Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creativity in business success

Steven Koonin, president and CEO of Turner Entertainment, presented “CREATIVITY: Why Good Ideas Matter More Than Ever,” to students at the University of Kansas School of Business, Monday, Oct. 15.

“You used to plop down in front of the T.V. and watch, then came the VCR and recording, and now there is online streaming,” Koonin said.

As one of the smartest people in television, Koonin has led his company to success in an industry that focuses on change. In order to be successful in business, Koonin said there has to be a vision to avoid outcomes like Blockbuster’s. Its inability to adapt led to its defeat by Redbox and various online streaming sites.

“Media is under attack by technology,” Koonin said.

To overcome changing times, to strive for long-term success in work, to avoid tunneling all focus on what is being done, there should be attention to where the company is going, Koonin said.  In his presentation, Koonin revealed some of his most helpful points to provide insights that aim to succeed.

        Take a fresh look. Children view the world with a different set of eyes. Be the one to see opportunities that others do not.

        Use the F-word. The scary word to a business is “focus.” The key to building a brand is by
making choices. TNT is the first and only television network that decided to focus on drama and, by making this decision, to drop WCW, its highest rated program, TNT grew its audience loyalty by shrinking its focus.

        Place your bets.  See opportunities that other don’t. It’s possible to increase audience by eliminating the danglers. For example, 9 out of 10 television shows fail. TBS took on Tyler Perry’s show after extensive research. Turner thought that there was no good reason that this would work, but it did.

        Know your strengths. Know what you are, know what you’re not. Conan O’Brien transformed his identity from a traditional late night host to a multimedia hit because he adjusted to changing platforms and changing times.

        Don’t be afraid to fail. Every company has failures. Ideas are like disposable diapers – when they’re full of crap, throw them away.

        Serious work does not have to be serious. Work should be fun and you should enjoy every day you’re doing something. I use humor as a tool to manage people. Just because someone has a hammer doesn’t mean it should be flaunted. Treat people in the same way that you want to be treated, with kindness, respect and opportunity.

Koonin said, in a technologically advanced world, there have been major advancements in the way people interact and manage their media, and there is no ending in sight. “Creativity is the currency for the future,” Koonin said.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Senior football player is a leader on and off the field

Change can often be difficult for many people. Facing it head-on has never been a problem for Trevor Marrongelli. In fact, the senior football player has embraced the challenge this year. He is taking on more responsibility on the field, playing a leadership role at the center position, and off the field, starting his Master of Business Administration degree.

Marrongelli, the center from Austin, Tex., is in his third year as a starter for the University of Kansas Jayhawks. Marrongelli was originally recruited as a center, but when he arrived in Lawrence the team needed him elsewhere.

“They needed a right guard, so they moved me,” Marrongelli said. “(Jeremiah) Hatch was the center for three years and when he graduated, I moved back to center.”

In the business school, Marrongelli has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is currently working toward an MBA. He is also a graduate teaching assistant for Lisa Bergeron’s Survey of Finance course. Life for a student-athlete is a balancing act, always putting everything you can into sports and studies.

“I’m not sure how he balances everything,” said Bergeron. “He goes above and beyond in every aspect of his life.”

Marrongelli started the first four games of the 2010 season before suffering a season-ending leg injury. He started every game last year and is a starter again this year. Marrongelli admits that it’s challenging at times but he continues to excel on and off the field.

“You definitely have to have really good time management skills and prioritize things,” Marrongelli said, “especially with the tests and all the projects and papers in the MBA program.”

Marrongelli is handling the academics just fine. He has been named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team every year he has played and in the spring semester of 2012, he was named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll. Marrongelli said what he’s learned on the football field has helped him in the classroom and will help him in his future career as well.

“It’s discipline, working toward a goal everyday and just grinding it out,” Marrongelli said. “It’s waking up early for football and staying up late to finish homework and learning to do most of the big homework on Sunday and Monday when we don’t have football.”

The business school has taught him a few things, too. Being professional in every situation and giving your best effort, he said, are two of the most important things he’s learned. Helping in Bergeron’s class has taught him quick problem solving skills that he uses at the center position.

“Sometimes I have to tell the right guard or the left guard what to do or direct the whole offensive line,” Marrongelli said. “It’s kind of the same thing as when students come in with questions. You have to think on your toes and help them with the problems they have.”

When someone understands the material, Marrongelli said, it’s rewarding to know that you helped them.

Including his redshirt year in 2008, Marrongelli has played under three head coaches while at KU: Mark Mangino in 2008 and 2009, Turner Gill in 2010 and 2011, and Charlie Weis this year. Each coach is different and Marrongelli said you have to prove yourself all over again for each new coach.

“It’s pretty much starting over fresh,” he said. “Just be consistent in your attitude and effort and the coaches will realize what kind of player you are. You usually go right back to the place you were.”

Marrongelli also commented on the other side of that, saying that you can recreate yourself for each new coach, which can be a good or bad thing. For him, it’s been a good thing. Proving yourself to a new coach is a bit like moving to a new city. Marrongelli is from Austin, Tex., a metro area with a population of more than 1.7 million. Coming to Lawrence, with a population of 111,000, was a big change. It can be difficult at first, he said.

“I felt like the pace of everything slowed down,” Marrongelli said. “The hardest thing was that I didn’t know anybody, but once I got my base down, I was pretty set.”

Bergeron said he rarely seems stressed, even with the pressure of school and football. And somehow, he finds time to relax.

“He takes my kids to Perkins sometimes, and they love it because he lets them get pancakes AND chicken fingers,” Bergeron said. “I love having Trevor as a hardworking GTA, but more than that, I enjoy having him as a friend and a role model for my two boys.”

It remains to be seen how Marrongelli will end his football career, but his career in business is just getting started.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Father of supply-side economics speaks at Kansas Union

The economy is a large part of this year’s election, so the timing was great for the School of Business to welcome Arthur Laffer to the University of Kansas. On Thursday, Oct. 11, Laffer, commonly known as the “father of supply-side economics”, spoke in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union.

Laffer touched on a number of economic topics. He spoke first about stimulus spending, the logic of it and how he believes there is no stimulus in the stimulus package. The second topic Laffer mentioned was income disparity in the U.S. and how to help the poor. Laffer spoke about the upcoming election and the economic plans of the two major candidates.

“If you look at the election today, whether it’s in the states or whether it’s at the federal level,” Laffer said, “you have to see just how polarized economics is in the two parties. I think it’s wonderful that you have this type of polarization because if you don’t have that, your vote doesn’t matter.”

Laffer went on to say that he thinks this election is the first time in generations that Americans have a true choice. The last topic Laffer spoke about was his five keys to economic prosperity: spending restraint, a sound currency, free trade, minimal regulations and a low-rate, flat tax.

“You do these,” he said, “and then get out of the way, and you’ll see [the economy] boom.”

A small reception after the lecture allowed students, professors and others a chance to chat one-on-one with Laffer.

"It's informative but at the same time it's very inspiring," said business student Shenji Pan. "As Dean Neeli pointed out, it's a university. Different ideas can emerge and people can discuss, ask questions and debate about it. I think that's the greatest thing about these events."

Laffer has had a long and successful career that includes being a major contributor to the new tax policy from Gov. Brownback. He was the first chief economist at the Office of Management and Budget from 1970-1972. He has received many awards and written many books, most recently, “Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status.” Laffer is the founder and chairman of Laffer Associates and Laffer Investments and lives in Nashville, Tenn.

The lecture was sponsored by the University of Kansas School of Business, 1st Global and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation.

Students learn professionalism at etiquette dinner


Teaching students to act professionally during meals is no easy task, even if food is involved. The University of Kansas Career Center and the Student Alumni Association host the Etiquette Dinner twice a year, one in the fall and spring, to teach students how to conduct themselves with professional etiquette during a business dinner.  

Tuesday, Oct. 2, marked the first event of the 2012-2013 school year.

We had the opportunity to attend an etiquette dinner, which was nerve-wracking, informational and fun. 

Not only do a resume, cover letter and interview with a company demonstrate an individual’s professionalism success, but the real test comes with proper use of table manners. This isn’t a rundown of mom-and-pop’s table manners from keeping elbows off the table, it goes beyond that. Business dinners are less about the food and more about the business and manners.

The dinner featured a business attire fashion show and discussion panel before the meal. Much like opening a can of soda in a quiet room, the first question of the evening is asked and directs the panel toward resume, interviews, social media portrayal and how to land a great job after graduation. 

“The more well-rounded a person is,” said Joe Burke, retail recruiting specialist at Hy-Vee, “the better that person will transfer into the workforce.”

Most of the panel members agree that experience and involvement are more important than what kind of degree you have. Employers are more interested in an applicant’s ability to take on real world tasks in the professional world, the kind of experience that isn’t found in a textbook. 

Presentation is also important to an employer, not specifically at a dinner, but also how the individual dresses, talks and represents himself or herself on social media outlets. Anything posted to Facebook, Twitter and blogs reflects the kind of person the individual is and represents the company for which he works.

“I enjoyed the question and answer panel portion at the beginning of the evening the most,” said Kelsey McConnell, a junior in accounting from Overland Park, Kan. “They were all recruiters and provided awesome insights about the keys to interview success.”

Panel guests provided answers that stemmed beyond the questions. The answers taught students how to apply classroom knowledge and skills to position themselves as better candidates for a job. 

After the discussion panel was the business dinner, where not only the students had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a panel member, but everyone learned appropriate table manners.

The rules flowed like wild fire, such as how to fold your napkin when it’s on the lap and rules about how to pass items on the table. When offering bread, fake left then continue to pass to the right until it reaches full circle. Each item on the table has a specific place, and when positioned in particular ways gives notion to the server how to act. There are more silverware pieces surrounding a plate than fingers on any one individual’s hand. 

“It would have been nice to have a print out of the etiquette rules, “McConnell said. “I feel like I forgot some of the things she said after the dinner.”

Practice does make perfect, which is why we created an easy-on-the-go cheat sheet, or I mean, memory bank, for back pocket access.

Dan’s advice: BMW: If you’re wondering which glass of water is yours, just remember BMW. From left to right, it’s bread, meal, water. Your bread plate, is on the left side of your plate and your water is on the right.

Steph’s advice: Only cut two or three bites at a time. Rest the knife across the top of your plate, sharp edge toward you, for easy access. When finished with the meal, place the knife down in 4 o’clock position on your plate with the fork, tines down, below it. This tells your server you have finished with your meal and he may take your plate.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Leading KC Entrepreneurs Pitch to KU Class


What does it take to sell an idea to an investor? Students in Professor George Bittlingmayer’s Entrepreneurial Finance class at KU’s Edwards Campus recently found out. The founders of three of Kansas City’s most innovative startups demonstrated their “pitches,” fielded questions, and explained the appeal of entrepreneurship in early October.

Left to right: KU students Robert Van Trump and Hong Bing Zhou; 
Pipeline Innovators Kyle Johnson, Xandra Sifuentes and Jeff
 Blackwood, and KU students Sarah Schmidt, and Darren Campbell

The three entrepreneurs, Jeff Blackwood, Kyle Johnson and Xandra Sifuentes, all have the distinction of having been chosen for the elite Pipeline program. Founded in 2006, Pipeline is a selective startup accelerator that connects the Midwest’s most promising entrepreneurs with a network of supporters, peers, and advisers.  Each year approximately 10-12 new members are invited to join and participate in a rigorous, yearlong business leadership development program.  Mr. Blackwood and Mr. Johnson were members of the 2011 PIPELINE class and Ms. Sifuentes was invited to join in 2012.                 

An entrepreneur’s pitch to potential investors states the problem, outlines the entrepreneurs solution and marketing strategy, and offers estimates of the potential market size and company projections. The best pitches are polished, focused and attract financing from angel investors and venture capitalists. 

Xandra Sifuentes is currently the President of Metactive Medical, LLC, a subsidiary of medical device company Novita Therapeutics.  Prior to her position at Metactive Medical, she earned her MBA from the University of Missouri-Columbia and co-founded two medical device start-up companies.    Leveraging an experienced team of professionals, Metactive plans to introduce a ball stent that will repair cerebral aneurysms by 2016.  “We are looking to have half the cost of our competitors.  Our product only requires one ball stent and comes in variable sizes,” Ms. Sifuentes explained. Metactive plans to enter European markets before launching the product in the US due to a more predictable regulatory environment and a quicker adoption rate of medical technology.

Jeff Blackwood is the CEO and President of AB Pathfinder, a start-up company that develops technology tools to aid children with autism, Asperger’s, and other brain development disorders. The company has partnered with Microsoft to develop a web-based application that fosters communication between therapists and educators, allowing them to focus more on the children than on administrative tasks. “We didn’t build this software in a vacuum. We had a solid team of business and scientific advisors behind us including medical researchers at University of Kansas,” Mr. Blackwood said. 

KU graduate Kyle Johnson is the CEO and founder of music streaming service AudioAnywhere, and won the January 2012 pitch contest for his 2012 Pipeline cohort. Before establishing AudioAnywhere, Johnson worked for more than six years in management consulting. His vision is to enhance the business model of online music streaming services by more closely tailoring advertising with consumer preferences and thus improving advertising revenue per song played.  “We can make more money than Pandora on a per-user basis,” Mr. Johnson predicted.

Perhaps the most memorable takeaway of the evening was the relentless drive and ambition that characterizes the most successful entrepreneurs.  “The presenters really believed in their product…and really made you believe their product and ideas were going to be successful,” said Darren Campbell, an engineer and current MBA student.

Jared Sinclair, also in the MBA program and in health care, came away with an appreciation of the work and effort that goes into raising money. Despite differences in style, “each one knows how to get people interested in what they had to say.”

In response to questions about the lessons of entrepreneurship, Kyle Johnson summed up his experience. “You live and learn.  Raising money is the hardest thing.  Knowing how not to waste it is the second hardest thing.”

Xandra Sifuentes acknowledged the risks of the entrepreneurial path, but said she finds value and fulfillment in her work.  “I love the creative process in bringing an idea to life that will help save lives.”