Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our last business experience of the trip was a visit with Ms. Laura Spingola, the President of Trade Resources LTD, an international market development firm. She built her business through assisting companies in determining their import and export options. She graciously met us at our hotel to talk us through her experiences, providing photographs of past client projects and research reports she has created for companies.

Ms. Spingola typically takes on 12 companies at a time, working with a large number of freelance assistants and a handful of interns. She described how she built her business over 26 years, including the example of a candy company she networked with for about a year. After this company contracted her services, she researched expansion possibilities with Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, creating databases of potential buyers for their candies. This company was ultimately successful in Taiwan. She commented on the small number of US companies that get involved in exporting, sharing that the complexities of supply chain, taxes, and regulations are often deterrents. Providing a historical perspective on the changes in business over two decades, Ms. Spingola cited how technology has changed business methods. She encouraged us to continue to find ways to connect face to face, as this is an important part of establishing credibility in a business environment.

Following her presentation, we made a mad dash to change out of our business wear and into comfy clothes for the ride home. Our bus driver was luckily in the area, and amenable to picking us up early. We reconvened with the Arts & Culture trip for the ride home, with a stop in Lafayette for dinner.

Tomorrow is our IUBeginnings Celebration in Fine Arts 015, starting at 3:00pm. While I know we are all glad to be getting back to Bloomington, it will be good to reconnect tomorrow to reflect on this amazing experience.

Thanks for a great trip…I’ll see you in the bschool!

Assured of Our Futures

Our final morning in Chicago proved to be the most challenging with bussing. We had to make a transfer to reach our location and our careful directions, printed faithfully from goroo, were not the most accurate. After a few brief conversations with city bus drivers (a remarkably friendly group of folks), we made it to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). We then provided our driver’s licenses to security, who printed individualized passes for each of us to use to go through the metal detectors for admittance to the 16th floor. We were visiting Ernst & Young in their last month of occupancy in the Willis Tower. They are moving to a new location a few blocks away.

Ernst & Young welcomed us with water and muffins, a welcome treat after our bussing adventure. We were greeted by one of the campus recruiters, Ms. Katie Goldenburg , who was responsible for organizing our visit. Our presentation was given by Mr. Greg Bednar and Mr. Ryan Butman, who gave us an excellent overview of the four different service areas of Ernst & Young. Our group immediately dove into questions, learning what an audit was and what other areas of support Ernst & Young provides for businesses. Mr. Bednar highlighted the three big focus areas of the firm: people, quality, and growth. Ernst & Young has a well-established relationship with Indiana University and Kelley, hiring 60 people from IU for internships and jobs each year and providing funding for diversity and leadership initiatives.

Ryan is a Kelley grad who shared his journey to Ernst & Young. He described how he came to the firm a little over 8 years ago, and how he has continually found opportunities for development and growth within the firm. He is currently in Transaction Advisory Services, which means that he works with companies who need a closer look at different aspects of their business. He shared the example of a company who manufactures cars and is concerned about the supply chain for the car components. His area might help this company assess the health of the constituents in the supply chain, so that the company can be flexible in billing practices to allow for the continued production of the needed components.

This visit was an excellent snapshot into the world of a Big Four accounting firm. We learned that Ernst & Young can offer opportunities in marketing and consulting, in addition to the traditional auditing functions. One of our participants remarked as we walked away from the Willis Tower, “I think that just changed my entire career path. I never knew that all those things existed there.” It is precisely this kind of reflection that I hoped this trip would provide to participants.

These students are returning to campus with a broader vision of their future. For some, this trip cemented their interest in business. For others, it has opened their eyes to brand new possibilities they didn’t even know existed. Regardless of where they began, they are entering their first business classes this fall with a richer, more informed perspective. I can’t wait to see what they tell me about their first few weeks in classes!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Windy City Birthday!

I was most grateful to get an email from Michelle H.'s mom the week before our trip. She wanted to make sure I knew that Michelle was having a birthday today! We were able to work everything out with our hotel to make sure that when we met as a group tonight to discuss the day and our plan for tomorrow, Michelle would have a birthday cake to celebrate. (Thanks, Ms. H.! It was delicious.)

The group decided just before we went into American Girl that they would like to eat dinner all together at The Cheesecake Factory across the street. With 22 of us in total, we are a slightly intimidating group (especially when we choose to get on your bus!). But our excellent and forward-thinking chaperones made a reservation before we headed into American Girl.

Throughout dinner, no less than 2 of our trip participants pulled me aside confidentially to see if I knew today was Michelle's birthday. I reassured them that indeed we did know and would be celebrating later. However, being in the The Cheesecake Factory gave us an opportunity to celebrate a bit early. The photo above is Michelle being presented with her birthday sundae from the restaurant. The servers came over to sing and we all joined in to wish her a happy birthday.

Back at our meeting later that night, we ALL enjoyed a ridiculously rich and delicious chocolate cake, courtesy of Michelle's mom. Here's our birthday girl:

And here's what the "in room" party looked like. We are one fun bunch, and this picture pretty much sums that up.

Tomorrow we have a very early morning, our earliest yet, as we have to be checked out of our rooms and on our way to Ernst & Young by 8:00am. Ouch!

We will meet with Laura Spingola, a Kelley alumn and president of Trade Resources LTD in the early afternoon at our hotel. We'll then load the bus and head back to Btown, stopping along the way for dinner. I have no doubt that our group will be catching up on their sleep on the way back to campus.

We'll then have an IUBeginnings all-trip reunion on Wednesday, August 25, at 3:00pm in Fine Arts 015 (the building to the left as you face the IU Auditorium). As we have been very close for the previous 5 days, I'm sure that we'll all be feeling a little separation anxiety. The Wednesday celebration will give us a great chance to reconnect.

I'll try to post tomorrow before we leave Chicago, but if not...we'll see you back in Btown!

"Chocolate Cake with Vitamins"

After a break this afternoon for lunch and fun, we reconvened at the American Girl Place in Water Tower Place for a two-hour overview and store tour. We were overwhelmed by the staff and executives from American Girl who turned out to meet us. Ellen Brothers, the President of American Girl, was there to greet us and provide us with an overview of the company, assisted by Wade Opland, the Vice President of Retail. Ms. Brothers provided us with an incredible overview of American Girl, sharing how the catalog, retail stores, and entertainment areas have developed over the years. The title of this post was how she described the American Girl products...they have an incredible foundation of learning, as they educate girls about social issues and history, while being incredibly fun.

The American Girl is geared specifically for "tweens" and we learned a great deal about how American Girl taps into this market. Based in Wisconsin, American Girl does a great deal of education within their own company about the philosophy and spirit behind each American Girl doll. The literary and education component is the foundation of the company, exemplified by the bookstore placement in the front of each store.

Following the presentation and a question and answer period, we were able to tour the store in three different groups. One area we stopped in was for the doll of the year, Lanie. She is designed to help girls get out into the outdoors more often, and was created with a partnership with the National Wildlife Federation. This combination of education and play is very important to American Girl, and it is evident in everthing from how their stores are designed to what kinds of activities they include in their stores.

We learned about the doll hospital, hair salons, cafes, and other special components that make up the American Girl experience. We also heard a bit about the window display structure. From the educational vitrines for each historical doll, to the contemporary doll collection, we were a bit overwhelmed by all the possibilities at American Girl. At one point during our visit, one of our students turned to me and said, "These people are geniuses." It was definitely an impressive visit.

There are 9 American Girl stores across the U.S. We heard a bit about the process of opening a new store and what that entails, from researching space to purchasing fixtures. It was an eye-opening experience.

Not only were the staff generous with their time, but they sent us away with amazing gift bags! Each one of us came away with a cool backpack filled with American Girl items, including a neat beach towel.

Some of the members of our group remembered having American Girl dolls as children, and were fascinated to learn what goes on behind the scenes to make this company so successful. We are definitely inspired.

Connecting with Our Future

This morning we met with Andrew B., a Kelley grad who works at BDT Capital. Andrew did a great job of explaining what BDT does. BDT buys and sells companies, specializing in family-owned businesses. Andrew went on to explain that the company works with very large businesses, with family members who are thinking in terms of the legacy of the company, in 50-100 year increments, not daily, monthly, or weekly profits.

He traced his career path from beginning at Kelley through his first full time job at Goldman Sachs. He also described how he ended up at BDT Capital. After a brief description of his experiences, we were able to ask questions. The students asked about the importance of an MBA degree, how important he thought study abroad was, and how he feels he helps people in his work. Andrew shared how he has prioritized giving back as part of his personal life, by choosing to volunteer with Big Brothers while in New York City, and by currently working with a Chicago-based organization that provides work opportunities for the homeless. He encouraged our group to find these same types of opportunities for themselves.

On the return trip down the Magnificent Mile, several of our student talked about how much they enjoyed Andrew's session. Their comments were along these lines: "This was the best one yet." "What he said about the different classes and majors was so helpful, because we are getting ready to start in those classes." "What he said about picking activities that interest us, not just because everyone else is doing it, that was me...I feel like I can choose new things now." Andrew gave our group a new perspective on the college experience awaiting them.

Part of what made this morning a bit more challenging was not only the earlier start, but the fact that our typically quiet breakfast location was overrun by retired Canadians on a group tour. Several member of our group had to settle for a granola bar and fruit snack breakfast. Luckily, we were able to be back at the hotel by 10:30am to use our breakfast coupons.

We also had our first day in more professional dress. Our group looked sharp! Between our professional appearance and excellent questions, I'm sure we made a good impression today.

For the rest of the day, we have a scheduled visit with the American Girl Place, which is located just down the street from our hotel and then an evening concert in Millennium Park.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Giving Praise

There are so many people who make a trip like this possible. First, our students and their family members, who contribute the funds to make it all possible. The Office of First Year Experience Programs is an incredible office on the IU campus that helps administer the entire IUBeginnings program. They have been wonderful partners in developing this experience.

The Kelley School of Business Undergraduate Program has contributed immeasurably to this trip. From staffing to purchase orders, alumni contacts to professionalism workshops, my colleagues have been incredibly helpful. I know they will continue to be a phenomenal resource for these students through academic advising, study abroad experiences, student organizations, and community service opportunities.
The Office of First Year Experience selects our student chaperones from the summer Orientation Leader staff. Grace and Erik are two of my heroes on this trip. They are great community builders and keep me from making terrible directional decisions. They are true professionals, and I'm so glad I've gotten to know them on this trip.

This is one big, public thank you to not only my colleagues in offices around campus, but to these two IU students, my new colleagues, who have helped us make history on this trip!

Grace, Erik, and Sue the T-Rex at the Field Museum on Saturday.

Sunday, Chicago-Style

We started our day with 1:1 meetings to discuss personal and academic goals for the freshman year. Grace, Erik, and I met with each student for 15 minutes to talk about their classes and concerns they might have for the start of the year.

Every freshman, no matter how confident and centered, will have some fears about
this transition. From Greek life to Calculus, we were able to spend a little time talking about what to expect and how to prepare for this next big change.

We then headed out to Chicago's House of Blues. The performance we saw included a full brunch and a gospel show. The Arts & Culture trip also had tickets for this show, so we got to see the other group who is in Chicago right now as well.

Brittany and Kathryn actually got up on stage and helped conduct the crowd for the last part of the performance, along with some colleagues from the Arts & Culture trip. As Kathryn observed in the lobby later, "How many times in your life are you actually going to get to do that?"

We were also joined by a Kelley alum, Brad S., who is in his second year of law school at Loyola. He talked with a few of our students who were interested in law school before the gospel show got started. While informal and brief, my hope is that these kinds of opportunities to ask questions will help participants stay motivated to pursue their personal goals.

With full bellies, and a beautiful afternoon ahead of us, we took a stroll along the river and part of Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park.

A unique production was on at the part when we arrived, a Chinese love story that was being acted out in different locations in the park. A few scenes would run, then the actors would change locations.

Our group explored all over the park, checking out the gardens, the Gehry architecture, and of course the "Cloud Gate," more commonly referred to as the "Bean." Unsubstantiated rumor has it that several students engaged in public napping, falling asleep on the park's green lawns. We are on a brief break for dinner now in the Water Tower area, and then we'll meet tonight for some discussions. Tomorrow is a big site visit for us, BDT Capital, so we will want to be fresh and ready to go!