Written By: Eggy Plastaras, MBN Memberconnect-social-media-s

When many business executives hear the phrase: “Internal Social Networking Platform”, it is hard for them to imagine what proactive uses could come of a “Facebook-esq” platform. Scared that employees will spend more time instant-messaging each other, or posting cat videos, many are reluctant to look much further into the subject. However, there are a growing number of companies who have discovered the many positive benefits that come with implementing an internal social networking platform.
In this post, I will focus particularly on IBM’s platform- “Connections”. IBM has developed both a basic, free version of the platform, as well as a more advanced, highly-customizable version available for individual companies to purchase.

1. Enables widespread companies to connect their workforce, regardless of distance.

Connections allows companies that have country-wide, or even world-wide employees connect, and collaborate in one common location. Take IBM for instance, whose workforce contains individuals that work primarily from their homes. This social networking platform allows both informal, and formal collaboration to occur without ever needing to set foot in an actual office building. Employees in different time zones are also easier to connect with as opposed to staying up late to hold conference calls, or sending emails back and forth. Forums and wikis allow constant and localized communication to occur regardless of the time differences.

2. Creates a common, and uniform location for collaboration and communication.

The Connections platform comes equipped with the ability to form interest groups, blogs on particular subject matter, forums to ask questions, and other common spaces to share documents, videos etc. No longer are employees stuck running 1000 applications on their computer simultaneously. Connections provides one place for coworkers to ask questions, share articles, and even just talk about the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

3. Increases top-down communication

Many companies who use the Connection platform such as one medium-sized online investing broker (name withheld) has found that through the implementation of the platform, direct communication between top executives and more entry-level positions has flourished. Paired with a gammification process in which employees can “badge” each other for good postings, CEOs can badge any employees they wish. Not only does this promote usage of the platform, but it also creates a unique flow of communication that without the platform, would be quite rare. Connections provides a medium in which employees want to participate and have the possibility of getting some recognition from top level management.

4. Promotes overall efficiency gains

Ultimately, employees are able to consolidate the majority of their internal communication and collaboration in a single platform. No longer does a person need to contact 5 different people to get the expert knowledge they need. IBM connections, and other internal social networking platforms create ease in attaining desired information- both through posting questions, blogging, and file sharing. Employees are getting part of their days back- meaning more time to work, and more time to play!

game-of-thrones

Written By: Alex Curiel, MBN President

The other day I stumbled upon an article that attempts to value the “market for dragons” within the popular TV show Game of Thrones. Upon making this discovery, I can admit that I was a little surprised. Someone had actually decided to take time out of his day to pursue what appeared to be an absolutely pointless endeavor. Nonetheless, I found myself intrigued by the idea and decided I needed to read more.

Halfway through an article that I initially assumed to be written by some clever internet troll, I quickly realized that the article was actually quite innovative. While the market valued by the article is clearly based in fantasy, the argument used to do so is well constructed, and based on many legitimate concepts in economics and market valuation. As such, this type of article not only provides an effective teaching model, but also an outlet to apply academic concepts in a context interesting enough to capture the attention of just about anybody with an interest in Game of Thrones. In other words, the disguise provided by the Game of Thrones analogy allows readers to learn about economics and market valuation in an entertaining manner, while inspiring the application of these concepts through independent analysis of the show. As a fan of the show myself, I immediately had many comments on the article’s argument and attempted to write a response.

I decided to begin with a brief summary of the article to ensure that I had a firm understanding of the argument made:

  • The market for dragons is thin and illiquid with no comparable transactions for reference
  • Based on information provided from the plot, we can infer an estimated value of the dragons relative to other goods (Danerys proposes a trade of her dragon for an army and ships with an established value)
  • The ability to work with a dragon depends upon extremely rare, skilled labor and is potentially completely unique to Danerys
  • When valuing a unique good such as a dragon, it is important to gather as much information as possible before accepting the value proposed by the seller, including an analysis of the motivations of the seller

Then I proceeded to construct a brief response based on an element that I perceived to be lacking in the analysis:

While I agree with most of the arguments made in this article, I think it clearly fails to take the current political conditions into account. As most of the competing kingdoms are heading toward an all-out war over power, one has to consider the imminent changes in the governing authorities. This is especially true with the opportunity to invest in goods and services that could potentially influence this outcome.

Given the current political climate, it is safe to assume that an individual seriously considering the purchase of a dragon must be taking these variables into consideration. An investment in the dragons is implicitly speculating that the purchase will in some way provide influence to the purchaser in the outcome of the power struggle. By extension, this includes a potential stake in the leadership of the seven kingdoms and serious lobbying influence. While these potential benefits are not guaranteed and actually pose great risk in the event of failure to influence the winning team, there can be no denying that speculation holds legitimate value for this particular market and should therefore have a significant impact on the value of the dragons. In other words, one should consider a dragon as an asset with speculative value, and should factor in the expected return on this asset based on the perceived risk when deciding to invest. Without determining this key piece of information (expected return), it would be nearly impossible to value the appreciation and/or depreciation of the asset over time, which is key in determining the net present value.

Finally, I reflected on the response I had just made and came to a conclusion about the effectiveness of the article as a teaching model:

One can quickly see how ambiguous and daunting the concept of valuation can become given the extent of the variables to be considered. However, this article narrows down this complex process and renders its comprehension quite painless by incorporating questions that the readers already have (i.e. what role will the dragons play in the future battles and will they prevail in putting Danerys on the Iron Throne?). If anything, I found the exercise to be quite entertaining. As a fan of the show, I already have incentive to be thinking about things like the value of a dragon given the anticipation I and many other viewers feel with the imminent release of a new season of the show. I give major kudos to the author of this blog, as I think this type of article can really help students like myself to gain a better understanding of a wide variety of academic topics and would encourage other students to find similar outlets to enhance their own studying processes.

 

Here is a link to the original article: http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/04/22/economics_of_ice_fire_iii_the_market_for_dragons.html

02_grouphorror

Written By: Kelly Paul, USC Senior

Group projects*. To be blunt, generally people don’t like them.  We perceive them to be curses our professors/teachers/employers place on us all in the name of teaching teamwork and/or generating high quality work.  But most peoples’ experiences in group projects are anything but that.  I’m sure at one time you’ve even felt that you’ve had to carry the “team” to the finish line?  You shouldn’t have to feel like that, nor should you be doing all the work. 

As a senior studying organizational leadership and management, and design manager for eight theater productions, I’ve had teams that were total nightmares and teams that were amazing.  By utilizing what I’ve learned from my Marshall classes and applying them to managing my production teams, I’ve learned the key steps to bring teams to success (or at the very least, making them painless as possible).  Below are some of the main points from what I’ve learned.  They will be short and brief, because to really go into team dynamics we would need a whole semester. But I hope that these tips will make your next group project less of a hassle.

1. Getting to Know Your Group. So your professor/teacher has just announced you will be doing a group project and has randomly assigned you to a team.  Before jumping in to the project and assigning jobs, get to know your group members first.  Meet for lunch (or do some other fun activity) that requires you all to get to know each other.  Don’t discuss the project.  The goal here is to have fun so that you don’t learn to associate these people as just classmates you are stuck with, but teammates. After the fun activity, set a meeting time that works for everyone where you will start to work on the project.

2. Communicate Expectations in a Charter. Your next meeting should be a brief written outline of how the group will function, including:

  • What is the team’s purpose? Why are you in a team and what are you expected to deliver?
  • What is the team’s goal in achieving the project?  Try not to make the goal “to get an A”.  That is not very clear.  A better goal would be “To achieve a high quality product by doing ______”.
  • Determine who is the leader.  Is he or she assigned or do they naturally emerge?  Will you switch off leadership?  Or will leadership be shared equally? A great leader is someone who helps manage teams relationships while keeping the team oriented on the task.
  • Assign other roles and expectations of those roles to members.  These should be suited to an individual’s skills and challenging enough so that they keep individuals motivated and interested.  Assigning roles also clarifies to members what they will be doing so that there is no confusion on who does what task.
  • How will the team primarily be communicating? Email, text, Facebook, in person? And how often should members be replying? Perhaps all messages need to be responded to within a day?
  • How often will the team be meeting in person? It is very important to meet in person as opposed to only emails.  Meeting in person allows us to be thorough in our discussions and communicate clearly about what needs to be done.  It sounds cliche, but remember: Humans are social creatures. And I DON’T just mean social media.
  • How will the team handle conflict?  Will you discuss your options or rule by majority vote?  There are many ways to address conflict, and I would encourage you choose a way that promotes a supportive environment for the team to work in.
  • What are your deadlines?  By when will you have your paper done, ect.
  • How will you reward success? Is the team going to go see the Lakers/ go get cupcakes if you achieve your goals?

Charters are tedious, but the point is to make everyone is on the same page about what needs to get done.  A good charter will help prevent people from not do their work (free riding) or aren’t doing the quality level of work they could be doing (social loafing).

­3. Prepare for The First Meeting. The first meeting is KEY. I can’t stress this enough.  The first meeting sets the tone for the rest of the process.  If you come to the meeting prepared, your teammates will see you as a competent and essential member of the group.  If you are not prepared, your teammates’ trust in you will be negatively affected. Preparing for the first meeting means knowing about the project, knowing what is expected of you, what will you be discussing during the meeting, and what do you hope to know/ have accomplished by the end of the meeting.  I recommend writing an agenda so that you don’t forget to go over anything.

4. The First Meeting. Start on time.  Briefly mention what you will be discussing today, and by what time do you hope to finish.  We are all busy people after all.  Be sure to recap what was said during the meeting at the end, and delegate what needs to be done before your next meeting.

5. Meeting, Working, Meeting. Throughout the process your team should be communicating how process is going and making sure everyone has what he or she need to do their job.  Be supportive of one another!  Positive verbal feedback goes a long way.  Think of yourself as a coach – cheer your team on and provide direction.  (Note: By coaching style, I mean Pete Carroll. Not Nick Saban).

6. Midway. Half way through the project your team should assess how it is going.  Are you meeting your target goals?  Do you think you are communicating clearly?  Are your teammates getting along?  If not, stop and assess why.  Give constructive feedback.  It is important to support your teammates.  Their success brings you success! Beware of groupthink (when everyone goes along with a bad idea) by assigning someone to be a devil’s advocate.  Their job is to provide constructive criticism to ideas and promote critical thinking in the group to make sure your ideas are well thought out.

7. Meeting, Working, Meeting. Continue what you are doing.

8. Deadline Day. Make sure you have been progressing towards your goals at a good pace so that you don’t end up working all night before it’s due.  Who needs the stress? Double check that you have done everything that is required of you and your team.  Have everyone read that paper you all had to write.  Is it top quality work?  If not, fix it!

9. Celebrate. You finished your group project.  Hopefully without fighting or complaining to your professor/teacher that your team is driving you nuts.  Now go out with your team and have fun.  You’ve earned it.

10. Assess.  What about this process went well and what didn’t? For you? For others? For the team?  Learn from your mistakes to be an even stronger team next time.

My parting tips are to be aware that everyone works differently and has different personalities.  Respect your differences and learn how to work with them.  Don’t take things so personally.  If things are really getting emotionally challenging, try to separate your personal relationship with your working relationship.  Communication is key.  Don’t assume people know what you are feeling or talking about, and the more your teammates know the more likely you will trust each other.  Because the secret to a truly perfect team- is trust.

That’s all folks, good luck with your group projects!  Tune in next time when I will teach you the fine art of how to give constructive criticism without the tears.

*The author realizes that “group” and “team” mean different things.  The key differences being that 1) teams require a certain level of interdependency and groups don’t.  2) Teams usually have some degree of decision-making power and groups don’t.  But for the sake of keeping things simple, for now we will use both terms interchangeably in this paper.  

Written By: Christie Cyprus, USC Student

At our last meeting, Marshall Business Network members had the pleasure of listening to guest speaker Mr. Bret Nielsen, a graduate of USC and Senior Vice President of Leasing and Asset Management for Caruso Affiliated. Caruso is a renowned real estate development firm in Southern California that has achieved much success in projects such as The Grove, along with many other distinctive retail centers, mixed use, and hotel developments. Mr. Nielsen presented the basics of real estate development, along with the values, processes, and keys to success embodied by Caruso Affiliated.

One of the many important take-aways from our guest speaker is the ten rules of success as practiced by Caruso, which are applicable to any successful business. These rules include:

  1.     Go big – take risks, do things right
  2.     Stay ahead of the trends
  3.     Know your audience
  4.     Work like hell
  5.     “Zig” when others “zag” – think outside the box
  6.     Brand, brand, brand – building a reputation for quality products develops security for customers
  7.     Do! – step up and take ownership in a project
  8.     Never sit still
  9.     Use the power of self entitlement – everyone makes mistakes; own up, and take risks
  10.     Be flexible

It is quite unmistakable that this firm’s attention to detail on projects and its effort to develop the most quality atmospheres is a large cause for Caruso’s success in the industry.  Mr. Nielsen explained how Caruso has made improvements to its centers that would not directly result in profit, such as more secure parking structures and luxurious lobbies, but rather enhance the quality of its properties and appeal to the experience of its customers. Caruso’s drive to improve for reasons of quality instead of to simply gain revenue is really something to note. The important take-away here:

  •       Focusing on a quality instead of most cost-effectiveness/revenue gain = greater success

Mr. Nielsen also remarked on Caruso’s inclusion of the community’s opinions in its projects. Working with the neighborhood to develop friendly relationships and further the company’s good reputation contributes to Caruso’s success. With the community involved and invested, people are even more apt to visit the center, driving more sales for Caruso’s tenants and ultimately advancing the company. Thus, another key piece of advice from Mr. Nielsen’s lecture:

  •       Building strong relationships and brand name through quality product and positive interaction with others is important!

In telling of his own personal history, Mr. Nielsen imparted the necessity of networking to achieve success. He met Rick Caruso, the founder of Caruso Affiliated, through a peer while he was an undergraduate at USC. Mr. Nielsen also stressed how he has acquired every one of his past jobs through an acquaintance or someone he has known, proving that networking is ultimately the most invaluable skill to possess for one’s success.

  •       Networking is key!

While personally having some familiarity with real estate development from working for my parents’ real estate development and management companies, the retail side of the business was unfamiliar to me prior to Mr. Nielsen’s talk. Different from Caruso Affiliated, my parents’ business develops and manages, as well as flips, residential properties, which are mostly low-income single family units and duplexes in South Central Los Angeles. Part of the management company relies on outside investors, unlike Caruso which operates as a privately funded firm. Also unique to Caruso is that it encompasses numerous disciplines such as acquisitions, entitlements, construction, marketing, etc., in-house. This is atypical for most real estate development companies which depend on outside sources to help execute such functions to complete a project. Mr. Nielsen provided an exciting and intriguing look into the industry for me personally as well as for my peers in MBN. Caruso’s success in an outstanding reputation for a beautiful product and impressive figures inspired my interest in possible career opportunities in retail development. If nothing else, his advice for success in any career is something everyone can take away from this evening.

 

Lessons in Sales

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 6.26.11 PM

Written By: Matthew Rudd, USC Sophomore

I had the wonderful opportunity to work for renowned denim company, True Religion Brand Jeans. For about a year I was consistently the number one sales associate for my location selling over $40,000 of product during my employment. While working there I gained some very valuable lessons that I would like to share with you. If ever working in retail, remember SWAT, or Sell What’s Available Today. For example, if a customer asks for a product that you do not have, then suggest a similar product that would satisfy their needs or desires. When a customer walks into the store, try to analyze the kind of person they are based on poise, presentation, current outfit, body shape, bodily actions, and even the way they walk so you can curtail your sales pitch and fashion opinions that would best suit the individual. By adjusting to each customer accordingly, you can maximize the probability that he or she will buy a product. Presentation to the store and each sales associate is key because as we all know, presentation is everything. TRBJ also taught me to not always mention the products first but make small talk and act genuinely interested in what they have to say when you ask how their day is going or what they are up to for the day. Be personable and smile all the time and do everything you can to make them feel at home, for example if it is a hot day, offer them a cup of water, if you have any or crack a joke about the heat. Remember to always smile and keep your composure and leave personal life outside of the store. I know that a lot of these relate to retail, but can also be applicable to other fields in sales, such as real estate. Hope you all enjoyed my little lessons to selling!

Networking 101

networkingBy: Jennie Herman, USC Sophomore 

A conversation with Chris Harrer, an adjunct professor in Marshall and an expert in all things business.

What does your neighbor do for a living?

Who do your roommate’s parents work for?

What industry does the runner on the treadmill next to you work in?

Chances are, the answer to one of the above questions could position you with a prime contact for career development, and most people don’t even know it. Any social situation can be considered a networking opportunity whether it’s for information, advice, career planning, or even just for practice. As college students in one of the most prestigious business schools in the nation, we are surrounded by endless networking opportunities. As Mr. Harrer put it, take every chance you get to make meaningful connections whether it be with people of influence, co-workers, colleagues, or competitors. You never know when you might need them or when they might need you. To do this, we all need to constantly work on improving our networking skills, which is where Mr. Harrer’s expert advice led us!

How to network successfully:

  • Know why you’re meeting
  • Define a specific purpose
  • Have questions prepared
  • Practice your two minute elevator pitch
  • Know the background of the company or individual
  • Relax!

Harrer’s Top 10 Tips:

  1. Know where to network and how to create opportunities
  2. Practice your 30-second and 2 minute elevator pitches (remember to slow down!)
  3. Be a helpful contact for a new connection
  4. Set networking goals
  5. Be memorable
  6. Keep your expectations realistic
  7. Be sincere and personable
  8. Remember to listen
  9. Practice networking as much as possible
  10. Have fun!

That businesswoman that holds the elevator open for you just might be the key to landing your dream job, or if nothing else, at least a new contact for career advice. To start networking, reflect on the opening questions… if you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you have a new assignment for yourself! All it takes is a little bit of courage and ambition, and from there, people will willingly help you reach your career goals.

reddit-logo

MBN is proud to be partnering with the Viterbi Institute for Innovation to host Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the popular website reddit.com! Alexis will discuss his new book ‘Without Their Permission’, as well as how entrepreneurship and the internet can be used to achieve goals and change the world.

Date: Wednesday, January 22nd
Time: 6PM
Location: SGM 123
RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/vsi2-speaker-series-alexis-ohanian-founder-of-redditt-tickets-10087246225

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.