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.
A mother-daughter team—including a WashU Olin alumna—took honors in both the USA International Mrs. Asia and Miss Asia Pageant Grand Finale in New York on December 21. Michelle Wu, EMBA ’12, and her daughter, Tiffany Yao, a May 2019 graduate of the Sam Fox School as a communication design major, took the honors in the two contests. Wu submitted the following information about the achievement.
Tiffany followed her mother’s footsteps into WashU in 2015 after graduating from John Burroughs School.
Mother and daughter both won the regional champion titles and entered the USA International Mrs. Asia and Miss Asia Pageants 2019 Grand Finale competition in New York in December right before Christmas.
“People claim that’s a rare case for both mother and daughter to join and win international beauty competitions at the same time—and especially that we both from WashU.
Michelle won the Global Grand Champion title of all age groups, as well as the Most Intelligent Award, the Perfect Figure Award, and the Best Talent Award—and took the 50-60 age group champion.
Tiffany won Global First Runner Up, as well as the Most Elegant & Charming Award, the Best Talent Award and the Miss Friendly and Popular Award.
For Dave Peacock, being values-based and data-driven is key to the success of Schnucks Markets in achieving its higher purpose of “nourishing people’s lives.” Peacock, EMBA ’00, is president and COO of Schnucks, a St. Louis-based regional grocery chain with 15,000 employees. Communicating Schnucks’ purpose is vital to the company’s culture, he said. It’s also important in attracting new employees to the company, which hires as many as 5,000 new workers each year.
“We have regular sessions to talk about the importance of our Midwest family values and how that fits with our purpose of nourishing people’s lives,” he said. At Schnucks, those values speak to a customer-first mentality, the willingness to try new things, a culture of tolerance and hard work and haste to help those in need.
Peacock also formed a data-focused unit at the company in January, hiring Tom Henry, a member of the board of WashU Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights, to serve as chief data and analytics officer. Henry now leads a 50-person business unit with the mission of “constructing and maintaining a purpose-built information management environment, governed and utilized by teammates at all levels of the enterprise, where trusted and increasingly intelligent insights are produced.”
Meeting consumer demand
Schnucks’ efforts align with growing consumer sentiment. Nearly 80% of Americans say they’re more loyal to purpose-driven brands, according to a 2018 study by public relations agency Cone/Porter Novelli. The same study said more than three-quarters aren’t satisfied with brands that only make money; they expect companies to positively affect society.
That shift is in step with WashU Olin’s brand positioning—to “champion better decision-making by preparing and coaching a new academy of leaders who will change the world, for good.”
The movement dovetails with the work of Olin professors Stuart Bunderson and Anjan Thakor, who are at the forefront of this advancement in business strategy that could help workers achieve professional success and fulfill values-based ambitions in their professional lives.
Bunderson, director of Olin’s Bauer Leadership Center and the George and Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics and Governance, has published a book about it, The Zookeeper’s Secret; Thakor, along with Robert E. Quinn from the University of Michigan, published a new book in August called The Economics of Higher Purpose and a cover story (“Turning Purpose into Performance”) in the July–August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Benefits: Dollar signs and beyond
A common theme of Thakor’s and Bunderson’s scholarship indicates that young professionals, and many others, want to work for companies that articulate a greater purpose—improving the world where they can, whether that’s in their local communities or addressing societal issues worldwide.
In addition, their work shows more than anecdotal evidence that purpose-driven organizations generate more worker and customer loyalty. Increasingly, workers are holding their employers more accountable and demanding to see more examples of executing on purpose, according to Thakor.
Those companies with the most clarity in the pursuit of their purpose frequently perform better financially, according to a 2016 study led by The Wharton School.
Thakor and Bunderson, however, also warn of pitfalls in creating a purpose-driven organization. Leaders of purpose-driven companies can’t take on every charity case and could face backlash from employees when workers’ pet projects aren’t a priority. Further, having a purpose doesn’t guarantee financial success, especially for startups.
“Creating a higher purpose is not a tool or tactic to make more money or achieve better financial performance,” said Thakor, the John E. Simon Professor of Finance and the director of doctoral programs at Olin. “Turning purpose into performance is very hard. Emotionally, it takes a lot of effort.”
He stresses that firms must meet two conditions: First, the identified purpose must be authentic, and second, it must be communicated with clarity. Thakor says being authentic is hardest, in part because it goes beyond putting posters on walls and communicating from HR to employees.
Can purpose have a downside?
“Every company now has a statement of principles that is displayed, and most of the time people in an organization understand it has virtually no meaning for the decisions the company makes,” Thakor said. “So, it doesn’t really affect the employees.”
For a purpose-driven company, that’s not the case. Managers and employees are vested in the core values and make decisions based on what they believe supports those core values. As a result, being purpose-driven will have costs and impose constraints.
“That’s especially significant when a company’s competitors are without purpose and have no restrictions,” Bunderson said. “Those competitors are not restrained in the business deals they will pursue. Purpose has to be backed by actions, mission and commitment. The purpose-driven company will say, ‘We won’t do that.’”
While there are hazards in the purpose-driven organization, Bunderson and Thakor agree that the benefits of being purpose-driven outweigh the risks.
There are a couple of ways purpose can help,” Bunderson said. “It’s not just feel-good, and it can be a competitive advantage.”
For example, millennials seek purpose as much as profit in their work, so communicating about a purpose-driven organization can be an advantage when recruiting 20-somethings or MBA students—or when fielding inquiries from recruiters.
For example, millennials seek purpose as much as profit in their work, so communicating about a purpose-driven organization can be an advantage when recruiting 20-somethings or MBA students—or when fielding inquiries from recruiters.
Sue McCollum, JD ’15, said having a values-based purpose, especially during challenging times, engages employees and keeps them moving in a positive direction. McCollum is chairman and CEO of wine and spirits distributor Major Brands Inc.
One of the ways Major Brands does that is through its Safe Home program, offering thousands of free rides home a year to bar patrons in a partnership with ride-hailing service Lyft. “It’s part of our push for social responsibility and accountability that has become really important to our people here, to our suppliers and to our customers,” McCollum said.
The challenge: Establishing purpose
Workers, customers and investors want to be part of something greater than themselves, research has shown. Having a greater purpose, however, has to be more than a mission statement and jargon about respect, teamwork and shared vision, Thakor said. It’s about creating leaders who are prepared to make, and stick with, difficult values-based, data-driven decisions.
The biggest challenge is for leaders to establish a company’s higher purpose, Thakor said.
“Giving to charity is not higher purpose; every company does that,” he said. “It’s not having a mission statement; most companies have those. It’s about going through a group of exercises to discover an authentic purpose that will guide all future business decisions.”
In his book, Thakor cites Apple and Walt Disney Co. as examples of companies that successfully established their higher purpose. Disney’s purpose in Disneyland was to create “a place for people to find happiness and knowledge.” For Apple, he offers a Steve Jobs quote: “Great companies must have a noble cause. Then it’s the leader’s job to transform that noble cause into such an inspiring vision that it will attract the most talented people in the world to want to join it.”
Once the purpose has been discovered and established, it should carry over into all aspects of the company, from how meetings are run to the people who are hired.
The concept of business leaders making decisions based on values —as well as data—is growing, but isn’t novel. Olin’s strategic pillar focused on creating leaders who make values-based and data- driven decisions has its roots in the business school’s founding.
“We’re talking about issues at the core of what we stand for,” Bunderson said. “In 1915, when William Gephart was making the case for why the university needed a business school, he cited the need to understand complex information (that’s the data part) as well as the need to consider how our decisions affect the broader society (that’s the values part). Being values-based and data-driven is in our DNA.”
Eight Steps to Organizational Change
Anjan Thakor outlines the steps in his book, The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization, co-authored with Robert Quinn, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a cofounder of the school’s Center for Positive Organizations.
Envision a purpose-driven organization
Discover the purpose
Meet the need for authenticity
Turn the higher purpose into a constant arbiter
Turn midlevel managers into purpose-driven leaders
Connect the people to the purpose
Unleash the positive energizers
More support for purpose
On August 19, 2019,
the powerful Business Roundtable lobby—which includes the CEOs of dozens of
major US companies—issued a revised “Statement on the Purpose of a
Corporation.” The one-page declaration, with 181 signatures, includes a
corporate imperative to support and invest in communities and people: “Each of
our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for
the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”
Part of a series about summer internships from Olin MBA ’20 students. Today we hear from Fifunmi Ogunmola, who worked at United States Tennis Association as a finance intern.
How I prepared for my interview/landed the internship
Over the summer, I was a finance intern at the United States Tennis Association. I had applied for corporate finance intern roles on LinkedIn, MBA Focus and other job boards and then, I received a call from a director at the USTA as part of a pre-interview screening. I eventually interviewed with a senior finance director, who became my manager.
I prepared for the interview with resources from the Weston Career Center. I had mock interviews with some of my peers. Also, I had access to resources to help me prepare for finance-specific interview questions.
How I used what I’ve learned at Olin during my internship
With multiple team projects and club activities in our first year, we learned collaboration. This proved useful during my internship. I had to work with my teammates, other interns and staff in other departments.
In addition, learning critical and strategic thinking in my classes helped me put my summer project in perspective; the model I was developing was not just to solve a department’s problem, but to provide a solution with nationwide impact.
How the internship prepared me for my final year at business school
Prior to the internship, I asked my manager in an email how
to prepare for the internship. He asked me to come with an open mind. I saw the
relevance of that advice multiple times during the internship. Beyond learning
new technical and managerial skills, I learned so much about an unfamiliar
As I begin my final year of business school, I intend to
have an open mind; to explore more opportunities to connect and to embrace
learning in all forms.
A day in the life
9:00 a.m.: Workday officially begins.
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Check emails; check-in with manager on revisions to the 2020 budget presentation; check-in with teammates; complete pending tasks.
10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: Intern check-in with the New York office.
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Work on tasks for the day; attend meetings (with teammates, other departments, work mentor etc.).
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Lunch and learn (professional development sessions over lunch).
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.: Complete tasks for the day; work on summer project or other projects.
3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Intern project meeting.
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.: Work continues.
5:00 p.m.: Already?! Tomorrow is another day!
How the internship is shaping my long-term career goals
The projects I worked on during the internship further
revealed my career interests in finance and data analytics. This has guided my
selection of classes and my decision to take complementary courses on LinkedIn
In addition, some of the lunch and learn sessions I attended taught practical skills on corporate communication, networking with senior executives and building a personal brand, all important elements of career success.
I believe that as I continue
to gain the academic knowledge required to achieve my career goals, and as I
build upon these specific skills learned during my internship, I am on the path
to an enriching career.
Part of a series about summer internships from Olin MBA ’20 students. Today we hear from Destiny Davis, who worked at Inspiring Capital as a consulting and strategy intern.
Over the summer of 2019, I interned with Inspiring Capital, a New York-based strategy consulting firm that integrates profit and purpose within the social impact sector. Being in a joint degree program, I knew I wanted to infuse both of my worlds of social work and business together to have impact. Inspiring Capital gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that.
How I prepared for my interview and landed the internship?
The interview process for Inspiring Capital was a combination of three rounds. This included a virtual video interview, a strategy deliverable and a group business case. I made sure to be my genuine self throughout the entire process, and made sure to know about the firm to the best of my ability. This included knowing the history, past portfolio of clients and level of impact had the previous year. As a part of my preparation, I did case prep as well.
A day in the life?
My day-to-day activities at Inspiring Capital were two-fold. Tuesday through Friday were spent working directly from my client’s office on my project on evaluation in downtown Brooklyn. My project was to work with my client’s operations department to make a sustainable business strategy to enhance their impact value, evaluation metrics and data management processes.
In addition, every Monday was spent at a different company. From understanding the importance of the roles that both not-for-profits and for-profits play in achieving our nation’s sustainable development goals with the United Nations Global Compact, to design thinking with Salesforce, to comprehending the landscape of innovative impact investing with The Rockefeller Foundation, along with using Blockchain for Good with IBM and grasping the long-term impact of circular economy in fashion with Eileen Fisher Inc.
This summer was nothing short of impactful. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what business for good looked like in all of these different spaces—therefore, helping me to understand what profit and purpose looked like being integrated together to change the world.
How did the internship prepare me for my final year at Olin? How is the internship shaping my long-term goals?
My summer at Inspiring Capital solidified what I truly want to do. I enjoy the idea of doing strategy for a firm that wants to maintain profitability, but still considers the social impact of their footprint on the world.
Understanding this, I am able to take classes that pertain to this area of work. For opportunities, I am willing to seek out connections that will allow me to use the mindset of profit plus purpose, and doing great business while having impact.
Five years ago this month, Christine Chang, BSBA ’04, cofounded her skin care company, Glow Recipe, leaving behind a career in global marketing at L’Oreal US. Just over a year later, she and her cofounder appeared on Shark Tank as a way to jump start the business—and later decided a financial relationship with the “sharks” wasn’t necessary. Chang answered a few questions for the Olin Blog.
Can you tell us a little about Glow Recipe? What inspired you to found it? Was it conceived at Olin?
Glow Recipe is a clean, cruelty-free skin care company founded in 2014. Our mission is to empower our customers to feed skin the ingredients it needs, when it needs it. We’re available at 1,500-plus doors in all Sephora US and Canada stores, as well as Douglas in Germany and Mecca in Australia.
My cofounder Sarah and I were inspired by growing up in Korea and learning a holistic approach to skin care and self care from our mothers and grandmothers. We were the only two bicultural and bilingual employees at L’Oreal who had experience in the beauty industry in both Korea and the US, and we thought this background could uniquely serve us to bridge these two cultures. While Glow Recipe is based in New York, it will always be K-beauty inspired.
Why did you decide to attend WashU and Olin?
I was looking for a school that had diversity, in terms of class size, backgrounds, ethnicities and majors so I would be exposed to a rich breadth of options and possibilities. Olin was an incredible foundation for my first job at L’Oreal as a marketer and helped me build analyticial, creative and presentation skills.
How did you decide to move down the path of entrepreneurship?
I was an assistant vice president at L’Oreal, heading marketing for the skin care category of a brand I really enjoyed working with. At the time, a great number of global beauty companies were starting to partner with Korean manufacturers due to the sheer level of innovation, especially in skin care, that was coming from Korea.
The Korean beauty brands that were being brought over were not reflective of this innovation, nor was there strong brand building. I decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage my background and experience to bring over beauty innovation and education in a relevant way for a global audience.
Why Shark Tank? What was that experience like?
We were huge fans of Shark Tank even before we were entrepreneurs. It was a surreal experience to be on national TV (completely unrehearsed!) and to have your business dissected by five successful, inspirational entrepreneurs.
It was nerve racking, but such a valuable learning experience on how to pitch our brand and communicate our mission. We got three offers from the sharks and shook hands with Robert Herjavec on the show, but eventually amicably parted ways. When the show aired in December 2015, it brought incredible nationwide awareness for our brand and philosophy.
Have you needed or planned to go outside for additional funding, or has that not been necessary?
We are bootstrapped and have not received outside investment.
Mentions in E!, Cosmo, HuffPo, CNN—is there a secret to the media exposure you’ve been able to capture?
Compelling, educational content has been the cornerstone of our platform and the fuel behind our social and press growth. We’ve always believed that educating on the routine and our skin care philosophy comes before selling a product.
Skin concepts such as Glowipedia, the first “skin care look book,” or “glass skin” skin care hacks like “seven skin method” were appreciated by both editors and customers as our unique approach to skin care techniques and education.
A recent shoot featuring a behind-the-scenes look at how our Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask was made also went viral. We got a lot of feedback from our community that they appreciated the transparency behind our processes.
In what ways was your experience at Olin formative in your experience and goals?
Olin was a combination of interesting courses, lifelong friendships and a supportive, safe environment to figure out how I wanted to approach my career and life after college.
Were there particular courses or professors or alumni who were particularly memorable or influential?
Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop, granted me time to do an informational interview. She was one of the first to really effectively create an experiential retail space and is an inspirational entrepreneur.
I also love seeing the work of Celia Ellenberg, AB ’04, who is the beauty director at Vogue. She consistently pushes the boundary on interesting, out-of-the-box beauty editorial.
What are the next steps for you in your career?
Continuing to grow Glow Recipe and build our team. Glow Recipe started as a curation site in 2014, bringing over natural K-beauty products to the US. Glow Recipe Skincare, our in-house brand, was launched in 2017.
This year, we hit a major milestone by evolving our business model from doing both curation and creation, to solely focusing on Glow Recipe Skincare. We have a lot of exciting innovations and activations planned for our brand and can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.
When nearly 100 WashU Olin full-time MBA students spanned the globe this year to launch their studies, they started with a strong dose of the entrepreneurial spirit—and they carried it with them through the 38-day journey.
As students recount in the attached video, a portion of their global studies included an examination of entrepreneurship and whether a startup dining concept in St. Louis would translate overseas in the competitive market of Shanghai.
Tyler Edwards, MBA ’21, was one of the students on the global immersion. He’s eager to work in a field where he can help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. Here are a few of his reflections since returning to the United States and diving into his core classes this semester.
In retrospect, weeks past your return from China, can you describe how the global immersion has influenced your approach to class?
The global immersion was a great way to ease students into the class format at WashU Olin. This experience has given me momentum and familiarity when approaching my courses. From our time abroad, I now look at cases from the point of view of a student, a client and as a consultant.
Rather than seeking the answers to case issues, I’m thinking about alternative routes of strategy and decision making on the business side, and applying what I know outside of class into the dialogue to better shape my experience.
I don’t think I’d be in the same position if I were only two months into school rather than having experienced the global immersion.
What did you gain from the experience that you’ve been able to apply already—particularly as it might related to your interest in entrepreneurship?
I’ve been able to gain perspective on client expectations in short-term projects and executables. The global immersion was a crash course in executing very short-term projects for clients in fields that we know very little about.
Taking these experiences out of the classroom, I have enhanced my abilities to synthesize company goals and founder visions quickly, and produce solutions that align with those visions and goals. This enhanced ability to dive into projects and get hands-on quickly has been a great addition to my experience.
Have you been able to use this experience yet in any preparation for your career next step?
I have been able to point to these experiences in my interviews and conversations with employers. It’s great to have the experience of helping an entrepreneur explore a completely different country and market in the manner that the global immersion program exposed us.
Employers are blown away when I can tell them about client empathy and customer research when I tell them about figuring out whether customers in Shanghai would eat sugary donuts. These experiences are great for applicability in problem solving, and provide for a great story to break the ice.