Author: Sydney Miller

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About Sydney Miller

PMBA 44, former journalist & editor, and perpetual student. I also work in Olin's Marketing & Communications Department, behind the scenes of Olin's social media accounts and the Olin Blog. You can always submit questions, post ideas, posts, or digital signs for promoting events. Just shoot me an email: sydney.miller@wustl.edu


Last weekend was PMBA GO! As a newly-minted member of PMBA 44, I discovered I had a lot to learn.

I work in Olin’s Marketing & Communications Department, behind-the-scenes of Olin’s social media presence and the blog and website. Luckily, I work for a university that is very supportive of staff continuing their education. Even luckier, I work at one of the top-ranked business schools in the country.

Enrolling in the Professional MBA program was intimidating, but thrilling. Having conquered GO! Weekend, I have a better idea of what I hope to get out of the program, and where I am now.

My framing and conceptualization of problems is narrow

This was a surprising discovery for me, but I suppose that was the point of reading hours’ worth of case studies. The benefit of participating in class discussion about cases is that you become aware of holes in your logic. Some of the potential solutions (or issues) my peers were raising simply did not occur to me, and vice versa.

As a cohort we spent a lot of time learning about problem formulation and its importance in critical thinking. The more we improve at problem formulation—arguably the most important step in critical thinking, since a great solution to the wrong problem is still the wrong solution—the better we become at taking a step back and looking at the situation from a new perspective.

  

It’s okay that I don’t have a background rooted in finance and statistics

My educational background is in journalism, and the bulk of my business experience is in marketing. To say that I was a little hesitant about diving into an MBA program with some of the region’s up-and-coming business leaders is an understatement. But I also knew that Olin has positioned itself as a safe environment for industry- and career-changers.

I have a lot to learn when it comes to quantitative decision making, statistics, and accounting…or operational management, strategic management, and economics. Really, I just have a lot to learn. There is a steep learning curve for me, but it seems much more manageable than I feared it would be. Plus, I bring other skills to the table that can be as valuable in pitching someone on an idea or getting buy-in. Prof. Tarek Ghani said the cohort, like any other MBA group, could be split into categories of “poets” and “quants.” I am very much in the “poets” category.

Yes, GO! Weekend is pretty intense

Don’t let the pics of team building fool you! GO! Weekend is a lot of work. The main component of the PMBA program that can make the workload seem so daunting is the fact that nearly all of the students are employed full-time. We weren’t gently eased into case studies and writing recommendations—we were told to drink from the fire hose immediately. I never imagined myself spending the amount of time I spent calculating, analyzing, and writing a 300 word recommendation. It’s difficult, but the challenge is also exciting.

Teams are organized for diversity—and it is very beneficial

I’m on a core team of four, and we come from different backgrounds: chemical engineering, operations, finance, and marketing. The diversity of experiences and thought has already been helpful to broaden my thinking toward certain cases and the way I approach them. The PMBA program does this intentionally, because everyone can learn from how things are done in other industries, and differing skillsets complement each other. But the entire class has a richness of perspectives and ideas to share, which really augments lectures and class discussion.

I’m looking forward—with excitement but also a little anxiety—to the coming months. I feel like I’ve already experienced an evolution in my thinking (although I certainly have a ways to go), and it has been three days! Where will I be at the end of these three years?




Business owners trying to keep the lights on likely place “instilling culture” among their lower priorities (that is, if it makes the “priority list” at all). Articulating the values of a company often comes second to growing the business—but largely, that is a false choice. Identifying which values to build your company upon is an integral part of determining the company’s mission, goals, and overall strategy.

An upcoming panel discussion, “The Value of Values for Founders and Entrepreneurs,” explores the challenges businesses face when articulating their values. I asked Stuart Bunderson, George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance and co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center, and the panel’s moderator, Cliff Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship and director of the entrepreneurship platform, to shed light on why crafting values and a strong culture is critical to success.

Why is it important to articulate core values in the early stages of a venture?

Holekamp: While in the early stage, young ventures are evolving and still figuring out who they’re going to be when they grow up. It’s at this formative time when a leader has the most impact on instilling the values that will become part of company culture for years to come. If you aren’t purposeful about the values and culture of your early-stage venture, then you’ll end up with a later-stage venture whose values and culture are accidental.

Bunderson: In the earliest stages of a new business, every decision can set a precedent and become a statement on what the organization values and aspires to become. Those decisions should therefore be made with a clear sense of the values that founders would like their organization to embody.

What challenges do founders face in articulating and instilling these values?

Holekamp: Perhaps the biggest challenge is to remain authentic to yourself and to your business. There are lots of positive values in this world, but as a founder you need to emphasize those that are true to who you are. As a leader, you are influencing your business and its constituents with every unintended word and action. If you choose a company culture that is an honest extension of your own best self, then it will be much easier, and more likely, that your business will be consistently infused with those values.

Bunderson: Pressures to chase funding or make near-term performance goals can lead founders to compromise on values. When founders cling to their core values in spite of those pressures, those values become part of the organization’s fabric.

What role do entrepreneurial values play in family firms that may not be the case in corporate firms?

Bunderson: Family firms may explicitly pursue values that corporations would not, values related to things like promoting the family’s good name and broader impact, providing learning opportunities for family members, or encouraging family members’ self-reliance.

Why should founders prioritize values and culture?

Holekamp: Both employees and customers want to be a part of something that is greater than a mere transaction of money for goods or services. A company that honestly conveys values offers something more than those that don’t.

Bunderson: Founders should prioritize values for two reasons. Core values that are woven into the fabric of the company can be a key source of competitive advantage that is not easily replicated. But perhaps just as importantly, if not more importantly, many founders want to create a company that stands for something besides just profitability.

What do you hope business leaders take away from the upcoming panel discussion?

Holekamp: Entrepreneurs and small business owners have the special opportunity to leverage their own personal values as a strategic advantage in business—a competitive advantage that their corporate rivals should envy. My hope is that more entrepreneurs recognize this, and leverage it to their own business and personal advantage.

Bunderson: A reminder of why values should be top of mind as they work to create a new venture.

Register today for “The Value of Values for Founders and Entrepreneurs.” There is no cost to attend, but registration is required.


About Stuart Bunderson & Cliff Holekamp

Professor Bunderson is the co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center and the George and Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics and Governance. He is also an honorary professor with the faculty of economics and business at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. He holds a PhD degree in Strategic Management and Organization from the University of Minnesota and BS and MS degrees from Brigham Young University. His award-winning research on issues of leadership and meaningful work has been published in leading management journals.

 

Cliff Holekamp grew up in Los Angeles and worked as an account executive for IBM in Nashville before coming to Olin, first as a student. After developing the concept in Olin’s entrepreneurship program, he founded a chain of healthcare centers which he later sold to a private equity group. Prof. Holekamp was the founding director of the Entrepreneurship Platform, was the co-founder and architect of the social entrepreneurship programs at Olin and at the Brown School of Social Work, and has launched several new entrepreneurship courses including programs in Hungary and Israel. In addition to teaching, he is a co-founder and general partner at Cultivation Capital, an early stage venture capital firm.




Poets & Quants’ recently released “2017 Best & Brightest EMBAs” include two Olin standouts: Brian Estes and Katherine Buehner.

At 28, Brian Estes became the youngest Vice President in the history of A.G. Edwards and Sons, so it’s no surprise he was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s “40 Up and Comers” shortly after. He’s now a Venture Capital partner at The St. Louis Arch Angels and SixThirty FinTech Accelerator.

“My biggest regret was not starting 10 years ago,” Brian tells Poets & Quants. “The program is so interesting and valuable that it’s a shame I did not take advantage of this educational opportunity when I was younger.”

“Brian brings a wealth of experience, an impressive track record, a no-nonsense approach, and a collegial attitude to his EMBA cohort,” says Stuart Bunderson, Associate Dean and Director of Executive Programs and the Co-Director of the Bauer Leadership Center.

“He is a natural leader who holds himself and other to the highest standards of excellence without coming across as negative, impatient, or superior. His passion for excellence pushes us as faculty and as a program to greater heights. We are very fortunate to have Brian in our program.”

Katie was flying Blackhawk helicopters before enrolling in the Executive MBA program, where she started a new professional chapter: entrepreneurship.

She partnered with a classmate to open a staff business. “We launched the company six weeks earlier than we had expected and grew four times quicker than we had anticipated,” she tells Poets & Quants. “The company was turning a profit in four months.”

Her impressive background—trailblazing in a male-dominated industry to a fearless transition into business—also caught the eye of both The Denver Business Journal and The National Business Journal, who profiled her this year.

“Katie  is hard-working, team-oriented, and incredibly bright. She gets things done without drama and in a professional way,” Bunderson told Poets & Quants. “But what is perhaps most notable about Katie – and incredible given her impressive military track record – is that she is just simply a delightful person…a humble, nice, and delightful person. Every one of her classmates would love to have her on their team.”

Congratulations, Katie and Brian!




Friday, May 19, we celebrated the professional growth and accomplishments of more than 225 graduate and 277 undergraduate students. This year’s graduates not only graduated during Olin’s Centennial year, but also from the top undergraduate business program, one of the top 25 MBA programs, and the #3 Master of Science in Finance program in the U.S. That is something to be proud of.

Check out some of the photos of the big day, below, and watch our social media channels for more photos later this week! Congratulations, graduates!

Undergraduate Graduation Recognition Ceremony

Click image to expand. Photos by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

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Graduate Graduation Recognition Ceremony

Click image to expand. Photos by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

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On March 30, 1917, the charter for a business school at Washington University in St. Louis was approved by the Board of Trustees. To celebrate Olin’s 100th anniversary, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff gathered in Frick Forum and the Atrium for food, music, a photo booth and a balloon drop (photos below).

We aren’t finished celebrating. Please join us April 20-22 for Celebration Weekend, where we will honor alumni achievement and celebrate 100 years of excellence in business education.

And, as always, please continue sharing your Olin memories using #Olin100 on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We will continue to showcase your posts and share Olin’s history on our Olin Centennial site.

Click on image to expand. Photos by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos.


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