Early last Thursday evening, the 1810 Accelerator hosted the most recent installment of Temple’s Innovation Leader Speaker Series; a panel discussion on Agile Product Development. This round of innovation-based discussion was led by Kerry Slade, Assistant Academic Director for the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute, and featured examples of how the agile method is used to develop software, by Dell Boomi (“Boomi”), and hardware, by Armstrong World Industries (“Armstrong”).

Tiffany Powley, Agile Coach and Project Manager at Dell Boomi, first explained the origin of agile in The Agile Manifesto, created by a group of software developers in 2001 to improve the way projects are executed. The manifesto outlined the following guiding themes: individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and responding to change over following a plan. Ms. Powley described how Boomi uses this method regularly to connect clients’ datasets and release software to them incrementally.

After laying out the agile framework, the panel heard from Director of Global Innovation at Armstrong, Steve Wilkinson, and Armstrong engineer, Jason Cavanaugh.

Jason Cavanaugh

 Steve decided to use the agile method he had learned about at an Innovation Research Interchange conference in 2017 to attack the longstanding problem of creating a ceiling that was seamless and would also absorb sound. Jason described that the team consisted of five members (a senior chemist, two mechanical engineers and two technicians) led by a Scrum Master, essentially a project manager. The process was a success and their result was ACOUSTIBuilt™, a non-cannibalizing new type of ceiling solution. By implementing an agile strategy, the engineering team at Armstrong was able to successfully bring a product to market in less than 18 months, while involving installers and customers in the development process.The Panelists closed the discussion with thoughts on how the agile method complements each company’s leadership development strategy.

The Innovation Leaders Speaker Series, presented in partnership by the Fox School of Business at Temple University, the Product Development and Management Association, and the Innovation Research Interchange, addresses the intersection between innovation and entrepreneurship, and features leaders in the field who have successfully put these principles into practice at organizations of all sizes and industries. For more information, contact Assistant Academic Director, Kerry Slade at kerry.slade@temple.edu

When Nikolas Revmatas was young, his father taught him something he’s carried with him his whole life: that “the answer to everything is always no until you ask.” It’s this mentality that has guided Nik through his education and career, and what helped him become the brains behind the Saxbys “Make Life Better” campaign, launched this past December  in partnership with Live Life Nice and aimed at inspiring people to “live nice” and “do nice” through kind acts.

A year ago, Nik, then an Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship MS student in his final semester, knew he wanted to do more with his final few months in the program than sit in the classroom. Nik found out about the IME program’s internship course, which gives students the opportunity to earn three credits working on a project-based, innovation-focused internship at an entrepreneurial and innovative company. He saw it as an opportunity.

Nik was introduced to Nick Bayer, Saxbys Founder and CEO, by a mutual industry connection. Nik met with Bayer and soon after, Saxbys Vice President of Marketing and Product, Russ Wilkin. With the IME internship opportunity in mind, Nik asked Russ about potential opportunities or ways that he might work with Saxbys over Summer 2019.

“I love coffee, and I was intrigued by a brand that gives students the opportunity to run a cafe,” Nik shared when asked about why he was interested in working with Saxbys. “Having grown up in coffee-dominated cultures, like Kenya, the Middle East, and Greece (where coffee is a social experience), I felt that I would be able to add value in the right places. I also wanted to work with a Philly startup that was mission-driven.” 

Nik proposed for Saxbys to partner with Live Life Nice was implemented as the company’s Giving Tuesday campaign and continued through the month of December.

Saxbys did not take Nik up on his first inquiry to work with them. The company already had a large, successful internship program in its Experiential Learning Program (ELP) for Student Cafe Executive Officers (SCEO), but it didn’t align with Nik’s years of experience (he’d been in the marketing industry before even entering the IME program) or the project-based component of the course. It’s here that Nik found his father’s advice to ring true. “The answer to everything is always no until you ask,” his father had said—and even if Nik did hear no the first time, he was going to ask again, and in different ways, until he’d exhausted possibilities. So, Nik persisted. He outlined for Russ the components of the program and how it could add value to Saxbys, and eventually he was given the opportunity to work on a project focused on customer experience. Saxbys wanted to identify ways to make their in-cafe customer experience align more closely to their mission to Make Life Better. Nik was tasked with conducting research and a proposal for improving guest experience in ways that would be mission-aligned and drive merchandise sales.

Photo courtesy of Christian Crosby, on Twitter

First, Nik took time to research and learn about the current climate and health of the coffee industry in Philadelphia, defining current strengths and weaknesses of the Saxbys brand. After his initial analysis, Nik looked inward. He interviewed Saxbys staff, from baristas and SCEO’s in-cafe to the administrative and executive teams at Saxbys headquarters, gaining a variety of perspectives to help determine potential opportunities. 

After analyzing Saxbys current operating climate, he began identifying local companies who were succeeding in coupling a positive, high-impact social media presence with trendy merchandise. It’s at this stage when Nik found Live Life Nice, a company dedicated to inspiring, motivating and empowering individuals to “be Nice” and “do Nice.” Partnering with Live Life Nice seemed like the right fit to Nik, and he worked hard to incorporate it into his final recommendations at the end of his project. A few months later, he was scrolling through Instagram and saw a Saxbys post announcing their 2019 Giving Tuesday initiative—in partnership with Live Life Nice. Nik’s project recommendation was now a real Saxbys campaign. 

During the month of December, all participating Saxbys locations slipped tiny cards inside the sleeve of every coffee ordered. These cards provided guests with simple ways they could do something nice. Accompanying the inspiring “Acts of Nice” cards was a limited-time apparel line of t-shirts by Live Life Nice.

“Nik’s work was focused on how to be more intentional about providing tangible ways to activate our mission,” Russ Wilkins shared when asked about the impact of Nik’s work, “and he couldn’t have found a better partner than Live Life Nice; an organization that celebrates the power that simple acts of kindness can bring to someone’s day. It was incredible to see guests join in on the fun—acting on the simple acts of kindness and spreading infectious positivity. It was truly seeing our mission come to life.”

The Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship program at the Fox School of Business aims to provide more students with opportunities like Nik’s—the chance to work with entrepreneurial and innovative companies on projects that add real, tangible value to the organization and give students hands-on experience that can propel their careers (or their own ventures) forward.

“I was able to round out my masters degree with a project that had real world impact,” says Nik. “Being able to earn credits while simultaneously earning work experience is invaluable.”

 

To learn more about internship opportunities, contact Kerry Slade, Assistant Academic Director, at kerry.slade@temple.edu.

It was Philadelphia that Ben Franklin called home when he tied a key to a kite, flew it during a storm, got struck by lighting and discovered the harnessing power of electricity. Since then, the City of Philadelphia has not only been known as the birthplace of our country but a haven for thinkers, innovators and misfits looking to create the next big thing. Commonly known as the City of Brotherly Love, it was here that Todd Carmichael, founder and CEO of La Colombe Coffee, felt he could live up to his full potential.

Last Friday morning, Todd joined the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute’s Executive Director, Ellen Weber, for a sit down conversation about what it takes to be an innovator, changes in the coffee industry, and the core values he championed when starting La Colombe Coffee. Todd began by explaining how he views innovators, and his belief that “innovation favors the restless and the unhappy.”

When Todd moved to Philadelphia in the 1980’s, he was at the bottom and so was the city. “Everything starts with an urge, and if you’re going to get on the elevator it might as well be at ground zero,” explained Carmichael. He moved into a cheap apartment in Rittenhouse Square, and opened his first La Colombe cafe. When he began, all that he knew was that he wanted to be what his grandfather always taught him to be—a decent person. He wanted to create a decent company.

To his surprise, the first several months were spent explaining to customers—used to drinking regular hot coffee—about lattes, cappuccinos, and the many variations of coffee that can make it such a treat. The La Colombe brand began to grow into the industry staple it is today, and Carmichael noted that its always been clear to him that innovation played a role in continual market shifts—even if they weren’t always thought of as “innovations.” The biggest of them all? What Carmichael referred to as the “ice age” of coffee—the beginning of drinking your coffee cold, now a societal norm. 

In realizing the importance of innovation in the continued success of any large company, Carmichael makes it a priority in La Colombe’s overall business strategy. “In any company, innovators have to be in close proximity to the decision makers,” Carmichael emphasized. He meets with his innovation team twice a week, for at least four hours each time. “If you lessen the importance of the innovation team, they become cost savers, less like dreamers, and your company will get left behind.” 

The Innovation Leader Speaker Series is an on-going series that features breakthrough leaders in innovation from a variety of industries from food and beverage to the medical industry. For more information on additional upcoming events from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute visit iei.temple.edu or email us at iei@temple.edu

The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) was excited to welcome innovating alumnus, David Paul, back to campus last week to be the latest speaker to be featured in the Innovation Leader Speaker Series. Paul, founder and executive chairman at Globus Medical, stopped by for an intimate conversation about his journey from engineer to entrepreneur to CEO of the now publicly traded Globus Medical Inc.

At Globus, Paul perfected the art of teasing out true problems that doctors were experiencing, which allowed him to design new and superior solutions. When companies fail to identify innovations, Paul said, it’s almost always a failure of leadership.

Paul himself almost failed to invest in robotics despite the recommendations of his team but was enlightened by an experience with his teenage son. Paul spoke about how finding a higher purpose, serving the patients and the healthcare providers who treat them, enabled him to persevere even when facing barriers, such as being sued by his former employer. He described how the key to his success was developing a better, more efficient process for engineering new medical products. This enlightened discovery has allowed Globus to acquire robotics companies and start bringing Paul’s vision for robotics and the future of surgery to fruition.

When the time came to go public in 2012, Paul insisted on maintaining a controlling share of the company.  When his investment banker objected, he made them study the long-term profitability of public companies with founder control. Turns out, they discovered that those companies, who founder controlled companies, did significantly better over time.

In 2017, Paul stepped down as CEO but maintains an active role in the company as executive chairman of the board.  Paul holds a M.S. in Computer Integrated Mechanical Engineering Systems from Temple University. Paul was interviewed by Dr. Charles Dhanaraj, the H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest Professor of Strategy, and Founding Executive Director of Fox’s Center for Translational Research in Business.

 

Takeaways from our attendees: 

“IEI’s Dealing with Disruption event with Globus Medical’s Executive Chairman David Paul was excellent. How often do you get the opportunity to meet with somebody who built a billion dollar company from scratch and ask them questions about their entrepreneurial journey? I even had the chance to chat with Mr. Paul during the networking part of the event, which was really terrific.”

“It was interesting to learn about his view on the healthcare industry in the U.S. He pointed out that the operations and marketing teams are important when you launch a venture, as important as the technology and management teams.”

 

 

Last week, the IEI partnered with Vanguard’s Innovation Studio for the second installment in the Innovation Leaders Speaker Series, a program launched this past spring to highlight best-practices for innovation in corporate settings. The event featured Lisha Davis, Head of the Innovation Studio, who sat down with Professor Robert McNamee to discuss how the Studio operates alongside the larger Vanguard organization and best practices for accelerating innovation at the enterprise level.

The Studio itself is located on Chestnut Street in downtown Philadelphia, about 30 miles from Vanguard’s main headquarters in Malvern, PA. It features rows of open work stations, collaboration rooms, and a central space with colorful soft seating that Operations Manager, Colleen Evans, said is fondly called “the living room.” A nearly floor-to-ceiling blackboard highlights progress of the Studio’s donations towards Vanguard’s annual canned-goods drive, inspirational sayings, and a calendar listing national days of designation (National Smile Day, National Wine Day, National Bike to Work Day). It’s a fun, laid-back, high-energy space—not exactly what comes to mind when you think of an industry-leading investment-management firm. But the location of the Studio was intentional—it sits in the center of Philly’s entrepreneurial ecosystem of universities, startups, accelerators, and investors—and its funky design fosters the creativity needed to continually uncover new opportunities and solutions that move the company forward.

Despite geographic distance and a diversion from the traditional corporate environment, the Studio is every bit a part of Vanguard’s overarching mission. Innovation has long been a focus for Vanguard, which disrupted investment management as a startup many years ago. “I have been involved in department level innovation work for years,” said Davis, who was with Vanguard for several years before the Studio launched in 2017, “and innovation was always happening in pockets of the organization.”

Now the Studio offers a centralized place for this innovation to live, and their reasoning behind its launch—to explore the unknown, uncover opportunities to make strategic bets, launch new ventures, explore growth paths, and catalyze a movement at Vanguard—is brought to life by the 40-person, multidisciplinary team lead by Davis. 

The Studio takes an exploratory approach to finding opportunities, during which Davis says that “finding the right problem to solve is half the battle.” But once they do, they’re “launching ventures,” Davis emphasizes—ones that can be scaled and rolled out across the enterprise to improve the organization, and, ultimately and most importantly to Vanguard, the client experience.

“Everything we do is for the client,” Davis shared. 

Vanguard’s—and Davis’s—dedication to placing innovation at the forefront of the company’s strategic direction made for an ideal Innovation Leaders program partner.

“Showcasing innovation thought-leaders throughout the region is the goal of this series,” Professor McNamee shared. “We want to look at the intersection of innovation and entrepreneurship since that is where next generation innovation programs, structures, and processes are emerging. Vanguard’s Innovation Studio is just a phenomenal example of how large companies can incorporate approaches that originated with entrepreneurial ventures – approaches like lean startup and design thinking – and the impact this can have in an enterprise setting.”

The event was attended by Temple alumni (some now working at Vanguard), students, community professionals, and members of the Innovation Research Interchange—a worldwide network of cross-industry innovation leaders and a sponsoring partner of the Speaker Series.

“Some of the world’s most widely adopted models, such as ‘open innovation,’  ‘front end of innovation,’ and ‘stage-gate,’ were born from the work of Innovation Research Interchange (IRI) members,” said Gary Shiffres, Director of Membership Development & Partnerships for IRI. “IRI values strength in cooperation and partners with other organizations at the forefront of developments in innovation. These partnerships have created a hub for all to convene and contribute in an experimental, noncompetitive, and noncommercial environment.  Working with Temple University and Vanguard’s Innovation Studio proved to be an excellent partnership and IRI members are looking forward to more from the Innovation Leaders Speaker Series.”

Davis’s insight and the success of the Vanguard Innovation Studio since its launch exemplify what the Series aims to showcase—that innovation is an imperative for today’s companies and entrepreneurs, and when leveraged in the right ways, can drive organizations—regardless of size or industry—to new levels of customer experience, competitive advantage, workplace culture, and overall success.

“From our earliest conversation I was incredibly impressed with Lisha and this accelerator program,” said Professor McNamee. “It struck me that a successful company like Vanguard could likely rely on incremental innovation for a number of years. However, the fact that they were putting this much focus on experimentation, learning, and disruptive innovation highlights why they are likely to remain leaders into the future.”

Stay tuned for details coming soon on the next installment of the Innovation Leaders series, featuring Todd Carmichael, Founder and CEO of La Colombe, happening Fall 2019.

Photo: Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University

Just one year into business, Jared Cannon, MS ’16, founder of the healthy eating startup Simply Good Jars (SGJ) is making a bold pivot away from individual food-in-jars subscriptions toward a smart refrigerator model that the company says will offer growth and sustainability.

“Over the summer, our waiting list grew to over 750 people,” said Cannon. “So we decided to shut down subscriptions and move to a vending model.”

The decision may seem strange given the popularity of meal subscription services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. However, customer loyalty and enthusiasm gave SGJ instant credibility in 2018, when Cannon was selected as a Philadelphia Inquirer Stellar Startup finalist and Independence Blue Cross named him a semifinalist for the Health Hero Challenge.

Cannon and his team are working on securing the capital needed to bring their jars to smart fridges. Plans include nearly 40 of these refrigerators in coworking spaces across Philadelphia. SGJ is already in locations that include WeWork, Pipeline and the Brandywine Liberty Trust corporate office. Business success will mean changing lunch culture at work by building a customer base that is willing to pay for the convenience of healthy, delicious breakfasts and lunches.

There’s a shift happening in the startup landscape, according to Cannon, an energy that is motivating entrepreneurs to solve problems in cities rather than vice versa. He feels a personal responsibility to serve as a part of the solution, something the northern Delaware native may have gained from an unlikely upbringing. Before the chef-turned-entrepreneur took off on his tasty endeavor, Cannon benefited from some unusual experiences.  

“In seventh grade I enrolled at a Democratic Free School to learn as an individual,” he said. “There weren’t classes, report cards or standardized tests.”

Cannon attributes his unique perspective as a business owner to his self-governed education. He was given permission to develop differently and to dabble in things he may have never tried—like engineering, computer mechanics and construction. Food wasn’t a focus at the Free School, but at home Cannon learned to love the culinary arts. In their kitchen, the big Cannon family came together. They also instilled a general enthusiasm for the outdoors in their children, which shaped Jared’s value system.

“I think something that’s baked into my generation is an awareness about how our product choices affect the environment,” he said. “My parents taught me to value food and not to waste it—that’s something I’ve carried into my business model.”

Social enterprise is also shifting at SGJ. Instead of contributing meals to Philabundance, the company is now donating funds to help support the Philabundance Community Kitchen. Beyond financial help, Cannon’s team is engaging with the Community Kitchen’s job placement and internship program to offer jobs to their low-income participants and graduates who hope to begin careers in the culinary field.

“We’re young, we’re growing, and there’s nothing better than working on something that you’re passionate about,” said Cannon. “The human element behind a product is the powerful differentiator.”

Beyond the business pivot, there’s more big news for Cannon and the SGJ team. He’s an expecting father just two years out of Temple and a year into business. And beginning in November, SGJ will celebrate another first—a stall at Reading Terminal Market that will be open from Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. A refrigerator will be on site, though it won’t be smart. Exclusive breakfast and lunch jars will be sold, created in collaboration with other Reading Terminal vendors like Old City Coffee, Martin’s Meats and Sausages, Iovine Brothers Produce, Godshall’s Poultry, Pequea Valley yogurt and Condiment.

“The most stressful thing right now is having all of these dynamic people around me who have bought in, and are taking the risk with me,” he said. “I’m learning how to be the fearless leader that I’m supposed to be, and I take it very seriously that it’s not just me anymore.”

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When looking for a restaurant, bakery, plumber, or lawyer, you’re likely to visit sites like Yelp or Angie’s List to help make a choice. In fact, recent research shows that 78 percent of consumers in the United States will read online reviews prior to making a purchase or decision. Meanwhile, businesses can use these review sites to interact more directly with their customers, through tools like new owner response features.

How does this online interaction translate into real-world performance? Dr. Subodha Kumar, professor of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the Fox School, conducted a study to find out.

Kumar examines the impact of the adoption of the business owner response feature within online review platforms in his paper, “Exit, Voice, and Response in Digital Platforms: An Empirical Investigation of Online Management Response Strategies,” which was accepted for publication in the Information Systems Research, an A-level journal.

Businesses that use the response features saw an increased number of mobile “check-ins” through sites like FourSquare and Facebook. Although the feature has been beneficial for businesses that use it, the key to consistent success resides in the need for companies to stay up-to-date with ways to connect with their consumers, both present and future.

“Overall, the new features supported through digital platforms will help businesses develop the right engagement strategy, improve consumer experience, and generate more reviews and consumer traffic, which will ultimately open more revenue generating opportunities for both the digital platforms and businesses,” said Kumar. This strategy will essentially drive higher website traffic and, if done well, enhance customer relations.

The study also found that use of the online response feature impacted the performance of nearby businesses. For example, in analyzing the performance of nearby restaurants in direct competition, businesses that directly engaged with customers online increased their number of check-ins, while businesses that did not use the features saw a decrease. This spillover effect suggests that businesses must be aware of how their neighbors and competitors are engaging with customers online in order to optimize their own digital strategies.

With the growth of mobile check-ins, social media, and online reviews, the research possibilities are evolving as well. “A future research direction is to examine which types of online management responses are more likely to attract consumers and enhance business performance,” said Kumar.

Dr. Subodha Kumar recently joined the Fox School. He will be a part of the Data Science Institute, an interdisciplinary body that connects multiple disciplinary perspectives to increase collaboration in the fields of computer science, math and statistics, and business knowledge.

Learn more about Fox School Research.
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Sumbal Bashir PhotoThe global phenomena of startup accelerators, incubators, and university labs have started to take hold in Pakistan. With a growing recognition of entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth and social change, more organizations are investing in sustainable and socially responsible programs.

And at the forefront of it all is Sumbal Bashir, Fulbright Scholar and student in the Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (MS-IME) program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Despite advances in and a growing acceptance of entrepreneurship in Pakistan, Bashir has seen firsthand that there exists a gap in the knowledge base and a need for skilled professionals in the country’s startup landscape. This is where she said she plans to make a difference.

“I will bring home my knowledge and experiences from the MS-IME program to fill in that gap and drive the growth of entrepreneurship in Pakistan,” she said.

To be fair, Bashir already has had quite an influential role in Pakistan’s startup scene. While earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS) in Lahore, Pakistan, Bashir interned with Ernst & Young, Barclays, Shell, and Akhuwat.

SMSall, a small, Lahore-based tech startup working to improve mobile communications in Pakistan, hired Bashir immediately after she graduated. There, she worked in business development and contributed to some of the company’s most-noteworthy projects, including the launch of SMSall messaging app. The app went on to be featured in the APICTA Awards in Hong Kong and the BlackBox Connect accelerator program in Silicon Valley.

“The most challenging and rewarding project was the launch of SMSall’s messaging app,” she said. “It was the first mobile-based communication application developed in Pakistan.”

Much of Bashir’s interests lie in supporting other young, female entrepreneurs. During her internship with Akhuwat, one of the largest micro-financing organizations in Pakistan, Bashir interacted with female micro-entrepreneurs and came to realize how vital their financial earnings were to their families. At the same time, she participated in a Shell program to promote entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Again, she found herself consulting with female entrepreneurs.

“The one thing I learned from my experiences was that the women from low-income communities are really ambitious and talented, and very much into entrepreneurship,” she said. “The only thing they need is more training and access to capital and markets. I want to be a part of the process that takes out this constraint for them.”

Last year Bashir worked with The Citizens Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Pakistan that offers affordable schooling to students from low economic backgrounds. She spent her time providing educational and personal counseling to female students.

“At the end of the program, a number of students told us how life-changing the experience was for them, and that for me was a very rewarding moment,” she said.

Bashir is in the midst of her own life-changing experience now, as she completes her MS-IME degree program. She was drawn to the Fox School’s program by its holistic approach to teaching entrepreneurship — and the emphasis on real-time projects, internship opportunities, guest speakers, and personal coaching for students who want to start their own businesses.

Last semester, as part of her independent study project with Assistant Professor of Strategic Management Jane Frankel, Bashir interned with Dreamit Health Philadelphia, a 16-week boot camp for health-focused startups. Under Dreamit Health, Bashir worked with VizExcell, a startup that is developing a personalized breast cancer risk assessment platform for radiologists and their patients.

“It was one of the most-interesting experiences for me so far, as it provided me with an exposure to the startup accelerators environment and the healthcare ecosystem of the United States,” she said.

Bashir’s commitment to entrepreneurship and her potential to make a real-world impact have not gone unnoticed.

“She was able to provide extensive research and evaluation for the markets of her sponsoring company,” Frankel said of Bashir’s market research for VizExcell. “Her report was extremely comprehensive, well-organized and timely.”

“She really seemed to embrace the innovation strategies and tools being taught, and I was able to see her apply them to many real-world situations,” said Dr. Michael Rivera, Associate Professor of Strategic Management and Director of the Fox School’s Executive MBA program, who counted Bashir among his students in his Business Model Innovation and Innovation Adoption and Diffusion courses.

“She is on the path to future success.”

Paul Silberberg, right, an adjunct faculty member of the Fox School of Business, introduces Bernie Marcus, co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot, before Marcus’ Feb. 9 lecture at Alter Hall. Photo credit Jim Roese Photography.
Paul Silberberg, right, an adjunct faculty member of the Fox School of Business, introduces Bernie Marcus, co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot, before Marcus’ Feb. 9 lecture at Alter Hall. Photo credit Jim Roese Photography.

Do ethical entrepreneurs earn more?

“Yes,” said Bernard “Bernie” Marcus, answering the question that also served as the title of his lecture.

The co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot, Marcus visited Temple University’s Fox School of Business Feb. 9 as the inaugural Warren V. “Pete” Musser Visiting Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Established in 2015, the Musser Professorship is an endowed term professorship filled by experienced and well-known practitioners who are interested in spending a term at the Fox School to mentor students in the early stages of their ventures.

A businessman and philanthropist, Marcus co-founded The Home Depot after he and coworker Arthur Blank lost their jobs with a California hardware store. The Home Depot went public in 1981 and has since become a billion-dollar, home-improvement empire. Marcus retired in 2001 to focus on philanthropy.

“Ethics are critically important,” Marcus told the standing-room only crowd at Alter Hall. “Everyone has that desperate moment in business when someone tries to break your conscience.”

Marcus’ “desperate moment” came when, at age 49 and unemployed, he decided to open The Home Depot. The former medical student hadn’t encountered the sometimes-unprincipled and amoral dealings that one can encounter with owning a business. Undaunted, Marcus refused to work with those who were dishonest and resolved that his business wouldn’t be about cutting corners or taking bribes.

Bernie Marcus speaks to audience.
Photo credit Jim Roese Photography.

“The Home Depot is the fastest-growing retail company in history, and it’s ethical in every way,” Marcus said.

Marcus elaborated. When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012, The Home Depot opened its doors to all customers who had been located in the hurricane’s path, offering supplies to them free of charge. A year later, when a tornado ravaged Moore, Okla., Marcus said The Home Depot took note of the area’s numerous displaced pets and set up cages in its stores.

“We became a pet store,” Marcus said, of the nearly three weeks during which The Home Depot housed the lost animals. “We did that then, and we’ll do it today. That’s ethics. That’s how you treat people and get the culture at The Home Depot.”

Leveraging his wealth, Marcus supports autism advocacy group Autism Speaks, and supports veterans employed by The Home Depot and their families employed. For Marcus, the purpose of the company’s good deeds is not to garner media attention. Running a business with an end game of fame or fortune, he said, simply is not ethical.

In addition to its support of veterans, The Home Depot seeks to instill in each of its employees — from store managers to new hires — a sense of pride, charity and professional drive. After all, Marcus said, he wouldn’t be in the position he is today without the men and women who worked nights and weekends for the company he founded.

“People don’t have to be recognized for doing their jobs, but when they do something exceptional, you congratulate them,” Marcus said.

Benrie Marcus speaks to audience.
Photo credit Jim Roese Photography.

Similar to Marcus, entrepreneurship is a pillar at the Fox School of Business. Its undergraduate- and graduate-level Entrepreneurship programs are nationally ranked Nos. 8 and 10, respectively, by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. Fox is also one of only five schools nationally to attain two top-10 rankings. And Fox’s Master of Science in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship degree program offers a course in Ethical Entrepreneurship.

For the students in attendance, Marcus discouraged them against compromising their values or giving up.

“Creative philanthropy is about hanging onto an idea, pursuing it, and not letting it get you down,” Marcus said. “You will win.”