Super-sizing the Undergraduate Curriculum

A couple of years ago Mayor Bloomberg was worried that super sized drinks were making New Yorkers fat. He wanted to ban the sale of sugary drinks that were greater than 16 ounces. He had his health department issue rules to limit drink sizes. The “Big Gulp” was under attack. Some people screamed. Lawyers got paid. And, on Thursday the NY Supreme Court ruled the ban was unconstitutional. New Yorkers are free to dig into their wallets, drink huge cups and get fat if they want. Elastic waist pants manufacturers rejoiced.

A little over a year ago, I initiated a review of our undergraduate core courses and our faculty agreed that some courses were lite. The demands of these courses were better conceived of as three, rather than four, credit courses. So we made the change. Because students pay by the credit hour at UCF and it still takes 120 hours to graduate, the decision had no impact on the cost of our degree. But the change does require students to take more courses to get their degree. In essence, we super-sized the curriculum–more education for the same price.

Some people screamed. They judged it unfair to require more effort or attendance for the same degree. One student went so far as to tell me that she already had a job and didn’t need to waste time and effort learning additional stuff. In essence she told me she was going to prove me wrong by refusing to learn. I doubt her employer would rejoice. Continuing to learn and apply ideas to new situations is the key to success in any profession. People’s heads don’t balloon from more education (at least not literally), but the extra knowledge might give you a fatter wallet. Even Mayor Bloomberg would approve of this Big Gulp.

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Double Failure Friday

Jeff Lehman is a UCF College of Business Hall of Fame Member, Supporter of our Professional Selling Program, Author, Entrepreneur, Mentor and Stand Up Comic.  He is a man never afraid to get out of his comfort zone. He offers two failure stories.  One when he was here at UCF and another as he started his career..

Failure at UCF…

While at UCF I received a BSBA in Finance/Economics and then started working on my MBA. Back then, to graduate with a MBA you needed to pass four proficiency exams. During finals week my management professor had a family emergency and another professor graded my exam. I failed. Really? Yes, I failed in a subject that I thought I had totally mastered and understood. My grades were fine in my management classes…but it didn’t matter. I didn’t think the circumstances were fair and said so. “Sorry, you’ll need to retake that exam…next term!” was all I got. I did, about a week before I started law school 360 miles away. And I passed. I was elated, but I never could figure out what happened the first time around. Sometimes you never know exactly why you failed at something.

I learned that even if you think you completely know your subject you might not fully understand another person’s perspective on the exact same topic. The irony here is that I went on to have a 20+ year successful career in sales and marketing management. Yes, management. I’ve even written a book on sales management that’s used in the professional sales programs at UCF and other universities. While I have more than made up for my initial epic fail, I always have to remind myself that failure can be just one step away.

First Job Failure…

I decided that I didn’t really like law school that much. My grades were fine, but I wasn’t feeling creative or useful. I resigned after a semester and headed to Los Angeles to work. In my first job I was a Market Analyst for Price Pfister, a consumer packaged goods company. I was soon promoted to National Account Manager and handled the Ace Hardware and True Value Hardware accounts. One of my early assignments was to create new retail packaging for a line of faucets. It put all my creative skills to work. The first project I did was a multi-color print run of 5,000 units. The cost of the project was equivalent to one third of my annual salary. Scary. The proof sheet came back. I checked and double-checked for typos. I approved it. The job ran. I proudly put the first printed sheet on my office wall. The CEO was doing a “walk around” one afternoon and came to visit. He took one look at the sheet and said, “Do you see what I see?” I didn’t. My heart sank. He pointed at the company logo. It. Was. Reversed. Pfister Price. Argh! Technically speaking, it wasn’t spelled incorrectly it was just backwards. The graphic artist must have been dyslexic, or I was. I showed it to a few other people and no one caught the mistake. Didn’t matter much though. I signed off on it…so I owned it. Things get a little blurry from there, but I think we just used the labels, and fixed the mistake the next time around. Whew. No financial loss, just a major ego bruise.

I learned that if you are a true professional you own your mistakes. As it turns out, I am mildly dyslexic…but not enough to turn Price Pfister into Pfister Price. I have learned to check and recheck everything. It’s the carpenter’s equivalent of “measure twice, cut once.” When you learn to accept the fact that you will make mistakes, and that you will own them, you immediately elevate yourself to a higher standard in the working world. Pointing fingers at others is easy…but you never learn anything from that.

Failure Friday: Death and Taxes Face Uncertainty

Rick Baldwin is the most interesting funeral director you will ever meet.  He is also an alum of the College, member of our Hall of Fame and part of the Dean’s Advisory Board.  You will also notice his name on a plaque on BA 1-239.  He offers the following story about failure in his industry….

It is more fun writing about the wins than the losses. Failure does not have a good taste! It is, however, often avoidable.

I read a newspaper book review this morning of a new book entitled Think Like a Freak. It reminds me very much of the ‘thought process’ that pervades in board-room thinking in most of the places I have spent my career. That self-affirming thought process has resulted in most of my failures.

The book makes a lot of points, but these three struck a chord with me, and they are helping me measure my own ways of critical thinking. The author says:

  1. Being confident that you are right is not the same as being right
  2. A sure sign of a bad predictor: dogmatism
  3. When someone is heavily invested in his or her own opinion, it is inevitably hard to  change that person’s mind

I have spent my life as a funeral director and in my role as a funeral director/businessman/investor, realize that funeral preferences are now changing fast, but that we (the undertakers) are changing slow. And our slow pace of change is mostly because of the three reasons noted above!

As background, it should be noted that from about the time of the US Civil War, until perhaps 1980, funerals were essentially all the same. A standard funeral service included embalming the body, purchase of a casket, viewing the body, a funeral ceremony in the chapel or church of choice, followed by burial at the local cemetery. Funeral homes were built with ecclesiastical chapels, owned expensive hearses and limousines, featured prominent downtown locations with large parking lots, and generally featured high retail pricing operated with generous profit margins. But in one generation, it all changed!

Because of the population bubble brought by the aging baby boomers, their affluence, the mobility of all Americans, and the relative predictability of the timing of death, funeral practices radically changed. Funeral directors were forced to compete on price (which was considered unethical for generations), buyers no longer wanted to buy caskets or view bodies or ride in limousines, and they preferred cremation with the ashes lovingly scattered in a favorite place. All those traditional funeral practices simply fell from favor. Notwithstanding, because it all happened so quickly, the traditional funeral directors were in denial about the new funeral preference. They thought the changes were temporary. As a result they were trapped with ownership of expensive assets and offered services that consumers no longer wanted to purchase.

As outlined in Think Like a Freak, in their denial arguments funeral directors thought they were right, they were dogmatic in their arguments, and they were heavily invested from a financial view.

For most of that time, I was right there with them.
The business failures I have experienced can be explained generally by the author’s points made above, and they include stubbornly retaining major investments in real estate, auto fleets, casket displays, chapels, parlors, and so on. We kept them because we too were dogmatic thinkers and because we were already heavily invested. We thought we were right and it was hard for us to change our minds. We ignored what our customers wanted to purchase because it was inconvenient for us ~ and our decisions were ultimately expensive!

We lost a lot of money being stuck in our own rut. So did the pay phone investors, and so did Mr. Blockbuster, and so are the drug companies of today who refuse to compete on price.

From here, I am taking-off my blinders! I now have free-thinking business partners. I am asking non-vested eyes to review my plans. I am asking independent thinkers to be critical of my ideas. I am adopting some better ways of seeing myself and my plans for the future. And I am hoping to avoid failures that are self-imposed!

 

I Believe That We Will Win

It’s World Cup time. Like most Americans, I’m still upset that Landon Donovan isn’t on the team. But as Kelly was so quick to tell me, this is no excuse for missing an opportunity to eat some spicy chicken wings and scream at a large screen television with a place full of rabid fans. She even brought hats.

As we sat getting ready to watch the game, two young men came over to introduce themselves. They are College of Business Administration students who recognized me and wanted a photo. I was more than happy to oblige and after our victory it lead to the following tweet:

 

Yes boys it was a good day.  It wasn’t just a win for the USMNT, but a win for student engagement in the College. I have had many more of these kinds of encounters in my second year than I did my first.  Maybe its just that I’ve become more familiar, but I’d like to think it is because the College is becoming a more engaging place.  So if you see me and want a selfie or just a moment to say hello or chat, get out of your comfort zone and do what these two guys did.  Who knows, if I’m hungry and you got a good story to tell, I might even invite you to lunch.

 

Failure Friday: Gablinger’s or Miller Lite?

Have you heard of Gablinger beer? No? Don’t worry. Neither has anyone else. My father, Jack Bailey, was a beer salesman for Rheingold Breweries, which distributed Gablinger’s Extra Light Beer in the 1960s. It was a major fail. Jack Bailey could sell beer – but couldn’t give Gablinger away. No one wanted diet beer in the 1960s. (Seriously. My teenage brothers wouldn’t even steal it from the car trunk to drink it.) As my Dad would remark, in hindsight, particularly after Miller Lite took off, “Gablinger’s. Great idea – ahead of its time.”

I failed last year. I came up with a terrific marketing initiative for our law firm. We partnered with a new venture media group whose target demographic was exactly that of our clients. Everything about the idea was fantastic. The principals are seasoned professionals. They offer a print magazine, radio show, TV show, social media outlets – every way to touch the market, they have it. We paid a substantial amount of money for the opportunity to spend an inordinate amount of otherwise-billable time writing fun, yet informative articles that used pop culture references to discuss estate planning, probate, and guardianship concepts. We spent another boatload of money on graphic designers making the articles look great. We even paid The Florida Bar for the privilege of reviewing the articles in advance to make sure we weren’t promising client outcomes while discussing legal issues at fictional Downton Abbey. (I kid you not.) Everything was in place for this marketing campaign to be a huge success for us.

And in twelve months, we gained zero new clients –that’s right, not one – as a result.

What went wrong? I think the two major problems were that the media group was targeting the right demographic for us, but was too new to reach them effectively yet, and our firm, which traditionally markets B2B, veered wide with this B2C marketing. The reach was simultaneously too broad and too shallow. Our boutique law firm drafts wills and trusts for people in anticipation of their (hopefully long in the future) death, and we guide grieving survivors with probate and trust administration after someone has died. Our clients come to us to discuss their most sensitive family issues. To do so, they must have the conviction that we will take their secrets to heart, know what to do, and never, ever breach their confidence. Trusted advisors, such as a wealth managers or CPAs, vouch for us when referring their clients to us one-on-one. Conversely, with this marketing initiative, we were paying handsomely to reach oodles of people on a very superficial level (pieces we wrote) through the conduit of a (very new) media group that has all the right ingredients, but does not yet hold a venerable position in the market. Remember the old tag line, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen?” If not click here. (E.F. Hutton was a financial services firm that positioned itself beautifully with that tag line as a trusted advisor.) The media group we were working through does not have sufficient credibility with its audience that people were listening. To paraphrase my Dad, “Great idea. Bad result.”

So, I failed. I lost money and time and opportunity, and I caused my law partners to do the same, and I hate that. Did I get fired? No. (Been there, done that, still here, topic for another blog.) Does my family and dog still love me? Yes. Did the earth stop spinning because I failed? No. And it won’t when you fail, so jump in. Sometimes, you’ll be Gablinger’s. But the next time, you just might be Miller Lite.

Mary Merrell Bailey, Esq. CPA MBA MSTax MSAccounting, is an alum of the College and the managing partner with Your Caring Law Firm, a boutique law firm in Maitland offering probate, wills, trusts and guardianship services, as well as business succession, asset protection and estate planning. Merrell and her law partner, Hallie Zobel, offer clients throughout the Central Florida region compassionate, sound legal counsel on very private family matters. Visit http://www.YourCaringLawFirm.com or call (407) 622-1900.

5 Reasons YPs Should Come Back to Campus for their MBA

We have MBA programs everywhere, but only one is right off Alafaya. Why should Young Professionals (YPs) come to campus?

1. We Don’t Let Old People Inside Gemini Circle: Well we do, but generally I have to pay them. Our most seasoned MBAs are looking to improve their strategic thinking and get into the “C Suite”. They are downtown and so we hold class on Pine St. Our PMBAs are mid-career folks. They are everywhere and tend to have developed tight networks in their companies and communities. So, we go to them. YPs are still looking to build their networks and find their way. Unlike our EMBA and PMBA students, they can build their networks by going into the student union and striking up conversations with young people they don’t know (see below) without seeming creepy.

2. Campus Diversifies Your Network: I have written at least one hundred times about the importance of diversifying your professional network. It is the easiest way to learn new things and gain access to important resources. Nowhere other than perhaps the Las Vegas Strip can you find so many people of different interests and backgrounds looking to hit it big than on a university campus. Some of them even hold office hours where they sit and hope somebody shows up who wants to talk! If you can bring value to a discussion, there is no easier place to make new connections.

3. No Food Deserts: Campus is designed to meet busy young people’s lifestyle needs. You can buy food, get cash from an ATM, exercise, hang out, mail a letter and be entertained all within walking distance of your classroom. The place was built with you in mind.

4. Campus has unique assets to help build a Unique You: Universities used to boast about the number of books in their library. Now it’s about things like the Blackstone Launchpad, Bloomberg Trading Floor, and our Professional Sales Program Role Play classrooms. These are resources that can help you become an entrepreneur, investor, or better communicator. It would be unusual to find just one of these assets off-campus. We have them within yards of each other. If you haven’t yet found your professional path or need to round out your skill set, campus lets you experiment with lots of different things simultaneously.

5. Value: Because our Evening Program is on campus and uses multi-purpose facilities it is more cost effective than our other programs. It does take a little longer to complete, but YPs tend to be longer on time (most of your career is ahead of you) and shorter on cash (just starting out) than more seasoned professionals making it an appealing option.

If you haven’t been to campus or left UCF a few years ago, come take a tour. It is an amazing place. If you are a YP with only a couple of years of work experience looking to diversify your network, build unique skills and find your way to greater success, there is no better place to be than just off Alafaya Trail.

Failure Friday: It’s About Them Stupid

Admitting to a little apprehension, I have dared to start a new feature on Friday the 13th. Ironically, if this idea fails it may turn out to be a good example of the kind of experiences that I am looking for students to share with others. “Failure Friday” is designed to provide inspiration and support to our Capstone students by sharing our failures as they ponder their own life experiences and hope to win this semester’s Failure Competition.

So over the next few Fridays I want to share the failure stories of some of our prominent alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the College. If you fall into one of these categories and want to participate, send me your story at pjarley@bus.ucf.edu. I will post a favorite each Friday through July 4th. If I get lots of entries, I may double up on posts each week. I also reserve the right to call people out and ask them to participate.

It seems only appropriate that I start this feature with a story of my own. About fifteen years ago, I headed up a center that was charged with providing continuing education to a largely “blue collar” client base. Most of our clients were well over 40 years old and they were spread out in small groups around the state. I led a team of about seven people who provided these programs face-to-face. This activity required we drive several hours, teach small groups of people, stay over night and return home the next day. The staff time lost in travel as well as the average cost per student of providing this service drove me nuts: I saw it as grossly expensive and inefficient. Like any good manager I looked for a better way, one that would reduce downtime, allow me to cut staff and reduce the per student cost of providing the training.

One day I came across software that I believed would allow us to provide the training over the Internet in real time. The product also allowed people at multiple locations to all participate in the same session as if they were seated in the same class. No more travel, I thought. Multiple location capabilities would allow people from different locations to enroll in the same program thereby increasing average class size. The software was expensive but it was a fixed cost. By increasing our reach, cutting travel and growing our class size, average cost per student as well as total cost per program would plummet! I would then have resources I could reallocate elsewhere. What could be better!

The new delivery mode was a colossal failure. Why? The technology in 2002 was primitive by today’s standards, but enough to do the job. Yet hardly anyone enrolled. What I hadn’t sufficiently considered was the needs of the end user. That user was over 40, uneasy around new technology and had developed strong personal attachments to my staff. They didn’t want Max Headroom on a screen (go ahead google that reference). They wanted education in a setting that permitted beer with the instructor after class (think of it as office hours).

In being so fixated on solving “my production problem”, I forgot to meet the needs of my target audience. In the end, it is always about their needs, not yours. You would think this would be an easy lesson to learn, but I have to relearn it from time to time. (Bob Porter is reading this right now and smiling.) So remember: it’s about them stupid.

Okay who is next with a failure story? You reading Merrell Bailey (frequent mocker of my failure competition idea)? Pony up.

Round 4 of Our Failure Competition Starts Today

Our Failure Competition Starts Today

At out Hall of Fame event in February, we featured a video of our alum Mayor Ken Bradley who is also CEO of Florida Hospital, Winter Park. The video starts out with Ken saying the following: “I came to UCF as a failure and left a success.” Ken had seen his dream to enter medical school dashed, but found his future at UCF. He has gone on to great things and know has doctors reporting to him! His achievements landed him in our Hall of Fame, a place where only 61 of our more than 50,000 alums have been recognized for their accomplishments.

Despite what helicopter parents think, everyone fails. It is part of life. Getting comfortable with failure is a key step in becoming a better risk–taker and successful business leader. That is why we celebrate failure and persistence in the college. Today, we begin the fourth installment of our Failure Competition in the College’s Capstone Class. I will be explaining the details of this semester’s competition to students today at 2 pm. But the basics are pretty simple:

1. Each student in our capstone class is asked to write an essay on a failure they have experienced, how it transformed them, and what others can learn from their experience.

2. They are to post these essays in response to this blog along with the section number and name of their instructor. They must complete this exercise by 5 pm on June 20th.

3. Each instructor will then choose a winner from their section and explain why they chose the essay they did. The deadline for them to make the selections is 5 pm on June 24th.

4. Those winning entries are then sent to me. I will select three finalists.

5. The finalists will be asked to submit short videos based on their essays. They must have those videos to me by July 3rd at 5 pm.

6. I will then feature one video each day on my blog the week of July 7th, with a vote taking place on Thursday July 10th.

7. The winner will get a letter of recommendation from me along with a $500 cash prize. Second place will get $300, third place $200.

We have had as many as 800 voters for the past competitions. With the help of the alumni association, I expect we will have at least that many this semester. If you want to get some sense of the stories that have moved voters in the past, finalists’ entries are still on my blog as prior posts. Look them up.

Good Luck to the participants and Charge On!

Miracle on 34th Street? Advice to a Prospective MBA Student

I had an email exchange with Gabriel, a UCF alum and prospective MBA student this week. I frequently get questions about the changes we have made to our MBA programs, especially from our own alums, so I thought I would share our conversation with you…

From GabrIel:

Dear Dean Jarley,

My name is Gabriel and I recently graduated from UCF with my undergraduate degree in business administration. I believe it is unfair to students who have recently graduated from UCF to not have the opportunity to continue their education because they need two years of post bachelor experience. Some of us want to pursue our education at a young age before getting married or having kids and later get the experience needed to pursue our careers. I am now looking at other options to pursue my masters degree since UCF has such requirements and no longer offers the one year MBA program. Will UCF be bringing the one year MBA program back or is that no longer an option for those trying to pursue their MBA in one year? Please let me know. Thank you.

My Response:

Dear Gabriel:

I do not believe we will be bringing back the one year MBA for our own undergraduate business majors. While some students would be attracted to the convenience of earning their MBA immediately upon graduation from our undergraduate program, it is a low value added proposition. This is because you would be taking many courses from the same faculty members as you took as an undergraduate. While the courses are taught at a higher level, the new insights a UCF undergraduate business major would gain from this experience are modest.

There are two ways to gain greater value. The first is to get some professional work experience and return for your MBA. Doing so will help you see the issues and problems in a new light and help you assess what you really want to get out of the MBA experience beyond the credential. The second option is to do the MBA program now but at another institution. While the reading material and subject matter will be largely the same as at UCF, you will take different faculty members who will give you different insights and perspectives on these topics. Those different perspectives will be of value to you as you navigate your career–a broader portfolio is always a nice hedge against uncertainty and risk.

Another option would be to get more specialized training in a specific disciple such as a Masters in Finance, Human Resources or Accounting. The MBA, especially the one year MBA is a generalist degree.. It is similar in content to the college undergraduate core. In contrast specialty masters degrees tend to add deep knowledge in a particular functional area of business.

I know my answer isn’t exactly what you want to hear, but I offer this advice in what I believe is your own best educational and professional development interests. Whatever choice you decide to make, I hope your UCF education serves you well and that you enjoy much success in the future.

Gabriel’s Response:
Dean Jarley

Thank you for your insight and great advice. I now understand the reason behind the recent decisions that were made. I was looking at other options for the one year MBA program but there are only two schools in Orlando which are accredited by the AASCB which is the highest accreditation possible for business schools. Those two institutions are UCF and Rollins College. I don’t want to go to a school that doesn’t have this type of accrediation and since Rollins College is a little too steep for my pockets, I am considering applying for the part time MBA program at UCF. During my time at UCF I got my money’s worth and I will like to continue my education there. Thank you for your time Dean Jarley.

Epilogue:

When I showed this exchange to Roy, he commented that it reminded him of a scene in Miracle at 34th Street where Santa Clause tells the mother of a young boy that the gift he really wants is at another store (not Macy¹s where he is playing Santa) and she should get it there. It sets off an idea where the clerks at Macy¹s give good advice even if it means losing the immediate sale to a customer (and selling them something they don¹t need or really want). I am rarely compared favorably with a department store Santa, but I do think we have an obligation to help students find the right pathway, even when our advice may lead them somewhere else.