Archive for November, 2010

Romantic Relationships between Alpha and Beta…, I am not posting about Finance…

November 29th, 2010 by under Best Lessons Outside of B-School. No Comments.

Lucy Kellaway. Source: Unknown

Monday Nov. 22’s Financial Times had an interesting article on the choice of romantic partners of female executives.  Lucy Kellaway writes that,

The biggest reason that alpha women don’t become CEOs is because they have made the common, yet fatal, error of marrying an alpha man. […] Alas, there is a problem here in both demand and supply. High-flying women are programmed to go for high-flying men. Most men are not attracted to women who are more successful than they are.

Citing Pepsico’s Indra Nooyi, Kraft’s Irene Rosenfeld, and Xerox’s Ursula Burrns, among others, Kellaway observes that aspiring female CEOs need to negotiate the logistics of being mobile, having someone who is prepared to watch children for long periods, and who will encourage them.  The partners of each of these executives took on more flexible jobs that allowed their partners to climb the career ladder.  As Kellaway put it, “If you have spent all day competing with men at work, you don’t want to go on competing at home.”  Kellaway drew from a limited sample of Financial Times’ Top 50  Business Women.

Yet, more fascinating than Kellaway’s initial premise are the responses from readers on the FT website.  My favorite, and the opinion that best aligns with my own view, was by V. Oliveira:

This might hold true for the old generation who usually see the world through a dichotomous perspective, but this is far too simplistic for the new generation. Alpha and Beta are not a state of being, but a state of mind that reflects someone’s reaction in face of the context. It is true that one of the partners can have higher aspirations than the other, but ‘growth’ does not come through the annihilation of the alpha state in the other. A more balanced society is not a matter of man supporting woman or woman supporting men, but a question of individuals supporting each other according to different stages of their careers, reacting to opportunities and following personal aspirations. This advise for woman to seek a beta man, is is not only naive but dangerous. It might apply for a single minded woman who define herself in terms of professional aspiration. A typical myopic view that I consider a plague of our industrial society. Our institutions have failed precisely because they depend on the annihilation of someone’s individuality in order to promote the so-called ‘progress’. The new generation wants equilibrium, are more in tune with family, environment and balanced work life where one do not needs to be an ‘alpha animal’, but can bring to work environment a bit more of common sense.

I was particularly drawn to Kellaway’s article because it reminded of Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift.  Published in the late 1980s, Hochschild observed the relationship dynamics and thought-processes of working married couples and how they they negotiate household and family responsibilities.  Although, this was already obvious to most working women, Hochschild contributed significant academic sociological analysis of the means and justification of women’s double duty at home after their paid jobs (home and reproductive work is usually unpaid).


VCIC Part II: We’ll Be Back

November 22nd, 2010 by under Entrepreneurship, Finance. No Comments.

Team Drunken Tiger (left to right): Femi Oluboyede '12, Ja Eun "Jessica" Kim '12, Stephen Huie '12, Cara Weikel '12, and Eric Walthall '12. Source: Smith Entrepreneurship Club

Unfortunately, we didn’t win the VCIC, but we tried our best and learned a heck of a lot……the most surprising thing I learned from the Venture Capital judges is that whatever valuation method we use doesn’t really matter…..what the VCs say is the “market” valuation is what matters (currently $2-3 million for seed level firms) – end of story….though I still want to justify it with a valuation model….

In addition, I now have a better appreciation for how the employee options pool affects pre and post valuation – by agreeing to a smaller options pool with the entrepreneur, we effectively reduced our ownership stake by about half and gave it all to the founders (what would have been for future employees became part of the founders’ stake), when we could have split it instead.  We thought we were being entrepreneur friendly, but then ended up losing a chance to negotiate ownership size.

Also, all that team building from earlier on really paid off.  I admit I wasn’t feeling too confident about how well I was going to be able to do and I projected that on to the team, but they pulled me back.  Everyone worked very hard and we made it through together and are better for it.

The firms we looked at were very interesting.  Unfortunately, I can’t say too much about them or their business plans because we signed non-disclosure agreements.  Check them out for yourself:

  • MailVU – online private video messaging
  • Foodem – online wholesale food clearinghouse
  • – online dynamic engagement advertising

I hope we’ll get to do it again….I’m so glad we have a holiday this week……


Venture Capital Investment Competition: Not Just about Financial Valuation

November 17th, 2010 by under Entrepreneurship, Finance, Leadership and Managing Human Capital. No Comments.

Team Drunken Tiger (Left to Right): Stephen Huie '12, Eric Walthall '12, Femi Oluboyede '12, Ja Eun "Jessica" Kim '12, and Cara Weikel '12. Source: Stephen Huie

This is another tough week:

Last week, I participated in the screening round of the Venture Capital Investment Competition*……and my teammates and I passed!  We had to learn a lot of new things to succeed (e.g. liquidity preference, term sheets, return multiples, pre and post-value, comparables valuation…).

Yet, I don’t think we could have done it without some of the team management and leadership skills we developed in our Leadership and Human Capital Management class.  While I was acquainted to my four other team members, I hadn’t spent too much time with them prior to the competition; I don’t share any classes with them, but I felt that we each, like all Smith students, had a lot of analytical intelligence and emotional intelligence to bring to bear to the task.

However, how well we would function as a team might be a different story.

Writing more than 30 years apart from each other, Patrick Lencioni and Bruce Tuckman both state that developing trust  is the most important part of collaborating.  Although it sounds corny, it was actually extremely effective for us to get together prior to the competition proper to share different parts of our personal background, weaknesses, strengths, and fears.  I was very surprised (my apologies to Profs. Chen and Kudisch) that it actually did put us in the right place to begin having constructive issue based conflict.  I believe the most important factor was that we all approached the process with a great deal of sincerity and honesty…..and the leftover beers we took from after the Consulting Forum may have helped as well….

Besides the regular roles of a project manager, scribe, and facilitator, we also assigned roles and responsibilites to encourage a culture of inquiry and constructive criticism:

  • Someone to encourage debate, challenge assumptions, and call upon those who haven’t voiced their perspective
  • Someone to observe group dynamics
  • Someone to play a Devil’s Advocate

These roles helped us to avoid groupthink and to ask critical questions……..or so we thought……….the problem was that with only two days (less class, less sleep….well, what sleep we did get, at least) to analyze the case and come up with a valuation and present our analysis, we probably rushed through a lot of the ground rules and responsibilities we established in the name of expediency.  This second time around, we’ll have to do our best to keep it together.  But I’m hopeful and I think we do have a chance to win the competition and represent the Smith School at the regional level.

I’m looking forward to the next stage in the competition – we should receive our new business plans in the next…..5 min……..

See how we did!

*The way the competition works is that teams evaluate real business plans and then sit down with the real entrepreneurs behind those plans.  After asking questions about the business plan, the team negotiates a deal with the entrepreneur to get a stake in the company.  Real venture capitalists judge the teams based on their valuations, their interactions with the entrepreneur, and how they field questions.  Teams are given 40 hours to evaluate the business plans.

During the screening round, we were only given business plans and a presentation; there were no interactions with entrepreneurs.


Consulting Forum 2010

November 11th, 2010 by under Articles for the Smith School, Consulting. No Comments.

2012 Smith Consulting Forum. Source: Yisheng "Eason" Kao, MBA 11

Check out this article I wrote about the 2010 Smith Consulting Forum.  Also, see pictures by Eason Kao MBA 11!

Vivian E. Riefberg, Senior Partner of McKinsey & Co., gave the keynote address and discussed prospects for employment and the economy, and what firms are doing to cope with what she called “economic discontinuities” that change the nature of industry dynamics. Riefberg’s keynote was followed by two practitioner panels about “Assisting Clients with Emerging from the Great Recession” and “Consulting Skills Needed in Times of Change.”


Best Lessons Outside of B-School: Chef Luciano's Gourmet Chicken

November 3rd, 2010 by under Best Lessons Outside of B-School. No Comments.

Chef Luciano. Source: Chef Luciano's Gourmet Chicken

Walking back to the elevated train from the National Society of Hispanic MBAs Conference in Chicago, IL, I was starving.  It was 3PM and I had just finished a second round interview with a potential internship employer.  I spent the morning talking with reps from the employers I was considering and felt that I was done for the day.  I thought the interview went well, so I wanted to treat myself to something nice to eat – maybe one of those famous Chicago deep dish pizzas……

Sitting on a corner across from a run-down White Castle was  Chef Luciano’s Gourmet Chicken.  I wasn’t feeling like eating fried chicken, but I the place looked unique and had been featured by USA Today so I popped inside to check it out.

The menu was surprisingly varied – indeed, a lot of chicken options, but also a set of curries….I ordered a lamb curry, a side of black eyed peas, and a lemonade.  The portions were HUGE for the price and I was throughly enjoying the meal while reading my Leadership and Human Capital Managment homework for the coming week – “Why we Hate HR”.

Halfway through my meal, a heavyset man in a cooking apron walked up to me and asked me how my meal was.  I said it was terriffic and just what I needed.  The man was Luciano himself, though he told me it was a nickname he took on for himself.  In fact, he wasn’t Italian – he was Indian.  He immigrated from Dehli to the US in the 1960s with a quarter in his pocket.  He wasn’t a cook when he came – he learned it on the job.  When he learned how to make Italian fried chicken, he decided to open up a chicken restaurant between Chinatown and the lake.  The building was the former site of the first White Castle in Chicago, which subsequently relocated across the street.

He had run his business for more than two decades in the same location.  He’s seen the neighborhood change to becoming lower income and the abortive gentrification that failed to complete itself before the credit crash.  Yet, he and his business remain, through strategy and smarts, and he’s preparing to pass the business to his son.  We spent about half an hour contemplating the empty condo building across the street, the market for fish, and entrepreneurship.

I won’t reveal the specific tricks of the trade he shared with me, but the principles of how he ran his business could be categorized in two ways:

  • Keep Experimenting
  • Search and Procure the Best

As an restaurant owner, Luciano started out with a few products and then built up his menu, eventually including Indian dishes, and commissioning his own formula of lemonade.  He also described the best way to buy fish from the fishmonger and how he is able to sell high quality fish at a fraction of the price as the expensive downtown restaurants.

What I learned from him was so mercurial… all seems graspable in concept, but there was so much grounded in his own experiences that I cannot fully appreciate it.  Some of the best lessons are outside of Business School.

49 Cermark Rd., Chicago, IL