Monday, April 30, 2012

Live by your wits? Or someone else's?

This post is inspired by the rapidly approaching semester end and a friend’s Facebook post, where she say "At least once a week, I get a phone call, for which my response is, ‘Let me Google that for you.’" (Translation: They haven't even taken the initiative to search the internet.). I’m not sure what images or thoughts this conjures up for you, but for me I think about all of the untapped potential that’s out there (in me, in you, in everyone). It makes me think of all of the conversations I've had with friends, students, colleagues – you name it – where they name something they want to do or achieve, yet months later there has been no progress. So, what’s getting in the way? Who knows for sure – it’s different for every one of us. Think with me for a moment…
  • When asked to find a partner in class, are you the finder or the one who is found?
  • When you identify a need in your community, do you sit idly or do you do something about it?
  • Do you talk about losing weight or do you lose weight?
  • Do you take that exotic trip or complain that you never have time for a vacation?
I wonder how many of us fully act on our interests, goals, and desires. It seems to be that we have many more people who like to talk a good game, rather than play a good game. In many respects, this makes sense, especially when you put a high value on what happens if something goes wrong. The rejection when your choice partner says, sorry I’ve already got a partner; or the failed community initiative; or gaining 5 pounds instead of losing; or the trip where you get stuck in the bathroom because something didn’t agree with you. The path of least resistance is the least risk and, as the title suggestions, requires the least effort. 

But, I challenge you to consider what happens if you take that risk. What could be possible and how much are you willing to risk to see if it can happen? Consider Matt Groening, a man who knew the path of least resistance wasn’t going to work for him. In Ken Robinson’s book, The Element, Groening describes the typical path – “you go to high school, you go to college, you get a credential, and you go out and get a good job.” – which he followed by saying “I knew that wouldn’t work for me; I was going to be drawing cartoons forever.” The book goes on to describe how the legacy of "The Simpsons"was born. Consider what Sunday night television might be like if Matt took the typical path.

So, what is one to do? Well, it’s your call. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of resources out there, like Ken Robinson’s book that can help you tune into your own personal passion. I could probably list 100, and maybe have in a past post. However, the challenge is not providing the list; the challenge is for you to take the risk that moves you beyond the status quo… Imagine a world with more people doing work they love, rather than today’s world where less than 30 percent of people do. Really, take the time to imagine it...

With these thoughts, I say a sad farewell to the Kelley School of Business. Spending the last three years with a bright, talented bunch of MBA students has been a true pleasure, which is what made the decision to leave so difficult. As my partner’s current engineering development project nears production and he makes the next move, I felt now was the right time to take a step back and allow the students a smooth semester end transition, rather than a mid-semester move. And I am also a bit fearful of the unknown future; can I find such a talented group to coach? Can I continue to make an impact to people’s careers? Will I like where I am going to live? As I am taking this next step and leaving the comfortable life (and this great job) to pursue a new passion, who knows if I will be successful, and even what will happen next - but I guess that is the purpose...

Congratulations to the Class of 2012! You’ve got a lot to offer, so please don’t be afraid to show them what you’ve got. I wish you all the best.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Helping a start-up secure investment to expand into the US

By Yusuke Takahashi
First- year MBA - Entrepreneurship Academy

My name is Yusuke Takahashi and I am the first Japanese student who joined GLOBASE at Kelley. I had a great experience in Guatemala, so I would like to share this experience here.
First, I would like to mention the reason why I joined GLOBASE Guatemala. I have my family business, so I hoped to get involved in a small business project that would help me in the future. Also, my long term goal is to internationalize my family business, so I thought that if GLOBASE had this kind of project, this would be ideal for me. Luckily, GLOBASE Guatemala had exactly the kind of project I was hoping for, and I was assigned to this project. Our team’s project was to help our client export their bamboo products to the US. We were asked to establish brands, distribution strategies, and pricing strategies in the US, and to research “green” certifications and states where there is sufficient market potential. After 7 weeks of intensive preparation at Kelley (meetings with our team, our client, and leadership team), we went to Guatemala to complete our consulting. We worked on our project from morning to early-evening every day during the first week. We had a meeting every day with our client’s CMO, he provided us with some feedback every time and our consulting project was gradually completed.  
All bamboo products are handmade
We found a surprising fact after one of our teammate did an executive summary to our client on Thursday, the second to last day of our project work. The client informed us that our project deliverable was too general, “so I cannot let you make a presentation to our board member, who invested in our business.” We did not hear about this fact. All of us involved - our student team, our faculty and staff sponsors (Phil and Ana), and our leadership team - did not expect such a high level of expectations, but I felt lucky because I could have this high level consulting experience in an MBA program. In addition, I could sympathize with what the client said.
The constructive feedback we received made us hold together more. On Thursday night, we worked on the project until 4am at our hotel. On Friday morning, some of our team members made an initial presentation to our client before we made a final presentation to her board member. Although time was limited, based on the feedback we received from our client, we intensively researched and quickly modified our presentation on time for our final visit to the corporate office. We successfully finished our presentation to the board member and we received a compliment from the board member. As a result, the corporate office decided to invest on exporting the bamboo products to the US for our client.
Finally, we made a presentation in front of all of the GLOBASE Guatemala members and all clients. There, AMCHAM came to the place and I felt pride for the brand of Kelley. Then, we had a dinner with our clients at Westin Hotel in Guatemala City. We received a plaque from all clients and the plaque included names of every GLOBASE Guatemala student and faculty member. This is the first time for Kelley to receive this kind of plaque for GLOBASE. During dinner, our client sent a message of gratitude to every member.
Team Kelley with our client GUAMBU
I learned and experienced a lot through GLOBASE. In addition to the fact that this consulting project was helpful to my long term goal of my family business, I had to acknowledge the difficulty of consulting and business, and the importance of team work. I also felt our team bond with each other. Without a doubt, this experience was the best I have had at Kelley. To be honest, I was concerned about the visit to Guatemala at first, but I am now very happy about joining GLOBASE Guatemala. I had a great fortune of having a good client, a good leadership team, and good teammates, so this became an excellent memory for me. I also enjoyed sightseeing in Guatemala for the 2nd week. I strongly encourage Kelley students to join GLOBASE and I am honored to have worked with all my GLOBASE peers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A look at the second week in Ghana for GLOBASE participants

Guest post by Catherine Wendt
First-year MBA, Consumer Marketing Academy

Sunday, March 11th started our second week in Ghana. It was a free day and we all took a leisurely morning, not having to be up and ready to go by 6 or 7AM as some groups had been the past week.  About half of our group went to the local crafts market  and spent about an hour wandering around and haggling for the best deal. After, a group of roughly 15 people walked over to the nearby football (soccer) stadium. The match between Accra and Tema wasn’t much to watch, except for the theatrics occasionally performed by one overly dramatic player, but it was still an experience.
One of the Boats on the Volta River

The next morning, the journey to Ada (on the coast, east of Accra) took about 2 hours. Once we reached Ada, we enjoyed a delicious Ghanaian meal while basking in the breeze and sun on the cabanas at our launching point. After lunch, we piled into two long wooden boats and set off down river to where the river meets the ocean. We passed idyllic strands of palm trees and fishing villages which left everyone in awe.
We disembarked on a thin strip of sandy beach with river on one side and ocean on the other, all very excited to go play in the ocean, walk along the beach, and collect shells from the thousands strewn about the shore. The trip to Ada was a much needed break from the heat and an opportunity to just relax. Many of us ended up a little pinker than we would have liked, but it was well worth it.

On Tuesday, we headed out of Accra, west to beautiful Cape Coast, with two very anticipated stops along the way: Challenging Heights and Hovde House.
One of the group’s clients, James Kofi Annan, was a former child slave who escaped and went on to finish his education. He found his calling in starting a non-profit organization dedicated to helping keep children from being trafficked into slavery and to rescue those already in those atrocious situations. These children from at-risk families and many of those who have been rehabilitated after years of slavery attend Challenging Heights school. Like the children at New Horizons, they were overjoyed to see us and we couldn’t stop grinning as well. If they saw you had a camera, they wanted to hold it and to take pictures of themselves, their friends, and would jump into the scene to be in any picture being taken. And of course, with modern digital photography capabilities, they knew they could immediately look at the picture and therefore would scramble back over and ask you to show the picture. It was overwhelming, yes, but in a wonderful way. They were so genuinely happy to see us, just to play and interact with us. They asked us every question they could think of and climbed all over us. Recess was so much fun, but exhausting, to say the least. After recess, the children returned to their classrooms and we were split up to go help with the different classes.

Kelley team with Hovde House team after our game
After a ceremonial handshake and handing over books and supplies we brought with us as donations, we got back on the bus, went for lunch, and then set off to the Hovde House. The Hovde House was about an hour from Challenging Heights and set up in the mountains (maybe just very large hills) away from the coast. This facility works in conjunction with Challenging Heights and is the location where children are brought to be treated for maladies of all sorts and emotional trauma when they are rescued from slavery. We had been asked earlier if we would like to play a game of soccer here with the children—our response was yes, of course we wanted to! And then they came out in full uniforms, cleats, and chanting. We knew we didn’t stand a chance. The game, however, wasn’t as bad as expected and highly entertaining. It ended up with them winning in a final shoot out and everyone leaving in high spirits. After, we drove back to dinner and then on to our new rooms at the Coconut Grove Beach Resort.
Baskets of fish being processed
Wednesday morning, in daylight, Cape Coast was stunningly beautiful. There were rocks in the ocean which makes it so you can’t swim, but you can still walk along the beach and a little bit into the water. Later that morning, we all piled into our bus for a short drive to a local fishing village. At the fishing village, a local man took us around and told us about how the fish are caught, washed, and then processed. We were shown the giant stacks of racks where the fish are laid out and smoked and how the different types of fish are prepared. He explained that it is the women who prepare and smoke the fish once the men bring in the catch. Bringing in the catch involves many men, and sometimes even whole villages because the nets are hundreds of feet across and weighted by lead weights and can take several hours to pull in.

From here we continued on to visit one of the many former slave castles in Ghana. The structure itself was originally built for the gold industry and trade. It wasn’t until a couple hundred years later that it gained its purpose for which it is known for today: the Slave Trade.

The building and area itself was beautiful and picturesque, despite the atrocities that happened there. Our guide led us down into the dungeons to see how the slaves were kept. The details are far too gruesome to write, but the experience of getting to see and hear that history firsthand is one that will never be forgotten.

Me on the canopy walk at Kakum
Thursday morning we set out on a journey to Kakum National Park, about an hour away.
At Kakum, a tour guide led us on a hike up a hill to the canopy walk which was made up of seven separate suspended bridges where you were walking on connected wooden boards held up by a metal frame and netting up to about chest height. Being hundreds of feet in the air and feeling the bridges shake as everyone walked on them was not for the faint of heart.
That night, at a final closing dinner, we were delighted to have children from a local school come put on a show of cultural drumming and dancing. They were extremely impressive and even taught us some dances. It was a lot of fun and a great way to end an amazing trip.

Friday morning we set off on our journey back to Accra to head to the airport to make the bittersweet trip back to Bloomington.
I know I speak for all of the GLOBASE Ghana participants when I say that we had an amazing, unforgettable trip in which we made many new friends, made an impact through our consulting projects, and created memories that will never be forgotten. The experience changed our lives forever.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kelley Experience Weekend 2012

First-Year MBA, Consumer Marketing Academy

A year ago this weekend, I decided to come to Kelley.  It’s one of the best decisions I ever made, and it’s thanks to all of the people I’ve met along the way – faculty, staff, alumni, my fellow students – all of the people who make up our little family here in Bloomington and around the world.

It may feel small and personal, but in actuality, Kelley has one of the largest, if not the largest, alumni networks in the world.  And our family grew this weekend as we welcomed newly admitted students to Kelley Experience Weekend.

It was a whirlwind couple of days filled with informational sessions, student panels, a global experience fair, social events at Nick’s and Kilroy’s, and more.  I met a research librarian who wants to be a brand manager, a minor league baseball player pursuing private equity, a local entrepreneur interested in corporate finance and so many others with unique backgrounds and dreams.

The highlight for me was the closing speech by Daniel Dorr, an ‘09 Kelley MBA who has worked at HP and P&G and wrote a book about his dream to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  He likened that life-changing journey – and the self-discoveries, challenges and personal fulfillment he found along the way – to his experience here at Kelley.  It was a moving speech, one that received a standing ovation and reminded me of just how far we’ve come over the last year.

I can’t wait for the incoming class to join us on this journey in August.  Who knows, one of the students listening to Daniel Dorr could be the keynote speaker in that very same room one day.  Welcome to the family!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One student's GLOBASE Ghana week 1 experience

Guest Post By Rezarta Haxhillari
First-Year MBA, Consumer Marketing Academy

Cultural Drummers and Dancers at Welcome Dinner
Sunday: I can’t believe that after seven weeks of hard work and learning, we are finally in Ghana!  It feels so surreal to be here.  Our tour guide and a few of our partners welcomed us to the airport and accompanied us to our hotel.  Our tour guide’s name is George.  He will be with us for most of the trip.  Today, he shared a little bit of history about Accra.  He explained to us that by the time we leave in two weeks, he hopes to teach us about four important life stages in a Ghanaian’s life: birth, puberty, marriage and death.  I am excited to hear his stories!   Our hotel is right on the water and the ocean looks beautiful.  For our first dinner, we went to an authentic restaurant in Accra.  The food was delicious and the entertainment was great!   The restaurant had a dance group that danced a number of different traditional Ghanaian dances.  They even got us to participate in some of the dances with them.  What fun!
Monday: Today, we visited the New Horizons Special School in Accra.  It is one of the only schools of its kind in all of Ghana.  I loved meeting all the children.  We had a chance to not only help organize around the school, but also participate in some fun events with the students.  I especially enjoyed the show they performed for us during lunch.  It was very well choreographed!  Overall, today was a humbling experience.  Being at the school and seeing the children have fun was a great reminder to enjoy life to the fullest.
Kelley Students with Ghanaian Children on Dodi Island
Tuesday: Today is Ghana’s Independence Day!  We spent the day in the Lake Volta region and visited Dodi Island.  We were on the lake most of the day.  The views were spectacular.  I especially enjoyed the live band on the boat.  Our excursion was fun and relaxing.  What a great way to prepare us for our working days ahead.  I am excited about getting started on our in-country work tomorrow!  As the Ghanaians say “Early to bed, early to rise”.  Until next time…
Wednesday:  Today was our first day with our client.  We are working with an organization called Challenging Heights.  This organization does incredible things for the communities in which it serves.  Its biggest contribution is rescuing children from child slavery.  It also ensures at-risk children are given educational opportunities.  We are helping them with a marketing proposal for one of their upcoming business ventures.  We spent most of the day at the Challenging Heights office.  We had created some hypotheses about who we thought our target consumer was as well as a sales strategy.  Today helped us confirm as well refine our recommendation.  Our client James helped us secure several phone and in-person interviews with industry experts and potential future consumers of our product.  We learned a lot and look forward to refining our recommendation accordingly. 
Challenging Heights Team at CH School
Thursday: Today was an early day! We spent the day visiting the Challenging Heights School and Hovde House shelter.  I really enjoyed meeting some of the children as well as the hardworking staff.  Then, James had us over for a traditional Ghanaian dinner at his home.  His wife had prepared many, many traditional Ghanaian foods.  They were all fantastic!  My favorite was this white rice ball served in a bowl of groundnut soup.  It was scrumptious!  I must say, of all the countries I have visited around the world, Ghana has by far the most hospitable people.  Everyone is incredibly nice and welcoming. 
Friday: We conducted a few additional interviews today.  One of these interviews was with a marketing professor that is nationally renowned in Ghana.  He offered great information about how sales and marketing works in Ghana.  It was very helpful.  We spent the rest of the day finalizing our PowerPoint and began to prepare for our presentation tomorrow.  We are excited to share our findings and our recommendation with our client as well as the rest of the GLOBASE Ghana teams. 
Challenging Heights Team at Final Presentations
Saturday: Today was our last official working day.  We spent the earlier part of the day putting the final touches on our presentation.  Then, we had a relaxing lunch and headed to the conference center.  I am happy to report that our presentation was very well received.  Our client was very excited about our recommendation.  He especially liked our salesperson tool kit and training manual.  He is looking forward to implementing everything.  We have full faith he will be very successful with all his future business endeavors.  It was an absolute honor to work with him and his organization.  We learned so much about both how to do business in Ghana as well as about this beautiful country’s very rich history.  I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to come and visit Ghana.  This trip has truly been life-changing for me.  It is the biggest milestone of my business school experience.  I would highly recommend doing GLOBASE to any prospective students.  Words cannot describe what a wonderful experience it is.