17 Aug, 2009 | by

writer
(Photo:  Adam Lyon)

About a year ago, I was strongly considering the pursuit of an executive MBA to compliment my existing advanced degree in technology management.  I had been on the fence about the decision for quite some time.  Part me of felt as though my education would be that much more enhanced with the addition of those three little letters to bolster my resume.  Another part of me just felt as though I had unfinished business from several years prior.  You see, my graduate degree was comprised of about 1/3 of the standard MBA curriculum so I theoretically could have declared a dual degree approach.  But I didn’t.  At the time it just didn’t make much sense.  I had just landed a new job as a consultant and I knew my time would be very limited moving forward.   

As I revisited the possibility of heading back to school, an executive MBA was the only thing that might be able to comport with my hectic work schedule.  I decided to attempt to obtain firm sponsorship so my tuition fees would covered.  Unfortunately I didn’t make the cut as only 1 out of a little over 2o applicants received sponsorship.  This was at the height of our economic downward spiral so the outcome really didn’t surprise me at the time.  Trying to obtain firm sponsorship was even more challenging then the actual executive MBA application itself.  Not only did I need to provide a completed application that I’d be providing to the university I was applying to, but there were also series of other internal applications and recommendations I needed to provide.  It was an extremely painful process.

As you could imagine, the process left me with a number of completed applications; including my precious essays which would sadly never see the light of day.  Rather then cast them into the abyss of my My Documents folder, I felt that it might be helpful to some if I shared a sample essay response to one of the most commonly asked MBA admission essay questions.  The hope is that my personal style to the essay may help spark new ideas to help enhance your own response, and ultimately increase your chances of getting into the school of your dreams.  To be clear, this is not an approval to plagiarize the essay.  Writing an MBA essay for admissions is a profoundly personal activity.  It should reflect who you are, and not what you think the admission’s committee would like to hear.   

The following is one of the most commonly asked MBA admission essay questions:  Why are you an ideal candidate for the Executive MBA Program and how will your professional and personal accomplishments benefit your EMBA colleagues?  continue reading »

9 Jul, 2009 | by

emerging-markets3

Developing countries’ share of global equity market capitalization jumped to a record 24 % in the first half of 09 from the past levels of 15% at the start of 07 as more investors flock attracted by the growth story.

Investors are now beginning to realize that developed nations are possibly faced with decades of very low growth and may need decades to work off the mountain of debt which is the biggest since World War II. According to IMF recent forecast the total debt of developed nations used to fund various bank bailouts and stimulus packages could reach above 113% of GDP by 2014. This is more then three times the estimated forecast of 34% for developing nations. Though one could argue that developed countries have had bigger debt burden in the past ( post World War II ) reaching close to 250% of GDP in case of U.K., and over 100% in case of USA but these debts were repaid pretty quickly. On the other hand, we have to take into account that developed nations recorded decades of high growth just after the World War II ended which allowed them to get their fiscal house in order. In the current circumstances it is highly unlikely that the developed economies will see growth levels of post World War II era going forward.

Developed countries are in a catch-22 situation if they spend more to keep stimulating the economy they risk running into a huge unsustainable fiscal deficit. The combination of low growth and ballooning budget deficit could be very damaging to developed economies. The talk of the town is now increasingly focused on getting the fiscal deficit under control. It looks like the Governments in the developed world have resigned to the fact that they are entering into a low growth era. World Bank is now forecasting the GDP of high-income countries to shrink by over 4.2% in 09 and the overall global economy to contract by 2.9% in 2009. continue reading »

17 Jun, 2009 | by

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I’m frequently asked by friends, family, clients, job candidates and random people I encounter on my travels what it’s like to work on the advisory side of a Big 4 firm.  Typically, if there’s time to discuss and there’s mutual interest in the exchange, I’m immediately bombarded with a slew of follow-up questions like:  What do you do exactly?  How does one get into that line of work?  How much do you travel?  Is it a good career path?  Is there such a thing as work-life balance?  Is it challenging?  Do you think I’d be good at it?  And so on…

The reason I’m so consistently willing to discuss my perspective with so many people, especially young professionals, is that I was once in their position and had many of the same questions.  When I received answers to my inquiries from people in the profession, many of whom continue to this day to be my friends, I was intrigued.  After some time contemplating the potential challenges that such a job would offer, I decided to pursue a chance opportunity to join the ranks of Ernst & Young LLP.  I’ve been with the firm almost three years now.  Looking back, I feel as though the six years of professional experience I had accumulated prior to joining E&Y, although invaluable on many levels, simply did not hold a candle to the client exposure, professional networks and shear rapid-fire experiences afforded to me in my present capacity.  I must confess, however, that this outlook reflects how I feel today, which wasn’t always the case.  Reaching this point has taken an immense amount of patience, hard work, resilience, ambition, and even a little luck.  Yes…I said luck. 

To be clear, this article has not been written under the guise of any Big Four recruiters.  Its goal is not to solicit top talent or self-promote services offered or whatever other angles you might have running through your head right now.  I respect all of the Big Four firms, especially mine, a great deal but feel that the only way to offer up a truly unbiased perspective on the lifestyle is to provide genuinely candid insight.  The primary purpose of this article is to offer a balanced perspective to those who may be interested in such a career path regardless of industry focus or subject matter area.  continue reading »

10 Jun, 2009 | by
Topics: Economy, Global

stable_economy

The message from this global financial crisis is loud and clear; the system that we currently have is flawed, susceptible to produce crises and prone to systemic risk.

As a first step, we will have to fully address the SYSTEMIC RISK and the accumulation of excesses in global the economy that tends to build up during the period of strong growth. The hope is that the market participants, the governments and the regulators around the world have learnt their lessons from the ongoing crisis and will take this as an opportunity to reconstruct the financial system and the way it operates. Although one could argue whether it is safe put your faith in the ability of the market, the governments or the regulators to fix the SYSTEMIC RISK issue. No doubt, they have bungled up in the past and they would probably do it again. But that is not the point. We all make mistakes and learn from it. So we have to give them the benefit of the doubt. I hope we are all done with the blame game. The regulators and politicians were pretty quick to put all the blame on the banks, the investors, the insurance folks, the rating agencies and everybody else but not themselves. How convenient.

Honestly speaking, we are all to blame for this financial crisis including the folks on the main street who happily leveraged themselves not worrying about the shortcomings. In fact some folks on the main street got very comfortable with the idea of living on borrowed money without having the ability or resources to meet their obligations. And the reason for that was simple they figured that was the norm. continue reading »

28 May, 2009 | by
Topics: Economy, Global

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Some of my friends and colleagues are busy trying to figure out what could be the shape of the most eagerly awaited recovery. The debate is whether we are going to see a V, W, and U or prolonged I__I shaped recovery.

 

There are some who are suggesting we are probably going to see a V shaped recovery then there are those who are predicting a U or prolonged U shaped recovery and yes there others who believe we might see a W shaped recovery. Boy! Go Figure. Someone has to be right but then I wonder isn’t this all a bit premature? Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves on making such prognoses or am I simply being Silly?

 

Let’s find out, shall we?

The shape of the current economy could probably give us some clues as to what the shape of the recovery might be or at the least we could rule out some.  To get a good estimate of the health of the economy let us look at some of headline news during the week ending Friday, the 15th May 09.

We will start with the numbers out from the European Union.

According to European Union’s statistic office the GDP in the 16 member Europe region fell by over 2.5% from the fourth quarter, the steepest decline in over 12 years. This was above the market expectation of continue reading »

20 May, 2009 | by

smallpiggybank

Forbes magazine had an interesting piece about large business acting as lenders to small business. This comes right behind the biggest credit meltdown in history. This lending comes in the form of retail financing or vendor financing, and in some cases, in the form of corporate venture funding. In 2008, as per NVCA, corporate venture funding arms amounted to 19.2% of all venture deals, an amount that works out to $5.4B out of total deals worth $28B. Similarly, the Forbes article pointed to $52B raised for corporate non-venture financing.

What does this mean for the shareholders in these corporations? Let us look at a few numbers. A stock screen on Yahoo for companies with positive free cash flow, and picked companies that have positive cash balance on their balance sheets reveals about 896 stocks, and most notable among them being Berkshire Hathaway with $16440 of cash available per share. Since free cash flow does not include the cost of debt servicing by these companies, one should also look at the total debt assumed by these companies. A vast majority of these companies have very little to zero debt on their balance sheets. So, to keep matters simple, let us assume there is no debt servicing expense.

The stock screen reveals that, on an average, after excluding outliers such as BRK-A, each company has a 15% return on equity, and $1.3B of cash in the bank. There is a total cash position of $1.2 trillion. In other words, the $5.4B continue reading »

14 May, 2009 | by
Topics: Economy, Global

commonsense

I am begining to think that the lack common sense is what got all us into this Mega Mess. The problem is that common sense is still missing and I wonder why?

The markets are rallying and it’s good but shouldn’t we do a reality check before we get too carried away? I mean the expectation are so LOW that any number above the bottomless floor is sending the markets into rallies. We all want rallies but sustainable rallies please that are supported by solid fundamentals and not driven by speculative play. Folks are talking about recovery against the backdrop of some pretty bad numbers. Yes we are now seeing some mixed numbers ( some positives )come out from the 1st quarter but the real economy is still hurting.

To get some perspective let’s just look at the numbers out of UK released back on May 01, 2009 .

According to the Govt figures, nearly 5,000 companies in England and Wales went into liquidation in the first three months of 2009 and a record number of people succumbed to insolvency. continue reading »

4 May, 2009 | by

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The Berkshire Hathaway (BH) annual shareholder meeting has long been regarded as the Mecca for prestigious investors and businessmen alike.  Knowledge-thirsty shareholders and spectators flock from all over the world to hear the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, and his curmudgeonly sidekick, Charlie Munger, pontificate in grand fashion on the conglomerates’ performance, as well as on a wide array of current events. 

Attending the meeting had been a personal desire of mine going all the way back to my grad school years.  The event has often been described as an “MBA in a weekend” or even the “Woodstock for investors”.  Such sensational statements always left me feeling a bit incredulous, as I always found it hard to believe that an annual shareholder meeting could yield such a worthwhile experience.  However, my incredulity was surpassed by my appetite to discover the reality for myself.  So I purchased my obligatory share of BH stock and made my way to Nebraska for the 2009 annual meeting on May 2nd

continue reading »

30 Apr, 2009 | by

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As a manager, do you conduct meaningful performance appraisals with your employees every 6 or 12 months? Do you collaborate with your employees to develop and set meaningful goals? Do your employees only receive a performance appraisal or are they a part of the process?

Many managers and employees view the performance appraisal process as an annual or semi-annual HR process in which the manager delivers feedback, often without the employee knowing what a “satisfactory” level of performance is. In reality, the performance appraisal process should be a year round collaboration in which the manager and employee are constantly communicating, adjusting based on the business, and sharing tools that enable the employee to grow and be successful. There are 5 keys to successful year round coaching and feedback.

1. Year round coaching and feedback must be just that – ongoing. Managers and employees must make an effort to ensure that they are openly communicating throughout the year about the employees work performance and areas of both strength and development. By doing so, managers and employees are always on the same page with regards to work performance, giving the employee the opportunity to learn, grow, and be successful. It also ensures that there will be no surprises during the annual or semi-annual appraisal process. continue reading »

23 Apr, 2009 | by

increase_business

There has never been a more important time than now to re-assess business development, sales and marketing programs to ensure your marketing focus is very selective. That’s best done by test marketing your service or product.

Major corporations never think about introducing a product without first testing it. Professional service organizations, on the other hand, never test market their services. They’ve been cruising on a development bubble for years and felt it wasn’t necessary. It is now.

There is a way to test market your services and respond directly to client needs with minimum marketing and business development costs while still increasing business.

You must begin with an unbiased audit of your present marketing and client retention programs. This is best accomplished by a seasoned, independent business development consultant. Once the audit has been done the consultant will have a clear understanding of exactly how you market your services, what your key people see as your strengths and weaknesses, how you see yourself in the marketplace and how you feel you are perceived by potential clients. This is the basic information you need to start the process of blending your present marketing and business development initiatives with client trends, past, present and future, into a marketing program that is so focused, so accurate and so successful that it never fails to increase business and profits. continue reading »