Tag: Executive MBA



The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni (and Dean Taylor) faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

In 2007 and 2008, as world markets tumbled into history’s worst global financial crisis, Mark Taylor was managing the European arm of a $10 billion global hedge fund—and 95 percent of his clients were pension funds. The crisis demanded staff reductions in his team, and with returns down, remaining employees took massive hits to their incentive-based compensation.

“How do you motivate a staff when you’re in the middle of a financial crisis?” Taylor asked. Part of the answer: Leverage as much data as possible to analyze long- term fundamentals—recognizing that the crisis had rendered much conventional analysis unworkable. The goal: Stem losses and preserve as much wealth as possible.

But another part of the answer meant Taylor had to reinforce for his team the reasons they came to work every day.

“This was other people’s money. If we walked away, people’s pension funds could disappear,” he said. When he met with pension fund trustees, he asked them to invite some of the retirees themselves, placing them across the table from his own junior and senior staff members.

His team responded positively to the motivation. And in the darkest moment, Taylor said, his fund was down about 10 percent when world markets were down 40 percent. The fund rebounded sharply the next year.




Sara Hannah

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

Mike Budden was relentless. And Sara Hannah, BSBA ’01, recognized the potential impact. So that’s why the first global branch of the Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

The South African leadership consultant had attended a BW workshop three years earlier, and was using some of its principles in his own work. Budden had stayed in touch with Hannah, trying to persuade her to open the institute—with its people- centric principles—in his hometown.

Hannah, managing partner of the Berry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute, initially wasn’t so sure. “It made absolutely no sense for us to do business in Cape Town,” she said. The currency exchange rate was unfavorable. It would be the institute’s first foray into an overseas market. Budden was already there.

Yet other data was compelling: “When we looked at the economic and government situation in South Africa, we saw that business is the way to touch the lives of people,” Hannah said. Not government or NGOs. Business.

The institute made a minimum two-year commitment in Cape Town. “We believe we measure success by the way we touch the lives of people,” Hannah said.




Valerie Toothman

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

A few years ago, a trend in convenience store sales alarmed Valerie Toothman and her team at Anheuser-Busch, where she was then vice president of innovation. A competitor was snatching market share from beer sales and other specialty malt beverages like AB’s Lime-A-Rita.

Phusion Projects gained the ground with Four Loko, a beverage line featuring flavors such as sour apple and fruit punch. The alarming part? The consumer target was entry-level drinkers—21 years old. The alcohol content was high— between 12 and 14 percent. And the containers were big—24 ounces.

“We have very clear principles that drive our company forward. The biggest one that has governed a lot of my role is that ‘the consumer is the boss,’” said Toothman, BSBME ’01, BSAS ’01, MBA ’08. “If we do what’s right for the consumer, we do what’s right for the business.”

The data shouted a message from consumers: “The growth is there. The volume is there,” said Toothman, now executive vice president, brand and beverage marketing, for DrinkWorks.

But alcohol content that high, in containers that large, didn’t jibe with other company principles and values—specifically AB’s commitment to delivering a better, healthier world, where every experience with beer is a positive one and supports a life well lived.

Therefore, AB tested two versions of “Natty Rush,” a new beverage with its own bold flavors, but better aligned with delivering against AB’s principles—one with 8 percent alcohol content and 25-ounce cans, the other with 12 percent alcohol, but at a third of the serving size, 8 ounces. The larger can prevailed— allowing AB to recover market share in a way that felt true to the example AB wants to set forth in the industry.

“We want to serve that customer’s needs,” Toothman said. “However, we’re 100 percent committed to doing it in a way we believe is responsible.”




Ranjeet Ahluwalia

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

The silence on the conference call was deafening. Seven years ago, when Ranjeet Ahluwalia, MBA ’05, was a healthcare advertising agency strategist, the team dialed in with notable physician thought leaders seeking to sell an Alzheimer’s treatment. Ahluwalia’s agency hoped to score a contract worth as much as $20 million.

Before the call, the agency pored through data about the drug, seeking information they could use to make a compelling case for the new medication. Somehow, for Ahluwalia, now founder and lead sparker at Silbospark, the clinical data just wasn’t adding up.

On the conference call, he asked a physician expert to help him “find the story” in the data that would help sell the drug. That prompted an independent pharmaceutical expert on the call to ask, “Based on what you see here, would you give this drug to your mother?”

Silence.

Ahluwalia’s firm didn’t get the contract. In fact, the drug never went to market.

“Ultimately, we had to decide whether to tell them what they wanted to hear or what they needed to hear,” Ahluwalia said. “We told them what they needed to hear—and we didn’t win the business.”




Paulino do Rego Barros Jr.

The 2018 Olin Business magazine shared a series of vignettes featuring alumni faced with a business decision requiring them to weigh data with their values. We featured these stories to support Olin’s strategic pillar focused on equipping leaders to confront challenge and create change, for good. This is one of those vignettes.

When Retail Credit Corporation was founded in Atlanta nearly 120 years ago, the company kept paper files on consumers to gauge their creditworthiness. “This industry has grown from looking at a file and just saying, ‘Does he pay his bills? Yes or no?’” said Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., MBA ’91.

Indeed, as a veteran executive at the company now known as Equifax, he’s on the vanguard of the power and pitfalls the massive data revolution has wrought on the industry and its customers. Equifax and its competitors wield data that tracks purchases, evaluates how reliably customers pay bills, and measures customer assets.

In spite of the power, Barros said, “there is a strong sense of stewardship and ethics.” That sense of stewardship came through a little more than a year ago when hackers breached Equifax.

Two days after he was named interim CEO, Barros apologized to consumers and customers in The Wall Street Journal. Barros is now US Information Solutions, president and former interim CEO, Equifax.

“We didn’t live up to expectations,” he wrote. Under his leadership, the company gave consumers free credit monitoring services, upgraded its website, boosted access to call-center support, and instituted other measures to regain the faith of consumers and customers.

“The regulatory framework establishes very clearly what we can or cannot do with consumer data,” he said. “But the decisions I made—and our ethical and moral values—are very important to us.”