SPRING, 2014


COVER STORY // SPRING 2014

Ross Around The World

by Terry Kosdrosky
and Bob Needham

While firmly planted in the Midwest, Ross has a decidedly global reach, especially when one considers the many ways that Ross alumni, students, and faculty are making a difference throughout the world. Their impact is felt globally — whether it's creating a new model of rural healthcare in Uganda, launching a hot new startup in Silicon Valley, or training the next generation of executives in India. These stories show the many ways the Ross Community is planting the Block M flag on every continent.

Ross Around the World

Delivering Healthcare in Rural Africa

The learning curve is steep when starting a new venture abroad — just ask Paul Clyde and his students. Clyde, lecturer of business economics and public policy, is spearheading the ambitious project of building a self-sustaining hospital from the ground up to serve rural residents in Uganda. The project is more than a business venture — it's a laboratory for new models of healthcare delivery Clyde hopes can be replicated throughout the developing world. It's also a prime opportunity for students to learn firsthand the challenges of working in rural, developing countries. Evening MBA student Pascale Leroueil, PhD '08 Chemistry, has spent most of her life in the lab. She's a vaccine research scientist at U-M Medical School who sees the value in combining business and science to improve healthcare among the world's poor.

She worked with a MAP team last semester in Jinja, Uganda, that analyzed a cost structure for the proposed hospital. The team studied whether they could charge richer patients more for discretionary things like private rooms to subsidize the cost of basic care for poorer patients. "Business is an amazing tool that allows you to look at what you want to do, analyze your constraints, and come up with a way to do it," she says. "Nothing replaces being there in order to know your constraints. Some things surprise you. When I visited hospitals there, I saw they had computers and medical equipment, but not reliable electricity. Those are things you just don't think about in the lab or classroom."

Clyde has had a number of students, both with MAP teams and from his Healthcare Delivery in Emerging Markets class, work on the Uganda project. It's also part of the new Living Business Model Initiative, in which Ross students work on a single project long-term with students and faculty from other U-M schools such as law and medicine, as well as Ugandan clinicians. "It's easy to get your mind stuck in the way things are done in the U.S. or even the way they've been done in developing countries," says Clyde. "But by going there and seeing what's possible, you start thinking about things in a totally new way. That's how innovation is going to happen in healthcare."

Tackling Sustainable Cosmetics in South America

MBA students are clamoring for international experiences, and Ross' signature Multidisciplinary Action Projects are an enriching way to get them. Olga Avrutin, MBA '14, worked on a MAP team last year at Belcorp, a major cosmetics company in Lima, Peru, that prides itself on social responsibility. "I definitely wanted an international experience," says Avrutin, whose interest in the beauty industry made the Belcorp MAP a natural fit. MAP is no vacation, she says. You're working, interacting with local business people, and you "see things through a different set of eyes." Last year, Belcorp hosted two projects. One team worked on the challenges of setting inventory policies when much of the selling is done through solo independent vendors; the other focused on a new segmentation methodology to drive fragrance sales.

The international scope of MAP continues to grow: This year's 89 MAP projects — including two more at Belcorp — touched two dozen different countries. Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, associate professor of management and organizations, has been involved with numerous international MAPs, especially in Asia and Latin America. "The key advantage is it allows our students to have a deeper immersion into the global economy than you would get from simply a week traveling abroad, seeing some sights," he says. "They have to collaborate, negotiate, and coordinate, and sometimes resolve conflicts with people from other cultures. They get a deep experience that opens their eyes and gets them more culturally attuned to the challenges of doing business abroad or doing business with people from different cultures." Avrutin says the challenges an overseas experience can bring can't be duplicated in the classroom: "It definitely brings the team together in a different way."

Ushering National Geographic Through the Digital Age

The man at the helm of the Washington, D.C.,-based National Geographic Society is not an explorer, photographer, or wildlife expert. But John Fahey, MBA '75, has what National Geographic needs in the digital age — enough experience in publishing, entertainment, and cable TV battles to know you never get comfortable. Even as he transitioned to chairman this year — he was CEO of National Geographic from 1998 to 2013 — he's looking several moves ahead. The current cable TV business model has about five to 10 more years of life, in his opinion, and the NatGeo cable channels are a big source of revenue and engagement. He's also eyeing the future of National Geographic's famed photography and articles — What will people pay for online and what should be offered for free?

"Everyone understands the business models of the past and it works for everybody," Fahey says. "But nobody has the magic formula for what comes next." Dealing with what comes next is right in Fahey's wheelhouse. He used every bit of the business and financial acumen he learned at Ross during his tenure at Time Warner Inc. He worked at HBO in the early days when it was a small money loser, and he helped launch the Cinemax channel. He also led Time Life, the book and music division of Time Warner, before joining National Geographic to first lead its for-profit ventures. Taking overall command of nonprofit National Geographic also put his leadership skills to the test. Some resisted his moves to print the famed magazine in more languages and to launch the NatGeo cable channels. But change was needed to keep the famed organization relevant and serving its members.

It's that sense of stewardship inherent in the National Geographic culture that drives Fahey.

"National Geographic isn't just about media, it's a mission," he says. "It's a mission to take care of the planet and its people. I've been fortunate to work for this remarkable organization that's allowed me to see the world, and to help make it more relevant and stronger than when I arrived. I think it is, and I have to tell you it feels great."

North America

Moving Fast in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley

For a company less than a year old, Lob.com has enjoyed quite a ride. Founded by Harry Zhang, BBA '11, and Leore Avidar, BBA '11, it was backed by Y Combinator, the incubator that spawned Reddit and Dropbox, and received $2.4 million in seed funding from some well-known Silicon Valley investors. Even better, the cloud-based print solutions service is attracting new customers, hiring people, and growing revenue. Its journey shows how fast a disruptive idea can gain traction.

"That's one thing about a startup: you really feel it evolve day by day," says Zhang. "There's such a direct correlation between every move you make and results." He and Avidar say the knowledge they gained at Ross and the power of the alumni network gave them the confidence to quit their corporate jobs and become tech entrepreneurs. The idea for San Francisco-based Lob.com was hatched when Zhang was at Microsoft and Avidar at Amazon Web Services. Zhang was frustrated because he wanted to mail notices to customers who were near renewal dates and there was no way to automate that with printers. But both were familiar with application programming interface (API) tools and saw most of the printing industry wasn't making use of it. Lob.com uses a cloud-based API to allow businesses to easily arrange printing needs, be it big or small. Customers don't have to manually manage the process.

"Printing is a huge industry that's been largely untouched by API engineering and it's ripe for disruption," says Dan Zhao, BBA '11, who joined his classmates at Lob.com later. "So while printing might sound kind of boring, we're really an API company. We connect the physical world with the virtual world so that businesses can be more efficient and agile." Things moved fast for Avidar and Zhang after the idea phase. They applied to be part of Y Combinator last year and were among those accepted from thousands of applications. Y Combinator comes with a bit of funding and plenty of mentorship and access to Silicon Valley players. The subsequent seed funding that's spurring growth was a direct result. "This isn't something we want to work on for a couple of years and sell," says Avidar. "We want to build a lasting company that will have an impact for years."

Europe

Developing Clean Tech in a European Economy

As Finland looks to focus its future economy around green enterprise, it needs somebody who understands not only technology, but finance, strategy, environmental policy, and engineering. So it turned to U-M Ross Professor Peter Adriaens. He teaches entrepreneurship at Ross, and is a professor at U-M's College of Engineering and School of Natural Resources and Environment. He's on a two-and-a-half-year appointment as distinguished professor at the Research Institute for the Finnish Economy, the country's main economic think tank. He's heading up a team to map an action plan for transforming the country's economy around clean technology.

"This isn't a research project, it's a huge undertaking," says Adriaens. "We're using a suite of tools, KeyStone Compact, that originated from our work at the Zell Lurie Institute over the last eight years to map out the assets and capabilities across corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises, and realign them across industry meta-clusters. The objective is to identify pivot opportunities from cost-driven industry silos to valuedriven business ecosystems. These clusters are then structured into thematic portfolios of public and private equities with specified return/risk profiles. That's what investors want to see." For example, Finland has a lot of existing assets in communications technology, chemical industries, and pulp and paper companies. How do you get a company like Nokia to apply its communications technology to something like smart power grids? Can the paper and pulp and chemical industries combine expertise to develop green chemistries? How do big companies and small/medium enterprises partner with startups?

Adriaens will spend a full year on sabbatical working on the project, and will go back and forth to continue the work after the year is up. In addition to mapping and planning new supply chains, his work also involves the design of new portfolio investment vehicles, and a policy road map. "This is something the country wants, but just because policymakers want it doesn't mean companies are just going to suddenly change," he says. "You need an inducement. That's why we're working with these private-sector companies, along with pension fund and private equity investors interested in clusters of innovation. We have more than 2,500 companies engaged. To date, Ireland, Switzerland and Singapore have signaled interest for us to design a similar program."

Priming the Next Generation of Global Executives in Asia

Asia

Successful companies know that leadership development is an ongoing journey. Ross has deep ties in India, both in industry and academia. So it's only natural that Larsen & Toubro Ltd., a $14 billion conglomerate in India, turned to Ross Executive Education in 2012 to prepare their up-andcoming executives for the global challenges that lay ahead. "We've expanded globally, but even in India our competition isn't just from Indian companies," says Neville Lobo, vice president of corporate human resources and director of the company's leadership development academy. "We compete with companies like Foster Wheeler, Samsung, and Siapem in India and abroad."

L&T hires legions of engineers and has several business units. The goal of L&T leadership training is to help the participants become entrepreneurial, global business leaders. Ross professors, led by Faculty Director M.P. Naryanan, run a custom, six-day Global Leadership Development Program twice a year as part of L&T's ongoing training. Held at the company's leadership development academy in Lonavla, India, Lobo says the program has made an immediate impact on the leaders who graduate. "Their awareness and knowledge increases, but more than that, their confidence to work in a global environment grows," Lobo says. "They leave the program with a real global perspective they then bring to the businesses they lead."

Ross Executive Education also helped L&T with a specific human resources initiative – to deepen the connection between human resources and top-level strategy. N. Dharmarajan, who heads human resources for L&T's buildings and factories business, said the program held last fall was revealing. "We're growing at about 25 percent a year, so I thought our priorities would be on operational efficiencies, getting talent and creating a leadership pipeline," says Dharmarajan. "I was pleasantly surprised to find out my business leader wanted us more involved in change management – ensuring our culture is maintained, dealing with a more diverse workforce, and knowing how to execute in a global environment. It was very revealing and now we have a way forward as partners."

Australia

Gaining Hands-On Experience in Australia

Australia

Business is a global game, and Ross is always looking for new ways to ensure its students know the rules. The Global Initiatives office, established two years ago, is designed to "explode the level of high-quality opportunities for students internationally," as Managing Director Liz Muller puts it. And it's working: "In the last couple of years, we have more than doubled our offerings." Last summer, Global Initiatives launched a new program in Australia specifically geared to undergrads, including non-Ross U-M students. The program involved two weeks of study with a faculty member in Australia followed by a six-week internship.

John McCarthy, BBA '15, a Chicago-area native finishing his junior year at Ross this spring, liked the "very unique opportunity" of the Australia program, with its longer time frame and scheduled side trips that let him get a sense of the country. He interned at JPMorgan Chase in Sydney, where the smaller scale of the firm's Australian operation allowed him to work on a range of tasks and roles that might not have been available in New York.

Even better: The company asked him to stay five weeks extra to work on a special project, analyzing growth in the Australian fixed-income market. His research ended up becoming part of staffing recommendations presented to company executives in London. "It was one of the greatest learning experiences I've ever had," McCarthy says, reflecting on the many differences in culture and even language he encountered. "I definitely look at it and see it as a major point of growth in my life." Next, McCarthy plans to go to China this August on another Global Initiatives program. And that happens to be a major focus area for Global Initiatives, with the Australia model expanding to Hong Kong this summer for a couple dozen students, and a new short course for MBA students in China launching in May. The office is considering where to expand next, and it will develop the upcoming full-semester-abroad opportunities that are part of the new Ross BBA curriculum (see page 16). The explosion of activity is just beginning.

Antarctica

Going Blue in Antarctica

Antarctica

All work and no play will make anyone dull. For the seventh continent, we see Maggie Chang, BBA '14, enjoying a cruise just off the Danco Coast in Antarctica in January. Chang took the trip with her family without knowing at the time that she wasn't the only Ross student on board. About halfway through the 21-day excursion Chang, an avid Michigan fan, was seen wearing Wolverine garb by Felice Schmertzler, BBA '14.

Few business schools can claim a more globally engaged alumni network — Ross alumni are 45,000 strong and live and work in nearly 90 different countries.

So where in the world are you? Tweet us @MichiganRoss
or share your story with us at facebook.com/MichiganRoss.

Tag your posts with #RossAlum and we'll count up the countries and continents.


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