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HarbertMagazine Well, that failed.

Spring 2016

Now what?

In this issue C-Suite: Doug Fraser Tough Lessons Finding the Needle

Flying in the Face of Failure After the Fact Fast Food Failures

Flopped, fizzled, folded. Fell flat, fell short, fell through. Flunked. Failed.

We’ve got a zillion words for that terrible f-word, failure. No one wants to be one, or even be associated with one. But over the centuries, the human race has put failure to remarkably good use.

Take the wheel—one of man’s most basic tools. Actually, it was invented kinda late in the arc of human development—maybe 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. And initially it wasn’t used in transportation, but in pottery making, as in a potter’s wheel. The problem with using the wheel on a cart or a wagon is not the wheel, but the axle. You’ve got to make a round axle fit smoothly into a round hole in the center of the wheel. If the fit isn’t right, then any efficiency gained by the wheel will be lost to friction. In fact, as far as archaeologists can tell, the first efforts at using a wheel for transportation may have failed. A few hundred years later, someone figured out how to saddle a camel, which turned out to be a much more efficient way of carrying stuff—at least until we could get that wheel/axle thing worked out.

It seems we meander along the road of history quite comfortably until we confront a failure. It could be an inconvenience, an obstacle we can’t overcome, a loss, a defeat, or a disaster, but once we have suffered that failure, we work to overcome it and take pains to avoid repeating it. Overcoming failure is so important to us that we make heroes of our soldiers and sports figures, our researchers, and our inventors who, through courage, persistence, and ingenuity, prevail. Failure and success are inextricably bound. Like night and day, there isn’t one without the other. But despite the current Silicon Valley refrain, “Fail Fast,” none of us wants to be party to failure. We certainly don’t want to be labeled the loser. From the earliest of ages, a fear of failure has been ingrained by punishment, ridicule, dejection, and shame.

So when we fail—and it’s inevitable that we will—we usually try to squirm out from under the blame and guilt. It’s someone else’s fault, events took an unexpected turn, or the system is unfair. Of course, when we succeed, the system is fair, we intelligently anticipated the unforeseen, and have made a great personal effort. These very natural reactions add resistance to the learning process. We can’t overcome the failure of the wheel if we don’t understand why it failed. In this issue of Harbert Magazine, we take a look at failure and suggest a process or two that may eliminate some friction and speed our progress to success.

HarbertMagazine Credits

Director, HCOB Communications & Marketing Troy Johnson

Editor, HCOB Communications & Marketing Joe McAdory

Design/Production Jason Adams Jenni Hunt Tiffany Smith


Jason Adams

Contributors Daisa Baker John DiJulio Jim Earnhardt Bruce Kuerten Tiffany Smith Auburn University Raymond J. Harbert College of Business Office of Communications 216 Lowder Hall Auburn, AL 36849 (334) 844-8847

Celebrate Auburn’s Business Excellence Join us later this month as we honor the ingenuity and excellence of student and alumni business leaders at the 2016 Auburn University Entrepreneurship Summit. Our second entrepreneurship summit includes the following events:

Wednesday, April 20: Lowder Hall 113, 6 p.m. •

“How to Get What You Want.” Etsy product manager and serial entrepreneur Jason Shen, who unlocked the secrets in his Amazon best seller of the same name, comes to campus for an open forum.

Friday, April 22: The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center, 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. •

See the next generation of Auburn business leaders as student entrepreneurs from various colleges and schools pitch their business plans and compete for a $10,000 grand prize in the finals of Tiger Cage.

Watch professors unleash their ideas in the Auburn University LAUNCH Grant Program Pitch Competition.

Auburn is an equal opportunity educational institution / employer.

Celebrate Auburn’s alumni excellence by attending the Top Tigers awards luncheon, honoring the fastest-growing alumni-led companies as well as individual Entrepreneur and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award winners.

Learn from keynote speaker entrepreneur, angel investor, and author Kevin Harrington, an original panelist from ABC’s Shark Tank.

© 2016 Auburn University Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Interested in attending?

Visit for ticket information and the full schedule of events.






C-Suite: Doug Fraser

Tough Lessons

Finding the Needle




Flying in the Face of Failure

After the Fact

Dean's Last Word






34 Research


What You’re Up To


How We Think

37 With Your Dollar


What We’re Up To

32 Fast Food Failures

38 Alumni News

HM, Spring 2016 5


Here’s where you have the space to comment, critique, reflect, or rant. If you’ve got something to say about business, business education, the college, or the magazine, let us hear from you. E-mail us at

Show Business I had my screenwriting students read the Harbert Magazine Fall 2015 issue on pitching. Fantastic issue—and incredibly helpful information for this group of readers! Any crossover between the business school and the arts is a win-win in my book. Thanks so much for the great insight.

Anna Weinstein, Adjuct Instructor, Media Studies Thank you for your response, Anna. We’re glad that you found utility in the previous issue and hope you will check out this one as well. Your students may connect with the content given the challenges that must be overcome in any creative process. —Ed.

What You’re Saying About Us Editor’s Note: Since revamping and renaming the college’s magazine, we have been asking our readers for feedback. What can we do to improve? Our most recent readership survey offered a wealth of story ideas, as well as very specific praise and criticism. That’s precisely what we want from you. You won’t hurt our feelings by telling us how we can be better. Keep it coming. Email your questions and comments to Here’s a sampling of opinions about the Fall 2015 issue focused on “The Pitch.” “Would love to see some articles on technology developments and their impacts on business strategies. For example, the use of block chain technology capabilities in the financial services industry.” —Melissa Love-Greenfield ’88 “This past issue of the magazine was probably the poorest I have seen. It felt like it was pulling for content for the sake of filling pages. I’m an alumnus and I have a job and I don’t want 75 percent of the magazine to be something that doesn’t apply to me at all. It was very much Business 101.” —Caroline McGill ’14 “I think the magazine is a great read. My son, a huge Auburn fan, is at the University of South Carolina and I send him stories from time to time. The Colorado brewery story (“Conversations from the C-Suite with Dale Katechis”) in the last issue was a great example of a person finding a passion and building your life and career around something you enjoy every day you go to work.” —Scott Strong ’87

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“I’m interested in learning about academic advances in the classroom. My last classroom experience was in 1961. Incidentally, the tuition was $75 per quarter, and the tuition my freshman year was $55 per quarter.” —Jerry Hofferbert ’61 “[I’d like] a story on how the 2016 elections can change the business atmosphere.” —Dorothy Cordell ’ 74 “Consider changing the print typeface and improve the clarity of the print when the size is increased.” —Elizabeth Chesterfield “This publication is extremely well put together. Of all the communication I receive from AU, this is the best. By nature of my work, I’d like to read about more practical applications of some of the research coming out of Harbert. Theory is nice. Practical examples are more helpful.” —Angela Allen Schroan ’80 “I really enjoyed the entire issue about The Pitch. I’m a marketing person, so I thought this issue was directed right to me.” —Alison Sullivan ’94

Reminisce with us As we prepare to celebrate our 50th birthday as a college of business in 2017, we’re feeling a bit nostalgic. We’ve been looking through photo albums and old copies of the Glomerata. As we look back, we invite you to do the same. Who were your favorite business professors during your days as a student? Who were the toughest? What class stood out as the best one you ever took? What was the most important thing you learned? Send your memories and photos to

HM, Spring 2016 7


Shoot us a photo. Drop a line. Jot a note. Let us know what you’re doing. Here are a few of the things we’ve heard. Send us your news and keep up-to-date at

Raymond J. Harbert

Harbert Management Corporation Chairman and CEO Raymond J. Harbert (1982, management) and former Auburn football star Bo Jackson were among six Alabamians inducted into the state’s Academy of Honor in October. The other inductees were former Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington Jr., retired Birmingham-Southern President Gen. Charles Krulak, A+ College Partnership co-founder and President Caroline Novak and Randy Owen, lead singer of the country band Alabama.

Kathryn Gardner Caspar

(2008, MBA), VP and general manager of lighting solutions for Synapse Wireless in Huntsville, was recognized as one of Connected World’s 2015 Women of M2M for contributions to the “Internet of Things.”

Bradon Rogers (1996, management

information systems) attended the NFC Championship football game on January 24 where his son, John Wesley Rogers (right), a 13-year-old from Auburn, was given a football from Carolina Panthers and former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton after a second-quarter TD. At John Wesley’s left is his brother, Charlie.

Laura Kneiss

As an assistant marketing director for Indiana University’s athletic department, Laura Kneiss (2012, marketing) can be trusted to keep an eye on such things as the Old Oaken Bucket (pictured with her), the traveling trophy that goes to the winner of the Indiana-Purdue football game. The Hoosiers gained bowl eligibility with a 54–36 win over the Boilermakers last season.

Matt West, (2001, aviation management)

pilot for Express Jet Airlines in Atlanta, is a competitive angler in the American Bass Anglers Series and Ram American Fishing Tour. Sponsored by Triton, West is a regular series competitor on Lake Allatoona, northwest of Atlanta. 8 HM, Spring 2016

Kyle Eichman,

(2014, supply chain management) enjoyed the view from Whistler Mountain, British Columbia, during a hiking excursion. Last year, he joined RIL (Reliance Industries) as a junior petroleum operator based in Houston, Texas.


Harbert College of Business faculty and students are busy shakin’ it up. Here’s a few of the things that We’re Up To:

Daniel Carlson, a sophomore

in marketing and Auburn’s football kicker, has earned the nickname “Legatron” for his booming field goals. In addition to earning first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors, he was one of three finalists for the Lou Groza award presented to the nation’s top placekicker. He set a school record by making 16 consecutive field goals and finished the season 22 of 26 with a long of 56 yards.

The Media Production Group

The MPG will manage $900,000 in grant funding aimed at improving highway safety in Alabama. They have provided creative services for the Click It or Ticket and Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaigns since 2009. The group now will assume additional responsibility for media placement.

Debra Baker

joined the college as director of corporate and foundation relations in August 2015. Before coming to Auburn, she served in a variety of roles for Warner Bros., including VP and general counsel, VP of corporate business development and strategy, senior VP of business operations, executive manager of its Media Camp program, and most recently, senior VP of business development.

More than 1,800 Harbert College students met with representatives of 114 firms during the college’s Career Fair at the Auburn Arena in October. The event, hosted by the Office of Professional and Career Development, was the largest of its kind in university history.

Harbert College MBA teams earned second place finishes at the National Black MBA Association case competition in Orlando and the National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership at Baylor University. The National Black MBA Association team, led by Chantel Tremitiere, Beatrice Onadeko, Akira Powell, and Peyton Alsobrook earned a $15,000 prize, finishing behind Georgia State and ahead of MIT, for its examination of a case involving Fiat-Chrysler parts sourcing. The team of Alsobrook, Tremitiere, Scott Dukes, and Ian Mercer earned a $1,200 award for its recommendations on how Nestle should handle a variety of ethical concerns.

In observance of WaffleMania in December, the college brought Waffle House’s one and only food truck to campus to serve free brunch to business students on the first day of final exams.

Gina Cantrell,

Administrative Support Specialist for MBA Programs, earned one of Auburn University’s “Spirit of Excellence” awards in November. The award is given to just four university employees each month. Cantrell has worked at the college since 2009.

HM, Spring 2016 9

Fails of the Last 15 Years TECHNOLOGY WHAT YOU’RE UP TO Tech Economic theory aside, no company is actually too big to fail. And that’s OK—it’s a cycle. But it also means that fear of failure shouldn’t be an excuse to try, whether your product is big or small. In this list, we’ll go over some big technologies that bit the dust, and the ways their parent company recovered . . . or not. 2001: The Tablet PC A touch-screen display integrated with a keyboard? What’s not to love? Bill Gates declared that “within five years, I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.” Problem was it cost as much as a full-fledged PC, but couldn’t do everything a regular PC could. The Lesson: Don’t price yourself out.

Fifteen years later, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Microsoft Surface now competes solidly in the tablet and notebook markets . . . but starts around $200.

2003: Tapwave Zodiac Although tech magazines like Popular Science,Wired, and CNET loved the mobile entertainment console, which ran Palm OS like a Blackberry, Tapwave quickly ran out of funding, and ended up selling themselves off in 2005. The Lesson: No tech is an

island. Because Tapwave didn’t establish solid relationships with software developers, the game platform didn’t bring in many big games. Meanwhile, Sony and Nintendo glad-handed their way into success with the PSP and Game Boy Advance SP.

2004: Gibbs Aquada It was supposed to transform us from land dwellers into sea rovers. One reporter gushed that the Aquada “could meld our waterways and roadways into a single, unified transportation channel.” But $250,000 price tag aside, Gibbs Technologies found that it had trouble actually getting the vehicle to American customers. Since it’s half boat, half car, the EPA required it to conform to safety and emissions standards for both. To do so, the Aquada would need to use a standard catalytic converter that operates at 1,500 degrees Farenheit. That’s almost 1,200 degrees above what Coast Guard regulations allow for consumer watercraft. The Lesson: Reuse and recycle. The company relabeled the product a “limited production concept car,” and tried again in 2007. According to the New York Times, “Gibbs said that the Aquada would be introduced in 2009 and priced at $85,000. Annual sales of 100,000 vehicles were projected.” The sales never materialized, and Gibbs ceased production to focus on an ATV equivalent. The Gibbs Quadski now retails for $40,000.

2006: Gateway For a while, the cow-box computer company was one of the most successful PC companies in the US. In 2004, it sat right behind HP and Dell in market share, and claimed a quarter of the retail business. Just three years later, the company was scrapped and sold to Acer. The Lesson: Be ready to pivot and diversify your strategy. Gateway was apparently reluctant to enter the laptop business. It also focused on direct-to-individual sales, instead of pitching to big enterprise clients.

2007: Microsoft Zune The Zune was a portable media player with a desktop interface and a music streaming service attached. By all accounts, it was actually pretty great, and during its launch week was the second-most-sold device behind the iPod. Only problem was scale: Zune had a 9 percent unit share in the US, while iPod claimed 63 percent. The Lesson: Good products don’t always succeed. Microsoft was unwilling to let go of this one for a

while, and it updated the Zune periodically to try to compete with the iPod juggernaut. It wasn’t officially declared dead until 2011, when Microsoft at last announced it would no longer be producing Zune players. The user interface lived on in Windows phones and desktop devices. Windows 10 seems to be phasing it out, but hardcore fans are still sharing knowledge online about how to work around the apparent lack of Microsoft support. Microsoft itself seems to be following the old adage of “not putting all your eggs in one basket,” and it’s doing just fine. 10 HM, Spring 2016

2013: The flagship of President Obama’s public health initiative launched to much fanfare in October—and promptly ran aground. People couldn’t access the website, and had to use phone calls and the mail as workarounds. 2012: Google Glass “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” Steve Jobs claimed. Google showed people a $1,500 wraparound headset that an alien from Star Trek could love . . . but few humans apparently wanted it. After a wave of negative publicity, Google suspended consumer sales in January of 2015. The Lesson: Failure isn’t death. Google

seems to be biding its time and waiting for the market to develop. The company filed a new application with the FCC at the end of 2015. Google reps point out that failing can actually give you useful consumer feedback if you can afford to take a temporary hit.

2014: Sapphire iPhones Apple announced a $578 million deal with GT Advanced Technologies—a manufacturer of solar components that would phase itself into cooking sapphire crystals in order to support Apple’s $1 billion plan to create unbreakable screens. Not even a year later, GT had to file for bankruptcy, firing its staff of almost 800 workers. The sapphire screens never made it to market, and the companies are suing each other.

The Lesson: When you’re selling Amer-

ican, buy American (and also test your product). As people demanded answers for why the site didn’t work, one name kept coming up: CGI Federal. The IT contractor has an impressive name, but it’s actually owned by a Canadian firm whose most famous work in the healthcare arena involved a botched $46.2 million project for Ontario with three years of missed deadlines. Google, Amazon, and others helped shore up, which of course begs the question: why weren’t they approached to develop the product in the first place?

2014: Sony’s security systems During most of 2014, hackers were secretly siphoning off data from Sony’s servers. They later planted malware on those same servers that could erase Sony’s corporate data. By the time Sony became aware of the hack at the end of 2014, many employees’ computers were rendered completely unusable, and the hackers released large dumps of sensitive data to the Internet. The Lesson: Take Internet security

seriously. Fallout from the event included employees’ Social Security numbers being posted to the Web. PBS producer Henry Gates got caught in what he terms a “violation of PBS rules” because of a leaked e-mail from Sony chairman Michael Lynton: “I would take [material that could embarrass Ben Affleck] out if no one knows, but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky.” Many of the issues related to the leaks could have been prevented by not connecting sensitive computers to the Internet, or simply being more judicious about what’s discussed via e-mail.

2015: Hoverboards The self-balancing scooters supposedly meant we could all live out the dreams we’d had since first seeing “Back to the Future.” They became a literally hot product: the lithium ion batteries in some models kept lighting themselves on fire. The Lesson: Be prepared to be shut down. Airlines have banned the

hoverboards as luggage, and Amazon has pulled many models off the site entirely. For more, see Wired: why-hoverboards-keep-exploding/

The Lesson: Know who you’re working

with. GT had never produced sapphire crystals at any major scale, and they’d never dealt with a company as demanding as Apple. GT now calls Apple’s contracts “oppressive and burdensome,” and their lawyers claim Apple withheld a $139 million payment necessary to stay solvent. HM, Spring 2016 11


The Transformative Power of an Idea Editor’s Note: The odds are against Jake Wright, Cole Kinchler, and Sharan Kalva. Roughly 90 percent of start-ups go belly-up. But Wright and Kinchler, seniors in the Harbert College, and Kalva, a senior in engineering, want to know if their company, SimplyProse, can be one of the fortunate few to survive and thrive. The trio began building SimplyProse, ( a collaborative online platform for writers, editors, publishers, and literary agents, through the Tiger Cage student entrepreneurship competition. They earned $40,000 in funding as an Alabama Launchpad finalist and introduced SimplyProse in September 2015 at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. The truth is that this may not work precisely how I want it to. I still recall the brisk walk around Samford Hall; a surprisingly wintry evening was settling in and we found inspiration for a business among well-worn bricks and bare-limbed trees.

Certainty and security became less appealing to me when I began experiencing the transformative power of developing an idea. My focus changed from searching for a comfortable career to finding a means to share my ideas with others.

A vision took hold of us, one that evolved out of a sincere love and appreciation for writing. We’ve made many mistakes along the way. We’ve learned to accept failures, root out prideful expectations, and grow through experiences. We’ve argued, laughed, and patiently waited.

I’d scrawl class notes in the spaces between sketches for new logos and front-end designs. Summer brought formative changes to our vision and a continual search for footing as a start-up.

Should SimplyProse fail for some reason, I’ll move on. However, I refuse to neglect the inner desires I have to help others in creative and meaningful ways. All I can do is press on toward genuine and honest self-expression. I’ll only be satisfied when I’m fully convinced that all of my creative energy has been poured into this challenging, remarkable journey.

Discussions with potential employers went well, but felt forced and cumbersome. I had to continually work up the energy to attend employer events and act interested while my mind was always on the business. I reached the conclusion in the fall that my immediate entrance into the corporate world was inconceivable. Surely my priorities will change over time, but there’s a unique sense of purpose in working with others in the unknown. I have to know. I have to try. I’m no better for taking a different direction than any other Harbert College of Business graduate. I emphatically believe that there are profound ways that we all can influence the world if we look closely. I only hope that I’m able to look back on the very words that you’re reading and smile at the 21-year old version of myself that took a leap of faith and learned something along the way.

Jacob Wright Senior, Finance CEO of SimplyProse

The fellows behind SimplyProse are, from left to right: Cole Kinchler, Jake Wright, and Sharan Kalva.

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What Your Mama Said

and just because one company had success with a set of practices doesn’t mean that copying them will yield the same success. When your thinking is circumscribed or limited, so is your ability to innovate.

A warning: I think some highly respected business practices are absolutely senseless and I will likely offend some highly respected business minds.

Oddly, this problem of a limited mental framework gets worse with success. If you’re successful, smart, and talented in one area, it’s easy to think that your skills are the answer to every problem you face. Your skill set becomes a best practice. And at the risk of repeating myself, that’s just stupid.

What we call best practices are those processes and procedures that—because they are commonly employed—are believed to be universal truths. Markets and businesses, however, are in a constant state of evolution, and static advice is incongruous, if not erroneous. “Best practices” and “benchmarking” are idiotic, outdated ideas in a modern business climate—lazy thinking which at best prevents innovation, and at worst is downright dangerous. I don’t expect you to believe me. I’m the director of Auburn’s Media Production Group and hardly a captain of industry, so I’ll reference Forbes and Harvard Business Review. Forbes first: One of the most common reasons for pursuing best practices . . . is to avoid having to “reinvent the wheel.” [. . .] If nobody ever reinvented the wheel, they’d still be made from stone. One of the most difficult areas for executives to wrap their mind around is how to unlearn legacy-based thinking. Maintenance doesn’t lead you forward—creation does. Looking at the best practices of recognized leaders, two traits become clear: persistence in the face of failure and the ability to persuade others to join them. However: . . . these selfsame traits are necessarily the hallmark of spectacularly unsuccessful entrepreneurs. . . . Incurring large losses requires both persistence in the face of failure and the ability to persuade others to pour their money down the drain. I’m always looking for the next idea—the next leap—and while I’m perfectly willing to emulate success, I know I’m using yesterday’s idea, and not the next idea. I won’t find that next idea by copying others—particularly those who are in the same business as I. Why would I want to do business the same way my competitors do? That’s driving while looking in the rear-view mirror.

I’m not saying that you should wholesale ignore a practice that works, but ask if it’s applicable to your specific set of problems and if it’s appropriate beyond the fact that someone else employs it. If you must look for a best practice, understand specifically what you wish to improve. That takes work. And you must expand your thinking beyond businesses like yours. That’s more work. Commerce Bank, a New Jersey company, didn’t copy the best practices of other financial institutions. Says founder Vernon Hill, “Every great company has reinvented the industry it’s in. So we don’t copy the stupid banks. We copy the great retailers.” Commerce, seeking to improve its relationship with its customers, studied not other banks, but Target, Starbucks, and Best Buy. When Commerce does study other banks, it looks for “the stuff that drives customers . . . crazy.” Commerce calls that stuff competitor rules and practices—CRAP. Or look at Elon Musk. He’s the guy who created PayPal, Tesla Motors, Space X, and Solar City. We [normally] reason by analogy. . . . We are doing this because it’s like something else that was done . . . or it is like what other people are doing . . . slight iterations on a theme. Musk suggests boiling things down to the essentials that you know to be unassailably true, strip away any assumptions, ask—like Commerce Bank did—“what, specifically, am I really trying to achieve?” and then solve that problem as if for the first time. Musk calls it first principles reasoning. “[We start with] what are we sure is true . . . and then reason up from there.” He gives an example: People say battery packs are expensive. . . . Historically, [they have] cost $600 per kilowatt hour. With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange, what would each of those things cost? It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. [. . .] You just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.


That’s the thinking behind Tesla Motors. That’s the thinking that has allowed Space X to launch a rocket at 2 percent of what it costs NASA. Musk challenges convention, and reaches beyond established best practices.

When we copy “best practices,” we limit our thinking. You’ve heard, “To a man with only a hammer, everything is a nail.” It’s called the “Law of the Instrument.” If you take for granted that a policy or procedure is “best,” you have formed a particular view of the world, and like that man with a hammer, you have circumscribed your thinking. “This is how it’s done. These are the best practices of the business I’m in.” But your problems are your own,

But, he admits, it’s a lot more work. You have to think and think for yourself. That’s the hard part. But isn’t that what your mom used to tell you? “Don’t be stupid. Just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right.”

Bruce Kuerten Director Media Production Group HM, Spring 2016 13


Our dream jobs are waiting. What’s stopping us? Sometimes it’s GPA requirements. Other times, it’s not enough practical experience to get an interview. But more times than not, the thing holding us back is our own internal fear of failing. What if I told you we could use this to our advantage? Let’s take a closer look at three concepts that will help us through the job search, the interview process, and the rest of our careers: Don’t be afraid to fail. Change your perspective on failure. And take as many chances as you can.

1. Don’t be afraid to fail. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But what makes this concept so hard for us to actually do? Do you expect to hit a home run on your first try? Babe Ruth, one of the greatest baseball hitters of all time, had a career batting average of .342. Do you know what that means for us? It means that in the 8,399 times he went to bat, he failed 66 percent of the time. However, we remember Ruth for his home runs—714 to be exact. That’s an 8.5 percent success rate. For us, that means if we fail at 11 interviews but connect on that 12th, then we are still just as successful as the Babe. A home run for us would mean getting that promotion, acceptance into our favorite graduate school, or that great job we could see ourselves doing even if we didn’t get paid. Let’s not look back at our 11 failures as holding us back. Let’s look at the one success that will propel us forward.

2. Let’s change our perspective. Life is all about perspective. This is what makes the idea of failure so hard to grasp. For instance, we tend to think our failures are somehow inherently connected to us—kind of like we failed because we weren’t good enough in that particular outlet. What if I challenged you to change your perspective about failure and think of it as a learning curve or a manual to success? I know what you’re thinking: This kid is telling me that failure is good. No, not at all. Failure is something we should never be content with, but you can turn your negatives into positives and use your past failures as tools to succeed.

14 HM, Spring 2016

Do we say the same embarrassing things we did as a child? Do we act the same way with our new girlfriends or boyfriends as we did our old ones? Do we binge-watch Netflix during finals week again? The answer is usually no, because we learned from our mistakes. In these totally different areas, we failed but became a better person because we learned and adapted. Applying this concept, we can look at failure as not only telling us what not to do in an interview or business environment, but also teaching us what areas we can improve on. Life is all about perspective. The human mind can make a hell out of heaven or a heaven out of hell, so choose wisely.

3. Take as many chances as possible. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Even though it may be hard at times, I urge you to keep trying. Author J. K. Rowling was rejected by 12 major publishers before she could get the green light for the Harry Potter series. Colonel Sanders was rejected by 1,009 people before he could get the funding to start Kentucky Fried Chicken. Even one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century, Thomas Edison, wrote that he failed nearly 9,000 times in the pursuit of his dreams. Instead of waking up thinking about past failures, let’s wake up and smell new opportunities.

Apollos Abercrombie Senior, Marketing

The Maplesville, Alabama, native is the VP of operations for the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, was a W. James Samford, Jr., Scholarship recipient in 2015, and will begin a career at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly after graduation this spring.

Making the Grade Faculty members think a lot about success and failure. It’s a natural part of what we do—assigning passing and failing grades, having our research accepted or rejected at journals, and being granted or denied promotion and tenure. Success and failure are all around us, but sometimes we need a new perspective to see them correctly. When I was a new faculty member, I remember coming to grips with the kind of “success” that I would experience on a regular basis. Like most faculty, about half of my time was devoted to research—reading, analyzing, writing, etc. The reading part was particularly troublesome for me. I would spend gobs of time in the library (you know, that physical, distinctly smelling, have-to-walk-there Google of old) reading article after article, only to find that none was relevant. Talk about frustrating! All that time and effort wasted! But as much as it felt like failure, it wasn’t. I was successfully ruling out bunches of alternate explanations. As intangible as my progress was, it was indeed progress. The trick, of course, was to try not to have too many successful days like that. Teaching yielded another recalibration of success and failure. When I teach an intro class to 250 students, I have a graduate assistant keep my gradebook. The tendency of most GAs is to think that getting almost all the grades correct is a success. After all, they are used to getting an A after failing on up to 10% of a task. But almost is not success. Anything less than 100% correct is a failure.

Why? Because the class is not one population of 250 students, but rather 250 populations of one student. The student whose grade is wrong doesn’t care that all of the other grades are right. I know—he comes to my office to tell me. He only cares that his grade is wrong and that I do something to make it right. So success for the GA is getting each student’s grade correct, 250 times over. This also makes for more enjoyable office hours. And then there’s the student interaction that brings success and failure into clear focus. In my first semester at Auburn, I was teaching Intermediate Accounting, which is a major graduation obstacle for some students. It was the day after my final, and a student who was borderline C wanted to see me about her grade. When she came to my office, she was visibly nervous, almost to the point of panic. I had what I thought was disappointing news for her. She had failed to keep her C—she would make a D. Her reaction was immediate, and unexpectedly joyful. “Thank you so much, Dr. Godwin!” she said. “D stands for diploma—I’m graduating!” No failure here. I have never seen such an excited and, dare I say, successful, student.

Norman H. Godwin, PhD Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Harbert College of Business

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Doug Fraser As a middle infielder for one of the nation’s top high school baseball programs, Doug Fraser hoped to make it to Fenway Park and other legendary venues. Did he ever.


raser has made it to seven Super Bowls, the Kentucky Derby, the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, and the Major League Baseball World Series, too. As president and CEO of The Art of the Game, Fraser (marketing, 1983) has devoted himself to making sure prominent recording artists are at home plate and the 50-yard line for major sports events. His event marketing, sales support, and brand development company, launched in 2000 and based in Franklin, Tennesee, has worked with artists such as Taylor Swift, Alison Krauss, Lady Antebellum, and LeAnn Rimes, and connects the performers with corporate sponsors.

HARBERT MAGAZINE: How was the Art of the Game concert production group created? DOUG FRASER: I basically created my business from scratch,

moving from Atlanta to Franklin, Tennessee, seven and a half years ago. I had been working on the production team for the Country Music Association Awards and the president of the CMA felt that there would be a niche for someone with my background—high-level marketing and event production. I created the business model as a small, niche marketer and small, niche producer.

Alison Krauss photo provided by DS Management 16 HM, Spring 2016

HM: What was your first big event, where was it, and which artist did you work with? DF: It was at the 1994 World Cup soccer’s closing ceremony

at the Rose Bowl in 1994. The headline musical artist was Whitney Houston, and the legendary sports guest was Pelé. You have an integration (mixing sports and entertainment artists) that is solid, unique, and powerful and it was being watched by a billion people. That’s why I do what I do.

HM: Who are clients of your company? The event? The artist? Or sometimes both? DF: Our clients can vary from major event to major event.

We have been contracted by leagues, organizing committees, television and cable networks, teams, venues, corporate partners, etc.

HM: Do you approach performers for events, or do performers come to you? How does that relationship work? DF: We always start with the goals of the event-sanctioning

body and those of the television network. Viewership, revenue, brand enhancement, and fan experience enhancement may all be part of our selection process. Of course, our targeted fan or viewership demographic is also very important. Most times, we hand-pick artists who will fulfill our criteria. I reach out to the artists’ managers to check availability and engage the artists.

Chelsea Bain photo: Doug Fraser

LeAnn Rimes photo: Dan Dry

Rascall Flatts photo: Dan Dry

THE C-SUITE HM: How does the choice of the artist—country, pop, or R&B—impact the event’s marketing plan? DF: The event’s target market, marketing plan, and objective

affect the selection of the artist. The artist’s musical genre dictates their followers for the most part. In 2016, the artist’s social media presence is very important. The musical artists often have larger Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followings than the iconic sporting, corporate, or prestigious cultural events they perform at. So they are very powerful co-branding partners.

HM: What challenges do you face and how do you overcome them? DF: In our industry, cost is always an issue. Costs of staging an

event, producing live music, television and production, and so forth. People are continually trying to streamline production of marketing programs and integrated events. I, basically, am a cash company. We don’t have large credit lines or investors to fall back on. I rely on getting new business and having our customers cash-flow my business, which can be very difficult. Most companies in the music and entertainment business are actually loss leaders for billion-dollar holding companies. I am not. We have to be profitable from day one or we can’t operate.

HM: How are potential mistakes during live performances addressed? DF: In our productions, we will rehearse up to 12 times for one

12-minute performance. Or we will rehearse in detail for a one-minute, 30-second national anthem, and we work to the nth degree. We always have backups. If a battery goes dead in a performer’s mic or ear monitor pack, we replace that very quickly. If something were to go wrong with television, my production team, or the artist, then we rely on the 20 to 30 years of experience to solve that issue.

HM: Please discuss one time where technical issues nearly impacted a performance. DF: Working with Leann Rimes at the 135th Kentucky Derby—

that’s at the start/finish line at Churchill Downs. We’re about to go on live television and the Kentucky Derby trophies were being unpacked in front of the pagoda. The gentlemen unloading the trophies left the very heavy anvil cases in front of the door that Leann was supposed to come out of. She couldn’t get out of the pagoda door. The anvil cases were still there. We had to move those on live television, and after 21 seconds of live television she finally made it out of the door. Then she sang flawlessly. Not too many people know about that.

HM: Are there certain events that you won’t do? DF: We’re a healthy active lifestyle company. I shy away from

events that present brands that are not healthy active lifestyles. We’re an extremely conservative company in a business that’s traditionally been non-conservative. Our entertainers—we ask that they share those values, or we feel that there is not a good fit in working together. They have to share our viewpoint, our values. They also have to share the values in what the clients are looking for.

HM: How do you maintain employee satisfaction? DF: They have to know that the payoff is maybe not apparent

to them as they’re working 16-hour days, but the payoff is, as a young employee, maybe 24 to 26, to be helping to produce a national television appearance. The payoff has to be in terms of creating and executing a marketing plan for a Grammy winner. That’s incredible payoff for an employee. Employees in a small company have to wear many hats. We don’t have 9-to-5 jobs. We have to combine compensation with elite opportunities that no other young person gets to do, whether it’s working at a Super Bowl or working the World Series.

HM: What’s new for 2016? DF: I’m going to be focusing on our corporate clientele:

corporate advertising campaigns and sales support initiatives, business-to-business sales support. Consumer brand ad campaigns are important, as well as social media.

and she was going to sing the national anthem in front of 16.5 million people on NBC. She was sequestered away in a pagoda

Steven Curtis Chapman photo: Doug Fraser

Don Felder photo: Doug Fraser

Black Eyed Peas photo: NFL

Lady Antebellum photo: Doug Fraser

18 HM, Spring 2016

TOUGH LESSONS At some point we will fail. Like death and taxes, it’s unavoidable. Yet despite all of our experience with failure, we don’t deal with it very well. We almost always think of it as bad (how could it not be?), and we frequently fail (all irony intended) to analyze it properly and thus miss many of the lessons it can teach. Failure, invaluable as it may be, is actually a very tough teacher. By the time you learn the lesson, you’ve already taken the test. Adding to the difficulty of learning from failure is the wide variety of what we call failure, from “bad” failures, such as criminal misconduct, to “good” failures in research, development, and testing. And what may be considered a perfectly good failure or failure rate in one business, say, venture capital, may be absolutely catastrophic in another, like automotive manufacturing. To find a way through this morass, let’s start at the, er, bottom. There’s been a failure: sales targets weren’t met, the new development product didn’t develop, the manufacturing line turned out a hundred pallets of out-of-spec parts, and the good parts that managed to ship went to Athens, Greece, not Athens, Georgia. Quite often the first question isn’t why or how, but who. Who’s to blame? Who’s responsible? Then we call Mr. or Ms. Who on the carpet with the not-so-implicit threat of losing a job, a promotion, or a raise, and tell them they’ve got to do better. As a manager, you’re not like that, of course, but odds are you know some managers who are. With the threat of penalty in the room, it’s highly unlikely that the parties will engage in an insightful analysis of the problem and seek a solution. Quite the opposite, in fact. The typical reaction will be to shift blame: The economy took a downturn; the market wasn’t ready for our new product; the milling machine had a glitch in the code; the shipping labels got wet. The organization and its members find themselves in a very odd position. Individuals should be accountable for their actions, but to learn from failure, employees must be able to discuss a breakdown without fear of penalty. Managers—who often get rewarded for quick, decisive action—should approach failure analysis with patience, openness, and a willingness to admit their own responsibility. Right. What fairy tale world is that?

The process starts with an understanding of the different kinds of failure. Some plainly carry blame. An employee inadvertently or deliberately strays from the firm’s clearly defined, clearly expressed policies and processes. The breakdown might be small—a moment of inattention and an installation on the assembly line is faulty. A missed machine maintenance and parts are out of spec. A lack of training or experience and there’s wastage. In other cases, the deviation might be intentional—even border on criminal. Think Volkswagen. In all, these deviations can be specifically identified and because they are specific and identifiable, remedies can be developed, responsibility assigned, and blame attributed. But there is a broad area of failure with causes too random or too complex for specific, direct attribution. Most medical mistakes fall into this category, as do breakdowns in large complex systems like power grids. In these systems, catastrophic failure can be averted by identifying and managing areas of risk, installing redundancies, practicing for eventualities and promoting efficient, clear communication across all areas of the enterprise. The unforeseen will inevitably occur and small breakdowns can build on each other. The engineering term is “consequential failure.” One small failure leads to another and those lead to a third and so on. Remember the Eastern Seaboard Blackout of 2003? It began with a software bug in an alarm system at a control room in Ohio. In intricate systems like these, it’s important to acknowledge and trap error as soon as possible to mitigate risk. Airline crews and increasingly, medical teams are trained to actively communicate across disciplines and hierarchies to ensure fast and accurate responses to complex problems. It may be difficult to think of failure as beneficial, but in the world of research and development, a carefully analyzed failure can yield the information that leads to a success. Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” For invention and innovation to occur, experimentation to the point of failure must not only be permitted, but actively encouraged. In fact, some venture capital research firms will not invest in a start-up unless someone on the team has experienced failure. HM, Spring 2016 19

So given an awareness of the kinds of failure, how do you create an environment that employs failure constructively? Frame the work. What, specifically, in this company, in this area, constitutes failure? What level of failure is acceptable? Firms often have operations that span all types of work and the full range of possible failures. But firms often identify themselves with one kind of work, and that identity shapes how all failure is treated. That’s a failure in itself. Manufacturing, for example, is the largest aspect of Honda Motor Company, and manufacturing failure is something that can and should be prevented. Honda found that this perspective on failure impeded experimentation in product development. To counteract this failure bias, Honda created a performance division that openly emphasizes experimentation and the failures that are an inevitable part of the process. A 20 percent success rate (80 percent failure rate) in technological development might be cause for celebration. The same success/failure rate in manufacturing would be a catastrophe. Next, leaders should work to create an environment where failure can be readily detected and openly discussed. That’s tough. The big failures are easy to spot; the smaller ones often remain hidden. We’re all pretty good about discussing failure in the abstract. And we can remain coolly analytical when it’s someone else’s failure under the microscope, but when it’s our own failure, or a failure that occurred in our unit or division, then it’s a whole other matter. Unwillingness to recognize failure or trying to shift blame indicates an unwillingness to respond to potential crisis. The longer a small failure goes ignored, the more likely it will become a full-blown calamity.

So, if someone comes forward to alert you about failure, or own up to failure, don’t shoot the messenger. And don’t shoot those who ask questions about systems and processes. You may not want to applaud failure, but understanding how catching a small failure or listening to an employee who may be voicing an early warning can be extraordinarily valuable. Had someone—anyone—heard the engineers who voiced concern, the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster might well have been prevented. Then there’s the process of analyzing the failure and the environment and systems that allowed it. First-order causes are usually easy to recognize, and it’s usually easy to assign blame. “Bob was assigned to calibrate the machine. He didn’t get it right. Fire Bob.” But identifying a first-order cause usually doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Bob didn’t get it right, but what if that’s not the problem? What if John, who usually calibrated the machinery, was sick, and Bob was called in to “see what he could do” before the next production run? That may be a management failure. Why don’t we have a backup for John? Why did we start production if we thought the machinery might be out of spec? How come we’re not testing the first few items off the line after a recalibration? Maybe our procedures are ineffective and should be changed. It may not be Bob’s failure, but our failure, and that’s hard to look at. But this deeper analysis goes past the firstorder cause and potentially generates a thorough, constructive response. Lastly, there’s the possibility of “intelligent failure.” The term was coined by Duke Professor Sim Sitkin. Sitkin notes that failure, by creating an awareness of risk and a spur to change,


STEP 1: Stop complaining.

STEP 2: Ask the right questions.

When business failures occur—and they will—the next challenge is to recover from them, absorb the lessons they offer, and get you and your company back in the game. Here are some steps to consider in charting a recovery from failure:

No one likes admitting failure, but the fact is, it happened. “Vent once or twice, then suck it up,” Geoffrey James advises on Accept the reality and see what you and/ or your company can learn from it. Focus on the benefits of your endeavor and take responsibility for your part.

This can be tough. Reflect on the reasons behind the failure. Were you on the right track but you need a small adjustment? Or were you on the wrong track altogether? Were expectations reasonable? Did the effort made match the effort required to succeed?

creates a “learning readiness.” Learning is optimized if our “intelligent failures” (1) result from thoughtfully planned actions that (2) inform outcomes which would otherwise be unknown, and (3) are modest in the use of resources. He’s describing the optimal R&D product testing environment. Of course, the lessons of failure must be retained by the organization. If the learning is not retained and passed on, the lessons will eventually be lost. Often, when experienced employees leave the company, the knowledge that they have amassed leaves with them, and the organization becomes vulnerable.

And speaking of progress, we should acknowledge that advancement is something of a balancing act. Just because a firm has always done things a certain way—maybe because it learned from a past failure—doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best way. Technologies and environments change and while we shouldn’t abandon the lessons of the past, it may not be a bad idea to check things now and again. That’s called evolution.

Organizational memory depends on the exchange of information from one person to another, so the process will always be imperfect. But after a failure has occurred and a lesson has been learned, the knowledge must be distributed. Where risk is substantial, the knowledge of how to avoid it must be articulated and codified into practice. One generation of employees can learn from the mistakes of others. By the way, that’s sometimes called progress.

STEP 3: Decide what’s next.

STEP 4: Set your sights on the horizon.

Does the project or process need a tweak or an overhaul? Will you create a new plan based on what you’ve learned? See the goal and work backwards from that point. What can you do today that will get you where you want to go? Run your idea by someone you trust.

Failure can motivate you, or it can stop you. The difference comes down to outlook and choices. Anjali Sastry, co-author of Fail Better, advises entrepreneurs to “chunk out the steps in your work” to create “a playground for experimenting with some of the ideas and assumptions that underlie your project.” That same advice applies to a company.

STEP 5: Execute the game plan. Now you’re ready to get back in the game. “Take massive action to create momentum,” says Geoffrey James. Armed with what you’ve learned, knowing what didn’t work and why, you’ll be better prepared and more confident of success this time around. Go for it.

HM, Spring 2016 21

22 HM, Spring 2016

Finding the Needle To find that proverbial needle in a haystack, we could go through the haystack one straw at a time. Or we could run a metal detector over the haystack. It’s obvious which is more efficient, and that makes predictive analytics—the metal detector—a valuable business tool for those who know how to use it. Consider these examples: Thought leader Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s discovered how to staff a roster in order to win more baseball games. Faced with severe budget constraints from the team’s ownership, he used a statistical approach known as sabermetrics to field competitive teams with players who could be signed for lower salaries. Mining mountains of baseball numbers for the historical performances of players at the same positions, of the same age, career stage, and so forth allowed Beane to make reliable predictions about the performance of potentially overlooked players his cash-strapped team could afford to sign. The tactics were chronicled in the book Moneyball and the Brad Pitt film of the same name. Thought leader Bill Smith discovered the relationship between product failures and process failures at Motorola. He saw that final product tests failed to predict the high level of failure rates the company experienced and determined that the complexity of Motorola’s systems created a greater number of opportunities for failure. That led him to push for higher internal quality and eventually to the Six Sigma quality control approach now widely used in industry.

These examples are from very different settings, but they all have this in common: They were all revolutionary ideas that were initially considered radical. And the discoveries were made through the predictive analysis of leading and lagging variables. In The Four Disciplines of Execution, Sean Covey wrote that most people will focus on the lagging variables, when they should be focused on the leading variables that influence the lagging variables. Leading variables—those which signal future events—are usually controllable; lagging variables, which follow events, are usually uncontrollable. For example, if a company wants to increase sales revenue, then the employees should not focus on sales revenue, but on what drives sales revenue. Sometimes leading variables are not easy to identify. In fact, some leading variables are counterintuitive and might even sound radical at first. A very successful football coach always scheduled one-onone meetings with his returning players. The coach asked one of his most talented receivers, “What is your goal for next year?” The player said, without hesitation, “I want to be the leading receiver in the conference next season.” The coach asked, “Would you consider your season a failure if you aren’t the leading receiver?” The player quickly responded, “Yes.” The coach replied that being the leading receiver next season should not be the goal, but an outcome. The player wondered what the coach was talking about.

Thought leader Genichi Taguchi developed his famous “loss function,” which demonstrated that loss in value progressively increases as the variation increases from its target condition. The coach told him that his goal should be something he can Taguchi’s equation quantified the decline in perceived control. In other words, go out and practice hard at catching value of a product as its quality declines, which shows the ball. companies the revenue they lose due to variation in their production processes. “Catching 100 balls from 100 passes every day should be your goal,” he said. “Practicing hard every day is something that is To address that, Taguchi advocated designing quality very controllable, and if you do that, it will probably lead to into a product during the engineering phase—before more catches, which will increase the likelihood of being the production begins. leading receiver in the conference.”

HM, Spring 2016 23

The coach changed the player’s way of thinking from thinking about the uncontrollable outcomes to thinking about the controllable and influential factors. So the purpose of finding the relationships between leading and lagging variables is to prevent failures. Failures come in many forms—cost failures, quality failures, delivery failures, and failures through the customer service processes. Failures are the result of one or more inputs not conforming to derived constraints based on customer requirements. Suppose we consider the quality failure of an electronic product. This electronic product consists of 1,000 components. We plan to manufacture 10,000 units, so we go out and purchase 10,000 of each of the 1,000 components so the units can be assembled. Assume that the conforming proportion of each of these 1,000 components is 99.7 percent. That means that for a specific part, only 0.3 percent of them are defective. Sounds good so far, right? Now we start to build the units. What proportion of the electronic units will be defect-free? Fewer than 5 percent of the units will not have a defect. Stated another way, 95 percent will contain at least one defect. This sounds crazy, but it is correct. Will the defect make the electronic product nonconforming? Maybe. Maybe not. In reality, the nonconforming proportion for the 1,000 components will not be 0.3 percent for each component cited above. Some components will be much more conforming than others. The goal then becomes finding the component that is causing the problems.

This is where predictive analytics comes in. It is very difficult to see where the problems originate. The challenge of finding a significant leading variable is a lot like finding that needle in a haystack. Without predictive modeling, we would go through the haystack one straw at a time. With it, we pass a metal detector over the haystack. Some components that have very poor conformance rates might have very little impact on whether the unit will be nonconforming or not. Other components that appear to be “almost perfect” might have a huge impact on the nonconforming units. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But it is true. So if a young employee stepped forward and told senior managers that they needed to focus their attention on a component that had a relatively high conformance rate, rather than on a component that had a relatively low conformance rate, it would be considered a radical idea. But he would be right, simply due to the fact that some components need to be perfect, while others are less significant. So the idea of finding the most significant variables is the goal. Suppose that a company produces refrigerators at the 95 percent conformance rate and has a 5 percent profit margin. If one refrigerator is found to be nonconforming and has to be replaced, then it will require the profit from 19 other units to cover the loss of the one nonconforming unit. The point is, failures are expensive. Many years ago, Motorola found itself in survival mode. Many of its products were failing before they reached the end of the warranty period. It was natural for the company to focus on the failures and ponder what it should do to retain customers.

But the fact that the products were unreliable was really uncontrollable until the company could discover why they were failing. Back to the needle in a haystack. Searching for ways to improve reliability, it discovered that the majority of products that were failing in the field were products that were reworked in the manufacturing facility. It discovered that making the parts right the first time was linked to product quality. In this case, it wasn’t really a component that was causing the problem, but the assembly process itself. Therefore, the company focused on the things it could control, such as process quality. If it could achieve process quality, then it could achieve product quality. This is true in all organizations. Suppose a financial institution wants to find ways to reduce the number of customers who default on loans. Bad loans are largely uncontrollable once the loan is made, so the key is to find the characteristics in potential customers that might predict the default. Bad loans are the result of a faulty evaluation process. Another example might be a nonprofit hospital that performs outpatient surgical procedures. Suppose that while a patient is there for a routine procedure, something happens and complications occur. The patient ends up staying in the hospital two nights. He eventually recovers and goes home, but this would be considered an expensive process failure by the hospital. Was that complication predictable? Maybe. Company leaders are constantly trying to find the edge that can allow them to reduce costs, improve quality, shorten delivery times, and provide better customer service.

One way to do this is to reduce failures. Whether in manufacturing, health care, logistics, or a transactional company, specific proportions of the outcomes are failures. It is imperative to have employees who can test their thoughts on the factors or process changes that might lead to the cause of the failure. Predictive analytics give people the tools to become thought leaders in their own domains. Thought leaders of this generation will lead society in a direction that will revolutionize how it does business. Thought leaders challenge the status quo. Whether it is to increase revenue, reduce costs, increase quality, shorten delivery times, or improve customer service, these students can find the significant factors that will drive better outcomes. As a result, they will be part of the thought-leading teams in their organizations. They should be thinking about the important outcomes they want, and then quickly turn their attention to finding the factors that offer the most leverage for meeting those outcomes. Initially, the culprit might seem radical, but as those thoughts are proven through analytical experimentation, they will become accepted, and might even be deemed revolutionary. People with predictive modeling skills can do that and become thought leaders in their companies.

Mark Clark Clark has a dual appointment in the Harbert College of Business as a management scientist in the Auburn Technical Assistance Center and a visiting assistant professor in the Aviation and Supply Chain Management Department.

The point is, failures are expensive.

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26 HM, Spring 2016

Delta Air Lines was running out of money—a steady descent that had the major carrier on the brink of extinction in 2005. “We were fighting for our very survival,” says Paul Jacobson, Delta’s executive vice president and chief financial officer since 2012. “We measured cash that we had in weeks, not months.” Even worse, the carrier found itself $28.3 billion in debt (imagine paying off that loan), filing for bankruptcy, and fending off a hostile takeover attempt from US Airways. “Our costs were too high and the business wasn’t generating a profit,” adds Jacobson, a 1994 Harbert College graduate in aviation management who was Delta’s treasurer at the time. “As you get closer to the brink of financial distress, your counterparts that have credit exposure to you start to come in a lot faster, get more aggressive. We weren’t taking in a lot of cash and we had cash going out the door.” Delta wasn’t alone—many major carriers were hitting turbulence. Since 1978, more than 100 carriers have filed for bankruptcy. Some of these carriers include American, Northwest, United, US Airways, TWA, Pan Am, Eastern, Continental, and Braniff. Some carriers never flew again.

According to a study by the Haas School of Business at Cal-Berkeley, the industry has lost nearly $60 billion since 1978. What happened? Deregulation. Instead of regulated seat prices, smaller carriers entered the industry and offered more favorable rates to passengers. “Somebody decides to start a new airline and they come into the business and decide that they are only going to charge $29 for a seat,” former American Airlines President Bob Crandall told NPR in 2011, weeks after American filed for bankruptcy. “Then I don’t have any choice—I have to charge $29 for my seats too, even if a seat costs me $100.” You do the math. Jacobson, originally hired at Delta as a financial analyst in 1997, defined the problem as “revenue that couldn’t keep up with expense growth.” Delta, for instance, consumes about four billion gallons of jet fuel each year. Says Jacobson, “If you look at the environment post 9/11, oil prices started climbing pretty rapidly, and traffic came down precipitously. That eventually caught up with the entire industry.” Smaller regional airlines often “were able to beat the legacy carriers at their own game by just being innovative and nimble,” says Brad Sheehan, a Harbert graduate who is now vice president of flight operations for ExpressJet. The industry teetered on the brink of failure in the 1990s and mid-2000s—some carriers more than others. Some legendary names, including TWA, Pan Am, and Eastern, became permanently grounded—a crash landing. Delta wasn’t far from that. “I don’t think we looked at closing the doors, but had we waited much longer, that certainly would have been a possibility,” Jacobson says. “We had exhausted pretty much all of our financing options and some really tough decisions had to be made.” Delta was cutting it close. A 2009 Bloomberg News article quoted Delta president Ed Bastian as saying, “There were periods when Delta could have been just 24 hours from disappearing. If the pilots had walked out, I’m not sure we could have pulled through.” Bankruptcy can be viewed as failure. But in this case, Delta’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005 gave the company time to re-evaluate and restructure. That “failure” helped steer the airline toward sound financial business models that ultimately made it the most profitable one in the US. Delta earned a record-breaking $1.45 billion in adjusted pre-tax income in the fourth quarter of 2015. Today, Delta employs roughly 80,000, including more than 12,000 pilots, and carries 170 million passengers per year.

“I think part of the reason airlines like Delta and ExpressJet are doing so well today is because they stopped acting like airlines and started acting like businesses,” Sheehan says. “In the past, we thought of ourselves as ‘We operate airplanes. We’re pilots and mechanics.’ Today we look at it as business professionals that happen to fly and maintain them.” The business professionals at Delta climbed out of bankruptcy by (1) overhauling management, (2) increasing the number of profitable international routes, (3) slashing expenses (including salary reductions) by $3 billion per year, and (4) merging with Northwest Airlines. What should other companies do when facing financial distress? “If you’re in a crisis mode from a cash and capital standpoint, the first thing you need to do is assess the problem,” says Jacobson. “First, are you burning cash? If so, how much and what are the opportunities to slow that down? Second, make sure that you are well aware of all of your sources of liquidity, whether loans, or asset sales, or anything you can find. You need to stay focused on making sure that you can shore things up when you need it, but also stop the cash leakage.” As treasurer at Delta, Jacobson was tasked with helping to solve those problems and positioning the company for long-term success. “We are a cash-flow-intensive business,” Jacobson says. “We’ve got a goal of generating $7 to $8 billion of operating cash flow, reinvesting about $3 billion into the business, then using the rest to pay down debt, shore up the pension plan, and return cash to shareholders. We started the program with a debt balance of $17 billion in 2009, which resulted in an annual expense of about $1.3 billion. Now, we’ve cut that down by almost a billion dollars a year in interest expense and taken our debt down to less than $7 billion.” Jacobson stresses the importance of liquidity. “We live in an uncertain industry,” he explains. “We need to make sure that we have access to cash, but cash is one of the most expensive assets to have on a balance sheet because it cannot be redeployed. We decided several years ago to make sure that we could use a revolving credit capacity as a tool to provide liquidity should we need it—but to make it at a much lower cost to allow us to deploy that cash balance sheet.” “The value that we have created since that time is the stuff of records,” he adds. “We’ve gone from a company that was on the brink of survival in 2005 to our current market cap, which is approximately $40 billion. We are running a better operation than has ever been run before in this industry. We’ve offered better customer service than we have in years. We have new products and quality on the airplane.”

In 2010, Delta’s fleet merged with Northwest but kept the Delta name—adding $17.7 billion to the company’s value. The merger created the world’s largest carrier, offering more than 5,000 flights daily to 334 nations. If not for the financial struggles of the early-to-mid 2000s, Delta might not be the industry leader it is today. Regardless, Jacobson knows his team cannot take its recent successes for granted. Recovering from failure is one thing. Taking preventive measures to head off catastrophic failure is another. “We learned to remain disciplined and balanced,” Jacobson says. “It would be easy for us in this environment to lose our focus. But we’ve got to stay disciplined and continue to invest in the future. Improving the balance sheet is really important. It’s shoring up your resources for when you might need them, ensuring you have a healthy balance sheet and make the right investments we need so that we can weather the next storm, whenever it may come.”

After the Fact

30 HM, Spring 2016

Problem solving, not finger pointing Success carries lessons that may be more pleasant to study, but the lessons taught by failure are no less valuable in business. When something goes wrong, when something doesn’t work, when a crucial goal isn’t reached, it’s as important to determine why as it is to understand what succeeded. And it’s even more important to actually learn from the inquiry so that failures are not repeated. An effective way of gaining that understanding is the after-action review, or AAR. The technique, pioneered by the US Army in the 1970s, can give leaders, whether military officers or corporate officers, clear-eyed insights into their organization’s performance. One of the first private sector companies to use the Army’s AAR process was Shell Oil, which had a retired general on its board of directors.

To have value, a company’s AAR has to push participants to determine why things—good or bad—happened. It cannot fall back into the often more familiar—and thus more comfortable—model of the performance critique, which is more about judging success and failure than investigating and understanding them. If a company doesn’t know why a project failed—or, for that matter, why it succeeded—it can’t take advantage of those insights in its future operations. A tremendous learning opportunity has been wasted. “The key to an AAR is openness and honesty,” says management consultant Donald Clark, who spent more than 20 years in the Army, because that allows participants to “capture what really happened so that lessons may be learned.”

Without that openness, an organization loses the opportunity Writing in Harvard Business Review, Marilyn Darling, Charles for its AAR to be what Todd Henshaw, director of executive Parry, and Joseph Moore describe AAR as “a method for management programs at the Wharton School, calls “a catalyst extracting lessons from one event or project and applying them for cultural change.” to others.” At its best and most useful, AAR is much more “To set the stage for effective AARs, leaders must first create a than merely identifying a shortcoming. Properly executed, it climate of transparency, selflessness, and candor where team becomes a critical management tool. members can challenge current ways of thinking and performIn essence, AAR involves a broad range of participants to ing,” Henshaw says. “Everyone—leaders included—must openly pursue answers to four key questions: share where their own performance may have contributed to a team failure, and acknowledge the people and practices that • What were our intended results? helped create the team’s success.” • What were our actual results? Accountability is often cited in AARs, but there is a sharp • What caused our results? distinction between the use of the term in the military process and in the corporate setting. In the latter, it’s often a synonym • What will we sustain or improve? for blame, a backward-looking approach. In the former, it’s In the Army, every action subject to AAR is viewed as a learning more forward-looking, with units accountable for learning their own lessons and leaders accountable for taking lessons opportunity—not simply what to do, but also how to think. As learned from one situation and applying them to others, an the Harvard authors note, “It is important to correct things, approach described by the Harvard authors as “forging explicit but it is more important to correct thinking.” That allows the links between past experience and future performance.” knowledge gained from the examination of an event or project to be better used in future endeavors. It helps eliminate flawed assumptions, which the Army has found are the leading causes It’s one thing to locate lessons in a corporate undertaking, but quite another to learn them and take advantage of them. That’s of flawed execution. where the real value of AAR lies. As Darling, Parry, and Moore note, “An organization that doesn’t merely extract lessons from Even though the process is no less applicable to business, the experience, but actually learns them can adapt more quickly private sector seldom applies it as effectively as the Army. and effectively than its rivals. And it is less likely to repeat the Darling, Parry, and Moore found that many corporate AARs are “faint echoes of the rigorous reviews” the military performs. kinds of errors that gnaw away at stakeholder value.” Too often they are poorly executed, with the AAR becoming more of a finger-pointing or blame-dodging exercise than a tool for understanding and improvement. Or it may be reduced to little more than a rarely read report of no real value in future management decisions.

It is important to correct things, but it is more important to correct thinking. HM, Spring 2016 31

WOULD YOU EAT A HULA BURGER? How do you feel about grilled pineapple and cheese on a bun? predecessor—Grilled ‘n Lites—offered the same concept and McDonald’s introduced the nearly forgotten Hula Burger in the failed. Grilled ‘n Lites were grilled chicken tenderloins on early 1960s. Company chairman Ray Kroc thought it would wooden skewers. make a fine meatless Friday option for Catholic customers, “We tested them and people loved them,” Robinson says. but it wasn’t long before McDonald’s said “aloha” to the “But they were expensive. We got them in the stores and we Hula Burger. discovered that people were not willing to pay for them.” How about McSpaghetti? McDonald’s tried spaghetti in a box “Now we come back in 2014 and we roll out a new grilled in the late 1980s. It didn’t go well with fries and a shake. chicken platform. We get rid of the stick and we do grilled These are just two examples of failed menu items in the fast nuggets—which people understand—a grilled version of a food industry. Some of these experiments gauge consumer popular product. They are a huge hit.” interest. Some are successful and some leave corporations with There’s a trial-and-error factor in a new product offering, but very expensive heartburn. some fast food failures can be avoided if the new products are “Most restaurant chains add menu items either intentionally as tested properly before release. Taco Bell, for example, creates a limited-time-only offer, or give it a shot and see if it sticks,” more than 300 items per year in its test kitchen, Davis says. says Steve Robinson, a Harbert alum who was Chick-fil-A’s Only a handful will have a serious chance of ever winding up chief marketing officer and executive vice president until his on the menu. retirement in 2016. “In many cases, they don’t approach menu as part of the strategy of building the brand. They see the menu Robinson says Chick-fil-A uses a similarly rigorous testing procedure. What goes up on the menu board and what comes more as a way of building traffic and creating transactions.” down? What do sales patterns tell you about existing items? “Consumers like variety,” says Jeremy Wolter, an assistant How do focus groups and taste testers respond to new professor in marketing, but notes that national restaurants possibilities? sometimes “go through too many menu ideas in search of “Most failures can be avoided if you do enough research in a silver bullet for whatever real problem ails them.” advance with customers,” Robinson says. Nick Davis, another Harbert grad, has owned 33 Taco Bells The product has to work in the kitchen and in the consumer’s and is the primary shareholder of Momma Goldberg’s, with perceptions and expectations of the company. “At the end of 27 franchises in three states. After he acquired Goldberg’s in the day, new menu items are potential differentiators in the 2009, he realized the menu had changed little over the years, market, ” Wolter says. “But like all new product innovations, and added four new items: the Grilled Chicken Wrap, Grilled new menu items should be developed slowly and in full Momma’s Love Wrap, Grilled Chicken Caesar Wrap, and the consideration of how they fit with the brand.” Fritos Chili Pie—corn chips served with chili and optional sour cream, onions and jalapeno peppers inside a Fritos bag. In February, Taco Bell launched another new item—the Quesalupa, a cross between a quesadilla and a chalupa. Davis Guess which one failed? considers it “a game-changer.” Maybe it won’t suffer the same “We rolled out the Fritos Chili Pie and it was a total disaster,” fate as the ChocoTaco. Davis says of the $6.99 menu item. “I think consumers liked it, Speaking of chocolate, McDonald’s recently introduced but felt it was too expensive for what they were getting. And chocolate-drizzled French fries in Japan, dubbed the McChoco I don’t blame them. Plus, the chips were hard to scoop up with Potato. There have been a lot of similar head-scratchers over a spoon.” the years. Says Robinson, “When I see some of the stuff other In 2014, Chick-fil-A introduced new grilled options in sandbrands do, I just smile and say, ‘Good luck with that.’” wich and nugget form, which have been successful. But their 32 HM, Spring 2016


McDonald’s McLean Deluxe

This healthier hamburger with an Auburn connection had just 9 percent fat. Seaweed and soybean derivatives were used to bind the extra-lean beef in a patty developed by Dr. Dale Huffman of Auburn’s Meat Sciences Department. But the sharply reduced fat meant sharply reduced taste. A lot of people tried the McLean. Not many tried it again.

2 Burger King’s Shakem-Up Fries This short-lived offering had two parts—powdered cheese on French fries. However, it didn’t come ready to eat. Customers had to apply the powdered cheese to the fries themselves. They didn’t like doing that. Diners shook the item off and it was gone from the menu in about a year.

3 McDonald’s Hula Burger This early 1960s item, grilled pineapple with cheese on a bun, was envisioned as a meatless alternative for Catholic customers to eat on Fridays. Regardless of faith, diners didn’t care for it. However, the failure of the Hula Burger did lead to the long and successful life of the Filet-O-Fish sandwich, which is still found on the McDonald’s menu today.

4 Burger King’s Enormous Omelet Sandwich This whopper of a breakfast dish contained eggs, cheese, bacon and sausage on a sesame seed bun—lots of eggs, cheese, bacon and sausage. It started diners’ days with 330 milligrams of cholesterol, 730 calories, and 45 grams of fat. After three years, it waddled off the Burger King menu.

5 Momma Goldberg’s Fritos Chili Pie Customers liked the taste well enough, but balked at the $6.99 price tag and the cumbersome packaging of this item, which featured the familiar corn chips served with chili and optional sour cream, onions and jalapeno peppers inside a Fritos bag. Consumers found the laden corn chips hard to scoop up with a spoon.

6 McDonald’s McLobster The fast food giant brought this item back in 2015 after a 10-year absence, but only in New England markets, where it competes with more traditional lobster roll outlets. It features lobster mixed with diced celery in a light dressing on shredded lettuce on a roll. Detractors dubbed it “the McRib of seafood,” lumping the McLobster with the much derided formed-pork sandwich.

RESEARCH Grown in the USA Non-GMO No Pesticides No Fertilizers

A Need-to-Know Basis:

USDA Organic

Why Transparency Matters A man walks into a sporting goods store to purchase a pair of running shoes, but wants to know where the company procured the polyurethane for the midsole and where the shoe was made. Did the manufacturer use child labor to make the shoe? A woman picks through fruit at the grocery store, but wonders what type of fertilizer and preservatives were used to grow the fruit and keep it fresh.

A family dines out on a Friday night and the father is intrigued by the farm-raised tilapia on the menu. Was it farm-raised in Alabama? Was it farm-raised in Asia? How did the tilapia get here? How was it kept fresh? Maybe he’s better off with a hamburger. Wait. Was the cow steroid-free, and was it fed with grass or grain? “People want to see where all of the stuff they purchased came from,” says Glenn Richey, Harbert College Eminent Scholar in Supply Chain Management. “People identify with the products they buy. I would guess that if we went back to finding Nike shoes made in sweat shops, it would be a far less successful product if the customer knew what was behind that process.” “Today, customers are really empowered by the amount of information they have,” he adds. “Twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t walk on to a car lot and know everything about a car. Today, people can do their own research, walk on to that car lot and know more about the car than the salesman.” Richey is co-authoring research that explores the need for transparency in the supply chain process. “The Evolution of Supply Chain Transparency: A Scale Development and Call for Future Research,” states it is of “critical importance that firms develop the construct of transparency regarding research usage and the sourcing of suppliers.” 34 HM, Spring 2016

“We are developing a tool for companies to use to understand how transparent they are and how transparent they should be strategically and operationally,” Richey says. “Companies need to gauge what their partners are doing, so they are not surprised if something unethical or illegal is happening across their supply chain relationships. There is a risk-protection issue here as well as an opportunity to use transparency to market positive things the company is doing.” Richey adds that industry is calling for more information and finding ways to uncover information that has effectively been hidden in the past. “They can use this research to see where they are currently, and then make plans for how they need to progress,” Richey says. “For instance, what do their customers and partners expect? How would more transparency impact them given their current strategy and operations? How strategically visible should their actions be? How operationally transparent should the sourcing and flow of their products be to the customers/consumers?” But Richey cautions that you don’t want to reveal everything. “From a competition standpoint, there are parts you don’t want [competitors] to know about—especially technology or intellectual property where they could duplicate that strategy and use it toward their own competitive advantage,” he says. How transparent do we need to be? Says Richey, “That depends on the company’s strategy, vulnerabilities, and trust and commitment in the supply chain partners.”

Creating a Climate for Creativity In recent months, with the exception of Google and Facebook, some of the world leaders in technological innovation have taken a beating from the market. Giants like Apple, Amazon, Tesla, and Alibaba have all been left with a ghastly assortment of bumps and bruises. “Apple is turning around from the bull trend,” says Lei Huang, Harbert College assistant professor of management. “Alibaba has struggled with new ways of creating revenues. Tesla is being punished so harshly this year regarding their ability to implement new things. Amazon is tanking due to slowing growth.”

scores of more than 100 supervisors at a large American information technology company and examined the extent to which those leaders encouraged subordinates to generate new ideas. “It’s surprising to see even in tech-based companies, which are supposed to be innovative, that leaders at lower hierarchies differ substantially in the extent to which they encourage creativity,” Huang says. CEOs would be wise to pay keen attention to mid- or lower-level management hires (supervisors, department heads, etc.) since personnel in those positions can create the sort of synergy that stimulates and nurtures creativity. While deadlines and performance goals matter, Huang says many companies smother creativity and innovation by being “too institutionalized.”

Why have Google and Facebook largely escaped unscathed? Huang attributes it to the creative confidence of the companies’ leaders. They continue to push boundaries through their exploration of such areas as virtual reality, the Internet of Things, and self-driving vehicles. “The leadership at the executive level has realized those things could explode in the future and give “If you look at many companies that are built from start-ups, a the company a unique competitive advantage against other lot of them were very innovative at the beginning because they major players on the market.” allowed their employees to experiment and test new ideas,” he says. “They allowed themselves to be open to uncertainties. Huang and two co-authors recently explored the role leaders But as those companies grow bigger and bigger, they start to play in stimulating follower creativity in research published in institutionalize themselves.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Forbes cited the study in a January article about how companies benefit from leaders who are confident in their own creativity. Huang and his co-authors assessed the “creative self-efficacy”

To live a life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. Joseph Chilton Pearce

HM, Spring 2016 35


The Strongest Link Some Harbert professors focus on “business thought” through theoretical research. Their efforts are driven by curiosity or interest in a research question. The main motivation is to expand knowledge, not to create or invent something. Other professors concentrate on “business practice” via applied research. Their initiatives seek to solve practical problems of the business world. Both types of research are important and require great intellectual firepower from the Harbert faculty. One way to promote faculty research productivity is through the establishment of a research center. Harbert has a variety of research centers to facilitate in-depth study of entrepreneurship, ethics, geospatial technologies and other important business issues. The latest addition is the Center for Supply Chain Innovation (CSCI). Research—both theoretical and applied—will be supported by CSCI. In fact, our mission statement highlights this dual focus:

Additional opportunities exist for CSCI to create value. As the Harbert conduit for supply chain faculty, student and industry engagement, CSCI provides outreach and educational support. Our outreach efforts include advisory services to provide technical assistance and student connections to fulfill the talent needs of industry. CSCI instruction initiatives include professional enrichment courses, certificate programs, and customized education solutions. And CSCI sponsors have the opportunity to engage with our growing network of industry and academic thought leaders. Collectively, the CSCI vision is to be recognized nationally as a pre-eminent source of innovative supply chain research and advisory services, professional enrichment programs and industry-ready talent. We are always looking for a new challenge. If your organization has a supply chain challenge or resource need, let’s connect and explore the opportunities for CSCI to help.

Brian Gibson, PhD Gibson is executive director of the Center for Supply Chain Innovation and Wilson Family Professor of Supply Chain Management.




36 HM, Spring 2016








CSCI is already off to a fast start with research initiatives. We are working with the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Checkpoint Systems on the sixth annual State of the Retail Supply Chain Report. Another project, supported by the Retail Value Chain Federation and Compliance Networks, involves advanced shipping notification accuracy. And student teams are working on analytical projects for DHL Supply Chain, Caterpillar, and other companies.



As you read the mission statement, it should also be clear that we are not adopting an ivory tower approach toward research. The Harbert faculty and students who work with CSCI recognize the importance of addressing the needs of industry. We rely upon the supply chain management practitioner community to help us identify research opportunities, secure the data and funds needed to do the work, and evaluate our findings.



The Center for Supply Chain Innovation is dedicated to creating a fertile research environment in which scholars, students, and external partners collaborate to advance knowledge, drive thought leadership, and create practical solutions for supply chain stakeholder communities.


Have you ever wondered what faculty members are up to when they say “I’m doing research?” That may sound a bit vague, but I assure you that they are not slacking off. Instead, the Harbert College faculty strives to study issues that impact business thought and practice.


WITH YOUR DOLLAR Going above and beyond for our students Harbert College sought to raise $10,000 for the Tiger Cage student entrepreneurship competition in the first Tiger Giving Day crowdfunding effort. By late morning on December 2, Harbert became the first academic unit on campus to reach its goal. So the college took up a new challenge for the 24-hour online event: doubling its initial goal. When Tiger Giving Day ended at midnight, more than 200 donors had contributed $22,349. The funds will help student entrepreneurs from all academic backgrounds develop minimum viable products and working prototypes, create a content resource library for participants, increase the number and dollar amount of awards, support efforts to attract more female- and minority-led teams, and provide additional legal, accounting, and design support.

A supply chain for talent and expertise Your support makes it possible for Harbert College’s academic programs to thrive on a global scale. Our undergraduate supply chain management program recently earned the #10 ranking in the SCM World University 100 survey. Auburn was ranked ahead of such universities as Stanford, Cambridge, and Duke.

AU’s categorical rankings include:

· 3rd in logistics and distribution (industry category) · 4th in logistics and distribution (function category) · 7th in CPG and retail · 9th in Executive VP/Senior VP/C-Level (job level category) · 9th in Americas (region category) · 10th in supply chain (function category) · 11th in industrial (industry category) · 11th in Manager/Head (job level category) · 11th in production and operations (function category) · 12th in “other” (function category) · 15th in VP/Director (job level category) · 16th in purchasing/procurement (function category)

Read more at:

Running a different kind of race Harbert College Dean Bill Hardgrave isn’t running for office, but he may give 2016 electoral candidates a serious run when it comes to interaction with constituents. His 2016 travel plans include hosting Harbert College alumni events in 17 cities across the US. He kicked off his tour in Denver on March 15. He isn’t asking for votes, but he does want to share a platform—a vision for making Harbert College into one of the nation’s “elite public schools of business” and to issue a challenge. The college is closing in on its $100 million goal for “Because . . . This is Auburn—A Campaign for Auburn University.” These funds will help recruit and retain top faculty, create new international study and internship programs, build a student-managed investment fund, grow the Tiger Cage student entrepreneurship competition, and reward teaching excellence. More than 8,000 business alumni—18 percent of all business graduates—have supported the campaign thus far. That’s encouraging, but we can do even better. Our alumni participation goal by the end of the campaign is 10,000. Annual giving is the only indicator of satisfaction in college rankings. On this campaign trail, which ends in 2017, participation matters more than dollar amounts. It’s all about alumni making a difference by giving annually, recruiting students for jobs, or getting involved as a mentor or guest speaker.

It’s up to each of us! Get involved with the college and learn more about the dean’s 2016 North American tour at:


ALUMNI NEWS As we prepare to celebrate our 50th birthday as a college in 2017, we can’t help but think about how much we’ve changed over the years. We know you have, too, since your days as a business student. You’ve earned promotions, and made a move or two. You got married and raised a beautiful family. And now, perhaps, you’re enjoying grandchildren. We want to celebrate how far you’ve come. Share your stories and send your highresolution photos (300 pixels-per-inch) to And if you’re feeling as nostalgic as we are, please feel free to include a photo of yourself from your time as an Auburn student.

In Memoriam Zachary David Stevens

(’13, finance) passed away in December 2015. Stevens liked to describe himself as “a numbers guy.” His friends—of which there were many—described him as funny and fun-loving. A native of Daphne, Alabama, Stevens helped launch the Harbert College’s Birmingham Young Alumni group and served as its director of chapter initiatives. Stevens worked as a realtor before becoming a mortgage banker for FirstBank Mortgage Partners in Birmingham. He took pride in his ability to help fellow young professionals turned first-time home buyers. His interest in helping others led him to join Rotary and serve on the new member development committee of downtown Birmingham’s Rotaract, the world’s largest Rotaract group.

38 HM, Spring 2016


Mississippi. He said he’s “truly blessed to have attended Auburn,” which is understandable considering he met his wife of 52 years as a student. He enjoys traveling and visits Auburn frequently. He also remains active with a volunteer construction group that travels around the country building Gary K. Beasley (’67, MBA) is retired from his churches. former position as a division controller for ConAgra Inc. “My major milestone was E. Thomas Turner (’68, business administrathat I was able to retire at age 55 and have tion) is retired, but still holds the title of traveled and spent a lot of great time with “chief assistant to the grandmother of my family and friends.” grandchildren.” He usually travels to at least one Auburn football game per year Claude Burden (’69, business administration) with members of the Kansas City Auburn is retired and living in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Club and enjoys boating at the Lake of the His interests include photography, travel- Ozarks in central Missouri. ing, and hiking.

Lloyd Griffin (’65, business administration) recently joined the northwest Georgia-based real estate firm of Toles, Temple, and Wright Inc. He enjoys following Auburn athletics and spending time with his “11 grandchildren and counting.” Wilburn Hyche

(’64, business administration), a retired municipal court judge, remains active as a “semi-retired” senior attorney for Hyche Law Offices in Brandon,

1970s Kenneth J. Brown

(’75, industrial management) has been in the steel business for the last 35 years and serves as managing partner of A588 and A572 Steel Company in Birmingham.

Thomas Cecil Jr. (’76, finance) is senior director of sales for Regent Aerospace Corporation in Scottsdale, Arizona. Last year, he enjoyed a river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. He is very fond of playing golf and collecting sports memorabilia.

ida. The company was recently acquired by Stanley Black & Decker, which has created some suspense. “We aren’t sure how long our jobs will be located here in Pensacola, or if they will even exist at all,” he says. “I’m looking for that one final big career move before I retire. Feel free to contact me at

Dr. Joree D. Jones (’79, accounting) serves as

dean of institutional advancement and effectiveness at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, Alabama. She earned the Alabama Community College System Chancellor’s Award for her excellence as an administrator.

Tim Hensey (’78, finance) is a vice president and South Florida business unit leader for Gilbane Building Company. His hobbies include hunting and fishing.

George Comer (’76, marketing) is retired and claims to be “working on a bucket list.” He enjoys outdoors activities and travel. Jan Taylor Cupp (’77, business administration) serves as a part-time bookkeeper for Pillar 3 LLC, a Birmingham-based firm specializing in accounting, consulting, and media. Jack G. Early Jr. (’77, accounting) serves as controller for Sentrynet in Pensacola, Flor-

Richard Hethcox

(’70, business) is owner and CEO of All-American Products and recently joined forces with Mallard Creek Mill in California to provide cedar horticulture products to the Midwest, Southwest, and South. He recently enjoyed a vacation to Cancun, Mexico, and stays active playing golf at Whitewater Creek Country Club in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Shirley Garrison Krilowicz (’76, ac-

counting) is principal analyst for Tecolote Research Inc. in California, Maryland. She earned her CPA in 1985 and became a certified cost estimator and analyst in May 2015. Last year, she vacationed in Machu Picchu, and adopted a fourth dog, an Akita named Daxx. She enjoys indie films and football.

Business school graduate helps pioneer software-as-a-service model Some businesses can’t generate revenue. Some have problems with advertising. Others can’t keep good employees. Credit card processing giant Total Systems Services of Columbus, Georgia, once had problems too. “We had a growth problem,” says former CEO RICK USSERY, a 1969 Harbert graduate. “We were growing too fast.” Not a bad problem to have. Still, something had to be done. “We were growing at 20 percent per year for almost the first 20 years that we were in business,” says Ussery, who once had visions of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. “Imagine a company that, in every four years, doubles in size in terms of square footage, people, hardware, customers, expectations, and so on. We actually had to start turning business away. We had people that came and wanted to do business with us, and if we decided to take them on, then we wouldn’t have enough capacity and it would take away from the quality of work that we were doing for other folks.” While taking classes at Auburn, Ussery began his career as a teller at Columbus Bank

& Trust in 1965 and steadily moved up the corporate ladder—eventually taking the job as senior vice president of operations for CB&T’s parent company, Synovus. There, Ussery helped implement the bank’s credit card software, which led to the creation of TSYS in 1983. “When Bank of America and Master Charge came along, we ended up with both franchis-

es and developed our own software,” he says. “In the long and short of it, we had banks interested in our software and came to talk to us about buying it. Then we realized, ‘Why sell this software when we could do the processing and make more money every month?’ So we began providing that as a service. “Our first customer was an outfit called Landmark Union Trust in St. Petersburg, Florida, and from there it grew. Through word of mouth, people said ‘We heard what you’re doing for the bank in Florida; can you do this for us also?’ Believe it or not, but the first few customers we had were from Florida, Seattle, Wash., and Kentucky. It grew from there. At the point where we realized that we had a real business here too, we decided we needed to spin out TSYS, find out what the real value was and take it public because we knew we had something special. We just didn’t know how much it was worth.” Ussery says TSYS went from servicing about two million accounts early on to more than 700 million. “We started out with 128 employees, and when I left [in 2005], we had 9,700,” Ussery says.

HM, Spring 2016 39

Business guru makes opportunities through merger and management What are the keys to successful negotiations? “Developing a relationship with the entrepreneur and finding the common attributes that would strengthen both businesses,” says JIM THOMPSON, CEO and managing partner of the NewMGroup, a Houston-based agency that helps corporations improve their businesses via mergers and acquisitions of smaller ones. “The entrepreneur always has strong attachment to the business he or she developed and the acquiring business is successful by having a reputation of being a good acquirer,” says the 1973 Harbert College business administration graduate, who has been associated with 40 acquisitions, mainly in the oil and gas sector. Though acquisitions can bring great change, Thompson stresses stability within the confines of the impacted business—allowing the same benefit for its customers. No wonder his clientele includes the likes of corporate heavyweights Shell, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, BP and Medtronic. “You keep the strengths of the companies acquired and do not disrupt the business by imposing the model of the acquiring

LeeAnne Burke Linderman (’76, business administration) was promoted in June 2015 to executive VP of enterprise retail banking with Zions Bancorporation, a $57 billion bank holding company with banks in 11 western and southwestern states. She also became a member of the company’s executive management committee. LeeAnne was ranked fourth among “Women to Watch” in American Banker Magazine’s 2015 “Most Powerful Women in Banking” issue. She recently celebrated her 38th wedding anniversary with her husband, Chris.

business,” he says. “The businesses naturally merge and both pick up on better operating models by having a free hand and open dialog on how best to serve the customer. “Communication is the key and recognizing that people are the strength of an organization that leads to excellent customer service. The added value is providing a customer a better solution, and then success follows.”

Acquiring firms is only part of Thompson’s duties. He also helps companies acquire good people to fill C-suite positions. “The best way to find the perfect recruit is to know the culture and management style of the company doing the search,” says Thompson, who previously served as president and CEO of the Vallen Corp., a distributor and manufacturer in technical safety equipment. “Many firms send resumes for review as their first step. We have an understanding of the companies needs and look for the fit and interview and screen all candidates to see if they will blend into the culture and help develop a better model for success. It is only then we present the candidate. We stand behind our placements by doing another search for expenses only should the candidate not fit in the first year.” The late Oren Harari, business professor at the University of San Francisco and author, wrote, “Talk to innovative leaders like Michael Dell of Dell Computers or Jim Thompson and they’ll tell you, ‘getting and keeping the talented people is no longer the most important personnel issue, but the most strategic one, period.”

she’s not working, you can find her sitting include reading, golfing, and traveling with by a pool or cruising the waterways and his wife, Dianne. lakes on a pontoon boat with a margarita in hand and her family onboard.

Okwudili Odi Nwosu (’78, MBA) recently fin-

ished a three year tour of duty as the Nigerian ambassador to the Republic of Burundi. He was also elected to the board of directors of Cutix Plc, a Nigeria-based wire and cable manufacturer quoted on the New Wayne Thornton (’74, business administraYork Stock Exchange. tion) is self-employed in Richmond, Virginia. He established a chain of high-end Jim Perdue (’73, business administration) wine and gourmet food shops 20 years ago, serves as commissioner of the Alabama but will soon be selling out and retiring. He Department of Mental Health and was plays tennis five times a week and also enKathy Flournoy Neighbors (’75, appointed to Governor Robert Bentley’s joys riding his road bike. business administration) is cabinet in July 2015. self-employed as an interior decorator and was honored as Steve Robinson (’72, marketing) retired from City of Alabaster (Alabama) Chick-fil-A as its executive vice president Business of the Month. She and chief marketing officer in December will celebrate her 40th wedding anniver- 2015, but remains busy with consulting sary in May with a trip to St. Lucia. When work and board involvement. His hobbies

40 HM, Spring 2016

T. Phillip Webb (’72, management) serves as managing director for Strategic Wealth Specialists. He has earned Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant and Accredited Estate Planner professional designations in his 40-year career while serving as president of the Financial Service Professionals and Estate Planning Council of Mobile and president of the Point Clear Rotary Club. He recently celebrated the birth of his fifth grandchild, bringing his total to two granddaughters and three grandsons 5-and-under.

S. Rhett Williams

(’72, business administration) retired in 2012 after 33½ years in production planning with Michelin Tire Corporation in Dothan, Alabama. His hobbies include fishing, hunting, shooting, and golf.

1980s Betsy Osterling Bagley (’88, marketing) helps global companies create more inclusive workspaces as a senior director and consultant with Catalyst Inc. Last fall, she made her first trip back to Auburn in 23 years with classmates Ginger Guthrie Wilson and Heidi Pearson Bolt for the Mississippi State football game. Her daughter, Kate, is a freshman business major in the Harbert College. She has three children in college and one in high school. Robert Beck (’84, organization management)

is working to re-tool and revive KSG-Promotions & Engraving as its owner. His oldest child is applying to Auburn University. Robert’s hobbies include judging marching band percussion competitions.

David Bondi (’88, business administration) accepted a role in New York City as the

global vice president of procurement for Ralph Lauren Corporation. His son, Steven, enrolled at Auburn University as a freshman in the fall. He enjoys tailgating at football games and boating on Smith Lake.

John Breitenfeld

(’80, marketing) just celebrated his 10th anniversary at Black Duck Software, a Boston-based company that helps organizations leverage, manage and secure open source software. John works out of the Dallas, Texas, area as the company’s vice president of sales for the Americas. He makes frequent visits to the Plains as the father of an Auburn University freshman and is a self-confessed road biking and spin class addict.

David Brown (’86, management) still sails eight months out of the year as an electrician in the US Navy. Brown said he has served in a variety of war zones and has been assigned to the 5th and 7th fleets. Barton F. Carr (’85,

finance) is president of Carr & Associates Engineers Inc., which recently celebrated its 41st year in business.

William G. Edwards Jr. (’89, management) is the president of Edwards Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC. He celebrated the arrival of a grandchild in December and enjoys spreading the gospel.

Mike Finlen (’80, business) is president and

CEO of ETC. Inc., which owns and operates roller skating rinks in two states and serves as a manufacturers’ representative for textile products.

Bryan Ford (’87, marketing) re-

cently celebrated his 26th anniversary with AT&T, where he serves as senior quality/ manufacturing & production /process manager in Atlanta. His hobbies include traveling and playing the piano.

Dr. Robert Gardner (’82, finance)

recently joined Northlake Medical Psychology and Counseling, a private practice in Mandeville, Louisiana, as a psychotherapist specializing in integrative health and wellness. He continues to serve as director of psychosocial oncology at Touro Infirmary, an adult acute care hospital in New Orleans, where he provides counseling services to patients and families affected by cancer. He lives in Mandeville with his wife and daughter.

B. Jeffrey DeKonty (’84, accounting) serves as vice president of information technology for Aramark in Philadelphia. He serves on the executive leadership council for Michael Russ Goodman (’89, management) is the company, which is a $15 billion global assistant district attorney in the district atbusiness with more than 270,000 employ- torney’s office of the 20th Judicial Court. ees. His hobbies include the restoration of vintage military cargo aircraft with the BerVan Henley (’80, accounting) is lin Airlift Historical Foundation. senior tax partner with Ernst & Young LLP in Dallas. Last Andrew (Andy) G. Eden (’89, finance) teaches year, he participated in a history at Ragland High School in Ragmedical mission trip to Haiti. land, Alabama, and serves as head boys’ “I fell in love with the Haibasketball coach and as an assistant foot- tians, but especially the young man in the ball coach. When he’s not teaching and picture with me. Can you guess why?” coaching, he’s busy watching his daughters, Cate and Laney, play soccer for Faulkner Jim Luther (’86, accounting) University in Montgomery. reports that, after a “failed attempt” at retiring in 2004, Cary L. Edwards (’85, business he finally officially retired in administration) is a partner August 2014. “I am currentwith PSG Construction in ly deciding what to do when Atlanta. He enjoys time with I grow up,” he says. His current plan is to his wife and six children, and ride the 1969 route of the Tour de France coaching youth sports. this summer. HM, Spring 2016 41

Former consumer product exec creates her own small-business world Ever heard of an aquaponics greenhouse? The technology creates a self-contained ecosystem that grows vegetables and fish. Operation Mobilization, a mission organization, is testing a prototype at its home base in Atlanta that can be used worldwide. “This technology utilizes about 10 percent of the water supply of normal gardening, and is not dependent on soil quality or quantity,” explains DEEDEE WILSON, chief financial officer at Operation Mobilization and a 1985 Harbert College graduate in accounting. “On average, crops can turn more than six times per year, providing a source of income and food for our missionaries on the field.” Mission organizations are nonprofit, but the aquaponics greenhouse is an example of a for-profit mentality that can be useful. The aquaponics greenhouse is one of several small business opportunities being prototyped to help missionaries self-fund a portion of their ministries and ease into a new country, developing relationships with their new community. “OM USA hopes to also generate revenues utilizing this technology as we sell the ‘aqua-

David Mitchell (’88, finance) is the founder and CEO of Dothan Telehealth, Telemed Consultations, and US Benefits Brokers. He said his goal is for everyone in the United States to have a telemedicine provider membership. “Twenty-first century healthcare is telehealth care.” He has two sons and a daughter. His wife, Dr. Tonya Mitchell, a 1991 Auburn graduate, recently became a certified forensic toxicologist. Dennis M. Moore (’89, finance) is senior partner and vice president of global marketing and business development for Brier & Thorn Inc., in Milwaukee. He merged his former company, Tiger Strategies, with Brier & Thorn. When he’s not working, he enjoys Wisconsin’s numerous bike trails. Beau Parker (’89, marketing) is the CEO of Smith’s Consumer Products in Nashville, Tennessee, and Made in USA Operations in Washington DC and Arkansas. 42 HM, Spring 2016

ponics in a box’ concept to other organizations, as we charge fees for deploying these systems, and potentially as we build a larger one on our property to sell vegetables to customers like specialty grocers, farm-to-table restaurants, or individuals buying at farmer’s markets,” Wilson says.

“We are utilizing business interns to help us develop these types of prototypes and I am excited to have my first Auburn MBA intern commit to us for this summer. We participated in the career fair this fall and saw over 100 students interested in the work we are doing.” Wilson worked for years as an executive in the consumer products industry with L.L. Bean, Newell-Rubbermaid, and Coca-Cola, but found her calling in the nonprofit, mission-oriented sector—which has led her on mission trips to Cambodia, Africa, India and the Arabian Peninsula. “We all want to leave a legacy, right?” says Wilson, who lives in Tyrone, Georgia, and once wanted to be a nurse before realizing she didn’t like chemistry and couldn’t stand the sight of blood. “It’s one thing to say ‘I had a really good job at Nike or I was one of CFO Magazine’s Top 25 Women to Watch in 2008.’ That’s all nice, but no one’s going to remember that. The things I’m able to do to make a difference for my faith and make a difference in communities and children—that’s a whole lot more fulfilling.”

Sonia Simmons Ratliff (’89, finance) serves as Leah A. Sowell (’89, economics) is the leader-

vice president of finance and human re- ship development coordinator for Perimesources for the National Commission of ter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia. Certification of Physician Assistants Inc., in Johns Creek, Georgia. She earned an executive MBA from the University of Georgia and has nearly completed a master’s degree in accounting from Liberty University. She celebrated her 23rd wedding anniversary to 1991 Auburn accounting alum William G. Ratliff. David Chace Strickland (’85, management) is a Jennifer Eidson Samples (’82, accounting) TV commercial director for Backyard Proserves as an accountant in the workmen’s ductions ( in Venice, Calicompensation and residual market division fornia. His commercial work includes Suof international insurance giant AmTrust per Bowl 50. His daughter, Anna Lea Financial Services’ Alpharetta, Georgia, Strickland, is an Auburn University freshoffice. man studying communications. David also enjoys following Auburn University and Roger Shannon (’87, accounting) was ap- Briarwood Christian sports. pointed senior vice president and chief financial officer for global telecommunications networking equipment and communications solutions provider ADTRAN Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama. He oversees finance, investor relations, accounting, and legal affairs and contracts.

Bobby L. Taunton Jr. (’82, accounting) recently merged his Montgomery CPA firm, Wolf & Taunton P.C., into the Auburn-based CPA firm of Machen McChesney. He now serves as the partner in charge of the firm’s new Montgomery office. Willis A. Teel Jr., CPA


(’82, acJoseph M. Branche (’95, busicounting) is a partner with ness administration) earned a Carr, Riggs, & Ingram LLC promotion in May 2015 to sein Montgomery. As the tax nior vice president of global partner, he serves on the operations for Bravo Sports firm’s tax development team in Santa Fe Springs, Califorand with the ASCPA Fed Tax Clinic. He nia. He and his wife, Grace, welcomed their and his wife, Pam, who have been mar- first child, Sophia, in September 2015. ried for 33 years, have three sons and one grandchild with another on the way. Tony Chimera (’91, management) serves as senior vice president of human resources Richard Watts (’86, economics) serves as a for Endurance, a global provider of insurlieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserve ance and reinsurance. in addition to being a commercial data analyst for Equifax Information Services. He completed a second deployment in Afghanistan in 2014. He recently launched his own company, Gameday Tactical LLC, which offers unique, customizable headgear. He enjoys hiking the Appalachian Trail, kayaking, mountain biking, and camping. Shawanna Lee Buckles Cogar (’95, management) recently celebrated her eighth anniScott Wedge (’89, business versary as owner/CEO of Chic to Chic in administration; ’94, MBA) Corpus Christi, Texas. She celebrated 23 works at Walmart headquar- years of marriage to her husband, fellow ters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Auburn alum Steven Marshall Cogar, in the as the company’s senior man- fall. They enjoy traveling the world with ager of quality for home prod- their children. ucts. In 2015, he was honored as a Walmart culture ambassador and now leads new Chris Crawford (’99, MBA) hire orientation sessions. He married Beth serves as frontline manager Spears Wedge in April 2014. for federal systems at Cloudera in the Washington, DC R. Lee Walters (’86, business administration) metro area. Cloudera prois a legal investigator for Morgan & Morvides Apache Hadoop-based gan. He recently relocated to Huntington software, support and services, and trainBeach, California, and lives three blocks ing to business customers. from the Pacific Ocean. He is fond of watching his son surf, his daughter play Vann Daugherty (’97, management informavolleyball, and “enjoying all the new peo- tion systems) serves as VP of business intelple, places, and things to photograph.” ligence for Fleetcor in Norcross, Georgia. He keeps active playing with his 7-year-old. David Winters (’85, MBA) is chief engineer for the City of Amy N. Goddard (’96, MBA) Atlanta. His interests include serves as principal systems skydiving, mixed martial arts, analyst for Parsons in Huntsmountain climbing, wake ville, Alabama. She enjoys boarding, swimming, motorbeing the mother of “two talcycling, deep sea diving, and tennis. ented, wonderful sons.”

Matt Hayes (’93, accounting) recently earned

an appointment as senior vice president for operations at Quorum Health Corporation in Brentwood, Tennessee. This new publicly traded company resulted from the spin off of 38 of Community Health Systems’ hospitals.

Dean Jackins (’90, marketing) is director of

sales market development for LESER in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s responsible for the sales network of a safety relief valve manufacturer serving the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. He recently celebrated 23 years of marriage to his wife, Leah, a 1989 Auburn engineering alumna.

Michael Jindrich

(’93, international business) serves as corporate strategy consultant for Hallmark Cards Inc. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, gardening, and volunteering with the Boy Scouts, as well as coaching soccer.

Caroline (Hubbard) Kemnitzer (’95, business administration) serves as general manager for Marriott International’s Courtyard location in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. She married her husband, Eric, in 2012, and enjoys mountain biking, camping, and hiking. Don McDaniel

(’91, management) is a realtor with Main Street Realty Plus LLC in Albertville, Alabama. After 25 years in the family snack food, coffee service, and vending business, he decided to sell a successful 41-year-old company to Food Star Food Service. In his new role, Don focuses on commercial, industrial, and residential real estate, as well as investment properties in Marshall County, Alabama.

Heather Moore (’90, MBA) serves as vice president of accounting for research database and e-journal provider EBSCO in Birmingham, Alabama. Chris Nowak (’98, aviation management) is a pilot for Jet Blue in New York City. HM, Spring 2016 43

Vice president of ExpressJet paves the way for future leadership Air safety is “a value that’s inked into a pilot’s DNA,” says BRAD SHEEHAN, senior vice president of operations at ExpressJet Airlines, who served as the airline’s director of safety for four years. “I’ve seen the concept of safety management transform,” says Sheehan, who earned a degree in aviation management in 1997 from Harbert College. “There was once an expectation of ‘every couple of years, there is an accident, and you learn from it’; now we learn before there is a bad event.” Safety is as much art as science, according to Sheehan. “People always like to say, ‘Safety first.’ Well, no. Typically, whatever ‘first’ is, whatever your priority is, it’s whatever is important to you at that time. If you’re rushing. If you’re tired. If you’re distracted, safety is not your priority. That’s why it has to be a habit.” In 2010, Sheehan implemented a new safety management program at ExpressJet. “One of the big things that changed was we became data-driven,” he says. “We’re downloading information off of the flight data recorder, de-identify it so you can’t go back and hammer anybody in the head for doing something that wasn’t smart, but you’re able to capture hundreds of thousands of flights and to see events that sometimes are outside the goalposts. It allows you to go back and formulate a conversation with the pilots.” “You believe that pilots are following the rules all of the time and never deviate. Realities are, pilots are people. They are going to drift, just like everybody else. It’s our job to go back and help calibrate them to an extent . . . the job is to help people help themselves by not punishing behavior that drifts from ideal, but rather coach people to help them get back between the goalposts.”

Matt Olsen

(’99, international business), president and CEO of Kodiak Ventures LLC, a real estate, investment, and management company he founded in 2003, has been elected to the board of directors for Koniag Inc. for a three-year term. Koniag is one of 13 original regional Native Alaskan firms set up under the Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act of 1971. Based in Kodiak, Alaska, the company’s operations and holdings cover information technology, tourism, real estate, technical services, oil field services, government services, and a granite quarry.

J. Don Overton

(’92, finance) is an attorney, builder, and consultant for The Overton Firm, a sustainable construction business in Arkansas. He was re-elected to the board of directors for the Greater Little Rock Home Builders Association and elected as the Ar-

44 HM, Spring 2016

“I learned more from four years in safety that I have in 25 years of flying airplanes because people trusted me with all of their safety data and confidential reporting.”

In 19 years, Sheehan has served as a line check airman, instructor pilot, chief pilot, director of safety, and vice president of flight operations. One job led to another. “My career has been a series of unpredicted moves that have prepared me more for the next step,” he says. “In that short period of time, I lived through multiple careers. Now, my greatest role is to turn back and to help develop those behind me into being future leaders and make sure we have people learning from my mistakes.”

kansas state representative for the National the centrifugation business for Georgia, Association of Home Builders. Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. In 2016, he John Michael Pennington (’91, business) be- will celebrate his 10th anniversary with the came director of inventory planning for company, which boasts more than 50,000 Big Time Products in Rome, Georgia, in employees and more than $17 billion in August 2015. He celebrated the marriage of 2015 revenue. his oldest daughter, Samantha, to Jordan Williams in May 2015.When he’s not work- Ross Smith (’95, finance) serves as national ing, he enjoys golfing, reading, and riding sales executive for iPay solutions for Jack Harley Davidsons. Henry & Associates.

Natalie Newman Strickland (’90, marketing) serves as a commerce and information technology teacher for the Etowah County Board of Education. She is pursuing a master’s degree from UAB in English as a Ryan Rostkowski (’99, manage- second language, and will graduate in Dement) is the centrifugation cember 2016. team leader for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Southeast divi- Daniela Trudel (’92, MAcc) serves as chief fision in Atlanta. His oversight nancial officer for Robert Finvarb Compaincludes the management of nies in Miami Beach, Florida.

Brian Weiss (’98, marketing) is

vice president of Sales Effectiveness Inc., a sales training and sales consultancy firm in Roswell, Georgia, that’s “earning a reputation as an industry leader [in building materials].” Its clients include The Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, Masco, and other leading brands. He and his wife, Betsy, celebrated their 10th anniversary with a trip to Aruba. Brian enjoys being the father of two boys, golfing, hunting, and following Auburn football.

2000s Ken Arnott (’02, MBA) is the vice president of finance for Oldcastle Coastal. He and his wife, Rebecca, welcomed their first child, Gabriel Patrick Arnott, into the world in November 2015. Bradley Blair (’03, finance) serves as senior vice president and assisting general counsel for Regions Bank in Birmingham. He and his wife celebrated the birth of their third child in January. Clay Brunson (’06, marketing) serves as direc-

tor of finance for ITT Technical Institute in Bessemer, Alabama.

Stephen Burcham (’02, MBA) serves as VP of global operations and quality for Digium Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama. He leads the company’s efforts in Huntsville’s Heart Walk 2016, which benefits the American Heart Association. He celebrated 30 years of marriage to his wife, Cindy, with a trip to Hawaii. When he’s not working, his hobbies include “golf, golf, golf.” Jon Butts (’04, business admin-

the 40th fastest-growing company in the US Marine Corps as a captain and F/A-18 nation (5,967 percent sales growth over Hornet pilot. three years). Muscle Up Marketing also earned recognition among the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Best Places to Work in 2015. In the spring and summer, Jon enjoys taking road trips to watch major league baseball. He is well on his way to visiting every major league stadium, having crossed 22 off his list. Steve Higginbotham (’08, Executive MBA) Kathryn Gardner Caspar (’08, took over as CEO of ReachOut Healthcare MBA) serves as vice presi- America in Farmington Hills, Michigan, in dent and general manager of November 2015. ReachOut is a portfolio lighting solutions for Syn- company of Morgan Stanley Private Equity. apse Wireless in Huntsville, His recent highlights include getting to Alabama. She was honored as meet Elon Musk at a Tesla event during the one of Connected World’s 2015 Women of North American International Auto Show M2M for contributions in the “Internet of in Detroit. When not working, Steve enjoys Things.” Kathryn said her family (husband summers at the family cottage in Northern Mark, son Cole and daughter Clare) have a Michigan, running with daughter Kaitlyn, full schedule of Saturday soccer games and and watching youngest daughter Carly exenjoyment of Auburn football. cel in soccer.

Drew Dunn (’04, entrepreneur-

ship and family business) received a promotion in December 2014 to become the head golf professional at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. He enjoys competing in golf tournaments, cooking, traveling, and watching Auburn Matthew Tyler (Ty) Howard (’00, information athletics. systems) is an account executive with CentricsIT in Norcross, Georgia. When he’s Ian Edgerton (’00, operations not working, he enjoys attending music management) serves as pur- festivals all over the world. chasing manager for Inline Electric Supply Co. Inc. in Matthew W. Johnson (’01, information sysBirmingham. He had previ- tems) became president in January 2014 of ously served as a sales repre- Wayne’s Fast Food Inc., which does busisentative for the company. ness as Hart’s Fried Chicken. “I’m the third generation in my family to work in the Adam Fielding (’09, finance) is the corpo- business. We’ve been in business since rate compliance manager for Community 1964.” In July 2015, he traveled to DC to atHealth Systems. tend the 10th Annual Christians United for Israel Summit and took a vacation to Israel Rob Fisher (’02, international business) in September. When he’s not working, he works in Atlanta as an enterprise account enjoys driving his yellow C7 Corvette executive for Cloudera. He recently cele- Stingray Z51, hunting deer, reading, and brated two years with the company selling building with Legos. servers, software, and support for the Hadoop platform. He is the proud parent of 2-year-old twin boys, Jackson and Lawson.

istration) is founder and president of Muscle Up Marketing in Roswell, Georgia. Brian Henderson (’02, business administraHis company was recently tion), works for Check-6 as a consultant in ranked by Inc. magazine as New York City. He proudly served in the

HM, Spring 2016 45

McCraw builds Mighty presence as entrepreneur JARRETT MCCRAW (’08, business administration) wishes he could point to a brilliant idea that led to the launch of Mighty, his Mobile-based advertising agency specializing in digital design, market analysis, and content creation. However, the formation of his company came out of necessity. “The agency I had been working for went through a bit of a rough patch, and I lost my job in November of 2014,” he says. “It was more out of the necessity to survive.” McCraw’s start-up reflects his spirit of resilience. The company’s logo, featuring the silhouette of a body-builder with flexed biceps, projects an aura of strength and scrappiness. “When people see you [experience adversity], they judge you based on how you react to it,” he says. “If you fail, they’re more interested to see how you bounce back. If you don’t do anything, that’s more reflective than if you come back, try something new, and try, try again.” McCraw now owns and operates three businesses, although Mighty provides the primary outlet for his creative passion. He enjoys helping clients make sense of an increasingly fragmented media landscape. “It’s no longer about ‘let’s buy a TV spot and run it,’” he said. “You’ve got to be more authentic and know how to communicate your brand better. . . . The way people are shopping is changing.” “In terms of how we stay on top of the next big thing and have the ability to be looking around the corner, we have an advantage in that

Andrew Larson (’00, information systems) re-

cently became managing partner of Seaboard Traders of South Carolina. His getaway activities include paddleboarding and relaxing at the beach.

all of us are under the age of 35. We’re the audience using Snapchat and the latest apps out there. We’re seeing things as they come out and we’re using them.” Advertising and branding have proven to be a good fit for McCraw since his industry requires no small measure of fearlessness. He began flexing his entrepreneurial and creative muscle since he was 18, when he started a company manufacturing clothing for paintball players. “In school and throughout life, you’re taught to fear failure,” he says. “When I was younger, I wish I had the mentality that I have now—the fear not, fail often mentality.”

financial planner in May 2014. He and his wife, Maury, have a 1-year-old son. Robert enjoys playing basketball, tennis, and golf, and completed what he describes as “my worst fantasy football season of all time.”

Erica Musgrove (’02, finance) earned a promotion on October 2015 to manager of finance systems for Asurion in Nashville. She also enjoyed a two-week vacation to Italy and France that same month.

Andrew Miller (’08, finance) serves as an accounts payable compliance manager for Regions Bank.

Lucas Monroe (’09, finance) is a production planning manager for Card-Monroe Corp. in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He recently celebrated the third birth of his second daughter, Collins Lillian Monroe.

Robert L. Moody III (’08, finance)

made a move in September 2015 to become a financial planning analyst for Synovus Securities Inc. in Birmingham. He became a certified

46 HM, Spring 2016

S. Phillip Poitevint II (’06, finance) is co-owner of Investor’s Resource, an independent firm of Raymond James, in Madison, Alabama. He is a certified financial planner and holds AAMS designation. “I spend most of my time helping individuals manage investments and make key life decisions.” He married his wife, Whitney, in March 2014. They have one “child,” a boxer named Belle. Brad Snuggs (’02, management information

Gemina Stroud (’00, marketing) serves as traffic coordinator for FOX Sports South. In addition to leading a team responsible for the creation of a show on a newly-formed national network, she earned a community award for her service as a FOX Sports ambassador. She volunteered and worked alongside NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan on three Charlotte Hornets “Day of Service” community projects, which included the presentation of scholarships to students and the refurbishing of schools and veterans’ facilities in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. More recently, Gemina competed on Wheel of Fortune. The episode with her appearance aired in November 2015.

systems) started a new job in November Mark Twente (’00, management information 2015 as a sales engineer for global enter- systems) is director of sales for solar and prise software company CallidusCloud in industrial glass solutions company AGC Birmingham, Alabama. North America in Atlanta.

Michael Waites

(’04, aviation management) is assistant director of operations for the US Air Force in Mississippi. He earned a promotion to the rank of major last year. He is in the process of making the transition to civilian flying and hopes to begin an airline career in the near future. He will celebrate his 10th anniversary with his wife, Emily, this summer. His hobbies include hiking, boating, and cycling.

Alan Ward


Jeremy Busby (’11, business administration) serves as a production planner/buyer with ITW Automotive in LaGrange, Georgia. He’s currently working with vendors to reduce and consolidate packaging needs and projected savings of up to $150,000 this year. Jeremy also became a home owner Joseph Drew Adkins (’10 ac- last year. counting) was hired in February 2015 to be the accoun- Tara (Jones) Collins (’14, marketing) lives in tant for Tigers Unlimited, Charleston, South Carolina, but works rethe fundraising unit for the motely as a communications specialist for Auburn University Athletics Atlanta-based Water Mission. Recent projDepartment. He currently leads a team cre- ects include launching a new brand for the ating an orientation program for athletic organization and publishing a redesigned, department new-hire employees. He and mobile-friendly website. She married Anhis wife celebrated their first wedding anni- drew Collins in August 2015 in Atlanta. versary last May. They’re actively involved at Auburn United Methodist Church, and can be heard singing in several choral groups.

(’08, finance) is a contracts specialist with the US Property and Fiscal Office for the Alabama National Guard in Montgomery. He recently completed an associate’s degree in government contract management from the Community College of the Air Force. He also went on a dream vacation to Germany, Amsterdam, France, It- Kevin Books (’10, finance) recently moved to aly, and Spain. His favorite activities include Charleston, South Carolina, after accepting playing guitar, golfing, mountain biking a promotion to co-manager of Walmart. and volunteering with his local AU Club. He previously served as assistant manager of the Walmart in Oxford, Alabama. Andrew J. Woodward (’06, MAcc), controller of Citizens Property Insurance in TallahasDaniel Brower (’15, supply see, Florida, recently earned a promotion to chain) is a logistics “best fit” senior director of accounting. He was also trainee with global automoawarded a CFA charter in August 2014. In tive mechatronic and electric his spare time, he enjoys camping, coaching drive manufacturer Brose flag football and tee ball, and “convincing Inc. in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. my 3- and 5-year-olds to attend Auburn.” “For the short term, I’ve been placed over the material planning and purchasing for our satellite team in South Carolina,” he tells us. “I’m ordering all the components and scheduling deliveries to customers in our area.”

Shane Wright (’07, aviation management) earned a promotion to lieutenant commander in the US Navy and transferred to its Northern Command, located in Colorado Springs, in December 2015. He previously served as a Cyberspace Division officer with the Navy’s Tennessee Recruiting Command in Millington, Tennessee. He and his wife have two children: Kalee, 13, and Braelyn, 5. His hobbies include home improvement projects, hunting, fishing, and anything sports related.

Valerie Cote

(’13, marketing) serves as a security solutions advisor for IBM in Boston. She joined the company in May 2015 after previously working for Kimberly-Clark as an end user sales specialist.

Kyle Eichman (’14, supply chain management) accepted an offer from Reliance Industries USA Inc. in October 2015 and joined the company as a junior petroleum operator. He’s based out of Houston, Texas. When he’s not working, he’s out on the road traveling. For instance, Kyle was able to enjoy the view from Whistler Mountain, BritBarry Lee Brown II (’10, aviation management) ish Columbia, during a hiking excursion moved cross-country in January 2015 to last year. pursue a position with the City of San Jose, California. He serves as manager on duty at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. He recently became current in his private pilot certificate and enjoys getting to venture out on leisure flights from time to time. Carmen Eiland (’11,

human resource management) serves as human resources coordinator for distribution services provider TBHC Delivers LLC in Nashville, Tennessee.

HM, Spring 2016 47

Road racer uses education to win on and off the speedway track ANDREW RAINS, a 2015 Harbert graduate in marketing, has already taken his share of victory laps as the driver and team manager for Rains Racing, which competes on the Sports Car Club of America circuit. He’s applied classroom lessons to building relationships with sponsors, managing team logistics and capitalizing on his trips to Victory Lane. Rains’ team joined Honda Motorsports of Alabama for the 2016 season. He’s raced stock cars, VWs, and now Hondas. Rains has competed at Daytona International Speedway, Road Atlanta, Road America, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Laguna Seca. He won championships in the South Atlantic Road Racing Series and V8 Stock Cars GTA series in 2014.

Katherine Falls (’12, accounting and finance)

joined Auburn University’s Department of Civil Engineering as an administrative support associate in March 2015. She and her husband, Josh, welcomed their son, Joshua Jr., in April 2015.

Thomas Hinson

(’14, supply chain management) works for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama as a mass production buyer in the supply chain department. He recently took the project lead for HMS’ “Exceptional Service Request” to expedite billing data, which will help Honda pay its expedited carriers more quickly and accurately.

Jacob Jordan (’11, business ad-

advisor for Edward Jones Investments. His ministration) serves as direc- hobbies include soccer, woodwork, and tor of annual giving for Au- climbing. burn University Athletics’ Tigers Unlimited FoundaJeremy Leff (’13, management tion. He is a 2014 graduate of information systems) works Leadership Lee County. In addition to infor Columbus, Georgia-based stituting the Young Alumni program for Synovus as a senior softthe football program, he also helped launch ware developer, and recently Tigers Unlimited U for current Auburn earned admission into GeorUniversity students. gia Tech’s online master of computer science program. On Saturdays during the Laura Kneiss (’12, marketing) earned a pro- fall, you can find him running the new motion to game day coordinator for foot- sound system (and its huge speakers) in ball and men’s basketball in the Indiana Jordan-Hare Stadium. He can also be heard University Athletic Department. She playing saxophone in the Auburn Knights serves as assistant marketing director and jazz band. director of the Crimson Guard student rewards program. “I love that I have been Chen Liang (’15, MBA) is an associate softgiven the opportunity to execute so many ware consultant with Tibco Software Inc. elements that create a fantastic game day in Atlanta. Chen is expecting the arrival of atmosphere for our Hoosier fans,” she says. a baby girl in April. As director of the Crimson Guard program, Laura communicates information about Trey Lowe (’11, business administration), upcoming events and promotions to more who recently earned his professional MBA than 11,000 student season ticket holders. from Wingate University, works for trailShe enjoyed a trip to Costa Rica in 2015 er manufacturer Great Dane Trailers in and plans to visit England, Panama, and an Charlotte, North Carolina, as national acas-yet-undetermined location in 2016. count sales manager.

Luke Howard (’13, information systems management) earned a promotion from desktop support specialist to infrastructure support specialist with First Multiple Listing Brooke Landtroop (’15, accounting) is working Service in Atlanta. He enjoys taking his for KPMG in Atlanta as an audit associate. dog for walks in city parks and attending Auburn football games as a young alumni David C. Leavitt (’14, finance) passed the Series season ticket holder. 7 and Series 66 exams to become a financial 48 HM, Spring 2016

Rains, a former driver with Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Formula SAE program, says having an understanding of sales and business is crucial to success. “It’s the single biggest part of being a race driver,” he says. “Driving the car is probably only 10 percent, or less. It’s really being able to leverage the relationships around you to put yourself into a position to be in a race car.” Working with Honda in 2016 also means working to develop as a driver, Rains says. “Delivering results behind the wheel becomes increasingly important as more team partners become invested in our program, so I have to adapt and grow accordingly to deliver a strong performance at every race weekend.”

Vinay Mariyappa (’15,

information systems) is a business intelligence analyst with the indirect auto finance company Credit Acceptance Corporation in Southfield, Michigan.

Zach Miller (’15, accounting) began his career as a restaurant financial reporting accountant with Chick-fil-A in Atlanta in November 2015. He also celebrated his marriage to fellow Auburn accounting graduate Julie Flowers Miller in May 2015. Victoria Molchan

Caitlyn Rummer (’10, accounting) serves as tending sporting events, and trying new business development manager for Buffalo restaurants. Supply Inc. in Lafayette, Colorado. She graduated from the University of Denver Rachel Woodland (’15, international business) with an MBA in November 2015. works for BBVA Compass in Birmingham as a leap associate.

(’15, supply chain) serves as a buyer for US Foods in Montgomery. After graduating, she took a vacation to Europe with her Alex Schultz (’10, business administration) sisters as a “last hurrah” be- helps develop e-commerce business for fore starting her current job. Linde in Atlanta. He recently earned the 2015 High Performance Organization Meghan Milks Nicholas (’12, international Linde Spirit Award for People Excellence. business) successfully earned promotions The company recognized Alex’s efforts in from logistics analyst to senior analyst to creating an e-commerce solution for logistics manager in less than two years Linde’s US healthcare business and cuswith The Home Depot in Atlanta. She hap- tomers. “I’m also in the process of obtainpily celebrated her wedding in September ing a project management certificate from of 2015. Georgia State University, as well as my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification.” Allison Preston (’14, accounting; ’15, MAcc) serves as an assurance associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Nashville. She married her husband, Ryan, in May 2015 and moved to Nashville two weeks later. “We adopted a boxer we now call ‘Shug.’ War Eagle, right?” CJ Uzomah (’15, marketing) plays tight end for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. He Ben Pryor (’10, human resources manage- caught the first pass of his career in a 37–3 ment) works for the Community Blood win over the Cleveland Browns in the 13th Center of the Carolinas in Charlotte, as an game of the season. operations recruitment specialist. Timothy Watts (’15, business administration) Jack Rogers (’13, marketing) recently earned serves as information technology manager a promotion to become director of market- for Capital Trailways in Montgomery. ing and strategy for Careco Multimedia Entertainment LLC in Gulf Shores, Alabama. He will marry Morgan York, a 2012 Auburn speech pathology graduate, in September 2016. His hobbies include boating on the Gulf or in Mobile Bay, training at Gulf Shores Crossfit, playing tennis and basketball, and watching Auburn football. Chad Williams (’11, supply chain management) is senior procurement specialist for dedicated transportation for Coca-Cola Refreshments in Atlanta. He is the proud father of two children—2-year-old Cash, and Everly, who was born in August 2015. He enjoys spending time with family, at-

Show your spirit! Display your Auburn business pride with one of our T-shirts, polo shirts, sweatshirts, or caps. Browse our collection of apparel and office items on your next visit to Lowder Hall or visit us on AU Marketplace: (select Harbert e-Store from the left-hand menu.)

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Growing networks and knowledge Are you a recent graduate new to Atlanta, Birmingham or Nashville, or an established young professional working in one of those cities? Build your professional network and knowledge by getting involved in the Harbert College Young Alumni chapters in each of these cities. The groups offer something different than the typical alumni club meet-and-greets. The focus is on professional growth and development for alumni 35-and-under. The groups host quarterly happy hour social events featuring business leaders as guest speakers and enabling you to learn while you network. Get involved, or start a chapter in your city, by contacting Development Coordinator Stephanie Froehlich at 334.844.2983 or


Two Worlds; One Focus The academic world and the business world move at dramatically different speeds. Information and ideas move across the globe in nanoseconds. Highly efficient supply chains can now deliver products in hours. If a customer complains on social media, companies respond and react in minutes. Amazon has patented a system for delivering products to customers before they place an order. Speed is a basic tenet of today’s business. In contrast, it takes a university about four years to educate and graduate a student with a bachelor’s degree. It may take a scholar months, if not years, to conduct and publish research. Search committees for new faculty positions may begin a year before the job is publicly announced. Curriculum revisions are subject to lengthy internal reviews before being passed along for state and regional approval and accreditation. A college of business faces a unique challenge in that it must operate in two worlds. It functions within a university and moves at an academic speed. At the same time, to be relevant to industry, it must be fast enough to keep pace with the ever-changing business world and agile enough to respond to the demands of the market.

At the Harbert College, we know we must be deliberative and contemplative, but flexible enough to reinvent and adjust when necessary. Our faculty understand business and know, first hand, what the market demands. We listen carefully to our advisory boards, composed of industry leaders. And we have heightened our emphasis on research centers which, by design, are intended to engage directly with business at the speed of the marketplace. When a business brings a problem to one of our research centers, the full force of the Harbert College’s intelligence, scholarship, and skill can be applied to its solution. Through these endeavors, the college moves at business speed, gaining an awareness and understanding of the issues that companies confront in the here and now, as well as in the future. This awareness puts us in a position— true to our mission—to drive business thought and practice. War Eagle!

Bill C. Hardgrave, PhD Dean and Wells Fargo Professor Harbert College of Business

50 HM, Spring 2016

Our Mission: “We are dedicated to producing highly desired graduates and generating knowledge that drives industry thought and practice.�

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Harbert Magazine -- Spring 2016  

Failure is inevitable in the business world, but it's possible to transform negatives into positives. Our spring issue examines our fear of...

Harbert Magazine -- Spring 2016  

Failure is inevitable in the business world, but it's possible to transform negatives into positives. Our spring issue examines our fear of...