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HarbertMagazine Fall 2015



In this issue

Dale Katechis Let Me Tell You a Story Batter Up!

Constructing a Pitch Becoming a Major Leaguer The Heart Shot

Here's the wind up… At some point we’ve all had a notion we wanted to get across, an idea we wanted to communicate.

“I think it would be better if we did it this way.” “You should buy this model . . .” “. . . this version . . .” “. . . this concept.”

Each of these efforts is a quest for agreement. See the world the way I do. If I can get you to do that, I can get you to take my suggestion, buy what I’m selling, invest in my company. Each of these efforts is a pitch. Google “how to make the best pitch” and you’ll find a lot of opinions. Mark Cuban, of Shark Tank fame, tells you there are four key elements. The Complete Guide to Business Planning says there are nine things that will make your pitch great. gives you greatness in six steps; SalesForce has seven steps to success; Forbes, 10; Open Forum, 12. Some experts demand a pitch deck—a set of PowerPoint slides. Don’t even bother to show up without the deck. Others will cite the 10/20/30 rule—10 slides, 20-minute presentation, 30 point font. Still others will ask to see your—take your pick: one page, one paragraph, one sentence—executive summary. Suffice it to say that there are nearly as many variations on a good pitch as there are stars in the sky.

So how do I move you to my point of view? How do I get you to agree with my version of the future? We looked for the common themes and the best advice, and we eventually found an old Greek guy named Aristotle who suggested that moving an audience has something to do with telling a good story. Admittedly, Ari got a little long-winded. No elevators in his day, so no compressed elevator spiel; but he knew that a well-told story has a beginning, middle and end, a hero, and some conflict along the way. He knew that a properly-structured story has a strong impact. It can actually move an audience to action. And a few thousand years later, we have scientific evidence that proves something we’ve all known—and felt—since we first heard “once upon a time. . . .” In this issue, we’ve given you some varied perspectives, boiled things down, and even distilled Aristotle through the work of a Hollywood guru. But as you build your pitch—as you present your vision of the future and urge your audience to see the world as you do—you might take a word or two of advice from that old Greek guy. Whether they know it or not, everybody else has.

and the pitch!

HarbertMagazine Credits Director, HCOB Communications & Marketing Troy Johnson

Editor, HCOB Communications & Marketing Joe McAdory

Design/Production Jason Adams Rachel Herring Jenni Hunt Tiffany Smith

Contributors Bethany Broderick John DiJulio Bruce Kuerten Tiffany Smith

Auburn University Raymond J. Harbert College of Business Office of Communications 216 Lowder Hall Auburn, AL 36849 (334) 844-8847 Auburn is an equal opportunity educational institution / employer. © 2015 Auburn University Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Help us honor Auburn's business leaders Do you know an Auburn University graduate who built a successful business from the ground up or changed the fortunes of a company through visionary leadership? Or perhaps you’re that person? Don’t be bashful. Nominate an individual for the Auburn University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame or for Entrepreneur or Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Help us identify the fastest-growing companies founded, owned, or led (CEO, President, VP, CFO, etc.) by Auburn University alumni through our Top Tigers program.

Visit to learn more about award criteria and to submit nominations.






Dale Katechis

Let Me Tell You a Story

Constructing a Pitch




Becoming a Major Leaguer

Phillip Hasha

Bill Hardgrave

Conversations from the C-Suite

The Art of Pitching Yourself


The Heart Shot

Dean's Last Word





34 Research


What You’re Up To


How We Think

35 With Your Dollar


What We’re Up To



36 Alumni News

HM, Fall 2015 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

A Supply Chain for Talent I read with interest the recent Harbert Magazine Spring 2015 edition featuring all the work Auburn is doing to strengthen supply chain professionals coming into the workforce. Of particular interest were your comments at the end of the magazine indicating that Auburn is one of only two US universities requiring undergrads to complete an internship in order to attain their BS degree.

To send us your feedback or to get involved with the Harbert College of Business visit us at harbert.auburn. edu or e-mail

As an Auburn alum (’86), I have great pride in the strides the university is taking related to the growth of the business program. I would be very interested in bringing a team of Club Car supply chain professionals to the campus to better understand the program and especially the supply chain internship requirement mentioned in the article. Additionally, we would be very happy to host a “field trip” to our location in Augusta, Georgia, for the academic staff, professional groups (Student APICS chapters, for example) and student leaders at any time if it would benefit the school. I look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you for your continued leadership!

Bryan Marsh ’86 Thank you for your interest, Bryan. The internship requirement for our supply chain majors underscores the commitment to a key component of our mission “ . . . producing highly desired graduates.” By gaining experience with leading companies well before commencement, Harbert College of Business graduates are well prepared to make a seamless transition into the workforce. We hope our magazine will continue to help industry leaders understand the value we offer by preparing students who can meet their immediate and long-term needs. —Ed.

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Invest in Our Success I’m reading the spring edition of Harbert Magazine, and am interested in learning about the various programs for making financial gifts to the Harbert College of Business. Can you send me some information?

Randy Darden ’88 We’re glad you asked, Randy—particularly now that Auburn University has launched a $1 billion comprehensive campaign. To learn more about the Harbert College of Business’ campaign priorities, visit For more on the college’s campaign priorities, see page 35. —Ed.


We love Harbert and we know you do, too! Where has your Auburn business education taken you? Did you celebrate a new milestone in your career or take the trip of a lifetime? Share it with us and show your college pride.

Here's how: 1. Upload and customize your photo at: 2. Tweet your photos to @AUBusiness and use the #StraightOuttaHarbert hashtag.

For the particularly creative, we'll send some Harbert College of Business goodies your way!


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: &

Steve Goodson

If you read our 2013 profile of 1972 business administration alum Steve Goodson (“The Best Sax Ever”), you know his New Orleans-based company, Saxgourmet Products, makes $15,000 saxophones that are worth every penny to serious musicians. Anthony Bourdain and his film crew recently visited him for a profile on the new series Raw Craft. Check it out on YouTube at

Judd Williams Rep. Dennis Ross (1981, management) caught up with fellow Auburn alum and former Olympic swimming gold medalist Rowdy Gaines. Ross, who has served in the US House of Representatives since 2011, represents Florida’s 15th district, which includes suburbs of Tampa.

If you’re a fan of March Madness and NCAA basketball bracketology, you’re familiar with the work of Judd Williams (2000, information systems management; 2001, master's in information systems). As the NCAA’s CIO, he helps manage the software used in selecting the NCAA tournament fields. Before joining the NCAA in 2012, he served as a senior IT manager for the FBI.

Blayne Barber,

who earned his degree in finance in 2012, is enjoying his most successful professional golf season. Through August 13, Barber had earned $768,383 on the PGA Tour, including four top 10 finishes. Barber also qualified for the US Open.

Madelin Plagenhoef

(2015, marketing) enjoyed the beauty of Panama City Beach, Florida, from a very different vantage point than the average beach-goer during her first tandem sky dive. An avid water and snow skier, she recently joined KONE as a business equipment sales representative.

Joseph Young

(2014, aviation and supply chain) began a new role with Delta as a Senior Analyst in Transatlantic Pricing. He monitors competitiveness and the execution of joint venture strategy with partners Air France, KLM, Alitalia, and Virgin Atlantic.

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Ben Chappell

(2003, business administration) earned the Young Alumni Achievement Award presented by the Auburn Alumni Association in March. Chappell is the owner and principal of Interior Elements, a contract furniture dealership based in Jackson, Mississippi, which represents elite manufacturers like Knoll, Kimball, DIRTT, and KI. In 2010, he became the youngest principal among Knoll’s worldwide dealership network.


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

Josh Wetzel

Harbert College of Business marketing major Josh Wetzel (left) participates in Bo Bikes Bama. Wetzel, an Army veteran who lost both legs to an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2012, enrolled at Auburn University after an outpouring of support from the AU family. While recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed, Auburn faculty, staff, students, and alumni showered him with cards and AU memorabilia. “After we moved here, the community reached out even more,” he says. “Everyone was so supportive. We realized we wanted to stay here.” He and his wife, Paige, have a 2-year-old daughter, Harper.

Lauren Cleveland,

a senior in the School of Accountancy, earned the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) Scholarship for 2015–16. The $10,000 award honors students who demonstrate high ethical standards and high accounting/auditing aptitude. Nearly 100 information technology representatives from 65 business schools visited Harbert College in May for the annual Technology in Business Schools roundtable, which featured professionally-led seminars and discussions about breach protocol, support for students with special needs, and classroom pedagogy.

Photo courtesy: Stuart Schaeffer

Bruce Kuerten and Larry Shaw

of the college’s Media Production Group, along with Peter Clay, raced Kuerten’s boat, Tercera, in the Trimaran Nationals in Pensacola, Florida, in May. They placed first in class and second overall, taking home the Windcraft Cup for the highest-placing all-amateur crew.

Beatrice Onadeko,

a graduate student in information systems management, gains valuable experience as a research assistant at the Auburn University RFID Lab. During the lab’s grand opening, she explained the inner workings of the lab’s anechoic testing chamber, where the performance characteristics of new radio frequency identification tags are tested.

Parker Duffy

(2006) Tailgate Guys/The Event Group Rentals co-founder, poses for a quick photo at the first Auburn University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame gala in April. Hosted by Harbert College, the event honors the outstanding achievements of alumni business leaders from all colleges.

Steve Swidler, J. Stanley Mackin

Professor of Finance, discussed his research paper, “Hedging House Price Risk: A Nobel Idea with Ignoble Results” at the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business as part of the 2014–15 SEC Faculty Travel Grant Program. HM, Fall 2015 9


Kickstart Your Heart

Pitching to Crowdfund a Passion

Crowdfunding sings a siren's song: you can make your dreams come true with the vast resources of the Internet! But with corporate giants like Westinghouse Security now trying to tap Indiegogo, a would-be entrepreneur needs to hit just the right chord. Want to avoid being just another washed-up wannabe on the Web? Here are four quick tips for attaining crowdfunding rockstar status:

Define your audience.

Caleb List, a senior in media arts from Huntsville, Alabama, is developing a Kickstarter project for Auburn-based rock group Captain Kudzu. “It’s a local band, so we’re looking for local interest. Our audience isn’t ‘everyone’,” List says. Start by pitching directly to those who are going to be most passionate about your product: the people you know who have a problem you can solve.

Grab a video camera.

Indiegogo’s blog states that campaigns with video pitches raise 114 percent more money on average than those without video. Kickstarter says a video is an opportunity to make a valuable personal connection, and skipping that step “will do a serious disservice to your project.” Make sure your audio is good, and get comfortable speaking on camera so you don’t sound stilted. 10 HM, Fall 2015

Underpromise, overdeliver. “Those campaigns which follow

the concept of reciprocity–that is, offer a gift in return for a pledge–generated the greatest amount of funding,” Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Eric Gilbert told New Scientist. But those gift promises can backfire. Kaitlin Robb, a Harbert College marketing major from Seneca, South Carolina, says she was extremely frustrated when a Kickstarter creator failed to deliver on the custom painting promised as her reward for a $500 contribution. If you bite off more than you can chew, angry backers can easily take to social media and vent.

Don’t be a one-hit wonder.

The big money in crowdfunding usually goes to those who have successfully completed at least one previous crowdfunding project and have a good online reputation. In other words, they’ve pleased the crowd.

Think you’re ready? As your biggest fans, we’d love to cheer

you on! Tweet your crowdfunding projects to @AUBusiness and let us help you make those arena-sized dreams come true.


The Foundation of the Perfect Pitch A Business Model

A house and a business pitch might seem to have nothing in common, but both require a solid foundation. No matter how magnificent and beautiful the home, it will collapse if the concrete underneath is faulty. When pitching a business, it is the lack of a sound business model that leads to ruin.

next week”—McConnell immediately launched Meridian Maritime Consulting to provide onboard security for cargo ships. Today, McConnell’s company is one of the fastest growing firms led by Auburn alumni and he was honored as one of 2015’s “Top Tigers.”

Simply put, a business model is the process by which a firm plans to make profits. For example, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut purchase their ingredients in such large amounts that they can profitably sell you a pizza for less than it would cost you to make one. Mix in good brand building with an enthusiastic network of franchisees and the result is two very successful chains.

Devising a better way to fill an established need is a third path to a successful business model. Parents love buying school photos to chronicle their children’s growth, but young people dread these notoriously embarrassing snapshots. As countless infomercials have claimed, there’s got to be a better way! And there is, courtesy of Auburn alumna Melissa Tash. Her startup, Spoiled Rotten Photography, places each child in a classy scene with upscale props rather than in front of a simple colored screen. The result is artistic images that reflect the child’s personality. In contrast to the primitive ordering and fulfillment processes used by most school photographers, Tash built on her experience as a NASA engineer to create software that automates production and makes it more cost effective. Tash’s strong business model has landed her franchisees in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, with more on the way.

When developing a business model for a startup, an entrepreneur must identify a gap in the market and then figure out how to make money by filling the gap. Sometimes this happens by scoffing at conventional wisdom as Harbert College alumnus Jason Wilson did when pioneering Alabama’s craft beer industry in 2009. Pundits said that Alabama beer drinkers would never abandon cheap, mass produced beers in favor of pricey, hand-crafted brews. But where naysayers perceived a problem, Wilson recognized an unserved market segment. Six years later, his Back Forty Beer Company is the biggest producing brewery in the state and more than two dozen other craft breweries have opened. Not surprisingly, Auburn designated Wilson as Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2015. Sometimes new gaps in the market pop up unexpectedly and clever entrepreneurs figure out how to profitably serve them. In 2009, Jonathan McConnell had recently left the US Marine Corps after serving for several years in Iraq. Like many Americans, he became angry when pirates seized the cargo ship Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia. Building on a quote from World War II general George S. Patton—“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed

Build your house on a strong foundation and the house can endure. Base your pitch on a strong business model and the pitch can succeed. Jason Wilson, Jonathan McConnell, and Melissa Tash realize the importance of their business models and they are building great companies upon them.

Dave Ketchen Lowder Eminent Scholar Professor of Management Harbert College of Business

Known as “The Start-Up Doc,” Ketchen has written six books, published more than 140 research articles and had his research cited more than 10,000 times. HM, Fall 2015 11


Worlds Apart on the Value of Big Data Having witnessed my share of technological change while in the industry and having completed my MBA just before Y2K, I’ve long been interested in how companies, institutions, and governments create and react to changes in technology and information. And, as we saw in the buildup to the Y2K “panic/non-event,” you shouldn’t necessarily trust the claims of US-based consultants who can’t produce research to back them up. There’s still quite a bit of commotion about technological readiness these days, but most of it involves our ability to harness big data. The topic emerged as a perfect fit for my research interests due to the importance of supply chain partnerships and the massive strategic claims made by consultants and relayed by media. Across the Americas, Europe, and Asia, supply chain managers still don’t know what to make of it. Over the past year, through the support of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, my research team and I interviewed global senior managers working in big data supply chain partnerships to better understand their perceptions. Aside from varying concerns about the veracity of data—the changes occurring during and following collection that impact usefulness and value—managers from different cultures expressed an assortment of opinions about the utility and value of big data.


Being largely manufacturing oriented, the Chinese seem to define big data as internal information and cite low labor costs as an opportunity to avoid technological investments in analytics. Their attempts to harness big data are predicated on a “lack of exchange of vital information with Western business partners.” A lack of trust seems to be the major barrier to future growth.


The Germans rely on big data for forecasting and operational planning, but remain skeptical about its promise of “big” innovations. One manager even states that real innovation comes from the little data (brainstorming and dreaming) often lost in big data analysis.

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The Indians remain focused on improving service and information technology and see big data as a tool for strategic planning. They are mindful of ethical issues, transparency, and privacy, and have concerns about housing data that may yield minimal improvement.

South Korea

The South Koreans seem to be at the same stage as Americans and are trying to surf the crest of the big data wave. Early examination revealed worries about “dirty databases,” human error, and subpar returns on investment. But they’re optimistically working with supply chain partners to uncover the usefulness the data and move from emotional to quantitative-based decision making.


The Turks are further skeptical about the use of big data, noting costs of storage, limited human resources, and time as concerns. They also are somewhat horrified by suggestions that they should use consumer data in business planning. This obviously is related to recent battles over social media use in the country. As for me—given the analysis thus far—it’s obvious big data is here to stay. However, it may not be the magic bullet some would have you believe. It’s likely a refinement tool for process cost cutting, market identification, and product adjustment. But remember that even small improvements across massive global supply chains can add jobs, reduce waste, bring value to customers, and reward all stakeholders. That’s the big idea contained within the ever-growing mountain of big data.

Glenn Richey Harbert Eminent Scholar Professor of Supply Chain Management Harbert College of Business

Dr. Glenn Richey recently joined as the college as the Raymond J. Harbert Eminent Scholar in Supply Chain Management. His industry-focused research deals with international and domestic issues and trends related to big data, logistics and reverse logistics, retailer resource strategy, information support and technology, and disaster preparedness and recovery.



integrating different. Innovation. It’s the buzzword of business. We see it everywhere, but what does it mean—a new product or service, a new technology? In my work with companies and startups using Lean Startup and Innovation Engineering principles, we define innovation as being “meaningfully unique.” In order to truly stand out from the marketplace, an innovation must be meaningful to your clients and must provide a unique benefit that can’t be found elsewhere. Here’s a nuts and bolts example. Literally. Manufacturer Smartbolt created a bolt with an indicator that changes color when the fastener is tightened properly. Rather than a few cents, this bolt sells for $12. Instead of screwing down the bolt and then checking tightness with a torque wrench, the indicator on the bolt lets the installer know when the fastener has been tightened to the exact engineering specifications. This innovation saves maintenance time and money by eliminating the extra step of measuring torque. It’s meaningfully unique. So what keeps a business from regularly creating innovations that are meaningfully unique? Gary Hamel, a recognized strategy expert, states that “businesses are built for continuous improvement rather than for discontinuous innovation. They know how to get better, but they don’t know how to get different.” The key, according to Columbia Business School professor and author Rita Gunther McGrath, is “to make innovation a systematic process.”

Today’s businesses must be ambidextrous. They must not only focus on improving their current business model, but also create new offerings and new models to compete in the future. But a business can’t consistently and effectively generate new ideas and execute them well if it doesn’t have the systems in place to support innovation. When you think about it, businesses have systems for payroll, hiring, accounting, and operational functions, but few have a system that promotes and supports a culture of innovation. When I ask front-line employees about their innovation training and systems, I’m often met with blank stares. Given the rapid pace of change in today’s world, it’s essential to empower and enable your employees to experiment, learn, and to innovate. To do so, they must have the tools to stretch their minds and encourage creativity and the methods to test concepts quickly and cheaply. With the right system in place in your business, you can be “meaningfully unique.”

David Mixson Management Scientist/Business Growth Coach and Innovation Engineering Black Belt Auburn Technical Assistance Center

David Mixson’s areas of expertise include helping businesses and individuals create, communicate, and develop meaningfully unique commercial ideas using Innovation Engineering, the Business Model Canvas, and Lean Startup principles and tools.

HM, Fall 2015 13


Strangers in Strange Lands Cross-cultural fluency, resilience a must for those moving overseas Amy Jones has accrued an admirable collection of passport stamps, making brief stops in 49 countries over seven years as an internal auditor for McDonald’s Corporation. When she was asked to move to Singapore in January 2014, she discovered that living there was “an absolutely different experience from spending two weeks in a country and sampling a culture.” Jones, who now serves as McDonald’s Corporation’s finance director for Greater Asia, is one of many Harbert College of Business graduates who have experienced career successes as expatriates. She has learned first-hand that the dynamics of moving to Asia may be different than accepting a job in, say, Oregon. Beyond the visas and residency paperwork, you may have to adjust to language barriers and radical differences in your purchasing power (housing may be cheap, but food costs may be expensive), workplace norms (You’re in Italy now? Don’t assume your business counterpart will arrive on time for your scheduled meeting), and governance (in some countries, local law enforcement may expect you to pay a—ahem—“police tax”). Lauren Walls, an international business alumna, participated in a semester abroad experience in London, visiting leading corporations like Brittany Ferries and Plymouth Gin and making an alumni contact that eventually led to her first job with advertising agency BBDO. While that initial experience “provided an excellent opportunity to understand how their businesses operate and brainstorm solutions for their challenges,” Walls, who works in London as Google UK’s strategic partner lead for broadcasters, entertainment, and ISPs, didn’t initially set her sights on working overseas. “Moving abroad would have been too big of a stretch and too much distance immediately after graduation,” she says. “I valued having Atlanta, then New York, as stepping stones serving as gradual introductions into larger metropolitan areas. But, I’m so pleased I took the plunge and broadened my horizons.” 14 HM, Fall 2015

In evaluating potential international destinations, it’s important to consider a variety of factors before accepting an offer. For instance, Amy Jones prioritized safety, educational resources for her children, and employment options for her husband. Walls says she experienced sticker shock while converting prices from US to British currency. “We quickly learned to stop torturing ourselves with the conversion and start thinking in pounds,” she says. Jones participated in cross-cultural training in advance of her move and familiarized herself with the book Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: The Best Selling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries. By doing so, Jones says she learned that her Singaporean colleagues would be reluctant to hold eye contact in meetings (it’s considered rude) or to participate in the sort of free-for-all brainstorming sessions widely accepted in the US. (“They don’t want to be put on the spot,” Jones says. “They want to process internally first and come back with recommendations.”) Jones, who earned an accounting degree from Harbert College, says, “You have to do your research. It’s important to be a gracious resident in your host country. The way things are done in America is not the way things are done in other parts of the world. Take the time to understand your host country’s tradition and culture.”

Before you pack that suitcase... What should you consider before moving abroad? McWane Family Professor of Management Brian Connelly, who lived and worked in Asia and England during his business career with Hughes Network Systems and Westinghouse, is here to help.

• What are my visa conditions? You can hire a lawyer or agent if you don’t want to read the fine print, but make sure you know the terms and rules of your work visa since there are at least a dozen variations.

• What are the working and living conditions? Familiarize yourself with the country’s employment laws, but don’t assume that an employer will enforce the rules. Make sure you have a clearly-defined job description and contract. “Expats must be aware of the country’s formal institutions,” Connelly says. “These include things like their religious structures, judicial system, tax codes, and rules for foreigners.”

• What sort of social life can I expect? Will the area you’re moving to be compatible with your lifestyle? Location will certainly impact your ability to network with other expatriates or to find familiar comforts like McDonald’s or Starbucks.

• What will you make? Consult an accountant or research tax laws online to ensure you pay appropriate taxes abroad and know the cost for food and the occasional plane ticket home. • Where will I live? Check the country’s tenancy laws and research the country and city where you intend to live. Is reliable public transit available? Are there problems with pollution or crime? Does the host nation’s government appear to be stable? “Expats need to understand the complex web of informal institutions within a country, such as traditions, culture, social norms and key relationships,” Connelly says.

• Respect the differences. “One day as I was giving a presentation to a large group of businesspeople in Malaysia, a large number of them got up and left the room,” Connelly says. “Others told me to just continue with my talk. I awkwardly continued, wondering if I offended them. Unbeknownst to me, it was the Muslim prayer time and they would return in a few minutes.”


TIGERCAGE Sharpening students’ pitching skills

Coats, ties, and nicely-pressed shirts. Shoes shined. Eye contact. Confident smiles. A year ago, Jake Wright and Cole Kinchler at least knew how to look the part when making a pitch.

That was the extent of their knowledge last fall when they entered the Tiger Cage, a student entrepreneurship competition patterned after Shark Tank and presented by the Harbert College and the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation. Wright and Kinchler didn’t win, but they know what they’re doing now.

Building on what they learned through Tiger Cage, the Harbert seniors represented Auburn at the 2015 SEC Symposium student pitch competition and were among the early stage companies in “Startup Alley” at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. The two spent 30 to 40 hours per week practicing for the Alabama Launchpad start-up competition, and their work paid off when they earned $40,000 in funding. In September, they launched their business, SimplyProse, a collaborative web-based platform for writers, editors, publishers, agents, and illustrators. The Tiger Cage experience helped Wright and Kinchler refine their business plans and hone their pitching skills. “Without Tiger Cage, we wouldn’t be here right now,” says Kinchler, a supply chain management major and COO of SimplyProse. “There was definitely a learning curve. “Now we’re at the point where we’re trying to get more press and then we’ll start reaching out to more angels and VCs. I don’t feel nervous doing that anymore. A lot of that is from Tiger Cage.” Mentored by Harbert College faculty and alumni business leaders, 20 student teams from a range of academic backgrounds and

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“The way you explain an idea can often be more valuable than the idea itself.” business interests began the Tiger Cage competition back in September 2014. Four teams advanced to the finals in April and pitched their ideas to heavy-hitting venture capitalists. “My worst pitch was at the beginning of Tiger Cage, when I pitched to [entrepreneur Kyle Sandler],” says Vincent McNeeley, an information systems management major. His concept, LifeLike Projections, uses mapping technology to create virtual displays and dressing rooms that enable retail stores to optimize their physical layout. “My idea is such a visual concept that I didn’t know how to describe it. He helped me find the words. I failed initially because I wasn’t able to describe my technology.” McNeeley went on to earn third place. Engineering majors Alex Wakefield and Jonathan Philip captured the Tiger Cage grand prize—$10,000 in cash and $30,000 in legal assistance—with Parking Grid Technologies, a mobile app that alerts drivers to available parking spaces. They told a relate-able story about parking in crowded urban or university settings. “What you say is not nearly as important as how you say it,” says Wakefield, a business-engineeringtechnology minor. “The way you explain an idea can often be more valuable than the idea itself. My father often uses a parable of two men. If the first man has a $10 million idea but cannot explain why it’s worth $10 million, and the second man has a $1 million idea and can convey it perfectly, the second man will always be more successful.” Photos of student competitors and judges at the 2015 Tiger Cage Competition

HM, Fall 2015 17

Dale Katechis CONVERSATIONS FROM THE C-SUITE Dale Katechis began brewing beer in a bathtub 23 years ago. What started in a trailer park in Auburn has evolved into a multimillion dollar enterprise. Katechis, who graduated from Auburn in 1992 with a degree in finance, cultivates a free-spirited “anti-corporate” atmosphere at Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado. HARBERT MAGAZINE: Did you consciously set out to develop an anti-corporate culture? DALE KATECHIS: At the front door of our brewery, the sign says

“Oskar Blues Anti-Corporate Headquarters.” That’s to remind everyone every day that we don’t want to go through the motions. There are certainly things that we have within our business model or organization that some might deem as corporate, but there aren’t many. If there are any, it’s usually within the finance office and that’s a place where there is zero tolerance for any holes. We try to promote the culture that allows people to feel like they are not in a factory stamping out widgets. In fact, right now two guys just rode by me on Big Wheels. I’m walking around in our warehouse and there goes a guy on a Yamaha mini-bike.

HM: How do you bring out the best in those around you? DK: If you let people know that you genuinely care about them

and you give them the room to do their job, and let them explore within the Oskar Blues walls, you find that over time you get better hiring. It’s sniffing out the B.S. We’re human. We have a desire to want to be appreciated and thanked and respected. You treat them fairly and you encourage them to screw up a lot 18 HM, Fall 2015

because we all do screw up a lot. When you have a group as large as ours, it’s sometimes natural to want to hide the screw-ups, but no one learns and it stifles growth and costs a lot of money.

HM: So, failure is something you value? DK: Yeah. It’s how we built the business. The senior people in

this company, myself included, did not come with any type of expertise other than coming in to work every day and working harder than everyone that we knew. We kind of have a very authentic, working-man type of mentality. We’ve hired our fair share of consultants over the years and continue to add plays to our playbook. At the end of the day, we built this thing on mistake after mistake after mistake. If you don’t let that get you down, you build yourself back up. At the end of the day, you’ve got an organization that built it on its own, that did it by trial and error, and whether it was more expensive to do it that way or not, I don’t know—I’ve never done it the other way.

HM: How do you cultivate creativity? DK: You allow people the freedom to not only screw up, but

think freely. It starts from the hiring process—making sure they understand what they are getting into. It’s really high-energy, organized chaos with a fair amount of accountability. That makes an interesting person. A lot of us can be very creative and fun and dynamic, you throw in organization and accountability and to me that’s kind of the whole package there. That’s who we’re looking for.

HM: How do fitness, exercise, and mountain biking contribute to your bottom line? DK: On the days that you exercise, you like people more and

oddly enough they seem to like you more. It’s so matter of fact. No debate around it. I’ve incorporated that into our culture. We have a very strong wellness program and we have a large gym with a personal trainer that does 14 classes a week. We have a yoga instructor and masseuse. As far as keeping the energy positive around here and retaining people, it’s invaluable. It also speaks to the overall goal—it’s important that these people know that I care about them.

HM: What do you wish you knew before the founding of Oskar Blues that you know now? DK: That’s assuming that I know something now. Everything.

I guess I would say what I enjoy the most about building this business is that every day is challenging because of, I guess, our lack of knowledge or expertise in one particular area, and coupled with our desire to want to learn more, so it keeps everything fresh every day. You walk into a new challenge every day. Probably, if I had to give you a straight-up answer, I guess in the early days as the company has evolved my worries were always about money. How will we get more money to grow the business? Now that’s not the case. Now we’re trying to attract good people with a work ethic that fits inside of the Oskar Blues dynamic. If I’d known then what I know now, I probably would have not slept through some of my psychology classes and learned how to cultivate people. They’re really the lifeblood.

THE C-SUITE HM: You turned your passions into a career. Many people do not have that luxury. How can others take charge or their careers and make their passions become their source of income? DK: For me, it’s pretty much living for the moment and doing

what you enjoy and not really sacrificing anything for that. I found that if I can keep myself fulfilled and have fun doing it, then others tend to want to be a part of that. And a big part of my fulfillment as we grow the business is seeing others accomplish their goals. We have a culture here at Oskar Blues that really promotes people to be their own boss because I have a strong feeling that no one really wants one. If you do want one then Oskar Blues really isn’t the place for you because we don’t have them around here. With that, you end up cultivating these people who have to carry a lot home with them at night. Dale Katechis earned one of the inaugural They work it like Entrepreneur of the Year awards presented in they own it. There’s April by the Harbert College. no, “Hey that’s not my job.” We allow people to really explore their entrepreneurial spirit within the confines of Oskar Blues. And if you look at the dynamics of Oskar Blues, there really aren’t any confines. My feeling is, if you’re a part of our workforce and our fabric here at Oskar Blues you understand the brand better than anyone. With that, it allows the brand to evolve. We’re definitely unorthodox in that regard.

HM: What makes for a good day at work? DK: Without a doubt, it’s the days where I feel like I made a

positive impact on someone within our organization. Sometimes it’s small, little things. You see that light in their eye and you are able to offer them something. You know, in turn, that they are probably going to be able to do something impactful for the business. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for. My friends are within my business because that’s where I spend my life, so you might as well have fun doing it and bring people along for the ride.

“A big part of my fullfillment as we grow the business is seeing others accomplish their goals.” HM, Fall 2015 19

Let me tell you a story A pitch is a story about how things will be better if they are different. A start-up will solve a problem, answer a need, and make customers and venture capitalists very happy. A new process will improve the bottom line. A new product or service will make life easier and better. But since we’re generally fearful of “the new” and adverse to risk, we have to be moved into believing that we will, in fact, benefit from change. So how do you move your audience? Know who they are, of course. Make sure you’re pitching your product in the right way to the right people. That’ll take some research. Next, get your data together. Be well-versed in the specifics. But to make a great pitch—to inspire, to motivate, to lead your audience over the hurdle of risk—you must engage the emotions. Well-told stories move audiences. And that’s a scientific fact. Uri Hanson, a Princeton psychologist, uses functional MRI scanning to map brain response. When listeners are caught up by a story, their brain activity mimics that of the storyteller. In other words, a well-told story makes the teller and the audience, 20 HM, Fall 2015

literally, of one mind. So if you want your audience to see the world the way you do—to agree with your version of the future—tell a good story. So what exactly is a story, and what makes it good? A story is an account of events and experiences—real or fictional—that express how life changes. Aristotle laid out the formula a few centuries ago: an engaging plot, interesting, credible characters and an important theme, a little conflict and some imaginative solutions all wrapped up in a structure that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. In both a pitch and a story, the beginning is the setup. What’s the current environment and how can it be improved? The middle is the conflict. How does the product, idea, or person meet the challenge of the environment? How have you tested your ideas, and learned from your successes and failures? What’s necessary to bring the concept into reality? The end is the resolution. What will the product, idea, person look like once fully realized? So if story is the key that unlocks the golden door of business success, why don’t we use it all the time? Because telling a story well takes hard work. It’s time consuming. And we think we know better. Facts and figures are quick and easy—something your assistant can pull together for you. And if we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: businessmen and women want hard numbers, dollars and cents—and by extension, not some squishy, artsy story.

Illustrations: Jason S. Adams

Businesspeople pitch every day. They pitch investors for dollars and board members for support. They pitch colleagues and employees the next strategic plan, and they pitch customers the next new products. Often, however, these pitches get swamped by too much data, derailed by PowerPoint slides, and grounded by boring analysis and hyperbolic projections. And just as often these pitches get met with cynicism, if not outright dismissal.

In our typical pitch, we build on an inductive rhetorical pattern. We generalize based on observation—“all swans we have seen are white, therefore swans are white”—and we presuppose that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it has in the past—“the laws of physics will hold as they have always held.” We support our rationale with a slide deck that displays statistics, spreadsheets, comparisons, and projections. Aside from the likelihood that we may be taking limited experience to unreliable conclusions, our audience may have its own version of the facts and figures. So while we’re trying to show ours, they are thinking of theirs. If we do manage to quiet their doubts with data, we still may not have moved them to action. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Then there’s our ego. “People will believe me if I communicate. I’ve been doing this [fill in the space] for years. I’m experienced and expertly trained. I have an advanced degree. I know how to tell my story.” That’s like saying you know how to sing because you once hummed along with Frank Sinatra. We’ve heard stories since we sat on momma’s knee, but most of us don’t understand how they’re built. Even experienced authors, playwrights, and filmmakers have a tough time with story. They rewrite and revise and then rehearse for hours and hours. Julie Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, gave one of the most popular TED Talks of all time—after more than 200 rewrites and rehearsals. That’s a lot of work, but here’s the big question: are your ideas worth it? The good news—you’re already halfway there. Businesspeople understand their company’s past. Or, if they are creating a new company or product, they—presumably—have an understanding of the environment that makes this new company or product an opportunity. In a pitch, you tell a story of the future to convey the potential of your idea. If your audience sees your version of the future, your pitch will be successful. Every good story has an arc. It takes its hero on a journey. According to screenwriting guru Robert McKee, the journey starts with an inciting event that throws the hero’s life out of balance.

When the hero attempts to restore balance, “subjective expectation crashes into uncooperative, objective reality.” The hero faces one obstacle after another, and fails, searches for strength, makes decisions, takes action despite risk, fails again, but ultimately discovers a truth, wins the battle, and restores balance. Notice, one success does not follow another. Not only is a rosy, flat line boring, it’s patently unrealistic. We follow people in whom we believe. To move an audience, you must tell the truth, and that truth will include a problem or two, because that’s real. Lie to an audience and you’ll lose them. According to McKee, “You want to position your problems in the foreground, and then show how you’ve overcome them. When you tell the story of your struggles against real antagonists, your audience sees you as exciting, dynamic.” McKee continues, “I know the storytelling method works, because after I consulted with a dozen corporations whose principals told exciting stories to Wall Street, they all got their money.” The storyteller discovers the hero’s arc by unearthing what the hero needs to find balance. This desire is not a list—“I need the money, the people, the facilities . . .” Of course you do. Everybody knew that when you walked in the door. What is it you want to do? Every entrepreneur has a core need to create a new version of the future. Realistically, the path to that future isn’t smooth and easy, but the way you overcome the obstacles and react to conflict gives others a glimpse of your character, and gives them the confidence to take a chance on you. To buy a pitch, we have to believe in things we haven’t seen or experienced. If this sounds a bit like faith, it is. A good business story teller will weave the facts with the narrative, recognizing that audiences are moved—motivated—by a combination of heart and mind: the ideas in our mind as fueled by the convictions in our heart. Tell your story. HM, Fall 2015 21

Constructing a


Whether you’re pitching your highly qualified self for that perfect job, your innovative concept for that big venture capital investment, or your company’s spectacular product to that multinational corporation, the same process applies.


Have a clear vision. What do you want to do? Why do you want to do it? What problem do you solve? What need do you meet?

“Think of two airplanes: a 747 and an F-18. The 747 lumbers down the runway and takes one to two miles to get off the ground. The F-18 catapults off an aircraft carrier and reaches 165 mph in two seconds on a 270-foot deck—or falls into the ocean. Guess which plane you’re in when you are making a pitch?”

Guy Kawasaki

Marketing executive


Know yourself. “Stubborn, closed-minded people are the worst, but being a complete jellyfish is not good either. Entrepreneurs need to strike a delicate balance between being confident about their ideas and remaining very receptive to feedback.”

Dave Ketchen

HCOB professor

22 HM, Fall 2015

What makes you and your ideas different? What’s your level of commitment? Where will you compromise? Where will you stand firm?


Know your audience.

“We’re looking for people who know what they’re doing— accredited investors. We research their companies and investment style, talk to friends and friends of friends, and we try to figure out what might move them. Before we even start talking business, I want to get to know the investor and they want him to get to know us.”

Research! Who are they? What do they fund? At what level? What do they NOT fund? What moves them to action?

Phillip Hasha

Real estate developer

“If you listen carefully, clarify customer needs with questions, and tailor your presentation to the benefits—not just features—of your brand, you can sell effectively. If you think you can develop a 'perfect pitch' that is useful across all of your clients, you will almost always fail.”

Avery Abernethy

HCOB professor


Tailor your vision to your audience.

What makes you credible to your audience? Are they emotional, social or analytical? What questions will they likely ask? What story/style will resonate with your audience?

HM, Fall 2015 23


Tell your story.

What is the beginning, middle, end of the story? Who is the hero? What obstacles does the hero face/overcome? What hangs in the balance? What facts/data are relevant? Practice, practice, practice

In 2013, Siemens fired its CEO, Peter Loescher, because, as the German press put it, “He had no story.” Imagining corporate life like an author actually makes decisions all the more logical—all the more insightful. Stories are how we remember; we tend to forget lists and bullet points. “Businesspeople not only have to understand their companies’ past, but then they must project the future. And how do you imagine the future? As a story. You create scenarios in your head of possible future events to try to anticipate the life of your company. So if a businessperson understands that his or her own mind naturally wants to frame experience in a story, the key to moving an audience is not to resist this impulse, but to embrace it by telling a good story.”

Robert McKee

Hollywood screenwriter


Make the ask!

How is the ask a reasonable outcome of your story? What specifically are you asking? Why are you asking for those specifics?

Here’s what happened when Alex Blumberg of NPR’s Planet Money waffled with venture capitalist Chris Saaca: AB: So, it'll take a million and a half dollars, I think? Um, and . . . CS: Take out the “I think.” AB: It'll take a million and a half—I'm looking for a million and a half to two million dollars. . . . CS: No, no, no. You’re looking for a very specific amount of money. 24 HM, Fall 2015

Balls & Strikes



How do you prepare for the next meeting? How will your pitch be the same/different? See steps 1–6

“The purpose of all VC meetings is to get another meeting. It’s not to push a decision. As a result, understanding the general flow of the meeting process is absolutely critical for founders.”

David Beisel

Venture capitalist

7 BTry again!

Where did the pitch fail? Preparation? Practice? Wrong audience? Wrong ask? Revise and prepare again!

“In trying to go back and figure it out, you’re usually pitching to the wrong audience. It was somebody who was never going to invest in this industry or this type of investment or this stage of company. You just did a poor job of screening on the front end.”

Jim Corman

HCOB professor HM, Fall 2015 25


“If you make 10 investments, three or four are going to crash and burn and you’re going to lose everything. Three or four will get your money back, and you’re only going to make money on three. Of those three, one of them needs to be a home run.”—Jim Corman, angel investor of 23 years. Corman’s dictionary defines a “home run” as any product or business that yields a return of 10 times the original investment in five years. “Every time we make an investment as an angel, one of the criteria that I have is: if this thing works, do I have an opportunity to make 10 times my money? If I don’t, I don’t invest,” says Corman, Angel Investment Management Group’s managing partner. Corman struck his first home run with Genzyme, a fledgling bio-tech company that created gels and salves used in surgery to promote the healing of organs. The investment? Almost $150,000. The return? “I think I got 16 times my money,” says Corman, who also serves as an entrepreneurship instructor for the Harbert College. “When you write a $100,000 or $200,000 check and you get 16 times your money, that’s a dancing-in-the-aisles moment.” Today, Genzyme is a multibillion dollar company devoted to finding pharmaceuticals that reverse enzyme deficiencies. “Genzyme got to be highly successful,” Corman says. “It helped introduce technology into the marketplace that's saving people’s lives and having them recover from surgery faster, with less pain 26 HM, Fall 2015

“Tell them how much money they can make. They’re not there to do you a favor. They’re there to make money that’s commensurate with their level of risk and illiquidity.”

and less scar tissue. You get to make money. You get to help early stage entrepreneurs. You get to help introduce new technologies into the marketplace. You get to have some contribution to society as a whole. When all those things come together, it’s a hoot.” Another Corman-backed business, Cree Research, has nothing to do with medicine. Instead, its products brighten people’s living rooms. According to Corman, Cree Research came out with a high-intensity LED before anyone else, earning back “13 to 14 times” the initial investment. The company showed an operating income of $124 million in 2014 and is an industry leader in the manufacturing of Energy Star household light bulbs. As an investor, Corman looks for obvious marketplace advantages and strong management teams. “Cree had technology that gave them an advantage,” he says. “When you looked at whatever product they were producing, it was head and shoulders above anything else that was going to be in the marketplace—and it was patented.”

Illustrations: Jason S. Adams

But Corman says it’s not always the product itself that’s the attractive factor. “There are other times that you’re not betting on the technology, you’re betting on the quality of the management team,” he says. “You’re saying, ‘This management team is great.’ Even if they don’t have the best technology, they will find it. Even if their business plan is not as attractive as others, they’ll fix it.” With Genzyme, Corman recognized quality in both the scientists and the management team, and knew that if they were backed properly, Genzyme could be a substantial investment opportunity. In 23 years, Corman’s heard more than 500 pitches and made 75 investments. He knows a thing or two about the do’s and don’ts of the pitch. His advice? “Don’t try to close the entire deal on that initial pitch. That’s a big mistake. You’re not trying to land the fish. You’re trying to set the hook,” he says.“So many people feel like this is their one chance. You’re not going to go in and give a pitch cold turkey and somebody starts writing six- and seven-digit checks. That’s not going to happen. Your

expectation of the pitch is not to get a check. You’re trying to get people interested enough to get to the next step. Set the hook.” Corman says a capable entrepreneur must demonstrate a competitive advantage, illustrating why an investor should choose them over a competitor. “Don’t tell your audience of potential investors how your product or service works. Tell them what it does,” he says. “Tell them how much money they can make. They’re not there to do you a favor. They’re there to make money that’s commensurate with their level of risk and illiquidity.” Once you’ve piqued the interest of an investor with the money-making potential of an idea, it’s time to explain how the investment will generate a healthy return. Be prepared to answer tough and specific questions. “Any sophisticated investor that’s seen a number of pitches from entrepreneurs—they’re going to question the assumptions in the revenue model,” Corman says. “Projections of revenues are generally overly optimistic, and you should expect to get challenged every way from Sunday on the assumptions you’ve made. If the investors don’t have confidence in your revenue projections, you’re done.” Corman notes that the average angel investment is about $175,000. So when asking for financial help, budding companies need to understand their market. “We know what the market will bear and we’re not going to overpay,” he says. “Every time a company goes out to raise capital, the first question any investor will ask is, ‘How much are you looking to raise? What’s the valuation? Give me the terms of the deal.’ If it’s way out there, not only is it a high price, but they are sending a message that they don’t know what they are doing.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t outlier cases. The largest investment Corman ever made? $1.3 million, in 2003. “It was in the digital music business,” he says. “Apple absolutely rolled over it and killed it.”

HM, Fall 2015 27

Illustrations: Jason S. Adams

Baiting the


28 HM, Fall 2015

It’s not always how it appears on Shark Tank. There they are, the key-holders capable of unlocking your business dreams. You can see them from the stage—Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, and Mr. Wonderful himself, Kevin O’Leary. They have a combined net worth north of $3.2 billion and they’re appraising and analyzing you. Somehow, you manage to hold it together, lead them through a crisp and compelling pitch (not counting commercial breaks!), and handle their questions with aplomb. They’re fighting over you now. Mr. Wonderful offers $250,000, but wants a 40 percent stake. Corcoran will hand over $200,000 for 30 percent. Insults are traded, bedlam ensues. You play it cool, bide your time, and Cuban swoops in with a too good-to-refuse offer. This is how the pitch process appears through the looking glass of network television. On ABC’s Shark Tank, some nine million viewers tune in on Friday nights to watch chaos compressed into a 60-minute package. It’s great theater, but here’s a reality check on “reality” TV: The process of pitching, convincing, and closing doesn’t happen within an hour, or even in one encounter. It’s courtship, not speed dating. “You might be able to do [one pitch] if you’re selling vacuum cleaners,” says Bradon Rogers, senior VP of production strategy and operations for Blue Coat and an Auburn business alumnus. “That’s a rarity. My goal is to make it to the next meeting. As long as they’re continuing to meet with me, I’m demonstrating value and getting closer to closure, which could be a purchase order.” That’s not to say that we can’t learn anything from the sharks and the bold individuals who present to them. Kevin Harrington, an original Shark Tank panelist and architect of the “As Seen on TV” product line, said that the success of a pitch—whether delivered with an eye toward instant gratification or layered in multiple meetings—hinges on three elements. “Tease, please, and seize,” says Harrington, who visited Harbert College in April. “That’s not the second subtitle of ‘50 Shades of Grey.’” Define the problem. Offer the solution. Present the opportunity. No matter the product or service or the pitch process, the ultimate goal, according to Rogers, “is to show how you can alleviate pain, reduce effort or cost, and produce value.” Ron Popeil, who made Ronco’s demonstration-based TV spots such guilty viewing pleasures, is the professor emeritus of tease, please, and seize. Harrington, who has launched more than 500 products and generated in excess of $4 billion in worldwide sales,

also perfected the craft by enlisting bold personalities like ponytailed Tony Little and the bearded Billy Mays to sell Gazelles and Oxiclean. One of the best examples of “tease, please, and seize” in action comes courtesy of season two of Shark Tank in 2011. Contestant Rebecca Rescate pitched CitiKitty, a toilet-training system for household cats. The judges were initially skeptical, but Rescate told the story of losing a constant battle to clean up after a pet who tracked kitty litter throughout her cramped Manhattan apartment. She outlined the ways her product offered solutions to pet owners frustrated by the mess and odor of litter boxes. Rescate closed her pitch in memorable fashion as Samantha, her black-and-white cat, stunned the sharks by climbing atop a toilet and demonstrating CityKitty’s effectiveness with impeccable aim. Harrington offered Rescate $100,000 for a 20 percent stake in the company, and Rescate sold more than $1.4 million in product that year. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll successfully tease, please, and seize in a single encounter, the basic elements remain applicable in most pitch settings. “I encourage entrepreneurs to have two versions of their pitch ready at all times—a 60-second elevator pitch, and a five-minute version that can be used as a follow-up if the elevator pitch works,” says Dave Ketchen, Harbert College’s Lowder Eminent Scholar of Entrepreneurship. The pitch process is rarely as tight or as tidy as TV leads us to believe, but according to Auburn business alumnus Cameron Doody, pitch artists still focus on making “investors’ hearts pound out of their chests.” When Doody co-founded the moving company Bellhops with classmate Stephen Vlahos, they found there was no instant gratification to be had pitching major venture capital firms and celebrity investors. Anybody can tease, but the pros please and seize by absorbing brutally honest critiques, fixing the flaws in their plan, and showing how they will offer value over the long haul. “The key is to have a great story and vision, clear proof of execution, and bulletproof answers to every question,” says Doody, whose company now serves more than 120 locations coast-to-coast. “That comes from taking a lot of meetings where you get lit up with machine guns, and countless hours of hole patching and problem solving in between. The market opportunity and concept get you in the door, but the convincing is done through your execution.”

HITTER HM, Fall 2015 29


The Art of Pitching Yourself Much like a traditional business presentation, a good personal pitch follows a script, but comes alive through hours of rehearsal and refinement. “I handwrite it and give it over and over in front of a mirror,” says Joe Sexton, president of worldwide field operations for AppDynamics, a Silicon Valley-based firm. “People don’t see the practice and repetition that go into the pitch.” Bob Johnson, senior vice president of Solusia Air, knows the value of pitching yourself. Johnson, a 1980 Auburn business alumnus, will pitch to anyone, anytime, anywhere. He’ll chat up the Starbucks employee making his latte, the passenger seated next to him on a cross-country flight, and even his 13-year-old golden retriever. If he owned an aquarium, he’d pitch to a goldfish.

30 HM, Fall 2015

Illustrations: Jason S. Adams

What doesn’t contribute to the message contributes to the noise. Delphinus Medical Technologies president and CEO Mark Forchette, a 1981 Harbert College graduate, describes a good personal pitch as a “crystal clear, compelling message that cuts through the clutter of everything else.” According to Forchette, you should be able to answer four key questions in 30 seconds: Who are you? What are you doing now? Where are you going with it? What talents do you possess that are special or unique?


Whether you’re telling a story, teasing, pleasing and seizing, or going the more conventional route with a slide deck, your pitch can easily crash and burn. Yale researcher Robert Sternberg tells us that those on the receiving end of a pitch may take one look at you and make a judgment about your character, creativity, and credibility. That judgment takes less than 150 milliseconds and happens before you’ve even opened your mouth. You can’t do much about this snap judgment, but you can avoid the behaviors that are virtually guaranteed to blow you up. Here’s how:

“They don’t realize what I’m doing,” says Johnson. “I record myself on the iPhone as I’m traveling in the car and play it back. The best presentation I do is to my dog, Otis. He’s never said a bad thing to me.” While pitching to the dog may help in perfecting delivery and cadence, it’s important to also practice with a human audience. “Find people within your professional network who are not your friends,” says Melissa Voynich, a communication coach in Harbert College’s Office of Professional and Career Development. “They will be honest with you.” When selling yourself, you’re trying to get across two things: your credibility—why should your audience believe you—and your uniqueness—what makes you special. “Companies and people want to do business with people they like,” says Tailgate Guys and The Event Group Rentals CEO and president Parker Duffey, a 2006 Auburn alumnus. “It’s about humanizing yourself so investors see you as the person you are and not just a business.” If your pitch goes well, it’s likely that your prospective employer or funder will do a little online research. “Try running a search on yourself,” Voynich says. “Make sure that the results that you get are the ones you’d like that employer or funder to see.” A well-crafted LinkedIn profile with a professional photo and digital work samples? Great. Legal records and regrettable photos from Mardi Gras? Uh, no. You should assume the person you’re pitching will find the same material. “Your digital footprint begins when your first picture is posted on social media,” Voynich says. “When we talk about personal branding, we talk about being aware—constantly—of what information you want associated with your name.”

Know Your Audience. Who are they? What have they invested in? How much are they good for? Generally, what are they looking for? You wouldn’t pitch a Ginsu knife to a real estate developer. Know Your Numbers. Every successful pitch is a combination of numbers and emotion—mind, and heart. Be prepared. Be Open to Criticism. But don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Ask for what you want and defend your ideas. If you’re not committed to your concept, how do you expect someone else to be? Don't Beg. Do you believe in your version of the future and do you need support to help you realize your dreams, or are you just looking for a few bucks so you don’t have to get a real job? Investors aren’t philanthropists. Talk, Converse, Interact. Don’t pick a recipe for a pitch and follow it like a robot. Don’t read your PowerPoints, or your handouts, or your executive summary. If you haven’t practiced your pitch enough to engage your audience in a conversation, go back and do the work.

It's Not an Infomercial. Although you can learn a lot on how to pitch by watching the master of the infomercial, Mr. Ronco, Ron Popiel, you won’t win hearts and minds if you come across like a used car salesman. HM, Fall 2015 31




Shortly after graduating from Auburn with a master’s degree in real estate development, Phillip Hasha had the opportunity to make a pitch to a prospective investor. “Two months out from my master’s and I thought I knew everything,” Hasha recalls. “I got to know this guy, an investor. I think he was intrigued with my drive.” Hasha found himself invited to lunch. “We order some drinks from the waitress and the guy looks at me and says, ‘So you wanna pitch me something, huh?’”

That first prospective investor made a deep impression on the process. These days, when it’s time for the pitch, Hasha often leaves the team, the PowerPoint slides, and the flip charts at home.

“So I pulled out my executive summary. I had been working on this for weeks and preparing for countless hours. I proudly handed it across the table and he threw it on the ground. He literally threw it on the ground. ‘I don’t read,’” he said. He was stone-faced. ‘You have to be able to tell me: Why are you different?’”

When his carefully-crafted executive summary flopped, Hasha changed his strategy on the spot. He spoke to the investor about his passion for real estate—something he’s had since a young age. He talked about development as a way to improve people’s lives and their community. He spoke about his company’s staff, about the experience and broad expertise that sets Redmont apart.

That was three years ago. Today Hasha, with fellow MRED classmates Ryan Takaki and Brad Wardlaw, runs the Redmont Group, a boutique commercial real estate development firm built around a team of professionals who specialize in all aspects of development. They keep careful track of potential investors and work hard at cultivating relationships long before they make a pitch.

“As we talked, I realized that he was mentoring me, that he wanted to know about our passion—what we truly believed. He was looking for an insight into our character. ‘Give me the heart shot,’ he said.”

They start by researching the universe of potential investors. “We go far and wide,” says Hasha. “We’re looking for people who know what they’re doing—accredited investors. We research their companies and investment style, talk to friends and friends of friends, and we try to figure out what might move them.” It’s a well thought-out process. The pitch doesn’t come right away. “Before we even start talking business, I want to get to know the investor and they want him to get to know us. It’s not a standard business meeting.” This first meeting is usually over coffee or drinks and followed by a handwritten note, which Hasha thinks is a lost art. “Though my handwriting is something out of a horror movie, I think it’s important for the investor to know that I am behind the note—that they are not being passed to support staff.” After the first meeting, and, usually several notes and follow-up meetings, Hasha and the investor may think about moving forward with the business relationship. “Most importantly, I’m answering the question—If they invest in a project, I will be working with them for five years. Do I want to do that? This often comes from learning their investor sophistication and accreditation level—their past history and style.” If a good relationship looks possible, Hasha sends out a questionnaire for assurance that the potential investor is accredited by US Securities and Exchange Commission criteria. Then it’s a matter of matching the investment opportunity with the investor.

Over time, Hasha has learned to broadly categorize potential investors. These categories allow a presentation to be carefully tailored to the investor’s priorities and sensibilities.

“So that’s what we’re trying to give every investor in every pitch, the heart shot.” To prepare, Hasha practices intensely. He rehearses with his partners and advisors, learns all the relevant facts and figures, and tries to imagine and prepare for every question no matter how odd or off point. He gets ready to lead with the story. “We have to put the investor in a situation where they can see it,” Hasha says. “I’ve come to understand that the way you tell your story is way more important than the numbers. Most of these guys hand the numbers to their accountant. You’ve got to rehearse, you’ve got to know the details and you’ve got to know yourself. If you don’t know yourself, your investor won’t believe what you say.” So how did that first pitch meeting turn out? “We did okay,” Hasha says, smiling. “We did okay.”

Phillip Hasha (’12) was recently named as one of the Pacific Business News Forty Under 40, an annual award which recognizes exceptional young Hawaii business leaders. In 2015, Redmont closed its first investment fund and returned an impressive 1.55 equity multiple and 27 percent internal rate of return to its investors in less than 30 months. The company endowed Auburn’s Masters of Real Estate Development program with $25,000, which was doubled through a “challenge match” by 1982 alumnus Raymond J. Harbert, to create a $50,000 Fund for Excellence.

HM, Fall 2015 33



ROUNDUP Finance professors Jim Barth, John Jahera, and Jitka Hilliard are investigating the geographic distribution of payday lenders and banks that operate throughout the United States, looking specifically at the relation between the number of payday lender stores and various demographic and economic characteristics.

Assistant professor in the Harbert School of Accountancy Brian Vansant penned “Institutional Pressures to Provide Social Benefits and the Earnings Management Behavior of Non-profits: Evidence from the US Hospital Industry,” conditionally accepted for publication by Contemporary Accounting Research, an elite journal. Are CEOs paid too much? In an article for the Journal of Management, strategy professor Brian Connelly found that pay gaps between top managers and their employees may help companies in the short run, but ultimately have adverse consequences. Management professor Kevin Mossholder co-examined the effects of mutual trust between supervisors and their work groups on the groups’ performance. Performance was higher when supervisors and groups trusted each other to the same degree. Accounting professors James Long, Jennifer Mueller-Phillips, and Duane Brandon are examining whether the process audit firms use to conduct an overall review of an audit before companies release financial statements is effective. Rafay Ishfaq, professor in the Department of Aviation and Supply Chain Management, is developing a model of retail store operations to evaluate and propose improvements in retail store logistics. Harbert College advisors Molly Hulsey, Stephanie Morawo, and Christian Demyan will present their research “Reaching Students Through Group Advising” at the National Academic Advising Association conference October 4–7 in Las Vegas.

34 HM, Fall 2015

Counterfeiting is a problem in many industries, but the size of the problem is unknown. Using proprietary, confidential data on semiconductor firms, Lowder Eminent Scholar in Management Dave Ketchen and colleagues at Penn State and the University of Tennessee have found that counterfeiting victims suffer average earnings per share declines of more than 15 percent. Information systems management professor Casey Cegielski is assessing employee awareness and intention to adhere to organizational information security policies in firms engaged in supply. Brian Gibson, Wilson Family Professor in Supply Chain Management, is engaged in behavioral research related to the talent shortage in supply chain management. Using data that he collected during a Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals study, Gibson is developing strategies and best practices to increase the talent pool. The Geospatial Research and Applications Center, headed by Chetan Sankar, professor in the Department of Aviation and Supply Chain Management, is working with the City of Opelika’s IT department to manage water drainage issues. Undergraduate students from MIS and business analytics courses collect data on storm drains and analyze it to help in decision making. Stephen Swartz, professor in the Department of Aviation and Supply Chain Management, is developing a tool that companies can use to help screen for drivers with safer attitudes and train/ educate drivers to make safer decisions. Marketing professor Brian Bourdeau is using functional MRI scanning to research consumer reactions to food labeling and advertising. Scans show the changes in blood flow to various parts of the brain, and eliminate the errors associated with surveys. Jeremy Wolter, assistant professor in the Department of Marketing, believes that many sales people “over-invest in their pursuit of the (big) account.” His research demonstrates that sales people often focus on winning accounts and allocate resources past a point of diminishing returns when they are better served by pursuing smaller accounts where it is easier to assess opportunity. Retail giants Amazon and Target announced research partnerships with Auburn’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Lab. RFID uses wireless systems to transmit information from minute product tags to receivers to help identify and track items. This corporate partnership allows Auburn faculty and students to focus on the research questions that are crucial to users, and add the academic validation that brings maturity to the evolving market.


The Harbert College recently hired two eminent scholars: David Paradice and Glenn Richey. Paradice, formerly the senior associate dean for Florida State University’s College of Business, is now the Raymond J. Harbert Eminent Scholar in Business Analytics and chair of the Department of Aviation and Supply Chain Management. The aim of eminent scholars, according to Paradice, is to be “on the leading edge of research,” and to carry the findings into the classroom. “That’s how your graduates become more attractive to industry,” he said. “They’re coming out with the latest thinking and are bringing new ideas to the firm.” Richey, the Raymond J. Harbert Eminent Scholar and professor in the Department of Aviation and Supply Chain Management, worked in management positions before entering academia, and enjoys preparing students for “the realities of what you face with your boots on the ground.” He’s published more than 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and earned multiple graduate and undergraduate teaching awards at the University of Alabama. Both eminent scholar positions serve as examples of how the college puts the investments of alumni and friends to work. Auburn University publicly launched a $1 billion comprehensive campaign in April. Here’s a look at the college’s goals:

Our goal:

$100 million

Our priorities: $54 million for programs

Funding will support the Tiger Cage student entrepreneurship competition, a student-managed investment fund, Women in Business, the Radio Frequency Identification Lab, and will expand international study and internship opportunities.

$32 million for faculty

New endowments will help the college recruit and retain top faculty members through the creation of 13 endowed chair positions and eight new professorships.

$13 million for students

Students will benefit from the creation of new undergraduate scholarship and graduate fellowship opportunities.

$1 million for facilities

Covers upgrades to classroom technology and furniture, as well as a new ground-floor study area for undergraduate students that will include break-out meeting rooms.

It’s up to each of us! Invest in our students and faculty by contacting the college’s Office of Advancement at 334.844.2983.

Private support enabled the college to hire Glenn Richey (left) and David Paradice as eminent scholars. HM, Fall 2015 35

ALUMNI NEWS You came to the Harbert College of Business and developed skills and built relationships that have helped you in your careers and lives. We’re happy that so many of you have contributed headline-quality news about where your degrees have taken you. If we haven’t heard from you lately, please drop us a line and stay in touch with us and with your fellow alums. Give us a shout. Send your news and comments to:


the only manager to exceed budgeted sales and profit 12 years in a row,” he says. After retiring from E-Z-Go, he opened Golf Cars of Houston, an E-Z-Go and Yamaha golf car Adam Miller (’15, EMBA) passed away in dealership in Houston. He retired in 2010, April 2015. He was working as a senior but has remained active as owner of Rumbadviser for Wells Fargo in Cheyenne, ley Golf Services, which specializes in golf Wyoming. His family, wife Stacy and Terry W. Mitchell (’67, business administra- car dealer distributorship consulting. 7-year-old son Isaac, accepted Adam’s tion) works as a realtor with Renaissance EMBA degree in his honor during Realty in Florence, Alabama. He retired Dr. John T. Self (’69, business the spring 2015 commencement. from the IRS after nearly 35 years of seradministration) serves as a vice, including eight years as an enrolled professor in hospitality manFariah Peterson (’91, finance) passed away agent. He has been married nearly 46 years agement at California State in July 2015 in Juneau, Alaska. After to Linda Smith Mitchell, and has three Polytechnic University, Pograduating from Auburn, she pursued daughters and one granddaughter. He has mona. He has served as assoher passion for flying and eventually been helping the Shoals Area Auburn Club ciate dean of the Collins College of Hospibecame a commercial pilot and flight with fundraising efforts for its scholar- tality Management, chair of the Academic instructor. She was recently employed ship endowment with the AU Foundation. Senate, and as treasurer of ICHRIE, an inwith Seaport Airlines/Wings of Alaska. “We’ve raised close to $200,000 in the last ternational association for hospitality edusix years, and undoubtedly some of it will cators. In 2014, he was a Fulbright scholhelp the College of Business,” he says. ar at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, Finland. His hobbies Dick Rumbley (’69, business) credits what was include ham radio and radio control airthen the Auburn School of Business for planes, as well as travel and reading. He and helping him land his “dream job” as a sales his wife live in Marin County, just north of rep for E-Z-Go Cars covering the Georgia the Golden Gate Bridge. territory in 1977. He later earned promotions to branch manager in Chicago and Walter Thompson (‘64, business administraRobert Terrell (’58, business) is retired and re- Houston. His last job before retirement was tion) is now retired. Walter worked for the cently relocated to Austin, Texas. as director of western sales in 2004. “I was FDIC for 32 years in a variety of executive

In Memoriam


36 HM, Fall 2015

positions, and was executive director of Gwinnett County Habitat for Humanity for three years. He also worked part-time for 10 years for several CPA firms during tax season. He now resides in Newnan, Georgia, and remains active through community activities and golf.

Mark A. Ward (’62, business administration)

retired after 53 years in the furniture business with Ward-McLure Furniture Co. He lists “granddaddy” as his current job title and has enjoyed vacations to Florence, Italy, as well as the Tuscany region. He has also taken a train trip across the Colorado Rockies, an Alaskan cruise, and fly fishing excursions in Idaho.

1970s Dr. Lawrence Belcher

in Maryland. In his free time, he enjoys cycling, restoring old cars, and spending time with family.

Mark Culver

(’79, economics) was selected as dean of the University of Indianapolis’ School of Business in March 2015. Belcher previously directed the undergraduate business program at Taylor University in Indiana and had served more than two decades at Stetson University in Florida as a professor, chair of finance and director of the George Investments Center. His specialties include financial market theory, derivative markets, and macroeconomic policy and theory.

(’78, business administration) serves as chairman of the Houston County Commission in Dothan, Alabama—a position he has held for the last 18 years. He earned the 2013 Outstanding Contribution to County Government by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama for lifetime service. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama.

Kathy Wager Ewing (’72, finance and econom-

ics) was recently appointed to the Pi Beta Phi Foundation’s Board of Trustees. She lives in Marietta, Georgia, and is principal of Kathy Ewing Consulting LLC, which specializes in electronic and self-service banking project management.

Michael Casey Burns (’75, finance) retired on Samuel B. Fort III (’72,

business administraJune 30 after working nearly 38 years for tion) is retired and living in Macon, Georthe Howard County Public School System gia. His wife was recently appointed to the

Mengelt still scoring points in executive search world Mengelt’s business roots can be traced to JOHN MENGELT positioned himself near center court at The Forum in Los An- tiny Elwood, Indiana, where he grew up the son of an A&W Root Beer stand owner. “I was geles and prepared for the tip-off. On one side was Elgin Baylor. On the other was seven years old and got handed a stick with a nail in it and was told, ‘Go pick up the paJerry West. Jumping for the Lakers was Wilt pers in the parking lot,’” says Mengelt, who Chamberlain. received a marketing degree from Harbert “I’m thinking, ‘Where are my bubble gum cards?’” the then-rookie guard with the Cin- College in 1971. “At 10 I’m on a cash register. cinnati Royals says of his third game of the At 12 I’m cooking. I think that foundation is very important in my work ethic.” 1971-72 season. “I was kind of in awe.” He says Breckenridge’s success is based Mengelt still holds Auburn’s single-seaon “passion for what we do,” and the simple son men’s basketball scoring record with principles of preparation, listenan average of 28.3 points per ing, and leading by example. game in 1970-71 and scored a “People just think you show school-record 60 points in 1970 up and play. You do that in any against Alabama. The 1970-71 occupation, you’re not going All-American holds the eighthto be successful,” says Mengelt, best career scoring average who is joined at Breckenridge by (24.8 points per game) in SEC his wife, Linda, who plays a key history. Mengelt credits hard role in management and was work and preparation for a one of Ford Motor Company’s 10-year pro basketball career, first five female field managers. a 20-year run as a basketball Mengelt, suited up “It’s all the work that you have to broadcaster, and the growth of an executive search firm, Breckenridge Part- do before you get to the game that really allows you to play well.” ners, which he founded 32 years ago.

Mengelt, who retired from professional basketball in 1981, says a key to earning candidates’ trust is treating them as if they were already clients.

Wearing a different kind of uniform “You have to be yourself with potential clients,” he says. “You sell yourself by your past history and what you accomplished and how you accomplished it. Athletics, in general, teaches you about discipline and hard work and making sure that you’re a good listener. I think one can learn much more by listening than talking themselves.”

HM, Fall 2015 37

Pitching the Auburn Family

GRETCHEN VANVALKENBURG, a Montevallo native and ‘86 Harbert College of Business management graduate, was successfully leading the Office of Development and Alumni Engagement at the University of West Florida when she got the call. She had lived on the coast for over 20 years and had no intention of moving, until Auburn University dialed her number.

Georgia Board of Nursing. He enjoys world travel and recently took a two-week trip to the French Riviera, visiting Nice, Eze, Cannes, Monaco, and Paris with his wife and daughter. He plans to visit Spain on his next vacation.

Kathryn Fowler (’78, marketing) is broker and owner of Central City Properties Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. She married Fran McCarthy in June of this year. Jim Gaffney (’72, business administration) serves as controller at Concord Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. Steve Goodson (’72, business administration) is president and “resident visionary” at 38 HM, Fall 2015

“When your alma mater calls and recruits you, you get very, very excited,” says VanValkenburg, who became Auburn’s vice president for alumni affairs and executive director of the Auburn Alumni Association in March of this year. “I was just so flattered and honored they would consider me.” VanValkenburg’s history with development and alumni affairs goes back as far

as her first semester at Auburn, when she worked part time in development doing data entry for donor gifts. After graduation, VanValkenburg worked for non-profit organizations including Jump Rope for Heart Colorado, the American Red Cross, and the American Cancer Society. For over a decade she honed her skills in advocacy, special events, and fundraising. VanValkenburg says her management degree gives her a firm foundation for leadership in the non-profit sector—enabling her to make sound business decisions, plan strategically, and promote Auburn’s cause. She says effective business practices are necessary for a non-profit like the Auburn Alumni Association to fulfill its purpose. “We had better be operating as a business, or we won’t be relevant or successful in supporting the university as a whole.” With a strong record of success in alumni affairs, VanValkenburg is glad to bring her business acumen back to the Plains. “My husband is an Auburn graduate as well, and for both of us to be here is really magical and fun,” she says.

Saxgourmet Products in New Orleans. His saxophone manufacturing business was featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s new series Raw Craft. “The episode was shot over four days at our office and prototype shop in New Orleans,” Goodson says. View the episode online at CWERXEBPntc

Richard Hethcox (’70, business) retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and started Hethcox Inc., which does business as All American Products. The Fayetteville, Georgia-based company manufactures bagged good products—primarily cypress mulch—and serves as a vendor for a variety of major national home and garden retailers.

defensive end and helped lead the Tigers to a pair of bowl appearances.

Craig P. Kelley (’78, business) is vice president

of Dunkin-Lewis Inc. in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. He was recently appointed as a board member for Hoover City Schools. His daughter graduated from the Harbert College of Business in May 2015.

Jimmy Lee (’70, business administration), chairman of the board and CEO of Buffalo Rock, will be inducted into the 2015 class of the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in November. Lee began working summers at Buffalo Rock at the age of 12. It is the nation’s largest privately-held, single-family-owned Pepsi franchise.

Dick Ingwersen (’70, business administraJeff Moody (’78, industrial tion), who serves as a member of the Warmanagement) serves as manren Averett Tax Division and on the firm’s aging intermediary for Emexecutive committee, was inducted into erald Coast Business Interthe Pascagoula (Mississippi) Athletic Hall mediaries in Destin, Florida. of Fame in June 2015. A four-sport letterAfter two decades of helping man at Pascagoula High School, he earned people sell and buy businesses in Dothan, a scholarship to Auburn as a tight end and Alabama, Jeff has partnered with ECBI to

run its Destin office. When he’s not working, he enjoys playing with his grandchildren, fishing, boating, following Auburn sports and sharing the gospel.

Jim Perdue (’73, accountancy) was appointed in June 2015 by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. Perdue has served as Crenshaw County probate judge since 2002. He serves on a variety of local boards and commissions, including the Crenshaw County Chamber of Commerce, the Crenshaw County Industrial Development Board, the Alabama Private Industry Council, the South Central Alabama Development Commission, and the South Alabama Home Builders Association. Linda Eskind Rebrovick (’77, marketing), the former CEO of Consensus Point market research and previously an executive with KPMG Consulting and Dell, recently ran for mayor in Nashville, Tennessee. Her campaign platform—“A Smarter Nashville”—focused on preparing and educating the workforce for high-tech job opportunities. Charlie Reins

in its marketing department for nearly 35 years, remains active as its executive vice president. He was Harbert College’s Robert & Charlotte Lowder Visiting Executive in Residence in spring 2015.

Ben Walker (’79, marketing) has joined Delta Community Credit Union in Marietta, Georgia, as a senior commercial lender. Walker previously served as senior vice president of commercial banking at United Community Bank. He possesses more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. Charlie Williams

(’75, business administration) recently became president of Citizens Bank and Trust in Guntersville, Alabama. He joined Citizens Bank and Trust in 2008 after serving in senior roles for Compass Bank, SouthTrust and Wachovia. Last year, Citizens ranked among the top 200 in American Banker Magazine’s survey of publicly-traded community banks.


Donna Corless (’86, business administration)

recently completed training to become a certified Cruises Inc. independent vacation specialist. Based in Auburn, she plans and coordinates niche cruises and trips for photographers and special-interest travel groups (family or alumni reunions, church groups, etc.). She has visited more than 60 countries and lived overseas for 16 years in Bermuda, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, the Philippines, and the Azores. Her hobbies include photographing airshows and, landscapes. Visit Corless’ business website at www. and her new photography site at

Jim Donaldson (’80, business administration) serves as supply chain strategy manager with Alcoa and recently relocated from Houston, Texas, to Fayetteville, Tennessee. His hobbies include long distance running. Jerry Flowers (’86, accounting) is a claims specialist with State Farm in Birmingham. He earned Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation and serves on the national CPCU committee. His daughter, Julie, a 2015 Harbert College accounting graduate, married fellow accounting alum Zach Miller. His hobbies include hiking and singing in his church choir.

(’74, business management) is CEO and president of Global Control Solutions in Cumming, Georgia. His company focuses on designing, manufacturing, and installing building automation systems to control heating, air conditioning, and Beth Bennett (’82, marketing) has joined Libby Pruden George (’88, accountancy) serves lighting in small to mid-size commercial Nashville-based CapStar Bank’s compli- as director of investments at North Caroliand industrial properties. His free time is ance team after having served as a compli- na State University. A former All-Amerispent boating and fishing. ance examiner with the Federal Reserve. can swimmer at Auburn, she and her husband, Larry, have two children. Bobby Reynolds (’75, accounting) has served Cathy (Snow) Browne (’83, manas manager of financial analysis for Vulcan agement) serves as a realtor Steven Glasgow (’89, finance) is Materials Company in Knoxville, Tennesfor Ebby Halliday Realtors senior vice president for see, and worked his last day on June 30. in Plano, Texas. Avondale Partners in NashAfter 40 years, he enjoyed a long vacation named her to its list of “Top ville, Tennessee. This year, he and formally retired on August 1. “Auburn Ranked Real Estate Agents in earned recognition from Fiprepared me well for my career with Vul- Texas 2015” on the basis of client reviews. nancial Times as one of the can, which took me to Wichita, Kansas, Recent travels have taken her to beautiful nation’s top 401K advisors. Plan Adviser Birmingham (twice), Baton Rouge, Atlan- destinations across the country—from Ha- also named him as one of the nation’s Top ta, San Antonio, and, finally, Knoxville. We waii to Hilton Head, South Carolina and 100 Retirement Plan advisors. His hobbies plan to take it easy for a while.” He and his Palm Beach, Florida. include golf, guitar, and reading. wife are awaiting the arrival of their first grandchild—a girl—in October. Steven T. Byrd (’86, business) Doug Griffin (’87, accounting) serves as HR manager for serves as principal with Agile Steve Robinson (’72, marketing) was named Daehan in West Point, GeorAcumen LLC, which has loto Chick-fil-A’s board of directors in June gia. He welcomed a new cations in Florida, Tennessee, 2015. Robinson, who retired as the compagranddaughter, Tyler Lynn, and Wyoming. He created the ny’s chief marketing officer after working in March 2015. firm, which specializes in fi-

HM, Fall 2015 39

nancial and operational projects for the insurance and financial services industries along with accounting and tax services for small businesses. His hobbies include motorcycling, flying and scuba diving.

Bob Johnson

(’80, marketing) accepted a position as senior vice president for Solusia Air LLC in Atlanta in August. Solusia Air is an aerial data acquisition and analytics firm that utilizes engineered unmanned aircraft system (or drone) technology for infrastructure inspections pertaining to the utilities, telecommunications, rail, energy, and agricultural sectors. He was instrumental in developing Auburn Broadband LLC as the first-to-market deployment of FCC-licensed spectrum of 4G in Alabama and Georgia. “I will always be indebted to Auburn in my formative years not only in education, but learning how to build relationships,” he says. “Coach Shug Jordan said it best, ‘Damn it all anyway.’” His hobbies include fly fishing and following Auburn football.

Rod June (’89, MBA) completed three years

as chief investment officer for the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System—a $15 billion pension plan. He previously served as chief investment officer for the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System. In 2014, he completed his first around-theworld trip with stops in Tokyo, Bangkok, Sydney and Frankfurt. He enjoys spending time with his family—wife Paraskevi and children Dimitrois, Athanasios, and Sophia.

Michael Kirkpatrick (’81,

industrial management) is president of DESE Research in Huntsville, Alabama. He graduated from Leadership Alabama’s 2015 class. In his spare time, he enjoys flying seaplanes and boating in antique wooden boats.

Jack Lowrey Jr. (’81, finance) works as senior

vice president and investment and retirement specialist at Gulf Coast Investment Services, a division of Gulf Coast Community Bank in Pensacola, Florida. He serves on the board of directors for several Gulf Coast community organizations, including the United Way.

40 HM, Fall 2015


Michelle McKenna-Doyle (’87, accounting), senior vice president and chief information officer for the National Football League, was honored in May 2015 as Auburn University’s spring commencement speaker. McKenna-Doyle oversees the NFL’s technology strategy, and manages the league’s corporate technology and shared service Ryan Austin (’99, MAcc) is CFO and vice delivery. Ongoing priorities include in-sta- president at Hoar Program Management. dium connectivity and the NFL’s “Sideline of the Future” initiative. Stephanie (Claybourne) Batt (’91, accounting) is a program analyst with Vencore in Huntsville, Alabama. She recently got remarried to Heath Batt, and the couple has five children. Her stepdaughter, Haley, is currently enrolled at Auburn as a sophomore in the Harbert College of Business. Oldest daughKirk Pressley (’88, accounting) ter, Payton, is a freshman at Samford, while recently earned a promotion, stepdaughter Sydney will major in nursing becoming CFO of BBVA in North Alabama. Youngest daughter, AvCompass in April 2015. He ery, is a junior in high school, while stephad served as corporate con- son, Hayden, is a sophomore. troller since 2003. Wendy Beck (’98, finance) became a direcDennis Ross (’81, management) serves Flori- tor and technical leader for The Siegfried da’s 15th Congressional District as a US Group LLP in Denver. A CPA, Wendy enrepresentative. In 2014, he was selected as a joys traveling with her husband, Shahar, senior deputy majority whip under Majori- and has a dog named Schnitzel. ty Whip Steve Scalise. While serving as a first-term congressman, Ross was selected Beau Benton (’91, accounting) is president of as chairman of the House Oversight and Larry Blumberg and Associates in DoGovernment Reform Subcommittee on than. Before joining LBA, he was a princiFederal Workforce, US Postal Service, and pal at Jackson Thornton, a regional acLabor Policy. He and his wife, Cindy, have counting and consulting firm. Beau serves two children, Shane and Travis. on the executive committee for the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce and is vice Elizabeth Hoppenjans Urbanski chairman of the Wallace Community Col(’88, finance) serves as senior lege Foundation. vice president, quality and associate readiness manager for Chris Braun (’96, finance) is seBank of America in Tampa, nior vice president for comFlorida. She recently earned a mercial lending with Keypromotion to manage all training and assoWorth Bank in Johns Creek, ciate readiness for 150 small business call Georgia. He graduated from and chat center sales teams. Her additional LSU’s Graduate School of responsibilities include management of a Banking in May 2015. quality team to ensure risk and regulatory adherence. Her son, Cooper, enrolled at Rob Brooks (’94, business adAuburn this fall and will major in business. ministration) owns Rob Her hobbies include running and reading. Brooks Realty, which is based near Destin, Florida. The firm Marty Yates (’80, business administration) has grown 35 percent in marrecently celebrated five years with Wells ket share since opening eight Fargo Securities in Atlanta. Marty works years ago, and now has two offices serving in fixed income sales and trading. clients on the northwest Florida coast. The

Building a secure future on the foundation of education BOB BROADWAY didn’t come to Auburn with the intention of earning an accounting degree. The Huntsville, Alabama, native had his sights set on hospital administration. But a summer hospital internship following his sophomore year changed that. “At the end of the summer, I met with the CEO (of Huntsville Hospital). He wanted to

give me some advice and told me if I continued to pursue a hospital administration degree then I might be limiting myself in the future because that is such a specialized field,” Broadway says. “He encouraged me to consider getting an accounting degree or degree in finance, and after a little bit of homework on my part I decided accounting would be the best fit for me. I felt like it would provide me with the most tools that I could use down the road.” The advice paid off—Broadway, who earned an undergraduate degree from Auburn’s School of Accountancy in 1991, never became an accountant. After earning his MBA at the Harbert College of Business, Broadway founded The Broadway Group—one of the largest and most successful commercial real estate firms in the Southeast. As a developer, he knows a thing or two about strong foundations. Bob Broadway was recently named the Auburn University School of Accountancy Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.

“In the construction phase of real estate development, the groundwork and foundation are vital to the success and longevity of a new project,” he says. “To an untrained eye, footings and foundations by themselves do not generate much excitement. Unfortunately, the only time most people notice the foundation of a new building are when there are structural failures. You can build a beautiful new building, but if its foundation isn’t secure, the entire project is considered a failure.” The same can be said for a solid education. “The business foundation I received at Auburn includes an in-depth understanding of accounting, strategic thinking, economics, perseverance and the importance of building strong personal relationships inside and outside of the company,” Broadway said. “Auburn University helped provide me the business foundation that has allowed me to lead the Broadway Group to where it is today.”

Restaurateur is no chicken ANDREW BARNES worked at Chick-fil-A restaurants in high school and college. It’s no wonder the Gadsden, Alabama, native plays a key role in the success of two franchises and made a career for himself with chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. Today, Barnes is franchisee/owner at the Chick-fil-A TigerTown (Opelika) location and serves as operator consultant at the Auburn University Student Center location. “I loved working at Chick-fil-A as my first job,” Barnes says. “Staying with the company for a career was always in the back of my mind, even as a high school student in 1984. I had mentors within the company who nurtured and encouraged me.” Though Barnes majored in education as an undergraduate at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and flirted with the idea of teaching and coaching, the lure of the restaurant business was too much, and he became a franchisee in 1992. “When I decided I would pursue a career with Chick-fil-A, I knew that getting more education in business would help me operate a restaurant,” he says. Enter Harbert College’s MBA program. Barnes earned an MBA at Auburn in 1997 with a focus on human resource management. What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Flexibility, grit, determination, good people skills, and valuing relationships and results, Barnes says. “Finding good people and putting them in the right job is the first key,” he said. “A focus on serving others with excellence, no matter the business, is another. You get what you give. Our founder, Truett Cathy, always said, ‘If you give enough people what they want, you’ll get what you want.’ He was right.”

HM, Fall 2015 41

company also hosts the YouTube channel “Where I Live, The Emerald Coast” at liveecfl. He and his wife, Melody, have two sons, Drew and Jonathan. His hobbies include attending church, playing basketball, reading, going on walks, and taking mission trips.

Don McDaniel (’91, management) is a realtor/

sales agent for Main Street Realty in Albertville, Alabama. After graduating from Auburn, he initially returned to a family-owned snack food distribution company and helped it grow into one of the strongest privately-owned regional vending and coffee service companies in northeast AlaBilly Clarke (’93, accounting) is managing bama. After the sale of the 41-year-old partner of Bill Clarke CPA LLC which he company in 2014, he embarked on a new founded in 2012 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. career in real estate sales and investment.

Richard P. Ivey (’92, business management) is VP of sales for Church Transportation and Logistics Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama. The company earned Top Tigers recognition in the medium-size business category during the 2015 Auburn University Entrepreneurship Summit. His oldest son, Parker, won an academic scholarship to Auburn and enrolled in the Harbert College of Business this fall in pursuit of an accounting degree. His hobbies include coaching his sons in baseball and hunting. Summer Janssen (’98,

marketing) serves as director of client services for Supplemental Healthcare in Park City, Utah. She and her husband, Terry, have two children— Cameron, 2, and Harper, 1. They recently relocated to Utah from Scottsdale, Arizona. They enjoy “daily hikes, mountain biking, snow skiing, and everything else this town has to offer.”

Tiffany Posey Konenkamp

(’99, marketing) works for Century Fire Protection LLC in Duluth, Georgia, as service operations manager. A certified professional services marketer, she is also past president of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. Tiffany celebrated the birth of her first child in 2013.

Scott McGlon

(’92, business administration) is president of McGlon Properties LLC in Pike Road, Alabama. McGlon sold its majority stake in Online Commerce Group LLC in 2014 to focus on new business ventures and investments through McGlon Properties LLC. Scott’s first child, Lauren, enrolled at Auburn this fall as a freshman. He enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports with his son, fishing, and playing golf.

J. Don Overton (’92, finance) owns The Overton Firm & Sustainable Construction. He was re-elected to the national board of directors for the National Association of Home Builders and appointed to the organization’s Land Use Policy Sub-Committee. Andrew Roe (’95, marketing) is general man-

ager for SurePayroll Inc. and resides in Chicago. Recent honors include the 2014 International Business Awards Gold “Stevie” for Customer Service Department of the Year in Financial Services, Top 10 Best Human Resource Software recognition in the Cloudsave Awards and the International Public Relations Association’s Golden Awards for Excellence.

in June 2016. He will soon join the board of the Auburn Alumni Association.

Nicole McKewen Thurmond (’94, human resource management) serves as assistant vice president and director of human resources for Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation, an independent oil and gas exploration company based in Dallas, Texas. Before joining Magnum Hunter, she served as human resources director of Geomet Operating Company. Kimberly Vick (’91, MBA) is regional canine coordinator for the US Department of Homeland Security, Region 6. She earned a recent promotion to the post with the Department of Homeland Security-TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program in a region that encompasses Saipan, Guam, Hawaii, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Her son, Alec, recently enrolled in the Harbert College of Business.

Bradford Williams (’98, management) serves as partner and managing director for Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis. He oversees traditional and digital advertising efforts for Subaru of America. Recent work includes Subaru’s “Making Memories” campaign, in which a father prepares to pass on a beloved vehicle to his 16-year-old daughter. When he’s not working, he enjoys “the outdoor and lake life” of Minnesota. Kerra Michelle Wood-Welch (’96,

Patrick Ledbetter

(’93, finance) serves as a CRM development specialist for Hilton Grand Vacations in Orlando, Florida. In his spare time, he gets the dance floor jumping as a disc jockey at Universal Orlando Citywalk.

42 HM, Fall 2015

management) is vice president of wholesale risk management for SunTrust Bank in Atlanta. Recent honors include the Make a Difference Award. Her hobbies include spending time Dewayne Scott (’95, manage- with family, including husband and fellow ment information systems) Auburn alum Rodney and son Chase. is an associate manager and enterprise architect for Accenture and will celebrate his 15th year with the company

2000s Steven Bonnett (’01, MBA) serves as durabil-

Kristin Corley

(’08, EMBA) serves as workplace strategy manager for CB Richard Ellis in Birmingham. She serves on the BBVA/Compass account, managing the space portfolio for the American platform.

Josh Dyer (’05, international business) is a linguist translator for Wycliffe Bible Translations. He and his wife, Laura, will move to Namibia in 2016 to help translate the Bible into indigenous languages.

ity vehicle test operations manager at the Robert Davis (’04, finance) serves as a senior Arizona and Michigan proving grounds for business analyst and business development Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. manager for a.i. solutions, which makes products for space operations, systems enForrest Carden (’05, marketing) recently gineering, and flight dynamics. He also joined Porter Properties as a real estate manages proposals to the Department of Rhett Evans (’08, business administration) agent. He assists property buyers in the Au- Defense. Robert was recently re-elected to earned a promotion to district manager burn, Opelika, and Lee County areas. For- the Madison County Republican Executive with Waffle House in 2015. rest is a member of the National Associa- Committee and enjoys kickball and travel. tion of Realtors, the Alabama Association Robert Thomas Floyd (’08, fiof Realtors and the Lee County Association nance) recently earned a proof Realtors. He also owns Southern Trails, motion from financial analyst a family-owned-and-operated outdoor recto regional sales manager for reation equipment specialty store, and is an Harvest Select in Tuscaloosa, active member of Church of the Highlands. He earned his MBA in May.

Doody, Vlahos making major moves as entrepreneurs Everyone dreads taxes, death, and moving. Even a small move from one apartment to another requires you to cash in every favor you have with people who have a truck, muscles, or both. If your friends are too busy to lend a hand, you’re forced to overpay a moving company that may or may not break your coffee table. CAMERON DOODY (’09, supply chain management) and friend STEPHEN VLAHOS (’08, marketing) began developing an alternative before graduating from Auburn. The duo co-founded Bellhops Moving in 2013, an innovative solution to small- and medium-scale moving. Bellhops connects local, able-bodied college students with people and businesses who need help moving for a reasonable price. Headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bellhops has expanded to more than 120 locations coast-to-coast. “Being physically capable of moving a couch puts you in the hot seat about 15 times a year,” Doody says. “Bellhops is the perfect answer between begging friends and hiring movers.” As they grew their business to other college towns, they realized their moving solutions were needed by others. Although they move thousands of college students every semester, now 90 percent of their business comes from non-student bookings. One strength of the company is the ease of booking and connecting with your “bellhop.” Doody and Vlahos have focused on building a world-class tech platform. You can book a bellhop right now with a few taps on your smartphone. “Technology allows us to automate and streamline operations, provide ridiculous customer service, make data-driven decisions, scale quickly, and stay relevant to the ever-growing desires of consumers wanting things ‘right now,’” Doody says.

Bellhops has grown from three people to more than 110 in under three years. They’ve secured support from venture capitalists including Binary Capital and the rapper Nas. Doody believes his education prepared him to take on the challenge of a startup and encourages other Auburn students to pursue their business ideas.

“It will never make more sense to start a company than right now. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, and it will never be like that again,” Doody advises. “Deciding to start a company in your early 20s is hard enough—imagine trying to justify starting a company in your late 20s when you have a mortgage, a couple kids, and a bunch of people who think you’re crazy leaving behind that cush job of yours for a startup.”

HM, Fall 2015 43

Renata Gallyamova (’08, MS in finance) is senior manager, advisory for EY in Atlanta, Georgia. Her hobbies include reading, dancing, and hitting the links. Paul Groce III (’00, MBA) rejoined the New York office of Heidrick & Struggles as a partner. The firm is a worldwide leader in executive search services, leadership consulting, and culture shaping. He had previously served with the firm before leaving in 2005 to become partner and head of the global CIO/technology and operations practice for another search firm. Chris Harris (’07, professional flight management) is a captain with Piedmont Airlines, based in Salisbury, Maryland. He welcomed his second son into the family in June 2015. Jonathan Hornsby (’02, business administration) serves as an adviser at Bridgeworth LLC in Huntsville, Alabama. He holds chartered retirement planning counselor designation. Alex Jones (’08, MBA) recently earned a promotion to senior vice president with United Bank, where he serves as a commercial and agricultural lender. He serves as a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Reserve and as treasurer of the Lions Club in Atmore, Alabama.

board Traders in Charleston, South Caro- Evelyn Tuck Robertson (’00, management inlina. He had previously worked for Asten- formation systems) earned a promotion to Johnson. Andrew’s favorite hobbies include senior principal software engineering in test at NetSuite Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, in paddleboarding and fishing. April 2015. Additional good news includes Dr. James H. Long (’01, ac- the fact that she and her husband celebratcounting; ’02, MAcc) earned ed the birth of their first child in November promotion and tenure as 2014. Their hobbies include frequent trips an associate professor of ac- with their daughter to the zoo. countancy with Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business in 2015. When he’s not traveling with Harbert College students to far-flung countries including Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Germany on academic-related trips, he enjoys exploring Europe for leisure. Robert Shiver (’08, marketing) is vice presiJason Mathisen (’08, marketing; ’10, MBA) is dent of Senior Life Insurance Company in the manager of the Heart and Vascular In- Thomasville, Georgia. stitute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Carly Stafford (’03, finance) is account manager with Wandering Wifi in Atlanta, Georgia, and has good reason to celebrate a personal triumph. She says she is a breast cancer survivor who is now more than 18 months in remission.

Megan Moore Stribling (’06, marinformation systems) is keting) recently accepted a founder and president of position as assistant direcCompose, Inc. IBM recently tor of alumni relations and acquired his company, which events at the University of provides database as a service Colorado Denver. In her Patton Kizzire (’08, business), a former Au- offerings for developers of Internet and mo- down time, she enjoys “rafting Colorado’s burn University golfer, now plays profes- bile applications. beautiful rivers, enjoying Denver’s boomsionally on the Tour. He won the ing culinary scene and hearing live music.” Utah Championship in early August—his Kathleen Morris (’00, business first win on the tour—and ranked first on administration) joined Pan- Mary E. Tinkler (’09, MBA) is a state representhe money list with eight events left in the handle Converter Recycling tative in South Carolina. She serves District 2015 season. of Dothan, Alabama in June 114, which includes Charleston, and has as its vice president of human committee assignments devoted to mediJustin Lambert (’08, MBA) serves as president resources. cal, military, public, and municipal affairs. and CEO of The Mint Julep Boutique, an online women’s clothing retailer based in Blake Parker (’08, marketing) recently earned Leslie Brindley Todd (’06, finance) and her husAuburn. He started the company in 2012 a promotion with Waffle House, becoming band adopted their first child, Paisley, in and has guided it to sustained growth a regional manager in western North Caro- March 2015. Their family lives in Maylene, with more than two million social media lina and overseeing 24 stores. Alabama. followers. You can find their products at He and his wife, Corey Jaye Richardson (’07, information systems Kate, are expecting the arrival of their first management) works for The Southern child this month. Company in Birmingham as an IT systems analyst. Jaye enjoys powerlifting and coachAndrew Larson (’00, information systems) ing rugby and welcomed daughter Olivia now serves as managing partner for Sea- Jayde into the world in October 2014. 44 HM, Fall 2015

Jason McCay (’00, management

Nick Wade (’03, accounting and MIS) earned a promotion to partner with Ernst & Young in Charlotte, North Carolina, in July 2015. He will soon celebrate 12 years with the firm. His hobbies include playing with his children, cooking, and watching college football. Nick has also served as a volunteer in EY’s College MAP Mentoring Program, which seeks to help youth from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in higher education. Alexander Wallace

(’00, management) recently earned a promotion to commander (0-5) and serves as director of contracts for the US Navy in Philadelphia. Alexander has served in the Navy since 1993. When he’s not busy at work, he enjoys playing with his daughters.

Susanne Wilson (’06, MBA) joined Water to

Thrive as executive director in April 2015. Water to Thrive is a faith-based non-profit dedicated to improving access to clean water in rural Africa. The organization has funded more than 600 projects in Uganda, Ethiopa, and Tanzania, successfully bringing clean water to more than 300,000 people. Susanne previously served as executive director of Henderson Community College in Kentucky.

Paul Zikmund (’04, MAcc) joined Rite Aid Corporation in July 2015 as vice president of risk and controls. In this role, he oversees the risk management program for Rite Aid and its subsidiaries, including RediClinic, Health Dialog, and EnvisionRx. Paul had previously served as director of global ethics and compliance at Bunge, a global food and agribusiness company. He has extensive higher education experience, having served as an adjunct professor at universities including LaSalle, Rider, and Carlow. Derek Zimmerman (’09, MBA) recently became president of product support organization for Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation. He joined Gulfstream as vice president of product support materials in 2011 after serving as vice president of supply chain and aftermarket development at Piper Aircraft.


Dr. Keith Chamberlin (’11, PEM-

BA) is CEO of Chamberlin Health Care Consulting Group Inc. in San Rafael, California. He is also president and chairman of the board for Meritage Accountable Care Joseph Drew Adkins (’10, ac- Organization. He celebrated the birth of counting) works as a staff granddaughter Noelle in June 2015. accountant for Auburn University athletics. He and his Jorge Delgado III (’11, international business) wife happily celebrated their serves as Denver regional director for the first wedding anniversary in office of US Senator Cory Gardner from May 2015. When he’s not working, he en- Colorado. Jorge transitioned from the joys singing in the choir at Auburn United House of Representatives, where he worked Methodist Church, spending time at the as a district representative, to the US Senate lake, and attending sporting events. after the 2014 election cycle. He recently completed “a bucket list vacation” by visitAzeem Ahmed (’14, finance) has been serving ing Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea, as an Albright Fellow at the US Depart- and touring the DMZ. His hobbies include ment of Health and Human Services in reading, cooking, and “keeping up with Washington, DC. Azeem works with the anything that involves Auburn University.” assistant secretary for planning and evaluation on healthcare policy development and analysis, data collection and research, and budget review. He is also assisting in the development of legislative policy and strategic planning. Before graduating, Azeem earned the Clinton Hunger Leadership Award for his commitment to service in poverty reduction, and hunger initiatives. Lakedria Fuller (’10, marketing) began a new position as an Blayne Barber (’12, finance), a former Auadmissions advisor at Auburn golfer, now plays professionally on the burn University in July 2015. PGA Tour. He competed for the US in the She is engaged and is the 2011 and 2012 Palmer Cup, as well as the mother of a 1-year-old. 2011 Walker Cup. In July, he tied for 10th place at the Barbasol Championship PGA Joey Gibson (’11, MBA) reTour event at Opelika’s Grand National. cently earned a promotion to manager of finance and risk Whitney Barnwell Bolger (’10, management) is management for Kentucky on assignment as a public affairs contractor Telco Federal Credit Union with The Dow Chemical Company in in Louisville, Kentucky. In his Seadrift, Texas. “This is a great opportunity current capacity, he uses new and existing to work with a fantastic company. One of data sources for statistical analysis and data my first events was to host the Dow No. 3 mining to prepare and enhance monthly Chevy at our site. NASCAR fans turned out reporting for the firm’s senior management in great numbers to take pictures with the and board of directors. He celebrated the car and get the details on what parts of the birth of his third child, Ella, in October car are made using Dow products.” 2014. His hobbies include watching SEC football and Chicago Cubs baseball.

Zach Gilbert (’11, MBA) owns Innovative Interiors, a contract furniture company, and serves as vice president and financial consultant for Regions Investment Solutions in Birmingham, Alabama. HM, Fall 2015 45

Game, set, match: Eletrabi’s hobby inspires invention Haitham Eletrabi has a passion for tennis and a mind for gadgets. Put them together and what do you get? Award-winning ideas with money-making potential.

Eletrabi, who earned an MBA from Harbert College and is pursuing a doctorate in civil engineering at Auburn, is the founder of Tennibot—a robotic tennis ball collector that retrieves Penns and Wilsons so the participant doesn’t have to. The gadget not only won second prize at the inaugural Tiger Cage student entrepreneurship competition for “Most Innovative Product,” but

also won the audience choice award in the Alabama Launchpad finals. “I love tennis and I always wanted to become better at it,” says Eletrabi, who moved from Egypt to Auburn in 2009. “As I got more involved with the sport, I started to see key opportunities and needs in the tennis industry that are not currently addressed. This motivated me to design and come up with solutions for the problems that tennis players encounter every day.” Before Eletrabi founded the Tennibot, he designed a smart wristband to monitor players’ performances— earning first-place honors at Auburn’s 2014 Business Plan Contest for Engineering Inventions, sponsored by the Thomas Walter Center. Eletrabi was awarded a $6,000 prize used toward the development of the product and a one-year membership in the Auburn Virtual Incubator, located at the Auburn Research Park. “My business plan was about a digital personal tennis coach that will help the tennis players improve their game,” Eletrabi says. The device uses a combination of sensors to capture a player’s movement.

Realizing his dreams into tangible products has taken time, but others saw it coming. “My friends always used to say that I have a business mind,” says Eletrabi. “I always had ideas for potential products but I haven’t pursued them until recently.” Eletrabi says the entrepreneurship competitions like the Auburn business plan contest and the Alabama Launchpad have helped shape his ideas into viable business plans with financial projections. “Not knowing what others will bring to the table motivated me to go above and beyond,” he says. “This means I needed to know everything about the product, competitors, industry, and customer feedback.”

Center: Eletrabi and his team

Tricia Guidry

(’10, MBA) works in internal firm services at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Nashville, Tennessee. She will marry her former MBA classmate, Jason Mathisen, in January, 2016 in Thibodaux, Louisiana. The couple enjoys exploring Tennessee with their dogs, Harper and Turbo, as well as live music, cooking, biking, and craft beer.

at Auburn and attribute much of my suc- commitment with Teach for America in cess in finding a team and launching our Alabama and has been a middle and high school mathematics teacher for the last product to what I learned in his classes.” four years. She recently accepted a position Alyssa Lasseter (’14, entrepreneurship and as a middle school mathematics teacher at family business) is a campus missionary for KIPP South Fulton Academy. She also celeThe Fellowship of Catholic University brated her first wedding anniversary with Students based in Denver, Colorado. She husband Marcus in July 2015. Her hobbies enjoys “evangelizing to a college campus” include painting, running, and traveling. Jennifer Hamrick (’12, MAcc) is a senior busi- and “inviting students to grow in their relaness analyst for Southern Nuclear in Bir- tionship with Christ, equipping them for a mingham, Alabama. Her son, Austin Blake, lifetime of growth and teaching them to was born on May 28. teach others.”

Thomas Hinson (’14,

supply chain management) is a mass pro buyer for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama.

Clint Jarvis (’12, entrepreneur-

ship) is CEO of gottaGolf, an Atlanta-based company which recently launched an iOS app. “I was lucky enough to study under Jim Corman

46 HM, Fall 2015

Carmen Littleton (’15, marketing) is a showroom sales consultant for plumbing industry leader Ferguson Enterprises Alisha Elizabeth Lewis (’11, international busiin Charlotte, North Carolina. ness) is an educator with KIPP Metro AtCarmen notes that she’s also a lanta Schools. She completed a two-year craft beer enthusiast.

Tyler Look (’15, aviation management) was one of four Auburn University Honors College students to earn Fulbright Scholarships in June 2015. A native of Houston, Texas, Tyler will examine public transportation systems at the Technical University of Berlin. In 2014, he participated in the Auburn University exchange semester in Germany. While at Auburn, Tyler played in the university marching band.

da in 2014, completing a Master of Laws in enjoys traveling, water skiing, snow skiing, taxation. He recently passed the bar exams and remodeling furniture. and is now licensed to practice in Florida and Alabama. His hobbies include cooking, Tim Randolph (’14, EMBA) boating, and following Auburn football. earned a promotion to director of pharmacy for CarDillon Ortman (’14, business administration) olinas Healthcare System in recently began a new job as a relationship Charlotte, North Carolina. support specialist with BBVA Compass. He also won a system-wide award for optimizing clinical efficiency usJustin W. Pitts (’13, finance) serves as a finan- ing Lean Six Sigma principles. He and his cial representative with Northwestern Mu- wife are expecting their second child. tual in Chicago. He recently finished a Ty McCormack (’15, MBA) joined Cash & As- Teach for America commitment as a fourth Jordan Scales (’15, aviation management) is sociates in Orlando, Florida, in July as an grade teacher at the UNO Charter School sales and marketing LDP for Bell Helicopassociate financial planner and also volun- Network in Chicago. ter in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. teers as an assistant track and cross country coach with Winter Park High School. Ty, Tanner Scott (’15, finance) recently began a who earned 2014 South Region Cross new job as a staff associate with Young Life Country Runner of the Year honors while in Atlanta, Georgia. competing for Auburn, finished eighth in the 10,000 meters at the 2015 World UniAndrea Singleton (’10, finance) serves as an versity Games in Gwangiu, South Korea. accountant for Auburn University.

Bryan Mills (’10, finance) is a tax and estate planning associate at Clark, Partington, Hart, Bond & Stackhouse in Pensacola, Florida. He graduated from the University of Flori-

Madelin Plagenhoef

Hannah Stooksbury (’15, ISM) started working for Deloitte in July in Atlanta, Georgia, as a technology risk consultant. When she’s not working, she enjoys getting into the out-

(’15, marketing) completed training in Chicago to become a new business equipment sales representative with KONE. She recently tried sky diving, and

WHY IS A DEFERRED GIFT ANNUITY A GREAT WAY TO GIVE? Because it enables alumni like Roger Champion ’66, and his wife, Donna, to show their gratitude to Auburn University and the Harbert College of Business while providing an income for their lives — a portion of which is tax free. Is a deferred gift annuity right for you? For example, if you were 55 years old and established a $25,000 gift annuity deferred for 15 years, the payout rate would be 8.2% and you would be eligible for the following benefits: CH A R ITA BL E DE DUCT ION




Fixed beginning at age 70


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**Once all tax-free portions have been distributed, the entire annuity will become ordinary income. Payment schedule is quarterly; annuity rate is from ACGA2012 table.

Learn more about how the Auburn University Office of Gift Planning can help you support the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business while also meeting your philanthropic and financial goals.


Abby Wright (’14, marketing) is

doors by paddleboarding on the lakes in her home state of Tennessee.

local advertising sales coordinator for iHeartMedia in BirAndrew Svenson (’11, MBA) earned a promomingham, Alabama. She ention to section manager of truck and bus joys visiting Auburn, hanging radial tire development for Bridgestone out with friends, shopping, Americas in Akron, Ohio. working out, and attending dance classes.

Eric Swaim (’15, supply chain management) Joseph Young

(’14, aviation management/ recently accepted a position as a supply supply chain management) recently began a chain project analyst at Texas Children’s new role as a senior analyst in transatlantic Hospital in Houston. pricing with Delta Air Lines in Atlanta. He previously worked for American Airlines Christopher Shane Trehern (’14, information in international management pricing for its systems management) is a network tech- Pacific markets. In his position with Delta, nology specialist with Neptune Technolo- he monitors competitiveness and the exegy Group Inc. in Tallassee, Alabama. cution of joint venture partnerships with such partners as Air France, KLM, Alitalia, and Virgin Atlantic. In late June, he took a trip to Europe, visiting Italy and France with three fellow Auburn University alums. Favorite activities include golf, family time, travel, and church involvement.

Rob Watson

(’13, MAcc) is director, controller of global commercial banking and business banking for Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina. He married Brittany Burke in June and enjoyed a honeymoon in Slovenia. An avid runner, Rob completed the Rock-n-Roll Marathon in New Orleans in 2014.

Jacob Word (’15, marketing) is a business de-

velopment associate with Bibby Transporation Finance in Nashville, Tennessee. “Thanks to my time spent working as a coop, I was able to come out swinging when Neptune hired me for my full-time position. If there is one piece of advice I can give that I hope others will take, it would be to enroll in Auburn’s cooperative education program. At the very least, you graduate with one year of experience in your field. In my case, which is not rare, I was offered a full-time position with the company Auburn paired me with.” When he’s not working, he enjoys working on his project car, fishing, or brewing beer.

Alexandra Yount (’12, human resources management) won the 2015 Ms. Wheelchair Alabama pageant and competed for the Ms. Wheelchair America title in July. She has partnered with Goodwill Southern Rivers and has spoken to a variety of groups, including Goodwill on the Go, a free service for job seekers.

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.)

Stay connected! Keep in touch with former classmates and share your good news on these platforms:

Facebook: Twitter: LinkedIn: Auburn-College-Business-Alumni-153974

48 HM, Fall 2015


Ron Clark 1947–2015

Passionate. Caring. Warm. Those were some of the words used to describe longtime School of Accountancy professor and former director Ron Clark, who passed away in June. “He was always mentioning how extremely blessed he was for receiving everyone’s support and encouragement,” says Allison Preston, a former student of Clark’s who received her undergraduate degree in 2014. “He taught me to truly value your family and the people in your life; that when your situation might be difficult, there are always so many other things to be thankful for.” Clark was named the Harbert School of Accountancy Beta Alpha Psi Outstanding teacher for 2013. “I am so proud to have had such great students over my 20 years at Auburn,” Clark said in an email to students in April. “Regardless of if you were in my classes, you have truly touched my life in so many ways.”

Expand your network We’re glad you read the alumni notes, but you don’t have to wait for the next magazine to catch up with former classmates or expand your list of professional contacts. Harbert College alumni 35 and under in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Nashville can network with colleagues through Young Alumni chapters. The groups host quarterly happy hour social events featuring guest speakers. Join today or start a chapter in your city by contacting Development Coordinator Stephanie Froehlich at 334.844.2983 or

Explore. Expand. Elevate. The Harbert College of Business offers a number of programs—on-campus and distance, from certificate to PhD—that are proven to add significant value to an undergraduate degree. Not only have these programs been proven to enhance the earning capability of hundreds of graduates, their quality has been recognized nationally and internationally. European CEO Magazine calls Auburn’s Executive MBA Program the “Best Executive Remote Learning Programme, North America,” and US News & World Report places Auburn’s online graduate business programs in the top ten nationwide.


Master of Business Administration

For working professionals with at least eight years experience, the EMBA combines distance study with on-campus residencies to give executives the skills necessary to advance their careers.

Auburn’s MBA provides a broad business skill set and the opportunity to choose from six specialization options.

Physicians Executive MBA

Master of Science in Business Administration/Finance

The program prepares physicians for positions of leadership and helps them improve their practices.

With thesis and non-thesis options, the program offers specialized instruction for students who anticipate a career in finance or plan to pursue further graduate work.

Master in Real Estate Development

Master of Science in Information Systems

For professionals with three years experience, the program enhances leadership skills and professional knowledge.

This flexible program enables students to develop greater technical expertise while customizing the program to meet their individual career goals.

Master of Accountancy Graduates have one of the nation’s highest pass rates on the CPA exam. They enjoy a good starting salary and a better chance at promotion once hired.

Graduate Certificate in Accountancy This program—which does not require an entrance exam— enables participants to update accounting skills and prepare for the CPA exam.

PhD in Business This program offers three concentrations: information systems, management, and finance. Each prepares the graduate to contribute new knowledge to the operation of business organizations and compete for faculty positions at leading universities.


Putting Ideas in


In the business world, we pitch to invite contact. It’s all about putting an idea in play and helping the other party find value in it.

mechanisms for communication. The magazine you’re holding represents one of the ways we tell the story of what we’re doing and why.

My pitches to alumni, students, parents, and industry partners often touch on opportunities and obstacles, the vision for what our college can become, and the challenges we must overcome. I discuss the prospect of becoming an elite public school of business—a process in which mindset matters more than rankings.

Our challenges include being patient and managing growth. Making our vision a reality won’t result from one breakthrough, and it won’t happen quickly. Our pitch describes what we can be in a decade or two if we carefully and methodically work our strategic plan.

Success would mean we’re consistently a first-choice destination for students pursuing a high-quality business education, for faculty members contemplating the next career move, and for companies seeking sharp minds. We’re trending in the right direction since the Harbert naming gift (and were even before it). Our enrollment continues to grow, a number of our academic programs have earned top 10 national rankings, and we’ve connected with more leading companies through such events as Top Tigers. So what’s standing in our way? It’s not youth, even though we’ve yet to celebrate our 50th birthday. That trait enables us to remain nimble and makes us more open to new approaches. Is it a matter of resources? The amazing progress we’ve seen to date in our capital campaign indicates others see the potential in us. Is it awareness? We’ve certainly seen improvement, but continue to refine the methods and

When we pitch, it’s about the future we can help you build. We show how we will help you land a great job. How your Harbert College education will pay off in your lifetime. How we can provide value to your company through the talent we develop and the problems we solve. How you can help future students find their way by serving as a mentor. Every conversation will be different, but the fundamentals of the pitch remain the same, from the wind-up through the delivery. And, at the end of each, I’m listening for the crack of the bat. War Eagle!

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

50 HM, Fall 2015

Our Mission:

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

Let Us Hear From You Whether you are an alumnus or a supporter, a student or a parent, you have a stake in our future. Web: E-mail:


Auburn University Raymond J. Harbert College of Business


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Harbert Magazine -- Fall 2015  

We all make pitches. We pitch ourselves to land a job, and our pitch our ideas in the workplace. Some of us pitch to close deals and secure...

Harbert Magazine -- Fall 2015  

We all make pitches. We pitch ourselves to land a job, and our pitch our ideas in the workplace. Some of us pitch to close deals and secure...