Tag: Bear Studios



Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, wrote this post on behalf of Bear Studios LLC.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard

Take a moment and think about yourself five years ago—or even just one year ago. Consider the day-to-day issues you were facing and your near-term worries. I would bet that you cannot remember most of your troubles. And even if you can, they are likely not the same as those that bother you today.

Contemplate your attitudes and outlooks and reflect upon how different they are from your current perspective. If you are anything like me, it borders on absurd to think that you were the same person who had those thoughts and took those actions just a short while back.

Now, recognize that much of what you are concerned with and think about today will likely seem petty in five years’ time—or even just one year from now. The appreciation that you always have grown and always will grow is certainly important, yet it is only the first step in orienting your mindset toward personal growth.

Before I continue, let me introduce myself. My name is Ben Kosowsky and I am a sophomore at Olin Business School triple majoring in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy. I consider myself to be a growth-oriented person. What follows are some of the strategies I use to maximize my personal growth.

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection can and should be different for everyone. For me, the most successful strategies have been documentation, meditation, and rebuke.

I became inspired to keep a journal after an interview with a “brother” in Delta Sigma Pi during my pledging process freshman year. Since then, I have spent at least 15 minutes every night reflecting on my day, focusing on what and how I can improve.

At first, meditating even for five minutes was very hard for me, but I have now reached the point where I can meditate for 30 minutes at a time. This contemplative time has trained me to let go of unproductive thoughts, focusing intensely instead on critical matters.

Finally, the strategy of rebuke, derived from the Jewish concept of Tochacha, involves inviting your closest friends to criticize you and explain how you can improve. This requires a tremendous amount of trust, but hearing your flaws from those closest to you can open your eyes to issues that documentation or mediation won’t bring to light.

Openness

Throughout your life, the vast majority of your thoughts and beliefs have changed, and they will continue to change. To embrace the inevitability of this change, you should actively seek out new ideas by exposing yourself to as many different perspectives as possible.

Everyone has things you can learn from them and taking the time to listen will help you truly understand their vantage point. Realize that you already know any potential things you will say, so you can maximize learning and growth by listening to what others have to say, and then determining what is valuable.

Perspective

While it is critical to be open to new ideas, it is equally as important to not care too much about other’s perceptions of you. Reflect on how much you cared about what the cool kids in middle school thought about you, and how little you care about their perceptions now.

On a more macro level, realize that societal definitions of success are sometimes just as arbitrary as “coolness” was in middle school. Additionally, notice how large of a role randomness plays in life and allow yourself to take some of your accomplishments and failures with a grain of salt.

This should help you realize how important it is to live your life only according to your own value system and not according to anyone else’s.

Challenge

One thing most people try to avoid is the feeling of being uncomfortable. My objective throughout college has been to challenge myself with a set of goals that push me beyond my comfortable limits, while still giving myself a chance at success.

In my first semester at WashU, I challenged myself to join as many on-campus organizations and to take on as much leadership and responsibility as possible. In my second semester at WashU, I challenged myself to think outside the box in terms of my career path and began to pursue opportunities in growth equity, instead of a more traditional path.

Last semester, I challenged myself to eat meals one-on-one with as many people as possible in order to deepen my relationships. My challenges this semester have been to meditate, to work-out, and to read at least one hour of philosophy every day.

None of these tasks were (or are) easy for me, but the key to growth is pushing your limits by setting your mind to overcome what makes you uncomfortable.

Failure

Embracing failure is not about being content with losing or not caring about success; instead, it is realizing that every struggle is an opportunity for learning and growth. Everyone struggles through failures in life. Learning to deal with and bounce back from them is the true test of one’s character.

One way I think about struggle is through the lens of what I call Type 1 versus Type 2 situations. A Type 1 situation is one you enjoy during the moment and will remember as a positive experience. A Type 2 situation is one where you are struggling during the moment and will likely remember it as a negative experience.

If you train yourself to recognize the potential growth opportunities of a Type 2 situations while in the midst of one, you can focus on how you can learn and grow from the struggle instead of dwelling on the struggle itself.

These strategies should be continuous processes that push you and keep you from becoming complacent. If you make a “wrong” decision, don’t dwell on your mistake (the “right” answer always seems obvious in 20/20 hindsight), but focus on how you can learn and grow from it.

If you consistently learn about yourself through self-reflection, open yourself to new ideas, take other people’s perceptions less seriously, push your comfortable limits with challenging goals, and learn to embrace failure, then you are well on your way to achieving personal growth.

Guest blogger: Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, is a triple major in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy; he is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.




Written for the Olin Blog on behalf of Bear Studios by Laura Glanz, BA ’21, who is majoring in international and area studies.

Since my start at WashU last semester, the most important lesson I have learned has revolved around the value of the word “reframe.”

While I originally thought college life would be about studying and meeting new people, it has proved to be so much more. I have discovered that college is also about the ability to take advantage of new, impactful opportunities. As students, we hold the power to determine how our four years at WashU will inspire intellectual and emotional grow. Our minds can be so greatly expanded given the access to fascinating people and tangible resources.

Perspective to Tackle New Experiences

However, taking advantage of the multitude of opportunities and trying new things is not easy. After all, students already have many obligations to balance and attend to: homework, a social life, self-care and mental health, etc.

Diving into the unknown, creating new experiences, can be scary. Joining a certain student group, trying to develop friendships, or dedicating time to a career path creates vulnerability. Uncertainty is a bottle of questions. However, we move forward, change, and grow in life through such experiences; pushing boundaries can lead to inner strength.

The value of the word “reframe” comes into play upon facing such uncertainties. Rather than acting habitually, we can choose to pause, breathe, be mindful, and reframe the discomfort. The closer we approach this line of discomfort, the easier it will be to cope with the unknown of the future.

I attempted to enact this philosophy my first semester at WashU by making a concerted effort to prompt conversations with strangers in order to spark friendships. Furthermore, I actively tried to learn about our campus’s student groups, especially those involving upperclassman whom I admired.

In the fall of my first semester, Jacob Finke, BA ’20, international and area studies, my Washington University Student Associate, introduced me to Bear Studios—a student-run strategy and design firm that predominantly services startups. The opportunity to join such a group sounded amazing, yet I questioned my ability to contribute.

Despite my lack of confidence at the time, I decided to reframe my skepticism and apply. I am so grateful now to have joined the team and become a part of their inspiring mission. Among hard skills, Bear Studios has taught me how much one can learn from taking risks. My colleagues there have shown me the beauty of mindful leadership, and they have made me more comfortable with uncertainty. A little reframing can go a long way.

Laura Glanz, BA ’21 is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC. Pictured above: The author with her intramural soccer team composed of first-year students. Laura is in the top row, fourth from right.




Written for the Olin Blog on behalf of Bear Studios by Lexi Jackson, BSBA’20.

Young professionals today are far less likely to be drawn to monetary incentives than past generations. As PwC finds, millennials are driven by feedback, fulfillment, and the potential to create impact. They desire to make a difference in their work and reach high levels of social impact.

As I consider my own career ambitions, I find that they align most closely with this idea. I want to use my career as another platform to affect change and create my livelihood from difference-making.

The hardest question to answer is, where do I begin?

In order to begin a journey toward high impact, an individual has to have a healthy degree of impatience. That is to say, the most impactful individuals do not wait until they are at the most ideal state in their lives to make an impact. They act immediately with the resources they have at the time. Most individuals will never feel fully ready or equipped to believe they have the capacity to make real impact, and, therefore, often do not act.

Don’t Wait to Act

What we forget is that our actions are only as strong as our passions, and our passions cannot be cultivated by resources or opportunity—they exist in us inherently. Those who have the passion to create change are those who know that change can’t wait. And neither can their action.

Perhaps this is why I decided to create Olin Business School’s first Diversity and Inclusion Summit on February 9. I recognized a need within the community for dialogue and action on this topic, and while I didn’t have the personal resources to materialize my passion, I knew that by seeking the proper partners, the event could come to fruition. All it took was my decision to begin action.

Lexi Jackson

My team and I planned the Summit for more than five months. We booked speakers from over seven companies and organizations including Uber, Facebook, US Bank, Build-A-Bear, and more. We sought financial assistance of more than five different student organizations before finding success from our central sponsor, the BSBA office. We overcame challenges, celebrated unexpected opportunities, and crafted an event that attracted more than 80 students, faculty, and community members.

At its inception, the summit appeared to be an impossible undertaking. We did not have the resources, brand, or experience to execute a half-day event. However, if we had waited until we felt completely assured of our ability to succeed, we would likely have never succeeded altogether.

Action Leads to Fulfillment

Young professionals must act with the same diligence if they desire to find fulfillment in every stage of their career. I hear all too often that my peers are accepting jobs that do not fully excite them, simply to serve as an intermediary between now and their dream career. However, that does not have to be the case. High impact jobs can be found at every point on the career track and include jobs that are both meaningful AND lucrative. A high-impact job does not have to mean working at a nonprofit or earning lower wages in the pursuit of a greater good.

This understanding is the exact mission of the organization 80,000 Hours. 80,000 Hours was created by two Oxford researchers and philosophers who found that this generation is driven by high impact through a career, but will too often forfeit these positions of change in fear of financial stability.

Therefore, 80,000 Hours serves as a job search platform where users can find positions that produce high levels of social impact without breaking the bank. The jobs are sorted into a plethora of categories and are designed to teach users about the breadth of social impact. For example, with artificial intelligence positioned at the threshold to the future, there is perhaps no higher impact job that one can hold than to research and understand both its dangers and benefits. In this way, users are able to find surprisingly impactful positions that fulfill their interests and leverage their expertise.

As a member of Bear Studios, a student-run strategy firm and LLC, I actively use the resources and knowledge that I can contribute at the time to add value to our clients’ projects. I may not have all the answers, but that does not mean I should not leverage what I do know to make the biggest impact that I can.

When we begin to measure social impact in a different way, we find ourselves more equipped to act. We find ourselves more fulfilled, more involved, more empowered. We find ourselves making a difference. Most importantly, we find ourselves refusing to wait. And that, is where the change happens.

Pictured above: Charlyn Moss (BSBA’20), Lexi Jackson (BSBA’20), Sema Dibooglu (BSBA’20), Claudia Rivera (BSBA’20)

Guest Blogger: Lexi Jackson, BSBA’20, is majoring in leadership and strategic management, political science; she is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.




Failing… sucks. Whether it’s failing a class, failing to meet new people on your first-year floor, or failing to connect with a professor, feeling inadequate is one of the worst feelings in the world.

Fear of failure makes it that much harder to leave your comfort zone. It’s uncomfortable to start from square one and join a new club or friend group, where everyone else seems to be one step ahead of you. It’s hard when people throw around complex terms or concepts in casual conversation, and they’re all going over your head. One bad experience can set you back for months, afraid to take another chance.

But it’s only by putting yourself out there, asking stupid questions, and failing that we can stumble upon some great opportunities. For me, the great opportunity was Bear Studios.

When I first came to WashU, I tried to branch out and suffered (more than) a couple of setbacks.

I faked my way through the spring rush process for one of WashU’s business fraternities, only to be cut in the final round. My pride was hurt. I was ready to throw in the towel on business and move forward with my Arts & Sciences education, shutting the door on a huge realm of possibilities.

But then somebody introduced me to Peter Delaney (BA’18, Global Health), the co-founder and a director of Bear Studios. And Peter welcomed my stupid questions; he met me halfway. Peter and the team didn’t throw around esoteric terms—they explained them.

This is my advice—my plea, really—for student groups: Meet your new members where they’re at. Don’t call out the first-year student huddled in the corner of your general body meeting. Walk up to them after the meeting and engage in a meaningful way. Welcome the stupid questions, allow new members to grow, and foster that sense of curiosity.

I have been with Bear Studios since March. I’m still asking stupid questions, and I’m still learning on the job. But I think that’s the point: I am learning.

My advice for the Class of 2021 would be to fail. Branch out. You’re an engineering student? Take a history class. IAS (International and Area Studies) major like me? Look into some of the Olin student groups. Take some Sam Fox classes. Get outside your comfort zone and fail a little.

It’s not so bad after all.

Guest Blogger: Jacob Finke, BA’20 is majoring in International and Area Studies, concentrating in international affairs; he is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.

 

 




I came to Olin after striking out with a pre-medical curriculum my freshman year. Looking back on that first year at Washington University, it seems like my aspirations to become a doctor were a lifetime ago.

I now spend my time on campus very differently—splitting my day between classes, running the WU Investment Banking Association, and providing strategic consulting services to startups through Bear Studios. The culmination of these experiences at Olin have helped me define value, otherwise understood as what is at the core of a good, durable business. I have been exposed to various business models operating in different business cycles, from startups to sophisticated financial institutions.

During my time at Olin, I’ve developed a dynamic definition of value, and these insights have changed the way I assess and think about businesses.

When I first joined Bear Studios, I anticipated an opportunity to work with founders that had self-sufficient business models with clearly articulated business plans. Instead, I found the opposite. Many of these founders, often working on innovative projects in software, pharmaceuticals, and medical technology, did not have a thorough understanding of how to operate a business. However, what they lacked in business acumen they compensated for with vision, conviction, and a nuanced technical skill set with little replicability.

Our job was less about fleshing out existing businesses; it was taking a founder’s idea and creating a sustainable operating model around it.

As a finance major and aspiring investment banker, my first impulse to assess the performance of a business is to look at its financial health. My challenge working with our clients in Bear Studios was reorienting my brain to ask the right questions when metrics like revenue, profits, or growth rates were not available to me. I found this to be interesting, albeit much more difficult than I initially anticipated. Founders often came in with no business plan or model. It was up to us to offer suggestions on product distribution, strategic partnerships, cash generation, and strategic thinking around scale.

Through this exercise, I gleaned a few essential insights:

1. The value early-stage businesses provide materializes in the future.

For a venture capitalist or seed investor providing capital to early-stage businesses, the potential scale of the idea, conviction of the founders, and feasibility of the business model matter far more than the business’ ability to generate cash or dividends in the short term. Value here is based more on trust, and how much a allocator of capital connects with an idea or founder.

2. Having a concrete plan to scale early is incredibly helpful.

This step is even more valuable for founders with a developed product or who have started beta/clinical testing. Investors feel more secure with their investment if a non-cash generating business has an adaptable, scalable strategy to eventually return money back to the owners of the business.

3. Founders are short-term focused—they want to deliver a product.

This is reasonable, and it should be the sole responsibility of the founder in the beginning. However, this lends substantially more importance to surrounding the founder with a team with complementary skill sets. Many startup founders in high-growth industries such as technology and pharmaceuticals have a specialized skill set. Receiving input from people who have prior experience developing  businesses or products can be crucial for founders’ development as a manager as the business scales through its cycles.

Value in finance, traditionally, can typically be identified along simple financial metrics. Investment professionals typically look for ability to generate cash, prudent supply chain management, and efficient cost structures to identify a valuable business.

Those metrics manifest themselves in the daily operations of the business. Apple is a great example of a traditionally valuable business.

Ability to generate cash

Many gladly pay an “Apple premium” for an iPhone or iPad. Coupling steep prices with high volume, the cash generated by their products trickles down to the investor, and the potential for future growth in cash generation makes it a particularly valuable business.

Prudent supply chain management

Over the years, Apple has vertically integrated, allowing them to not only keep their costs down, but also to have complete freedom over the manufacturing of parts for their products.

Efficient cost structures

Apple has successfully cut inefficiencies. Whether it’s outsourcing assembly, consolidating internal teams, or reducing headcount when necessary, Apple has been able to keep costs efficient, therefore maximizing their ability to return money to investors.

While many investors look for these traditional metrics to assess businesses by, many businesses simply can’t be defined the same way. Startups don’t have sophisticated operations in the beginning, so they must lean on the quality of their idea to create value.

During my investment banking internship this past summer, I had the privilege of working with large corporate clients in the financial institutions sector. Banks, insurance companies, and payment processing companies are typical of businesses found in this sector. These companies often make money differently than businesses providing a singular product or service. Banks profit by lending money, and receive payments from customers in the form of interest. Insurance companies generate income from premiums paid by their customers. Since the considerations here are different, there are more macro-economic facing factors that affect the performance of the business, ultimately nuancing the way value is determined in parallel with these kinds of companies.

My main takeaway from this experience was that while it’s useful to have a standardized tool kit to assess a traditional business (like Apple), a more important soft skill to possess is adaptability.

While a basic, standardized framework is essential to assess any kind of business, being a versatile thinker able to process and synthesize multiple parts of a business makes one an infinitely better banker, consultant, or operator.

While I’ve been lucky to stumble upon many of my professional experiences, I encourage everyone to seek out opportunities that allow them to become adaptable problem solvers. In my circumstance, I could leverage Olin’s liberal arts and business curriculum along with my professional experiences to create a robust framework for defining value. Going forward, I’m excited to work with businesses across business cycles, and hope to continually refine my understanding of what makes a great business.

Guest Blogger: Syed Ahsan, BSBA’18, is majoring in Finance; he is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.


Olin Business School Blog Olin Business School Blog