Business consultants are problem solvers and, oftentimes, fortune tellers. With the rise of technology in industries such as cybersecurity, healthcare and information technology, consultants have become even more popular because they can help organizations address current and future challenges based on insights, market analysis, resource optimization and more.
The Temple University Management Consulting Program (TUMCP)’s Temple Consulting Club recently partnered with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI)’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Association to host a panel discussion with the theme of “Women in Consulting.” The four panelists, Daniella Colleta, Gail Blauer, Jessica Podgajny and Katie Stellard have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. We caught up with them to ask what they wish they had known in their 20s, and for any advice they have for women in the consulting field.
Never Shy Away From a Challenge
As an advisory manager at Grant Thornton LLP, Daniella Colleta deploys company-wide change management programs to expose employees to new ways of working. Additionally, she leads with a people-first strategy in order to reinforce new behaviors and achieve collaboration across people, processes and technologies.
“It is never too early to begin building a network of peers, advocates and mentors,” Colleta says. “Don’t shy away from those who challenge you. This will pay off dividends and the power of relationships should never be underestimated. Plus, there’s always much to learn and doing it with and around those you enjoy is the real reward.”
Nurture and Grow Natural Strengths
With twelve years of experience, Blauer specializes in business process improvement, business strategy, business transformation and business process outsourcing (BPO). Currently, she serves as the managing director of Deloitte Consulting.
“Be your authentic self. Often we are told that we have a characteristic that other people don’t find appealing, but that is who we are,” she explains. “I have always been assertive and aggressive, and I go after what I want. When I went to graduate school around the age of 22, I tried to suppress my natural assertiveness. As I have grown in my career, I realized it was something to nurture and grow. I advice young women to embrace the natural strengths that other people think are weaknesses.”
Move Feelings of Intimidation to the Backseat
In early 2017, Podgajny founded Blink Consulting, a firm that helps companies with culture, strategic planning, organizational change and design. She is a seasoned leader, passionate about partnering with both established and emerging organizations to catalyze growth. She has a track record of high-energy, high-touch and high-ROI result that have created long-lasting corporate legacies.
“When looking back on what I wish I’d known early in my career, two things come to mind. The first is to bring your whole self to work,” Podgajny says. “Initially, I kept my personal life and work life very separate until I realized that sharing more about myself as a whole person created room for building strong, meaningful working relationships with colleagues and clients. The second is to remember that ‘the boss’ or senior ranking leaders in the company are really just people. They likely don’t have all the answers and have their own strengths and weaknesses. The advice: Move your feelings of intimidation out of the way and have authentic dialogues with all colleagues regardless of their level. It will go a long way!”
Build a Network of Advocates and Colleagues
As a senior manager at Navigate Corporation, Stellard primarily focuses on project management office (PMO); and project and program management. With twenty years of experience in management consulting, she specializes in many sectors of the industry including, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, higher education and real estate.
“My advice to a just-starting-out consultant would be to build a network of peers and mentors that are working in your areas of interest and learn from their experience. They may also serve as your greatest advocates and center you as you navigate your career, even through job changes and challenges along the way.”
If you are interested in pursuing a career in consulting or entrepreneurship, learn more about the Fox Strategic Management department.
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.”
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.”
Learn more about Fox MBA programs.
For the first time ever, the Fox School of Business is coming to a city near you! During the 2019-2020 academic year, we are hosting a series of events called Fox on the Road in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Maryland. The goal of these sessions is to offer professional development and career services and to bring the Fox alumni community together in their own backyards.
The events will feature a keynote speaker to present on a hot industry topic and will focus on providing opportunities for Fox graduates to learn from and connect with their fellow alumni.
If you have any questions or ideas about how to make this event series more valuable for you, email Stephanie Nissen, director of student experience and alumni engagement, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming soon: Details on speakers, cities and more.
When you graduate, you automatically become a member of the Fox School of Business Alumni Association (FSBAA). This membership means you’re eligible for many benefits, resources, and opportunities at the school. There are also alumni events locally and across the country that bring the Fox community together for professional development, networking and comradery.
Click here to learn more about how to get involved in the Fox alumni network.
Grants Create Scholarships for Risk Management and Insurance Majors and Maguire College School Scholars at Temple University
PHILADELPHIA, April 8, 2019 – A $2.75 million commitment from the Maguire Foundation will help undergraduate students at Temple University in need of financial aid pursue undergraduate degrees, excel in their courses and graduate with less debt. This will provide permanent financial support to Temple Students who are Maguire Scholars.
The commitment includes $1.5 million to go to undergraduate students at Temple University’s Fox School of Business who are pursuing majors in Risk Management and Insurance in the form of the Maguire Business Scholars Program. Another $1.25 million is set aside for the Maguire College Scholars program, which benefits Temple University students coming from one of the Maguire High School partners.
“The Foundation is committed to ensuring that gifted college students in need of financial aid are positioned to succeed at Temple through the Maguire Scholars Program, and at the Fox School of Business through the Maguire Business Scholars Program,” says Megan Maguire Nicoletti, Maguire Foundation President and CEO. “The establishment of the Maguire Endowed Scholars Programs will allow students now and for years to come to discover their full potential for service and achievement and potentially pursue a career in an industry that has been so fulfilling to my father and my family.”
The Maguire College Scholars program will benefit academically strong students with high financial need for all four years of college. The foundation is involved in funding education and scholarships from Pre-K through higher education.
“This significant financial support from the Maguire Foundation has a tremendous impact on our students, allowing them to focus on their studies as they prepare for lucrative careers,” says Richard M. Englert, president of Temple University. “The Maguire Foundation has a long history as a leader in improving opportunities for deserving individuals. At Temple, we are grateful to have such a strong relationship with the Maguire Foundation and thankful for this investment in our Fox School students.”
The business school scholarships will benefit at least five Risk Management and Insurance students as they focus on the core classes in their major.
“Scholarships do more than make education affordable for at-need students,” says Interim Dean Ronald Anderson, of the Fox School of Business and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management. “The Maguire Scholars and Maguire Business Scholars programs put students in a position to pursue their career with less debt when they graduate. Scholarships like the Maguire Foundation offerings put students in a position to succeed, not only in school, but also when they enter the job market.”
Sam Belkowitz, BBA ’19, said the Maguire Scholars program enabled him to excel at the Fox School.
“It allowed me to really focus on my studies,” Belkowitz says. “I have been able to really succeed in my coursework at Temple. I have a 3.95 GPA and a big part of that is I did not have to worry about making money while going to school.”
Belkowitz has benefitted from the scholarship since the spring semester of his junior year at Temple, when he pursued his major in Risk Management and Insurance. He said after graduation he will hit the job market with less debt, enabling him to aim for a job he really wants.
“One big thing is just the opportunity to really pursue what I want to do and not have to worry about paying off my loans so much,” Belkowitz says.
Sandra Michel, BS ’19, said she would not have been able to pursue her degree without the Maguire scholarship. Michel, who graduated from Archbishop Prendergast in 2015, has benefitted from the scholarship all four years at Temple University.
She will graduate with a degree in recreational therapy from Temple University’s College of Public Health and hopes to pursue a master’s degree while working with people who have mental health challenges.
“The scholarship is a good impetus to stay involved in social work and active in the community,” Michel says. “And it takes a huge financial burden off me and my family.”
The foundation is making the contributions to both programs over a five-year period in order to establish a permanent endowment at Temple University. The money is being added to a series of contributions the Maguire Foundation has made to the school since 2013, when the Maguire Scholars program began at Temple University with a commitment to students studying risk management and insurance.
About the Maguire Foundation
The Maguire Foundation is a nonprofit organization that invests in education, the arts and humanities and fighting hunger and homelessness. The foundation funds scholarships as 31 different universities and colleges.
The foundation was established on Oct. 2, 2000 by James and Frances Maguire. James Maguire is the founder and chairman emeritus of Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corporation, which includes the subsidiaries Maguire Insurance Agency, Tokio Marine Specialty Insurance Company and Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company. He is a Korean War veteran and graduate of Saint Joseph’s University.
About the Fox School of Business
Temple University’s Fox School of Business is the largest, most comprehensive business school in the Philadelphia region and among the largest in the world, with more than 9,000 students, 220 full-time faculty and 60,000 alumni around the globe. The Fox School has a proud tradition of delivering innovative, entrepreneurial programs for the past 100 years. With facilities that provide access to market- leading technologies, the school fosters a collaborative and creative learning environment. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the real-world job market. Learn more at fox.temple.edu. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
NAO came to Temple University about three years ago, when Li Bai and Carole Tucker, researchers from the Colleges of Engineering and Public Health, and, joined Heidi Grunwald, director of Temple’s Institute for Survey Research, to study robotics and surveys.
The team wanted to explore a big idea: What if NAO, this cute, two-foot tall, human-ish robot, could be programmed to give health surveys to children on the autism spectrum? Could they create a system to collect patient-reported outcomes in this tough-to-survey population?
Potentially, this research could solve a number of difficult problems. Currently, its parents fill out surveys on behalf of their kids. Researchers would prefer patient-reported outcomes. It’s much more accurate than information filtered through a third party, such as a parent. “Kids with autism may be willing to say they are depressed, but not in front of their mother,” says Tucker. When a one-foot-tall robot with a cute robotic voice such as NAO is asking questions instead of a human clinician, researchers might get reliable patient-reported outcomes in a way they have not been able to in the past.
The team’s research would also include another stream of valuable information: para-data. The camera inside the robot would “watch” the subject as NAO asked the survey questions. Additionally, via the sensor the subject wears (a Microsoft wristband), researchers can monitor things like facial expression, heart rate, and body motion. This para-data is a rich vein of knowledge, particularly when combined with the survey questions, response time, and answers.
If the subject pauses an extra long time when a certain question is asked, the NAO can play a game (like rock, paper, scissors), take a break, or give a high five to reduce anxiety. This is one way that the robot uses para-data to adapt to a child’s answers. The para-data also helps the researchers better understand survey responses. “For example, we can tell if a particular question made a subject nervous and then down-weight the answer, or not count it,” explains Grunwald.
“The robot’s face is much less complex than a human face and human facial expressions,” says Tucker. That makes it much less overwhelming for a young person on the autism spectrum who may find it challenging to read people’s faces and maintain eye contact.
Their project received funding through the Office for the Vice President of Research’s Targeted Grant Program at Temple University, with matching funds from all three represented schools.
Planning the research has been an iterative process. On the computer science side, Bai and his engineering students have been exploring the feasibility of using NAO this way. Bai and the students have been answering questions like, “What features would be nice? How can we use sensors to pull in data and incorporate the Microsoft band?” They have iterated and refined the data architecture, a database where the data are meshed together so that the robot can read all of the survey response data–coupled with the para-data (sensor data).
Meanwhile, the questionnaire and para-data collection process have been tested on different groups, starting with older kids not on the autism spectrum. As trial subjects, children aged 10 and up can provide specific, meaningful feedback on interacting with NAO. More recently, a community event brought a group of children on the autism spectrum to campus, and the team had an opportunity to see NAO interact with the intended study subjects. Going forward, they have the kind of pilot data that can win the funding to drive this effort forward.
This work can benefit groups beyond younger people on the autism spectrum. Any time data reported directly from a patient may be skewed or inaccurate—such as dementia patients, for example—the survey methods used in this work could prove enormously helpful to clinicians.
“With future improvement in this type of research, I think we will see more robotic diagnostic platforms that will be developed. One of the functionalities will be surveys of the patients about their health conditions. It could be particularly important for people who can not find a good hospital in their neighborhood,” says Bai.
Practical applications of this work in the future aren’t limited to the realms of research and medicine by any means. “Artificial intelligence and robotics will be the next technology push to drive the economy of our country, There will be countless business world applications—such as personal robotic assistants (such as the iPhone’s Siri) or self-driving cars,” says Bai. He believes that the technology in this project will fuel innovations across all sectors of the economy in the years to come.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
Since December 2013, online job postings for statisticians and data science professionals have risen by 256%, according to the Indeed Hiring Lab. These in-demand “super analysts” are able to do deep dives into quantitative analysis. In response to that trend, the Fox School of Business has developed a 30-credit Master of Science in Statistics and Data Science with full-time and part-time options.
With this new degree, the school will help students and future graduates take advantage of the increasing number of job opportunities in this emerging career area. The Fox MS in Statistics and Data Science is built for students who want to develop in-depth statistical knowledge. These lessons are paired with a modern and data-focused educational experience, with a curriculum full of opportunities to develop critical thinking skills in the context of real-world problems in the industry.
“The primary mission of this new program is to graduate students with the highest levels of quantitative understanding,” says Eric Eisenstein, director of marketing and supply chain management graduate programs. “We are preparing them for highly specialized positions in business.”
Courses will cover statistics, business intelligence, data analytics, data mining, big data engineering, program management, causal learning and discovery, and machine learning. As a result of the program, statistics and data science professionals will understand prescriptive, descriptive, and predictive analytics, and will be able to embrace these technologies as they evolve. They will learn how to use cutting-edge analytical tools and software, as well as enhance their communication skills in order to translate modern data into insights for decision makers.
Students also participate in a three-credit capstone course designed to integrate “real world” problems into the curriculum. During the project, organizations will explain a data-driven challenge and partner with a student who will identify, estimate, evaluate, and communicate analytic solutions. Students may work on problems associated with their job at their current employer, while others will work in teams as consultants to a sponsoring corporation.
“The curriculum and the professors teaching the courses will put the Fox School on the map for thought leadership and innovation within the field of data science,” says Eisenstein.
A little over a year 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.
“There’s nothing more stressful than waiting to hear ‘Go’ at the start of an Olympic final,” says Michael Moore, BBA ’93. “I’m not afraid of any experience I’ve had in business as a result of that moment.”
Moore is recalling the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, where he competed with the United States crew team. He didn’t return home with a medal, but it was a singularly powerful experience. The Philadelphia native was a Temple University student (and a member of the school’s rowing team) at the time. He took one year off from earning his degree at the Fox School to train for the competition.
“It was an amazing summer,” says Moore. “We went to Europe and did the European race circuit, traveling to Belgium, Holland, and France. Then we went on to Barcelona.”
Then it was back to business school, where Moore studied marketing. After earning his degree from the Fox School, he went on to an MBA program at George Washington University, where he had two internships. One was with the Walt Disney Group and the other was with AOL. The latter shaped his future.
“The ideal internship is getting under the hood of a company and learning about it; AOL was the ideal internship,” says Moore. “Back then, AOL was still ramping up. The internet was around, but it wasn’t pervasive. I walked around the halls of AOL and engaged with the senior executives—and these were the executives—and documented what it took to build, launch, and package an AOL service. After that, there was only one thing I wanted to do, and that was be involved in the new, digital track that was then emerging.”
Soon after completing his MBA, he found the perfect intersection of tech and marketing when he returned to AOL as director of interactive marketing. He soon after moved to Europe to work with AOL for a one year project, but he stayed in London for 12 years.
Before leaving AOL, Moore held executive director and vice president positions. His next career move was working with Telegraph Media Group, where he helped the British company that owns popular newspapers The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph transition and expand its digital landscape. His last job in Europe was as the global commercial director for Phorm, a behavioral advertising firm. Moore then returned to the U.S.
In 2013, after a brief stint as CEO of flash commerce business kgb in New York City, Moore moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, to work with WillowTree Inc. He is a co-owner and chief commercial officer (CCO) of the digital agency, which does mobile development and strategy, web and app development, and more. Their client list includes Pepsi, GE, Time Warner, Johnson and Johnson, and Nestle.
“I’m constantly engaging with our clients, our user experience strategy group, our architects, our analytics and insights teams, and so on,” says Moore about his day-to-day work. “It used to be a world where my job was to work with the business development team to land new projects; people who, for instance, wanted us to build them an app. That experience was in a box; things were relatively defined. Those days are over. Digital products are central to the operations of these enterprises now. There isn’t any end or box—it’s a constant evolution, and it requires constant tinkering and optimization of these products. We learn new things from data every day. It used to be very Mad Men-style—pitching to companies—but now it’s more operational and we’re living with clients week in and week out so they can keep up with all the data they’re seeing and make it reflective of their needs.”
After years of working for big companies like AOL and traditional ones like Telegraph Media Group, Moore took a significant jump to work with an independent company like WillowTree. But working in the always-changing, unpredictable digital space, and especially with a creative team, is precisely where he thrives.
“As someone who’s worked in traditional business and digital environments, I prefer the slightly more chaotic side of things,” he says. “Not just for the intellectual rigor, but it has a big impact on how teams work. I believe that with all the uncertainty we face in technology, our team gets up every morning and faces the unknown, the uncertain, together. That forces innovation. In traditional business where you wake up and do the same thing every day, that’s where workplace politics, inefficiency, and laziness step in. I prefer being on my toes. Harkening back to my crew days at Temple, I thrive when I’m in a team. It’s part of my DNA.”
With his organization Philly Financial Planning, Thomas McDevitt, MBA ’02, has made it his mission to help empower Philadelphia’s most economically disadvantaged citizens. The nonprofit, currently in the startup phase, provides the tools and education necessary to make smart financial decisions over time and across all levels of literacy.
“Right now, we are seeking strategic partnerships with organizations,” McDevitt explains. “Philanthropists, faith-based organizations, local government officials, community and neighborhood leaders, Philadelphia-based corporations, learning institutions, banks and financial services firms can all play a meaningful role in helping us to achieve our long-term strategic goals of closing Philadelphia’s wealth gap.”
As part of Philly Financial Planning, McDevitt also hopes to roll out The Eagle’s Nest, a spin-off idea inspired by popular TV show Shark Tank. Local Philly entrepreneurs will have a chance to pitch for startup or expansion financing. An integral part of this service will be teaching inner-city entrepreneurs how to write a comprehensive business plan. His team is also working to kick off a city-wide Stock Market Challenge, where participants can win cash prizes for selecting top-performing stocks over defined, measured periods.
McDevitt has a rich history of giving back and educating diverse communities. After graduating from the Fox School with an MBA and a concentration in Finance, he co-founded a professional continuing education company, McDevitt & Kline, LLC. The second half of the organization’s namesake, Dr. Bill Kline received his PhD in Strategic Management from the Fox School in 2012. He currently oversees the daily operations at the firm as the business grows on a national scale. Since its inception, the team has provided continuing education courses to over 7,000 attorneys and CPAs.
Last year, McDevitt also became an IRS Enrolled Agent, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and Certified Financial Planner (CFP). During this tax season, he is leveraging his expertise to give back to even more members of his community by providing affordable, low priced tax resolution services and financial literacy training for Philadelphia working families and small business owners.
“The financial literacy programs that exist in Philadelphia today are definitely not addressing the root causes of generational poverty,” McDevitt explains. “In my various roles, I hope to change that by providing transformative, lifelong learning experiences for Philadelphians.”
Etsy—the online treasure chest for all things handmade—cultivates a community for those who have a knack for crafts like candle-making, knitwear, jewelry, or pottery. With over 1.7 million active vendors and close to 28.6 million active consumers, Etsy has established a peer-to-peer business platform that eliminates the middleman of corporate production. Yet this marketplace is more than just an e-commerce site; it is a community of like-minded individuals who appreciate handicrafts.
Within the site, buyers and sellers interact through a variety of IT-enabled features, like following and messaging shops, reviewing and favoriting products, and curating lists of products. Yet as sellers socialize by favoriting and promoting others’ products, are they redirecting potential customers away from their shops?
Professor Sunil Wattal and doctoral student Ermira Zifla of the Management Information Systems Department at the Fox School of Business investigate how social mingling affects e-commerce marketplaces in their paper, “Understanding IT-enabled Social Features in Online Peer-to-Peer Business for Cultural Goods.”
“What really fascinated us about this platform is that you have this community aspect, but you are also introducing this e-commerce agenda,” says Wattal.
“We thought that sellers may have mixed incentives to participate in the online community,” adds Zifla. “On the one hand, participating by following others and posting in forums may increase the visibility of sellers and subsequently increase their sales. On the other hand,” she continues, “following other sellers and sharing their products could negatively impact sales by diverting traffic away from their own page.”
While online communities have often been the subject of research, this is one of the first studies to link social indicators with economic performance. Using a dataset of nearly 2,000 sellers on Etsy, Wattal and Zifla examined their interactions in the online community and found how socializing with others can inherently affect a shop’s sales.
The researchers identified two categories of social e-features that promote new products and validate users:
1. Community participation features—such as following other sellers and joining teams—which facilitates socializing with other members, and
2. Content curation features—such as curating favorite lists, sharing products, and favoriting shops—which serve as tools for validation and tastemaking.
“When you are following other people on Etsy, those people are listed on your page as a form of validation, for what you like to buy as a consumer or what you can provide as a producer,” said Wattal.
The researchers hypothesized that community participation and content curation would increase a seller’s online status by increasing their number of followers, but would decrease a seller’s sales by diverting attention away from their own products.
Using a web crawler to collect public information, the pair obtained a dataset of 1,728 unique glass sculpture sellers—a randomly chosen subcategory of marketplace shops on Etsy—to compile a year’s worth of data, including sellers’ followers, lists, favorited products, and sales.
Analyzing the data proved the researchers’ hypotheses correct: a 10 percent increase in community participation, like following other sellers, and content curation, like favoriting products, resulted in a 3.89 percent decrease in sales. Yet this reduction was outweighed by the effects of cultivating a stronger social following. In other words, the same activities that led to a direct decrease in sales helped sellers attract more followers, and were associated with an indirect increase in sales by 4.64 percent—an overall net gain.
“IT-enabled features have benefits that supersede the negative,” says Wattal, “since exposure is what can ultimately lead you to be on an influential list or you can simply commercialize yourself to the point of high-status.”
Trends can come and go as quickly as a trendsetting blogger changes her mind. Yet in the realm of vintage trinkets and artisanal finds, relationships stay relevant.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
In 2017, charitable giving exceeded $410 billion across America. Out of that total, individuals donated $286.65 billion and corporate giving amounted to $20.77 billion.
In 2016, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the nation’s first children’s hospital and a nonprofit organization, received five million dollars from the Wawa Foundation, Wawa Inc.’s nonprofit corporation dedicated to philanthropic ventures and charitable giving, which went towards the development of the Wawa Volunteer Center in CHOP.
Why did Wawa invest that much into the volunteer program, and why is philanthropy such a large part of the maintenance of nonprofit organizations? Neil Batiancila, the featured guest speaker for the February 9th Fox Board Fellows meeting, explains the motivations behind individual and corporate philanthropy while detailing his own experience in the field.
Batiancila, a 2011 Fox MBA graduate, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Political Science in 1999, but instead of pursuing an expected career path, he began his philanthropic journey as an Americorps member.
After spending a year in Philadelphia as a volunteer teaching elementary students at the Hartranft John F. School, he joined City Year, an educational nonprofit located in Boston, and stayed there for 10 years as Co-Executive Director of the Philadelphia branch.
He worked for Aramark, a food service corporation, as Director of Community Relations for a period of time before joining CHOP’s staff as their Executive Director of Campaign Operations, and stayed there for 7 years. In March 2017 he received an offer for the position of the Chief Development Officer at Philadelphia Zoo and has been working there since the beginning of 2019.
Batiancila’s philanthropic nature stems from the environment in which he grew up. Both of his parents were physicians and immigrants who gave back to their communities in the Philippines. His father returned to the Philippines to fundraise for the implementation of a critical care facility on the island where his older brother and best friend passed away without access to any local emergency care resources. With these kinds of values embedded in his family, Batiancila went on to work for several nonprofits following the same kind of giving nature.
In order to successfully draw in potential donors and those who are willing to give, Batiancila encourages nonprofits to provide an experience that inspires a deeper connection with the nonprofit’s purpose and to find those who can personally connect to the values of the organization.
Batiancila mentions the importance of building a strong fundraising infrastructure that is able to help the organization grow its donor pool and maintain its current givers.
“One of the hallmarks of strong corporate philanthropy is to facilitate workplace giving, and to develop this philanthropic culture within the organization,” Batiancila explains. “Like anything in the world, if you want people to do the right thing you have to make it easier for them to do so.”
When CHOP launched a 2-year campaign the first to know and the first to celebrate were the employees. They wanted to make sure that the employees were included first and foremost to show that they held significance in the decisions and they were cherished enough for the hospital to share and celebrate this news with them first. The hospital makes a point to emphasize their employees’ value, and in doing so bolsters employee morale so that workplace giving is not so much enforced as it is an act of appreciation.
One of the reasons for charitable giving on both the individual and corporate forefront is to make a difference and for the altruistic sense of self-empowerment that comes with any kind of philanthropy. Giving to the greater good is the heart of philanthropy.
“Most people are charitable in this country, they give because the plate comes across on Sunday. It’s part of the ethics of America to give forward to other communities,” Batiancila said. “When people are appreciative of their experience, they like to express that and share it through philanthropy,”
On the corporate side, there are tax incentives to philanthropic giving, with the Educational Income Tax Credit program, which reimburses the money spent giving to nonprofits. It is an effective opportunity to advertise their company and create brand awareness at a much cheaper price.
Charitable giving also reinforces the alignment of goals and brand values that will benefit the business. Doing well by doing good, says Batiancila, is a branch of cause marketing. Aligning the corporation with a nonprofit that fits its values is a smart business investment.
Giving to a nonprofit also opens doors for company networking, the more organizations the corporation is exposed to, the stronger its community network. Strength is your reputation, Batiancila says.
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.”
Learn more about Fox School Research.
Data-driven decision-making is now the norm in many workplaces. Executives collect and analyze information to inform hiring practices, promotions, and insurance premiums. However, Leora Eisenstadt, assistant professor of Legal Studies at the Fox School, warns that the kinds of data that employers can track should be safeguarded by law, to both protect employees’ privacy and limit employers’ liability.
For many, work and personal time have begun to blur together as smartphones and emails have invaded the home. As this line erodes between the home and office, employees are often left unaware that their employers can glean so much information from their personal lives. “Most of us have left enormous data trails,” says Eisenstadt, “that employers are now beginning to access in order to create the most efficient workplaces possible.”
With social media, FitBits, and online healthcare platforms, Eisenstadt says, employers are gathering data from more than just workplace activities. Healthcare service platforms, for example, can tell by looking at internet searches, prescriptions changes, or specialist appointments that employees are planning to start a family or have major surgery.
The platforms indicate that only top-level numbers are shared with employers, not individual names of employees. However, she argues, “that knowledge could lead to companies making decisions about promotions, hiring, and terminations based on this information.” Narrowing down gender and age, for example, could give employers enough clues to know which of their employees were likely to be trying to have a baby soon.
In her paper, “Data Analytics and the Erosion of the Work/Non-Work Divide,” which was accepted for publication by the American Business Law Journal, Eisenstadt asserts that the current legal statutes do not provide enough protection to both employers and employees. “Laws like HIPAA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act likely do not apply to data gleaned from search queries,” she says. And there are virtually no laws or regulations prohibiting employers from collecting and relying on data gleaned from employees’ social media profiles, from facial recognition software, or from Fitbits.
So why should employers care about overreaches into employee privacy?
“The erosion of the work/non-work divide will impact the concept of a ‘scope of employment’ and employer attempts to avoid liability for their workers’ actions,” says Eisenstadt. Over the years, courts have seen the line blur between personal and work-related activities—like a case in 1928 in which an auto sales manager crashed a car, killing an employee on the way home from a staff appreciation dinner. The courts found the company liable for the death, and considered the events to be “within the scope of employment.” This move toward an expanding “scope of employment” has only grown with the advent of laptop computers, smartphones, and the myriad other devices and technologies that make it easier and sometimes even essential to bring work outside of the traditional physical boundaries of the workplace.
By gathering data from nonwork activities, Eisenstadt cautions that employers may be pushing this trend to new, more troubling places. By eroding the work/non-work divide so dramatically, companies may be opening themselves up to new liabilities for employee health issues, violent outbursts, or other employee behavior that would previously have been considered to be outside the “scope of employment.”
Data analytics can be an extremely powerful tool. “It allows humans to capture, analyze, and use massive quantities of data,” says Eisenstadt, “that the human brain can not make sense of on its own.” Yet, in today’s environment of data concerns and privacy breaches, Eisenstadt warns, companies should be cautious of data mining that goes too far.
This story was originally published in On the Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.
In today’s fast-paced society, if there is one word that doesn’t escape us, it is “busy.” How does this ongoing obsession with the idea of being busy affect the choices we make?
As a behavioral scientist, Monica Wadhwa, associate professor in Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, studies the impact of having a busy mindset on decision making. In a paper that was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Wadhwa discovered that people who see themselves as busy are more likely to make decisions that are beneficial in the long run, such as making healthier choices.
Prior research has established that high-stress situations—especially when work has to be completed within set deadlines—impair consumers’ ability to exercise self-control. As a result, people tend to give in to impulses that have negative long-term health consequences.
But turns out that that is not the end of the story. While being overworked can be problematic, there are benefits to feeling busy.
Wadhwa highlights that there lies a difference between being busy under time pressure and having a busy mindset. “A busy mindset is merely a perception that one is busy,” says Wadhwa. “Two people could have the same amount of work to do, but the perceptions of busyness could differ.”
Wadhwa notes, “Feeling busy gives people a sense of pride.” This behavior stems from the fact that busy people are perceived to be more important and have a higher social status. “It makes us feel valued and makes us believe that every moment of our lives matters,” says Wadhwa. “When you feel you are important, you make decisions that are better for you from a long-term beneficial perspective.”
For example, if one had to choose between an apple and a chocolate brownie, someone who is under significant time pressure would give in to their momentary impulses and pick the brownie. However, a person with a busy mindset would more likely focus on the long-term implications of the choice. Wadhwa says, “They’re more likely to choose the apple, favoring health consequences over taste, which provides only immediate gratification.”
To capture the busy mindset behavior over a wide range of scenarios, Wadhwa and her fellow researchers, Jeehye Christine Kim and Amitava Chattopadhyay, conducted seven experiments, including a field study. In one of the experiments, the researchers analyzed the buying pattern of students at a college dining hall. “We created two types of visual signs to be posted on different days,” explains Wadhwa. One read “Good to go, for busy college students!” whereas the other read “Good to go, for summer college students!” Wadhwa notes that the days when ‘busyness’ was made salient through visual signs, students chose to consume less unhealthy food and fewer fat calories.
To analyze how busyness affects branding, the researchers compared the buying behavior of consumers for brands perceived to be indulgent, such as Carl’s Jr. For the study, consumers were shown an advertisement that featured a tagline that either made busyness salient (It’s good to go for busy college students) or not (It’s good to go for college students). Those participants who saw the ad with busy tagline were less likely to consume the indulgent food from Carl’s Jr. than those who saw the ad with a non-busy tagline. It turns out that for brands that are not perceived as indulgent, such as Subway, busy taglines did not negatively impact consumption behaviors.
The researchers also studied the impact of this mindset on other self-control situations, like saving for retirement among adults and making good grades among students. “We asked adults the percentage of income they are willing to save,” says Wadhwa. “Busy people were willing to save more.” Similar behavior was seen in students—busier students said they’d rather take extra credit even if it means more work.
The findings of this study, besides adding a new dimension to the otherwise popular perspective of being busy, also have important real-world implications, especially to marketers. A growing number of commercials are using the busy appeal to make the product more relevant and favorable to new-age consumers. But the study shows that this strategy could backfire for brands that are perceived as indulgent. “For instance, Dunkin Donuts’ advertisements using a busy appeal may actually reduce consumers’ desire for donuts,” adds Wadhwa.
To consumers and policymakers who are concerned with people’s self-discipline, especially in societal problems such as overeating and food waste, Wadhwa offers: “Perhaps activating a busy mindset may be an effective nudge to facilitate self-control behavior.”
“I would not be at the level I am at right now without IEI or the Lori Bush Seed Fund,” says Stephanie Taylor, CEO and founder of TailorFit Laundry LLC. “And I’m really grateful for that.”
Recently, three beneficiaries of the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund, Stephanie Taylor, Emily Kight and Heather Jones sat down together in the new Accelerator at the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) to discuss their careers, the role that funding played in furthering their business ventures and offered advice to women entrepreneurs.
The Lori Hermelin Bush Seed Fund provides funding to women entrepreneurs ranging from $500-$10,000 based on defined needs. Funds are provided with the purpose of supporting companies in proving their concept, and where the money will have a significant impact on the company’s ability to progress.
The fund, much like its namesake, supports ideas and models that advance women in entrepreneurship. Lori Hermelin Bush, MBA ‘85, is the former CEO of Rodan + Fields. During her time there, she guided the skincare company to an annualized run rate of over $1B in revenue. To learn more about her, click here.
Taylor, a full-time student at the Fox School, taps IEI’s extensive resources to elevate her business, especially while the company is in the startup phase. Since she was awarded funding, TailorFit Laundry, a mobile laundry service based in Philadelphia, has a host of recurring customers and is being discovered on Google by visitors to the area, including a Los Angeles Lakers sports commentator. She has also seized the opportunity to promote her business during events such as Temple Fest.
She advises women entrepreneurs to believe in their ideas and to dive in headfirst. “You have to know your worth in order for others to know your worth,” she says. “And if you overthink it, you’re never going to jump. That’s what you have to do, you have to just jump.”
In 2017, Emily Kight, BSBIOE ‘18, won second place in Be Your Own Boss Bowl®) (BYOBB®), a business plan competition hosted by IEI. She pitched Prohibere, a leave-in conditioner that she created to lessen the effects of trichotillomania (TTM), a hair pulling disorder that Kight has personal experience coping with. With the funding from BYOBB and the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund, she was able to manufacture, create packaging and launch digital marketing for Prohibere, which is now available on Amazon.
“Being selected to compete in BYOBB® and other competitions is nerve-wracking because I had never really talked to anyone about this hair pulling disorder that I have had for 20 years,” says Kight. “I’m not big on public speaking, and this was the last thing I wanted to talk about in front of an audience, but it really helped to get started.”
When getting started with a business, Kight suggests, try to remember that failing isn’t a bad thing. “Failure is how you grow and develop as a businessperson.”
She recently decided to move on to her next challenge and is using her bioengineering education to develop a urine test used to screen for ovarian cancer. Funding from the Innovative Idea Competition, BYOBB® and GoFundMe has helped her partner with an R&D laboratory with the goal of creating an affordable, FDA-approved test prototype.
When Heather Jones came up with the idea for her company Luci, she knew that she
wanted to come back to her alma mater, Temple University, for help from the Fox School. She went to IEI for help building out her concept: a community-driven, multi-benefit skin care line made with vegan, cruelty-free ingredients set at a price that millennial and Get Z consumers could afford.
The line launched in September of 2018 and currently has multiple retail channels. The Luci team is now focused on growing their Glow Getter program across college campuses, where brand ambassadors can earn commission while sharing and promoting Luci products. Luci products are made in Milan, Italy, so the money Jones was awarded from the Lori Hermelin Bush Fund helped her develop packaging, with shipping logistics and supporting marketing efforts.
“The best feedback is when you get it from the customer. As entrepreneurs, we have to pivot very quickly based on what people say. For me, that has been a very important thing to take on,” she says.
Interested in finding out how IEI can help you achieve your entrepreneurial goals? Visit iei.temple.edu.