Insights, Patient Technologies and Personalized Medicine, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
On being a Philly lifer: “I am a die hard Eagles fan—season tickets have been in my family since 1962, and the last home game I missed was in 1988. And I spend my summers down the shore in Stone Harbor. We’re total beach people, you can find us there every weekend.”
If you want to develop a great product, you need to know where to start. “You need to have a human-centric approach,” says Greg Silvesti, Director of Global Customer Insights at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, MBA ’09. “You don’t start with the technology, you start with the individual. Unless you have a firm understanding of the individual and the problem you’re trying to solve, you’ll be lost.”
Silvesti has been at the forefront of the thriving intersection of health, technology, and innovation. He previously worked at Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb. For the last two years, he has worked with Teva, a multinational pharmaceutical company where one of the main goals is to “go beyond the pill.”
“The pharmaceutical space is being commoditized very quickly,” explains Silvesti, “so we’re going ‘beyond the pill’ and creating new business models, new technologies, and new ways to promote health and wellness without simply relying on a drug. When I joined, I brought in a new process for understanding who our customers are—whether they’re caregivers, patients, family members, or health care providers—and a human-centric attitude to product development.”
One big project Teva has been working on, in collaboration with IBM Watson Health Cloud, is the development of a portfolio of connected inhalers for asthma patients. Connected to GPS and mobile devices, it monitors treatment goals, as well as environmental factors that might impact patients (such as pollen counts and allergy forecasts) to offer predictive health solutions.
Silvesti’s approach and his ability to stay ahead of a rapidly changing industry was honed at the Fox School.
“The best thing at Fox was the final semester capstone and the consulting engagement,” recalls Silvesti. “It gave me a snapshot of moving into a company I wasn’t familiar with, and having to get up to speed and developing a different approach to solve their specific challenges. Coming into a company with 40,000 employees worldwide, I had to teach the organization on the fly how to do things differently. There are a lot of strategies and tactics I’ve taken from Fox and brought to Teva to align the organization and drive innovation. I learned a lot in that class.”