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From time to time we have professors, students, staff, alumni, or friends who are not regular contributors, but want to share something with the community. Be sure to look at the bottom of the post to see the author.


Nick Rizzo, JD ’19, Alistair McKane, JD ‘19, and Whit Urdan, BSBA ‘21.

Whit Urdan, BSBA ‘21, Nick Rizzo, JD ’19, and Alistair McKane, JD ‘19, cowrote this for the Olin Blog.

We are assisting Engagedly, an employee performance management firm, with analyzing their market impact, client acquisition and outreach as they transform from a startup into an industry leader.

Engagedly has told our team we can be most impactful by using their client list to survey customers—and those of their competitors—to perform a win-loss analysis. The results will help us make recommendations surrounding Engagedly’s software in addition to aiding in the development of a marketing and sales strategy.

The goal is to make the firm more efficient in the customer acquisition process so Engagedly can grow in the domestic market.

Thus far, we have met with the Engagedly team to gain an understanding of their current positioning and how we can help them make their long-term goals a reality. Despite not having a dedicated client acquisition strategy, we have learned that the company targets three main industries, knows its comparative advantages and generally knows how the software can be improved.

Starting with the current client list, we were able to get more detailed information on Engagedly’s target industries, clients and customer acquisition process. This data allowed our team to hypothesize potential areas for growth, including ancillary industries that are under-penetrated.

We seek to confirm these assumptions through our client survey and win-loss analysis. Additionally, the survey results may lead us to other performance management tools that aren’t on Engagedly’s radar.

Our survey will focus on why prospective clients choose to employ Engagedly’s product or to go in another direction. We want to know what potential customers appreciated—or did not like—about the product and sales team. We will ask about their previous method of employee management and what problems they want to solve with such a product. Furthermore, we will inquire how they learned about Engagedly in the first place.

Engagedly does not send out such questionnaires, and because we are not employed by Engagedly, we predict current and lost clients will be more likely to give us information than the Engagedly team itself.

As our deliverable, we will recommend ways for Engagedly to grow its customer base, whether through improving its product or altering its marketing strategy. It is also our hope that our survey can serve as a template so Engagedly can continue to perform win-loss analyses on its own down the road.

Throughout the entire process, though, we have kept in mind Engagedly’s overarching goal of growing in the United States market rather than an international market. Therefore, while we will still survey their clients abroad, our focus will stay with making its product the most marketable to firms in the United States.




This story includes material contained in a news release issued by the American Accounting Association. Researcher Philip Berger received financial support for this research from Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

A common assumption is that stock analysts gather earnings and other pertinent information to communicate to current and potential stockholders, and then incorporate that information by revising their current-quarter earnings forecasts.

So much for that perception. A new study involving two WashU Olin faculty members finds that analysts disseminate earnings news by revising share-price targets or stating they expect firms to beat earnings estimates, often tempering such information—even suppressing positive news—to facilitate beatable projections.

The study discovered that, when it comes to the current-quarter earnings reports that are analysts’ most closely followed work product, analysts become selective about which forecasts they update and what information they convey. The researchers found that later forecasts issued by the same analyst—such as share-price target revisions, forecast revisions to the other quarters’ forecasts or textual statements about earnings after the last quarterly forecast—surprisingly predict errors in the analyst’s own current-quarter forecast. These associations are much stronger for good news, consistent with analysts catering to managers’ desires to meet or beat earnings forecasts.

Kaplan

Their paper—coauthored by Zachary Kaplan and Chad Ham, both assistant professors of accounting at Olin, along with Philip Berger of the University of Chicago—is scheduled for the March issue of The Accounting Review.

Using data from 8,860 analysts covering 7,933 unique companies over 71 quarters, the researchers reported the likelihood of a downward revision of current earnings estimates came at a 50-percent greater possibility than an upward revision: 19.5 percent downward vs.13 percent upward. When it came to revising stock-price targets and future-earnings estimates, however, the reverse was true to a 20-percent greater possibility: 11.2 percent upward vs. 9.3 percent downward. The firms most likely to meet or beat earnings were those with positive price-target revisions, suggesting those revisions were at least partially motivated by prior omitted earnings information.

Ham

There are two important takeaways from these findings, Kaplan and Ham said.

First, one of the reasons managers are so successful in meeting or beating earnings forecasts is that they persuade analysts to omit positive news from forecasts.

“Managers care a lot about beating earnings forecasts, and analysts rely a lot on managers, so upsetting them is not really an option,” Kaplan said. “Additionally, analysts care deeply about conveying information to their clients, so they cannot merely issue beatable forecasts. The way we find analysts deal with this dilemma is by conveying positive news through the text of their reports and share-price target revisions—this allows managers to meet or beat estimates while also allowing the analyst to update clients about positive news.

“Non-clients, who rely on earnings forecasts because they do not have access to the whole of an analysts’ work product, end up with skewed information, but this is not an issue for the analysts’ business,” Kaplan said.

The researchers said that analysts purposefully lower, or “walk down,” projections. By keeping earnings forecasts low and neglecting some positive developments, the researchers wrote, analysts “cater to managers’ preferences for a walked-down (earnings) forecast pattern. The pattern we document, however, includes avoidance of walking up rather than only a walk-down. … Non-earnings forecast signals are more prevalent for positive news than negative news, consistent with analysts responding to incentives to issue [earnings] forecasts managers will meet or beat.”

Second, by not disseminating all information through current quarter’s earnings forecasts, which are widely available through commercial databases, analysts provide an advantage to clients who have paid for access to the full breadth of their research product.

“Analysts convey information in ways that enable them to be of service to clients, who they care about, and, at the same time, to avoid displeasing corporate managers, who they also care about,” Ham said.

The study may offer a lesson to the broader public: Perhaps widely circulated earnings forecasts aren’t as informative as people think.  If you want the best information an analyst has to offer, you have to pay for it.

In a separate survey of brokerages’ reports to clients, the researchers learned that — without changing forecasts — analysts didn’t refrain from explicitly predicting firms would beat or miss their targets … and the “beat” or positive predictions outnumbered the “miss” or negative predictions by roughly 30 percent.

Image above courtesy of Shutterstock.




The Arch Consulting team at the USC Marshall case competition. From left, Kevin Zhang, BSBA ’22, Madison Stoecker, BSBA ’19, Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, and Andrew Montgomery, BSBA ’20.

Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, was part of the Arch Consulting team that competed at USC Marshall. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Arch Consulting, a traveling case competition organization on WashU’s campus, participated in the Marshall International Case Competition at the University of Southern California from February 19-23.

After competing in a pool of 20 total teams represented by schools across the globe, Arch secured second place in the final round and was voted to win “people’s choice” by the advisers and fellow participants.  The team was comprised of Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, Madison Stoecker, BSBA ’19, Andrew Montgomery, BSBA ’20, and Kevin Zhang, BSBA ’22.

The case was based on Zuru, “a disruptive and award-winning company that designs, manufactures and markets innovative toys and consumer products.”

The private company is globally recognized for its dynamic and agile manufacturing capabilities, with popular brands including Fidget Cube and Bunch O Balloons within its product portfolio. 

The WashU team was challenged with answering several key questions Zuru faces in light of a volatile macroeconomic environment and changing consumer trends and preferences, particularly as they endeavor to expand manufacturing outside of the toy industry and enter as a competitor in the consumer packaged goods space.

Over the course of 24 hours, the WashU team developed a two-pronged strategy that focused first on addressing Zuru’s current challenges in establishing strong positioning within the Chinese market, while also creating a replicable infrastructure to ensure Zuru’s sustainable growth and competitive advantage as it expands across geographies and new industries.

The team had an incredible experience at the competition, enjoying the case analysis as well as the opportunity to build life-long friendships among teammates and across representatives from various universities in attendance.

We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent WashU at Marshall, and look forward to future teams enjoying the experience.

Watch Arch Consulting’s final presentation.

Pictured above: The Arch Consulting team at the USC Marshall case competition. From left, Kevin Zhang, BSBA ’22, Madison Stoecker, BSBA ’19, Lauren Dumas, BSBA ’19, and Andrew Montgomery, BSBA ’20.




Neha Vazrala

Neha Vazrala

Neha Vazrala

Neha Vazrala, ArtSci ’19, is majoring in psychology and earning a second major in marketing from Olin Business School. She is an intern for B2B marketing agency Gorilla 76 and wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

There are hundreds of articles on how to land the perfect internship or frame one on your résumé. But how do you make the most of the internship besides applying what you’ve learned in class and bragging to your LinkedIn friends? I’m still an intern that’s figuring it out myself, but after interning for a year and a half and helping friends navigate their own internships, I’ve learned a lot.

While marketing internships can vary widely from where the work is focused within your field to whether you work at a firm or for a company, the tips below can help you make the most out of your experience.

Find your voice

Because many companies put a focus on culture fit as well as skills, it’s good to explore your ideal personal and professional balance through your internship. Learning how to make work friends and acquaintances is extremely important. This might seem like an obvious tip for some.

Personally, I was a quiet, unassuming intern for two months before I realized that it was OK to be myself and build personal relationships with the “actual adults” around me. I chalked up my hesitance to the stereotype of interns I saw in movies, but also saw this reflected in the other two strategy interns.

So, don’t forget to be yourself and open up to your coworkers. Remember that the team chose you for a reason.

Being yourself at work also means using your voice to share new ideas. While you’re still an intern, most companies appreciate that new people are more likely to notice an inefficient process than those who are used to it.

Voicing those thoughts with respect—and some research on possible solutions—makes a positive impression on those around you and helps your company grow. However, that doesn’t mean you have to look around to find issues. Exercise creativity when you’re given projects that allow for it.

More than a year ago, my co-intern and I were asked to come up with three scholarship ideas for Gorilla. We were surprised by the data we found indicating a significant pay gap in marketing, and perhaps more importantly, female strategists were rated lower by clients, especially female clients, regardless of the work’s quality.

This inspired us to pitch the Women in Marketing Scholarship, which aligned with our company’s values while breaking the traditional mold of academic-based scholarships.

Own your mistakes

On the second day of my internship, I sent a half-written pitch template to a new contact. I hadn’t even changed the “Hi [NAME],” field yet. Panicked, I went to my supervisor. Fewer than 48 hours in, I had made an embarrassing mistake while learning how to use our CRM software.

I still think about that day, almost two years into my internship, because it was the beginning of an important lesson for me. It is OK to make mistakes, even in the “real world.” Usually, it’s an easy fix.

It’s more important to own the mistake and show you can quickly come up with and execute a solution. That goes a long way in building trust with your boss.

More likely than not, you’re going to be pushed to challenge yourself and you will make mistakes along the way. And if you don’t feel you’re being challenged enough in your internship, you should reach out to your boss about taking on more complex projects or shadowing other departments to learn new skills. Which brings me to my next point …

Avoid tunnel vision

Internships are exploratory. You can get experience in different elements of marketing within both your department and your company. My internship is within the strategy department, so I’ve gotten to complete keyword research, data analysis and lots and lots of search engine optimization (SEO).

At the same time, I’ve also gotten to work with our writers on email templates and help our design team conduct brand voice research. It gave me a new appreciation for both departments and how much they add to our firm. I never thought I would write any type of copy, but here I am writing my first blog post.

Although my internship is supposed to be focused on link-building, I’ve learned a lot more because I was excited and willing to try any project that was available. For example, my first non-link-building project involved identifying prime locations for specific article calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout a client’s site.

I started my research with class notes and several of my favorite marketing blogs, but ultimately it took experience to start building a strong intuition about CTA placement. Those kinds of projects can go a long way in helping you broaden your horizons while narrowing your focus.

Embrace the future

It’s important to remember that every internship is great because it gives you a sense of direction, even if that direction is a complete 180 from what you thought you wanted to pursue.

Plus, very few job listings for “digital marketing strategist” have the exact same responsibilities, so it’s important to figure out what you know, what you want to learn and what is outside your ideal job role. And, with the increase in creative titles like “content ninja” and “SEO rockstar,” you want to make sure that you fully understand the positions you’re applying for and whether they’re a good fit.

So, while every internship might not be the perfect match, every internship will shape your job search in the future while you build experience.

With the future ahead, I hope you enjoy your internship and make the most of it! If you’re looking for one in the St. Louis area, Gorilla 76 is always looking for talented and enthusiastic people. You can check out the company’s internship opportunities here or bookmark the careers page for the future.




Aaron Hutcherson

As part of our ongoing partnership with MondayKarma.com, we highlight the career path insights from another Olin alumnus, Aaron Hutcherson. MondayKarma publishes in-depth interviews with WashU alumni to learn about and share advice as they forged their career path after graduation. Olin Blog publishes the tl;dr version and links to the full story.

Aaron Hutcherson, BS ’09, MS ’09, initially leveraged his talent in math as an engineering student and a corporate finance and wealth management professional with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Soon, however, he followed his passion as a cook, expanding a personal blog The Hungry Hutch into a career of its own.

As a child raised in Chicago, Hutcherson aspired to a number of career paths before settling on engineering as his undergraduate choice. His parents still live in his childhood home. Dad was a Cook County Hospital administrator. His mom stayed at home until he was in middle school, when she started working at school as a substitute teacher and, later, a teacher’s aide.

Today, Hutcherson is editor and social media manager for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and the food writer and recipe developer for TheHungryHutch.com. He’s also been a loyal benefactor to his alma mater.

CORE CURRICULUM: Addressed in every interview

ON CHOOSING WASHU OLIN BUSINESS SCHOOL: “One of my criteria for choosing a college was diversity. I wanted at least 5 percent of the student population to be black. I also wanted a school with a strong academic program. I was an Ervin Scholar, so I got a scholarship and reaped the benefits from being a part of that program.”

ON FINDING THE RIGHT JOB: “I enjoyed the (internship) experience and I got an offer from Merrill Lynch following the internship. The offer from Merrill Lynch was in the fall of 2008, just before the market crashed. I think it was announced that they were getting bought by Bank of America the same week I was supposed to accept the role. I talked to the HR recruiter and asked if I still had an offer. She said yes, so I accepted it. For the most part, I tried not to think about it for the rest of the year, because I was set with what I would be doing after graduation.”

ON PREPARING FOR A CAREER: “I wish I knew that there aren’t any rules for what you’re supposed to do with your life after WashU. At WashU, everyone around you is applying to business school, getting internships and finding jobs with big companies. Knowing that there are more opportunities than just at these big Fortune 500 companies available to you is powerful. Also, the rest of your life is a long time, so as much as you can, try to find something you enjoy doing day in and day out.”

ELECTIVES: Freestyle responses from each interviewee

NEGOTIATING THE OFFER: “If you’ve done your research and know what you should be getting paid, even if the offer is within a reasonable range, you should always ask for more. State the reasons why you think you deserve it and reiterate that you want to work for the company. Ask if there’s any room in the budget to increase your salary, or you can ask for alternatives like stock options or more paid time off. There’s always room to ask. If a company gets mad at you for asking, then I think that’s an indication that maybe that isn’t the place you should be working.”

ON PIVOTING FROM FINANCE TO FOOD: “It was one of those things that sort of happened slowly over time. In the finance world, the big thing a lot of people do is get their chartered financial analyst (credential). My boss and other more senior team members encouraged me to do it, and I had zero interest. When I looked around I never really wanted my boss’s job or the job of anyone else on my teams. I could have done them, I just knew I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my career. That’s when I knew it was time to go.”

ON ACTIVITIES WHILE IN SCHOOL: “Any group project that happens in class is an opportunity to share your thoughts and learn to speak up. It’s definitely one of those skills you can develop over time. For me, it was just one of those things that happened through experiences like finding myself in those group situations time and time again. If you find yourself not speaking up, force yourself to and make sure you always ask a question or provide at least one piece of input.”

Pictured above: Aaron Hutcherson. Visit MondayKarma.com to learn more about Aaron’s path from finance into food media. You can also explore the career path for other WashU alumni.