Timing is everything when you are looking to add international educational experience to your MBA capstone class.
Working on a team comes with challenges. But what if part of your team is more than 5,000 miles away — following a different schedule, living in a different culture and ending the workday shortly after yours begins?
Add in a 4.6 magnitude earthquake that strikes in the middle of your final presentation, and things can get pretty hairy.
But Temple University Fox School of Business MBA students Zhi Liao, Jennifer Miescke, Sylvania Tang and Nicole Zeller navigated it all this spring to deliver a presentation in Tel Aviv as part of their capstone experience with Fox Management Consulting (FMC).
“We didn’t even notice the earthquake, we were so focused,” says Liao. “Someone told us later that it happened.”
The students, led by FMC project executive William Kitsch, worked with a team of MBA students and faculty at Tel Aviv University (TAU) as part of an ongoing joint venture between the Fox School and the Israeli university.
“We do this so students get a global experience with a diverse group of students, faculty and businesses,” says David Nash, operating director at Fox Management Consulting.
Forming a team
The American and Israeli groups worked to deliver strategic recommendations to a startup e-commerce company with offices in Tel Aviv and California. The Israeli-owned company, which helps sellers optimize sourcing and selling opportunities across eight countries, was seeking ways to expand its current marketplace.
“It was a very difficult task in the sense of timing,” says Miescke, who served as a project manager. “We were working seven hours behind Tel Aviv all the time and their workweek is Sunday through Thursday.”
The intensity continued as the group arrived in Israel, just days after Temple’s May 9 graduation, and joined the TAU team to prep for the client presentation.
“There was a lot of pressure around the fact that there were two teams,” Kitsch says. “Both had different expectations, schedules, project deadlines. But by learning to work through and manage it all, it gave us opportunities to find leadership in everything we were doing.”
The FMC capstone course is built around a curriculum that helps students apply the competencies and skills they have acquired in the MBA program through the client projects.
In addition to being an exceptional learning opportunity for students, the projects deliver dynamic business solutions to clients facing various challenges.
Since students participating in the global project graduate before the actual client presentation, they first present to faculty for grading purposes.
“Presenting early really helped us see where we could improve, helped our focus and allowed us to see where we needed to get to,” Tang says. “That experience really helped us get things in order and take things to the next level.”
With feedback in hand, the team is ready for the next step.
“They go to Israel, meet with fellow team members and faculty to refine the project,” Nash explains. “They meet with the client later in the week and after all is done, the group does manage some social time.”
Taking it all in
The four Temple students stayed on in Israel for a few additional days to travel to Jerusalem and immerse themselves into the culture and attractions of the region.
“It was great to have that time together after spending so much time working on the project,” Liao says.
Zeller says she knew she wanted to get her MBA from Temple.
“The FMC capstone project, specifically working on a live problem, was the biggest thing that made me come to Fox for my MBA,” she says. “Temple really supports you in the process and that meant a lot.”
Kitsch believes the Tel Aviv experience is an extraordinary opportunity. “Every student should be competing for a spot on that team. It’s that valuable.”
Now that the project is over, the students agree that the experience will move them forward in their careers.
“Without this project, I probably would never consider venturing toward e-commerce or international business and I am fully grateful for that because now it’s something I would consider,” Liao says.
Tang says she is only now realizing how big an impact the project has had on her.
“This experience has definitely fueled a desire in me to look at how far my potential can go,” she explains. “For me, my MBA journey was four years long and in those four years, my MBA capstone class experience — this global journey — was my greatest learning experience at Temple.”
Helping achieve a global experience
Not all Fox Management Consulting projects require traveling abroad to meet with a client, but when they do, Temple’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) can assist.
The center helps pay the team’s travel expenses related to the project, associate director Jeff Conradi says. The center serves to improve U.S. competitiveness in the world marketplace and to produce globally competent students, faculty and staff. It is funded by a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
For more information about the center, click here.
Women in leadership face a myriad of challenges that could push a career off track.
“I think these challenges are best navigated by building savvy business skills and exploiting the advantages that women do have,” says Kelly Grace, one of the session leaders in the upcoming Women’s Leadership Series hosted by the Center or Executive Education at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
The six-session series, which begins Sept. 26 and runs monthly through February, will focus on developing well-honed skills in strong communication, effective negotiation and confident leadership. In addition, the opportunity to regularly network with other professionals in the area will help leverage participants’ potential for career advancement.
“Given the unique group being assembled, we gave a lot of consideration to the faculty who are leading the sessions,” says Rich Morris, Associate Director of Business Development, Center for Executive Education. “We found facilitators who are passionate about supporting the professional advancement of the participating women and, in addition to being fantastic teachers, they also have served as role models for the participants.”
The sessions kick off on Sept. 26 with “Understanding and Leveraging Your Leadership Style” led by Wendi Wasik, founder and CEO of Wasik Consulting.
“My goal for this workshop is to help our attendees see leadership as a way of being, rather than a list of to-do’s and not-do’s,” Wasik says. “We all have a unique way of expressing ourselves as leaders. Your leadership style is as unique as your fingerprint and reflects your personality and values.”
Strong communication skills are required for the majority of professional job postings, notes Melissa Glenn-Fleming, Assistant Professor of Practice at Temple’s Fox School of Business.
On Oct. 17, Glenn-Fleming will lead “Executive Presence and Communications Skills” using the three pillars of executive presence — act, speak and appearance.
“We will discuss those definitions as they apply to women specifically, then identify personal challenges (and/or) strengths,” she adds.
Grace’s session “The Art of Negotiation: As Informed by the Science” will follow on Nov. 14. The Assistant Professor and Director of Master of Science in Human Resource Management at the Fox School believes negotiation is one of the most practical skills needed in any environment.
“We negotiate every day with our business associates as well as our partners and family members,” she says. “This course allows us to explore many ways negotiation occurs in our lives and how we can become more intentional about these processes.
“I want to share the science so participants develop deeper understandings of why they have been successful in past negotiations and consider alternative strategies for future negotiations.”
Over the course of the final three sessions, participants will attend “Finance for the Non-Financial Manager” led by Sherry Jarrell, Coordinator, Finance Curriculum of the MBA Programs at Fox; “Leading Organizational Change” led by Marilyn Anthony, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and Director of Business Consulting at Fox Management Consulting; and “Career Management” led by Jackie Linton, President of JL HR Solutions, LLC.
“The class is a peer-learning opportunity and gets people to share the good, bad or ugly, as well as their experiences,” Anthony says.
Part of each session will allow participants to work in small groups to solve challenges related to the particular topic.
“That is the super fun part of the workshop,” Anthony adds. “Everything they are doing and sharing is real. Everyone is facing new challenges and is very open to this peer-solving problem.”
Linton believes Women in Leadership participants will walk away with a framework they can build out into a plan.
“I want the women to learn from each other as much as they learn from me,” Linton says. “And we will have a little fun in the process.”
For more information
The first Women’s Leadership Series was held in 2018 and brought together professional women from a wide variety of companies and organizations. The upcoming series will be held in the new Center For Executive Education space at Temple’s Main Campus at the Fox School of Business, 1810 Liacouras Walk.
Each session will run from 9 a.m. until noon. A networking lunch will follow. The series fee is $2000 per individual participant or $1750 per participant for groups of 3 or more. Early bird registration of $1,850 per individual participant runs through 7/24/19.
Click here to register for the series. For more information or to register a group, contact email@example.com or call 215-204-3990.
Finding success as an entrepreneur is more about being open to what can happen than sticking to a set plan.
“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to an entrepreneur who really knew everything that was going to happen,” Fox School of Business Assistant Professor Marilyn Anthony says. “It is a path of discovery; so don’t be held back because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
Anthony shared her views on entrepreneurship during a recent appearance on RadioVision Network’s Career View Mirror with host Joyel Crawford, motivational speaker and certified career strategist, and fellow guest Atisha Patel, Health/Tech entrepreneur and co-founder of NotiCare and Teenpreneur, Inc.
“You really have to be on the journey, open to the journey and prepared to deal with whatever comes your way,” Anthony says.
A good first step for an aspiring entrepreneur is to look at the landscape and consider how to make a difference.
“Start with a better understand of what you’re competing against,” Anthony says. “Who else is already doing something like it? If there’s nobody doing something like it, why aren’t they? If other people are doing it, how are you going to do it differently and better?”
The driving force for most social entrepreneurs is their desire to solve a problem they believe can have a better outcome.
“Empathy is often the motivation for entrepreneurs,” Anthony says. “It’s not their problem, it’s somebody else’s problem. But they get it and they feel like ‘I can come up with a solution working with the people who are struggling.’”
Recognizing ways to make a connection — or “bridges” — between the problem and the solution is a key strength of being an entrepreneur, Crawford points out.
“It’s almost like an emotional intelligence piece, it’s self-awareness,” she says.
But knowing that you are headed in the right direction can be challenging. Patel tried several things before finding success in her current roles.
“It’s networking, having connections and leveraging them,” she says.
Crawford believes it’s very important to keep and sustain the relationships you have made. “It’s not ‘hit it and quit it,’” she says.
But establishing yourself as an entrepreneur can take time and rarely happens quickly.
“I waited to figure out my passion,” Patel says, adding that if anyone asked her when she was younger what she wanted to be, she answered “a boss.”
“I don’t know if that’s exactly what I wanted, but you know what, I enjoy it.”
To see the full interview, click here.
This story was originally published in Fox Focus, the Fox School’s alumni magazine.
Engaging a community and its leaders to build an innovative, entrepreneurial workforce is a huge challenge. However, Flinders University’s New Venture Institute (NVI), with support from Temple University’s Fox School of Business, has done just that — and the momentum is not showing signs of slowing down.
NVI’s work has helped grow more than 32 businesses, train more than 3,000 students and workers and implement an entrepreneurial curriculum in a region hit hard by the closing of a Mitsubishi plant in Adelaide, the capital city in the state of South Australia.
Matt Salier, Director at the New Venture Institute, TL Hill, Managing Director at Fox Management Consulting and The Center for Executive Education and Michelle Histand, Director of Independence Blue Cross Innovation, outlined NVI’s journey during their May 28 presentation “Transforming an Innovation Ecosystem in South Australia (or Looking Far Afield to Find Inspiration at Home).”
Universities have a responsibility to train the next workforce through an adaptable, enterprising curriculum, Hill says. In 2013, Flinders embarked on its mission of creating a path to innovative thinking that would benefit not only the university but also the 1.2 million residents who lived in the surrounding community.
Because of Fox’s strong business curriculum and the demographic similarities between Adelaide and Philadelphia, the partnership with Flinders seemed a natural fit. Fox Management Consulting used its expertise to help bring Flinders University’s vision for the future of education to life.
The key to being transformative in education is to be more industry-led, recognizing how businesses are developing and making adjustments to move forward.
“The research is to put industries’ needs at the center and say what is needed to be successful in the future. We tried to take that model to Flinders as well,” Hill says.
With an early framework in mind, Flinders brought 1,000 business people together to think about what competencies should be driving the university’s transformation as it moved toward being more innovative and entrepreneurial in its overall educational offerings.
“We believe that innovation stretches across all disciplines,” Histand says. “So the idea was not to do ‘innovation instead’ but to do ‘innovation with.’”
New Venture Institute successfully worked with government officials to create “entrepreneurial schools” where curriculum built around innovative thinking begins early in a student’s development.
“We better be working with the supply chain of students coming through, particularly from elementary (what Australia calls high school), but even beyond that,” Salier says.
Hill envisions bringing the work being done at Flinders back to Temple and the city at large.
Both Flinders and Temple recognize the importance of being good community partners, he said. To do that, it’s important to recognize the need to “keep one foot in the university setting and one foot in the community.”
Flinders is working with cities located near the campus to think more creatively in working with residents, businesses and industries to improve conditions.
“There are a range of things that have enabled us to have more of an impact in moving the needle on economic areas outside of our own closeted world of the university,” he said.
What is important to keep in mind, Salier said, is to keep pushing the edge of what is possible.
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.
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.
“People are funny about money,” said Corinne O’Connell, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia.
On November 3rd, 2018, Fox Board Fellows hosted a workshop to address the struggles of nonprofit fundraising.
As the featured guest speaker, O’Connell brought her twenty plus years of experience in the field of fundraising to share with the MBA students by presenting her strategic thought process when asking for donations.
“The nonprofit world is being challenged,” said Ellen Marshall. As an advisor for Fox Management Consulting and Strategic Clarity Advisors, Marshall has been working in the nonprofit realm for over twenty years, and attended the workshop in order to better understand the Fox Board Fellows program. “For nonprofits to meet the growing needs and address this massive game-changing changes, it can’t be like it was back in the day.”
One of the most pressing obstacles when managing a nonprofit is maintaining financial stability. Money is a very sensitive issue, which makes it especially difficult for board directors when asking for donations and allocations from individuals and large organizations. In addressing this issue, and reinvigorating the purpose of the nonprofit’s endeavor, O’Connell spoke about how she manages to keep her purpose clear and strong while persuading potential donors to believe in her cause.
Her nonprofit Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia was established in 1985 as an independently chartered branch of Habitat for Humanity International, the largest home building nonprofit organization in the world.
“There is never enough money, and there is entirely too much need,” O’Connell said. “To put that need into context, 800 people call us a month. 800 people. We’re right now building 12 houses a year and repairing 100.”
As a member of the board for a nonprofit, fiscal responsibility is central to managing a successful organization, because nonprofits aren’t in business for monetary profit, they fundraise for a cause.
As CEO, O’Connell spends about half of her time asking donors for monetary support. The concept of fundraising is central to the survival of not for profit organizations, allowing them to fully provide for their community.
In her explanation of how to successfully fundraise, O’Connell emphasized the importance of maintaining existing relationships in order to foster strong donor loyalty. She asserted that, for most people, numbers and statistics are not convincing enough to connect them to the cause. There needs to be an underlying purpose that the potential donor can connect to, a cause that they can identify with, reflected in their own lives.
“You know what works? Empathy,” O’Connell said. “You gotta make a connection with people, you gotta create empathy, and you have to have people feel and know that they are empowered and that their gift counts.”
To create these connections, she suggested treating any kind of support with the same level of gratitude as with a large six figure donation. Empathy is the reason people will care about a nonprofit’s cause. “The why. That is why people give,” O’Connell said. “Start with the why, and it’s a personal thing.”
O’Connell’s speech heavily focused on the necessity to create interpersonal connections and build a relationship with the potential donor, in which effective communication and having a strong sense of the organization’s purpose will lead to success.
“She presents Habitat in such a way where she hones it down and says this is how you can help, by supporting this organization and talking about the breadth and depth of what they do, not just that they do it,” Marshall said about O’Connell’s presentation. “Telling that story and talking about what it means to have a passion or drive simplifies that complexity and helps people understand that they can act.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, by 2050 the world’s population will have an estimated 9.1 billion people, and food production will need to expand by 70 percent in order to match the increased rate of consumption. The future of food security is in the hands of consumers and producers and what they can do to create sustainable food systems to account for the predicted growth.
On a smaller scale, agriculture in Pennsylvania and the Northeast region is facing some changes to its operations. Design thinking might not be top of mind for agriculture, but approaching solutions through these practices yields some fresh insights for a healthy food system.
Marilyn Anthony, director of business development for Fox Management Consulting, and the Vice President and Agricultural Lending Manager of Ephrata National Bank William Kitsch teamed up to lead an interactive workshop for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s (NESAWG) annual “It Takes a Region Conference” held in Philadelphia October 26 and October 27th, 2018.
Anthony’s and Kitsch’s workshop, “Here’s the Data: Let’s Design the Solutions,” used principles of design thinking to encourage participants to create consumer and user-oriented solutions to obstacles facing farmers and producers. “What surprised me was that everyone found a topic that they are passionate about and wanted to work on,” Anthony said. “We asked our workshop audience to think from the perspective of a user, someone who could benefit from or who could participate in Pennsylvania’s strategic recommendations and to think about how they could connect.”
Anthony and Kitsch presented the results of a research study, led by Temple University’s Fox Management Consulting group, a cohort of OMBA students, and the Philadelphia-based economic consulting firm E-consult Solutions, exploring 10 sectors of agriculture in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and Team Pennsylvania funded the research project, forming the basis for PDA’s strategic recommendations. The resulting six strategic initiatives focused on improving the branding and marketing, infrastructure of processing and manufacturing, business climate, workforce development and educational opportunities, and diversity of products within food systems in order to create more opportunities for Pennsylvania growers and producers.
Kelly Kundratic, the Manager of Agriculture Policy and Programs for Team Pennsylvania, took an active role in the workshop. “Learning the design thinking process and really stepping back, thinking from a place of empathy, looking at these goals, that’s something that I use now as much as I can,” Kundratic explains. “It can be time consuming, but really reframes how I’ll approach helping government and industry move together to act upon these six strategic initiatives. Trying to be empathetic and use the design thinking model will help me be able to do my job more effectively.”
Emphasizing the core take-away from the workshop, Anthony explains, “what was very valuable and useful was getting people to think about who, other than themselves, might be in that space and to begin to generate some ideas for how they could make an impact.”
Workshop participants brought their experience and perspectives from Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Many participants actively work to create more accessible and equitable food system as educators, nonprofit advocates, and funders.
Founded in 1992, NESAWG is a network of more than 500 organizations across Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. It works with
organizations and individuals involved in every sector of sustainable agriculture from farming and ecology to architecture and social services to garner awareness and support for the creation of just, sustainable food systems.
Are you interested in learning about sustainability topics? Check out “BlockChain Technology for Sustainable Procurement” in the Fox Video Vault.
Horns blare. A moped pushes its way into the visual anarchy of West Bengal traffic. The sun beats down through a thick haze of pollution. Meanwhile, four Fox School MBA students thread their way onto a side street.
The students stop at a small building in the heart of Kolkata, the international headquarters of Sari Bari. Through Fox Management Consulting they are here to help Sari Bari operate more efficiently and increase the revenues that fund their social mission of helping women who are stuck in, or at risk of entering, the sex trafficking industry in India.
“One of their biggest tasks is workforce development,” says Austin Litteral, an MBA student who worked on the project. “It can take a full year to help a woman rehabilitate physically and emotionally to the point where they can work.” Among other skills, the women often need basic reading and writing skills so they can sign their names and fill out standard forms.
When the women are ready, they are taught to sew to reshape second-hand Saris into brilliantly colored blankets and handbags. Younger women are employed to make the kanthas, traditional Indian blankets sewn from layers of retired saris.
Kantha blankets require long, straight lines of cutting and hand sewing which can be difficult for older women with less dexterous hands. To address this, Litteral explains, “Sari Bari introduced a new line of clutches years ago which required shorter cuts and were easier for the older women to sew.”
Planning new products to better serve employee needs is one of the many adaptions Sari Bari has made in order to balance its social and financial priorities. For the MBA students accustomed to addressing only one bottom line, the project was a lesson in creating synergies.
Litteral recalls, “At one point we suggested to management that they restructure workflow for efficiency, and they responded, ‘If we do that, it will open up more warehouse space for us to hire more women.’ Those were the terms they were thinking in.”
Louis M. Tritton served as the project executive for the Fox MC team, utilizing her years of experience in ecological consulting to offer recommendations and support. She noted that, given the unique demands of Sari Bari’s work, her team couldn’t simply consult from home.
“The Fox team immediately recognized the value of visiting the production sites, talking with sewers and managers, and observing the business in person,” Tritton said. “The trip to Kolkata made their recommendations practical and feasible.”
The team provided Sari Bari with a model for tracking costs and managing outputs more effectively, as well as recommended pricing and process improvements that should allow Sari Bari to meet and grow the sizable demand for their products.
Litteral’s teammate, Dorie Heald, said the project utilized the breadth of her MBA training. “HR, production, marketing, logistics, managerial accounting—we got to use all of that in our project. Plus, it felt good to know our changes would ultimately help Sari Bari employ more women.”
Back in Kolkata, a door opens. The students step into a room filled with women’s voices and brightly colored cloth. Like the women themselves, the students are hopeful that each piece they pull together will help Sari Bari become a stronger, more cohesive whole.
Fox Management consulting has completed over a hundred projects for non-profits, start-ups, and businesses around the world. Connect with us to learn what we can do for you.
Learn more about Fox School MBA programs.
You probably already know Pennsylvania is the mushroom growing capital of the world, that it’s flush with cows and laying hens, and that each year it ships jaw-dropping quantities of potato chips and pretzels.
But did you know the state is the top producer nationwide for export-grade hardwoods? How about that it boasts the top horse breeding farms in the country? Or that it ranks second in the nation for organic farm sales?
A comprehensive new report by Fox Management Consulting (involving 50 students, and 5 advisors) and Econsult Solutions, commissioned by Team Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, examines threats and opportunities facing agriculture in Pennsylvania. With $136 billion in yearly output and over 9-percent of all PA jobs, the future of the sector is intimately tied to the future of the commonwealth.
Changing Consumer Preferences
Customers, like agriculture, are changing. Bill Black, who oversaw the Fox Management Consulting class which accompanied the project, remarked, “I don’t think anyone realized the level of consumer interest in organics and local. It’s just one of the things that crept up on the marketplace.”
Between 2012 and 2016, production of organics in Pennsylvania more than doubled, topping $659 million in 2016. Yet many farmers are still reluctant to adopt organics, unsure if the trend will stick.
Meanwhile, some consumers are moving away from dairy altogether. In the last few years, milk dumping became a major concern for farmers across the nation as consumers moved towards alternative products, like soy and almond milk.
Bill Kitsch works closely with farmers in his role as vice president and agricultural lending manager with PA-based Ephrata National Bank. He worked as an advisor on the project and says the agricultural sector faces unique constraints in adjusting to changing demand.
“Farmers have to make decisions about how many hens to buy or how many cows to bring to milk 18 to 24 months in advance.” Kitsch explains this long time horizon makes it difficult for farmers to be agile as consumer preferences are in flux.
The report also pointed out that Pennsylvania lacks sufficient milk and protein processing facilities. This leaves farmers trucking milk long distances, decreasing its shelf life, increasing costs for farmers, and reducing the economic benefits to the state.
To better support farmers, Fox MC and Econsult recommended increasing processing capacity within the state, education opportunities, and financial support for farmers as they adjust their operations to line up with demand.
Opportunities for Marketing Collaboration
Even as farmers wrestle with organics, Pennsylvania is already well-positioned to respond to another consumer trend. With 88.3-percent of state farms owned by families or individuals and more than half selling less than $10,000 each year, the state is primed to meet consumer demand for traceable and local food.
The PA preferred brand, approved in 2004 and enacted in 2011, already markets the state’s agricultural wealth. The report argues that PA Preferred should shift its brand identity to become even more synonymous with local goods and traceable food.
PA Preferred Brews, launched in 2017, is a subsection of PA Preferred aimed at supporting Pennsylvania’s $5.8 billion brewing industry. To qualify, breweries must brew in, and use agricultural commodities from, Pennsylvania. In addition to providing branding, the program promotes branded taps, handles, and coasters at venues across the state and has partnered with the Penn State Extension to further support local hops growers.
Programs like PA Preferred create increased value for food manufacturers, producers, and consumers. Through continuing to innovate under this brand, PA can bring new growth and synergies to other sectors with agriculture.
Building the Next Generation of Farmers
While marketing, education, and incentives are helpful in supporting farmers, the state faces another challenge. With 75,000 new and replacement jobs opening in the sector in the next decade, accounting for approximately 2-percent of all state jobs, developing a new agricultural workforce is a major concern.
“There aren’t enough young farmers because they see how hard their parents and grandparents are working and they see how little they’re making,” explains Black. “If the Department of Agriculture can help farmers be more profitable, then the industry would be more attractive to younger farmers.”
Increasing automation is driving a need for STEM skills within agriculture. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has encouraged several programs to support education, including the Jobs that Pay Apprenticeship Program for STEM Jobs in Agriculture, introduced by the Wolfe Administration in 2017.
The report also encourages loan forgiveness programs for high-shortage careers like large animal veterinarians, increases in agricultural education in existing STEM programs, and exploration of an ex-offender to work program to alleviate workforce shortages.
From climate change to new technologies, consumer preferences to workforce shortages, this analysis from Fox MC and Econsult Solutions highlights that many things about the future of Pennsylvania agriculture are uncertain. Yet when it comes to the strategic importance of the sector for Pennsylvania, and the significant impact that state policies and incentives will have on its future, the report leaves little room for doubt.
Fox Management Consulting completes multiple high-value projects each year for corporations, SME’s, start-ups, and non-profits. Put our dedicated MBA teams and experienced industry advisors to work on your next strategic challenge.
Jessica Rothstein describes herself in many ways.
“I’m a confident problem solver. I gravitate toward problems that are meaningful to me. And I’m not afraid to fail.”
One word is notably absent from the Fox MBA’s self-description. “I don’t think of entrepreneurship as a personality trait,” Rothstein explains. “Everyone is entrepreneurial these days—it’s what the workforce is calling for.”
Rothstein may not use the word herself, but of all the careers she tried, entrepreneurship was the one that stuck. “I studied mechanical engineering at Lafayette College, and by the time I was a sophomore I realized I didn’t want to be an engineer,” she says. She stayed engaged in her education by designing a water filtration system for a small community . “We tested it with a family in Haiti,” she recalls, but decided against pursuing the project after graduation.
Instead, Rothstein worked as a consultant, helping companies design better products and use their resources more efficiently. “I did that for about two years, and one day I got a call asking if I wanted to play lacrosse for the Israeli national team,” she says, laughing. “Someone was going to pay me to travel the world. How could I say no?”
Israel was an incredible adventure full of new experiences, but Rothstein was still the same problem-solving adept. “The organization that hired me was trying to develop the sport of lacrosse in Israel,” she says. “At that time, they were growing very quickly but their structures weren’t built for that growth.” Rothstein became the interim director of business development and helped the organization restructure to accommodate that growth.
Meanwhile, Rothstein was also working on a personal problem. “I loved Israel but I missed my friends! Social media lets you talk with people, but I missed sharing experiences,” she recalls. Rothstein started sending her friends scavenger hunt-style tasks to complete. After each task they would send her pictures and stories, allowing them to build new experiences together from across the world.
“When I came home in 2016 my friends and I realized we were on to something,” Rothstein says. Bucket was born, a mobile application designed to bridge the gap between digital communication and in-person connection.
In 2016, Rothstein decided to pursue her MBA. “I was looking for places that had resources for a start-up business,” she recalls. Rothstein had heard of Ellen Weber, executive director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at the Fox School. “Ellen was one of the first early-stage investors in Philly, and she is a leader in the investor scene here,” Rothstein says. “I knew that I wanted to work for her and get to know her.”
Rothstein found the connections she was looking for at Fox. She began working for Weber at Robin Hood Ventures, a network of angel investors that Weber runs. Her team continued developing Bucket, winning the Laura Bush Seed Fund Grant from Temple University and receiving over 1,000 social media likes in one week.
Rothstein has even had opportunities to use her experience to help other companies through Fox. As part of her MBA capstone through Fox Management Consulting she worked with bSafe, a mobile safety application which allows users to quickly notify friends and family when they have safety concerns.
“Tangibly and intangibly Bucket mirrored bSafe. Starting a business always has some of the same aspects and ambiguity,” Rothstein explains. “You are constantly sprinting in one direction and hitting a wall, so you go the other way. You never know what you’re going to hit, so you’re also trying 50 different angles. That’s the mindset you have to have when you’re working on a project like bSafe because the problem will change every day.”
bSafe engaged Rothstein and her colleagues to design a market launch strategy for the app and create an investor deck, which Rothstein was uniquely positioned to do. Through her work at Robin Hood Ventures, Rothstein reviews dozens of new business proposals each week, deciding which projects will pass to the next stage.
“I have exposure to 40+ incredible people in that network who are early-stage investors and take the time to explain their decisions to me, and have trust in me,” Rothstein says. “That has given me some tangible skills that I was able to use with bSafe.”
MBA student teams work with project executives, experienced professionals with specific expertise in each project area. “I’ve worked with two incredible project executives-Nicole Naumoff last semester and Tess Kristensen this semester. In some ways, I’ve learned more from them than from the actual projects,” Rothstein says.
Rothstein has also loved working with her MBA cohort. “The Temple program is not the typical MBA class of former consultants and bankers. Every person in our class comes from a different background and is passionate about something different. That’s the number one thing I’ve really enjoyed.”
This spring as Rothstein graduates she will be entering a rotational program with Comcast and preparing to launch Bucket publicly, but she already knows that more start-ups are in her future.
“My dream is to open a theme park run completely on kinetic energy that serves people with physical disabilities-a therapeutic theme park. Overcoming physical challenges is hard work and I’d like to help people who are on that journey.”
Call her what you will—problem solving, curious, visionary, or entrepreneurial—Rothstein bears watching. Wherever she goes you can bet that innovative solutions to nagging problems will follow close behind.
Hundreds of dedicated MBA students like Jessica Rothstein pass through Fox’s doors each year. Put their energy and experience to work on your next business challenge through Fox Management Consulting.
What do jazz musicians Billie Holiday, Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, and Grover Washington Jr. have in common?
Holiday’s resonant tones were just babbling when she moved to Philadelphia as a toddler. Tyner’s strong left hand, distinctive in his low piano bass lines, could barely depress a piano key when he was born here in 1938. Brown, Gillespie, and Coltrane each made Philly their home during formative years of their adult lives. Washington even called Temple University home, receiving his doctorate in music composition from the School of Music.
These musicians also shared the struggle of being African American in a world that condoned segregation. Barred from Local 77, Philadelphia’s largest musician’s union, African American musicians banded together to form Union 274 in 1935 with distinguished members like Gillespie, Coltrane, and Nina Simone. In 1966, the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts opened as the Union’s social hub, becoming a regular destination for jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Max Roach. The Clef Club was the first facility ever designed specifically for jazz, and today continues to preserve Philadelphia’s incredible jazz legacy.Fox graduate Meco Sparks became very familiar with the Philadelphia Clef Club in the spring of 2016 while participating in her MBA capstone project. Through Fox Management Consulting, multi-disciplinary MBA teams are paired with experienced professional advisors to complete strategy consulting engagements for businesses, non-profits, and start-ups. (To complete a project with Fox Management Consulting reach out to us today.)
Sparks looked for team members with diverse strengths and compatible working styles. “My team worked really well together,” she recalls. “Everyone carried their workload, and our meetings always involved lots of laughter.” The team applied to work with the Clef Club because they recognized the project would be rewarding. “We knew right from the beginning that our team would have a big impact.”
The Clef Club engaged Fox MC to design a five-year strategic plan. Sparks quickly discovered a staff that was deeply engaged in the organization’s mission.“They were passionate about music, jazz, and kids,” she recalls. They were looking for help translating that passion into a sustainable business plan. “No one on their staff had a business background,” says Sparks. The Fox MC team provided that background, drawing on career experience in finance, marketing, and management, in addition to their MBA coursework.
Sparks and her team worked to measure each of the Clef Club’s five programs against its mission and revenue needs. Their recommendations included increased opportunities for partnership and funding, guidelines for developing a sustainable organizational structure, and growth plans for crucial programming central to their mission. “The project really pulled in all of my MBA experience,” says Sparks. “We worked with the board, executive leadership team; we got to step back and analyze the problem from a high level.”
Fox MC has completed over a hundred projects in the non-profit sector, but this one remains special. “The thing that was so elating to me,” says Clef Club artistic director Lovett Hines, “was that the students were so interested in what we were doing. It has been a tremendous marriage.”
The partnership with the Clef Club continues. This fall, Fox MC completes their third project with the organization to implement the recommendations made by Sparks’ team. Sparks herself enjoyed the project so much she joined their advisory board at the start of 2017. “We spent a lot of time organizing and visiting. They were very open to us,” she says. “It inspired me to stay involved.”
Fox MC has generated more than $42 million in new donations and grants for the non-profits we’ve worked with. Put our strategy consulting teams to work for your non-profit today.
Nader Ali-Hassan is the executive director of social marketing at Comcast. He recently joined us for a live conversation on improving social media marketing through making better use of data. This event was the first in a three-part series hosted by Fox Management Consulting and the Fox School. Stay tuned next week for part two and learn how to connect the dots between marketing metrics and the bottom line. Our guest will be Andrew Richardson, director of analytics and insights at Elite SEM.
Nader has a wealth of experience in the social media space. Here is some of what he shared when the cameras stopped rolling.
Your role at Comcast is to translate the marketing messaging for the Xfinity brand across your social media platforms. How do you do that?
We do everything from working with divisions to figuring out their advertising needs, measuring and reporting back, and doing the social listening to see what insights we can glean. We are trying to make sure our customers see us in a positive light and understand the work we’re doing.
We recently did an event called the TV Diner at Comic Con in San Diego where we built the sets from three of our most popular shows. Customers could come sit on the “Game of Thrones” set, eat themed menu items like “Direwolf Bread” and take pictures and talk about the show. We helped design a filter for SnapChat to accompany Katie Perry’s recent tour. Tomorrow I’m going to film a mock horror film to talk about home security. We get to do some really cool work.
How does data support your work?
Data lets you go deep into what is driving a particular person. If certain people react to certain pieces of content, how do I take that engagement and try to convert that customer? The data helps me optimize what I need to create on a day-to-day basis, see what’s working about content and who is responding to it, and create a custom piece of content for that person in order to push them down the funnel.
The data lets us see more about the individual than we ever could before. And it lets us track them even before they’re really engaged with us, which gives us a long lead time in reaching out to them.
Can you offer any additional advice for mid-sized firms in building up their social media analytics?
Stay consistent. There is a litany of measurement tools and everyone has a different sentiment. The tools change so much that unless you stay consistent, you’ll never be able to get real macro change because you’re always changing that KPI. Find a path you like, and stick to it.
Put a team behind your data. Have a creative strategist that can take that data and work with a creative team to apply it. The whole team needs to be receptive to it, and that’s a big shift to how people have worked in the past. It’s half creative, half science. That balance is super important; that’s where analytics comes in. There are certain folks that struggle with narrowing their focus to match what the data is telling you. You need to have a team that is flexible, and you as a leader need to know when to fit into the analytics, and when to ignore it.
Be flexible. What you know today is not necessarily going to be the right thing tomorrow, a week from now, or a month from now. While you want to stay consistent with what you’re measuring, the analysis of what that means and how you interpret it is always changing.
The trends change so quickly. People are tempted to take a certain data set and say “this is absolute now. This is law.” The truth is that a week from now, it could be completely different. The doesn’t mean the analytics were wrong. Times change, and people are fickle.
Analytics can be the thing that chokes you. If you only rely on that, you’ll fail. But if you only trust your gut, you’ll fail too. The trick is to find the balance between the two.
Figuring out how to engage young professionals is a popular topic for employers today. Last month, the Fox School’s Fox Management Consulting (Fox MC) spoke with Eugenie George, an expert on the issue who offered tips for companies seeking to reduce turnover of their young professional workforce. This week, George zooms in on the role managers can play. Here are a few ways to improve loyalty and growth in younger employees.
1) To Help Others, First Help Yourself
While young professionals are often famously profiled as needing a lot of feedback, sometimes the managers who oversee them aren’t soliciting quite enough. “If you are a manager, get a coach,” says George. “If you are over other people, get someone to actually help you become a better leader. That is essential.” George points out that this is just airplane safety 101: Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
Many companies are taking the hint and hiring in-house coaches to help develop their supervisors, but even in companies that haven’t taken this step, managers can seek out mentors. “Find someone in your company that is not in your field to give you feedback,” advises George, “and do your own reflections. Ask yourself: How am I? What personality type am I? What do I need to be an effective leader?” Even a virtual coach, in the form of a leadership book or management blog can be a significant first step in becoming a more effective leader.
Many celebrities and leaders like Oprah and Bill Clinton talk openly about the importance of their life coach. Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt says being told to get a life coach was “the best advice I ever got.” No matter their career stage, getting outside input can help managers become better leaders of their young professional workforce.
2) Make Training Interactive
Last spring, George engaged a Fox MC student consulting team to support her consulting business, The Quarter Design. Among other research insights, the team learned that virtual trainings have become a non-starter for employee development. “Everywhere you go, people are offering webinars and modules,” says George. “HR managers said they don’t want anything that has to do with online.”
While it can be tempting for busy managers to send a link to a struggling employee, or request they sign up for a webinar, these courses overlook a central component of the development many employees need. “A big part of my job as a consultant is teaching soft skills,” says George. Managers working with young professionals should plan interactive training and encourage employees to seek learning opportunities that engage interpersonal skills.
3) Leave Time for Personal Development
The cornerstone of how most companies measure work is hours on the clock. While that metric has its place, many companies now recognize that maximizing employee performance sometimes means allowing them to work less.
George says a good friend who worked at Google benefited from their famous practice of giving employees time during the workweek to pursue their personal interests. “She went on yoga retreats with that time,” George says. “She now leads meditation retreats with people at Google, and it’s very gratifying.”
While not every company can afford to sponsor yoga retreats, managers play an important role in creating space for personal time. Managing workflows, offering flexibility in work hours, and prioritizing employee requests for time off communicates that personal development is a priority. This allows employees time to do the personal work necessary to produce high-quality outputs. While not every company can be Google, managers can benefit from borrowing a page from their book.
Every year, Fox MC completes multiple high-value strategy consulting projects with clients like Eugenie George. To access in-depth research, multi-disciplinary teams, and actionable solutions for your business or non-profit, connect with us today.
Two weeks ago, Fox Management Consulting highlighted the trend of top MBA programs incorporating experiential learning into their curriculum. By integrating coursework with live client consulting engagements, universities train their students to take on business challenges. Students learn to navigate ambiguity and hone their skills in collaboration.
As this trend continues to grow, more and more universities look for ways to give their students experiential learning opportunities. With more than 18 years of experience leading MBA students through high-value consulting engagements, here are some things Fox MC has learned about creating successful experiential education programs.
1) Get the Scope Right
Client consulting engagements are a strange balancing act. Clients need to know that listening to and meeting their needs is a top priority. Students need to feel that both the curriculum and the consulting engagement are delivering a rich learning experience that contributes to their education. The best project outcomes are achieved when both sets of needs are balanced, and clients and students are committed to creating value for each other.
Offering value to both parties begins by getting the project scope right. “Our projects should contain a good amount of research and surround a decision of strategic importance for the company,” explains Dr. TL Hill, Fox MC’s managing director. “There’s a mutual sorting process that happens between Fox MC and the client to make sure we have a project that is a good fit for us.”
Getting the scope right ensures that students are engaged in a rich learning experience, and clients are getting a high-value return on their investment.
2) Monetize Engagements
Early in Fox MC’s history, Hill considered offering student consulting services for free. “We’re fairly rare in charging money for this,” he says. A supervisor was able to recognize the need for payment, and Hill is very glad they chose to go in that direction.
“When we make these paid consulting engagements, everyone takes it more seriously,” says Hill. He acknowledges that students and companies both have a lot of competing priorities. The initial investment in the project helps both sides to sustain the commitment needed to make these projects successful.
3) Provide Oversight
If there is a secret to the incredible success of Fox MC, both in the consistently high quality of their work and in creating significant value for their clients, it is the involvement of project executives in every project. Project executives, fondly referred to as “PEs” by their MBA charges, are industry experts who guarantee that students perform at the highest level.
PEs are “mostly semi-retired, very smart, with long careers,” says Hill. PEs commit to meet together before each class to discuss problem areas in their team, attend each class with their students, and offer industry experience and connections to help move the student projects forward. “We don’t take on a project,” says Hill, “If we can’t find the right project executive with the right expertise.”
To recruit and retain high quality PEs, Fox MC fosters an ongoing community of former and current project executives. “There aren’t that many opportunities to give back that are this intellectually engaging and concretely effective,” says Hill. Fox MC now completes more than 40 projects a year, so there is usually adequate variety to match everyone’s skills and expertise.
4) Believe Adults Learn by Doing
Creating course curriculum for Fox MC capstone projects is a challenge. Every project is unique, the obstacles faced by each client are different, and new obstacles emerge at every stage of the project. This makes teaching the courses that accompany Fox MC consulting engagements fairly complex.
One thing that grounds the curriculum is a firm belief in the philosophy of experiential learning. “We’ve known for years that adults learn better by doing,” says Hill. “In some ways, MBA curriculum is finally beginning to catch up.” Because faculty and PEs understand that the challenges are an inherent and important part of the student learning experience, they’re able to walk students through the process without getting tripped up by the inherent ambiguity of live projects.
Any MBA program hoping to integrate live consulting engagements into their curriculum should be firmly rooted in the belief that these experiences offer a uniquely valuable learning opportunity for students.
5) Pick Client Partners With Care
Client partners are an important part of making Fox MC projects successful. Fox MC has completed multiple high-value projects over their five year relationship with Aquiline Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm. We will examine that relationship as a case study for creating successful partnerships in experiential education in our next installment of this article series.