Ramon Gregory – Success to Significance

In any strong MBA program, you get plenty of opportunity to hear about the application of specific disciplines from researchers, experts, and professionals at the top of their field.  What you don’t get as often is the chance to hear a successful, dedicated leader talk openly and intimately about their life journey, their successes and failures, and values that led them along the way.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a lunch event sponsored by Fisher’s Black MBA Association, wherein we heard from Ramon Gregory, who is Senior Vice President, Customer Care Shared Services for Cardinal Health.  With more than 25 years of experience leading customer service and contact centers, Mr. Gregory can speak with authority on multiple topics, but at this event, he focused on his professional journey, the way he and his family navigated the various forks in the road that they encountered as he balanced raisinRAMONg a family with leading in a company, and the mindset of a leader.

As he spoke, Mr. Gregory kept coming back to a phrase that seemed to be very important to him: “from success to significance.”  Although he never directly explained the phrase or specified how he came across it, he used it to underscore a shift in his professional perspective that seemed to occur over the years.  Although he is extremely successful, he seems to have come to a conclusion that I have heard expressed before from men and women of high achievement.  He communicated to us that success is great, and that we—as MBAers who are hungry to get out into the world and climb the ranks—should do so.  Success comes with a lot of benefits, and he recommends them.  But he said that once success is attained, there is something more important that he hopes we will set our eyes on.  That to lead truly significant lives, we should invest in the process of knowing, developing, and collaborating with people.  Mr. Gregory spoke with kindness, honesty, and humility about his dedication to serving others, developing leaders who work for him, and leading a life that will benefit not only his company, but the people who work there, in powerful and meaningful ways.  I am thankful to him for his transparency and willingness to speak to a room of strangers about some of his deepest convictions, and I hope I am blessed with the opportunity to put them into practice.

Experiential Marketing: Hearing An Insider’s Perspective

A class session with Fisher Marketing Professor Shashi Matta is always interesting—you never know what might happen.   This has never been more evident than during yesterday’s Advertising Strategy and Management class; about half-way through our discussion, a guest came to the door.  Professor Matta wrapped up his thought, and then introduced our guest speaker for the day, straight from the airport—Mark Anderson, Chief Experiential Officer at an agency in Los Angeles called Omelet LA.  While he was talking to us about his company and some of the types of work they do, the Fisher Technical Team was setting up a video conference display in the front of the room, and our speaker was joined via teleconference by Molly, who directs the experiential marketing and advertising work on the Windows Phone 8 for Microsoft.  They walked us through the insight, strategy, and specific tactics that they employed when launching the Windows phone last year, specifically their experiential marketing initiative.

As a marketing student looking ahead to a career in brand management, it is always inspiring and educational to see what innovative companies do to reach consumers in powerful, tangible, effective ways.  The way the Windows Phone 8 team looked at consumer contact, social media, and earned media as foundational elements of their integrated marketing mix was extremely interesting.  They talked us through the hard choices they had to make when weighing the ROI of an experiential, innovative campaign against other traditional communication vehicles—these discussions aligned powerfully with the discussions we’ve been having in class about IMC strategy and communication objectives.  It’s always cool to see course material come to life, and we definitely had the opportunity to do that yesterday.

Brand Management: A Newcomer’s View from the Inside

When I began the MBA program, I had not yet decided on a major, or even a post-MBA career path.  I had been a high school teacher for the past 8 years, and I wasn’t sure where the B-School journey would lead me. 

Throughout the first year of school, I became increasingly attracted to marketing, and even more specifically to the role of brand management.  This seemed like a dynamic role that might be a good fit for me.  I was given the opportunity to give the role of ABM (assistant brand manager) a trial run this past summer as a marketing intern at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati.

After working in a large CPG company for the past 12 weeks, I have had the opportunity to get a first-hand view of the role of a brand manager.  Here is my analysis: it is an awesome job.  There are lots of things I enjoyed about my internship, but in terms of the role of brand management, the most compelling things are its pace and the breadth.

Pace:  Brand managers (and ABMs) are not bored.  Their day is packed full of all kinds of meetings, tasks, functions, and priorities.  If you’re looking for a job that positions you comfortably in a cubicle or office for 8 hours a day, quietly working on a spreadsheet, this is not the job for you.  For me, I love the energy and frenetic pace of a busy day, and brand management provides that.

Breadth: Brand managers do a lot of marketing, but they also do some of everything.  They play in finance, strategy, market research, design, human resources, and operations—as the “hub of the wheel,” so to speak, brand managers get the opportunity to think and act across the entire spectrum of business functions, and that is really engaging for me.  For a marketing professional who wants to work strictly in a traditional marketing capacity, they may want to look elsewhere for a good professional fit, but for a manager who wants to have their hands in multiple buckets, driving the overall course of a business unit, brand management might be a role to consider.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend the summer at P&G—I learned more in 12 weeks than I ever thought possible.  I would encourage any prospective MBA candidate to at least give brand management a look if this description sounds appealing—you might end up discovering a challenging, stimulating, rewarding new career path.

The Fisher Annual Internal Case Competition: What A Blast!


Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to compete in Fisher’s annual Internal Case Competition sponsored by Ernst & Young.  Granted, the idea of choosing to be holed up in a break-out room in Gerlach Hall for hours on Friday night might not sound like the most exciting or glamorous way to spend a precious weekend, but I have to say that it was a complete blast.  The chance to work with some of my friends in the program that I don’t typically get to work with was awesome, and we really got into it.

The case for this year’s competition revolved around an established fragrances brand that was evaluating a variety of channel and product development options as avenues toward sustainable growth.   Since my group was made up of four dudes, and this fragrance line was exclusively for women, one might have perceived that as a distinct disadvantage, but we were undaunted.  We walked over to the gas station and loaded up on Combos (pizzeria pretzel, obviously), Sun Chips, Starburst, and an array of beverages—essential elements of any successful case competition experience—and got to work.

One notable thing about the Fisher MBA experience is the broad scope of knowledge categories that you begin to develop in a really short time.  For someone without a business background, taking classes in operations, finance, accounting, marketing, leadership development, organizational behavior, economics, and global business, all in the first year, can feel a little like drinking from the fire hose at times.  That said, now that we’re approaching the end of the first year (that’s insane to realize), it was really fun to discuss this case with my classmates and find that I was able to view the company’s position from an array of vantage points.  As we brainstormed solutions and discussed threats and opportunities through a variety of lenses, I realized something—I’ve been learning stuff!  The chance to get outside of the traditional classroom and apply that knowledge was once I won’t soon forget, and the camaraderie of competing alongside good friends just enriched the experience more deeply.  I will wholeheartedly recommend the Internal Case Competition to next year’s first-year MBA students—good times, for sure.

The Night I Didn’t Study: Zac Brown Band Live

Over the last month, my full-time MBA classmates and I have been adjusting to the pace of life around Fisher.  Between all the great learning opportunities, group discussions, case competitions, readings, and exams, there isn’t a ton of time for lazing around.  That said, it’s crucial to carve out some time for ourselves, remembering that there’s more to life than positioning statements and financial reports. Last Friday night, I did just that—I took my wife to the Zac Brown Band concert at Crew Stadium.

Living in larger city like Columbus has its perks, and one of them is that some of the best musicians usually stop here on their tours across the country.  It’d been a while since I’d been to a show, and I had forgotten what an incredible escape it can be to see a great band perform.

The crisp, autumn, Ohio air was laced with nostalgia, reminiscent of high school football games and the laughter of old friends.  There was just enough chill in the air to be grateful for the surrounding crowd, talking over the warm din of a thousand conversations.  Furthermore, the band was incredible.  As a (novice) musician myself, there is no way to overstate how truly amazing these guys are, not only at writing authentic, powerful, infectious southern rock, but also at putting on a performance that engages each person distinctly and completely.  A truly great performer addresses each individual in the crowd and invites them on a powerful, meaningful journey—one in which they feel integral.  Zac Brown and his bandmates did this deftly and effortlessly, and as the music rumbled on, over the undulating crowd and out over the Ohio plains, I found myself smiling.

So far, the semester has been extremely stimulating and engaging, and I have never learned so much so quickly.  I’m grateful to my professors and colleagues for teaching me new and exciting concepts in a way I can remember.  But I’m also grateful to the Zac Brown Band for the chance to forget, if only for an evening.