Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Life Changing MBA Course Experiences (so far)

As many of you know, I'm anticipating finishing my MBA with a concentration in Marketing in Spring of 2015. Each term has been filled with knowledge bombs, deep wisdom, and highly applicable business content. While I still have a few more courses to go, I figured why not do a write up on the big experiences to date surrounding several specific and very influential courses so far.

Now, I must make mention that I don't want this post to seem like I'm discounting courses not listed here; the course experiences I am featuring were simply ones that fit in my life in the right moment and at the right time to create clarity for life's next direction.

I hope you enjoy this very special post.

Life Changing MBA Course Experiences

1. Organizational Behavior
Studying Organizational Behavior was perhaps the most critically timed course I took through the MBA program thus far. It came during a time when I was questioning the significance of my work at the time. It also came at a time to help me realize who I needed to become in order to fully harness my talents in a way which would better serve others in meaningful and valuable ways.

My professor was very skilled at challenging our thinking process as well as our personal perspectives. In effect, the class taught me not only to analyze organizations, their behaviors, why and how they ticked, and what action steps could affect positive change -- the class forced me to flip my own understanding on its head... yielding a strong introspection on where I was in the current organization. And, perhaps what was more important, it empowered me to see myself in future organizations of opportunity where I could better serve.

All in all, the class inspired me leave a position where I found much safety, stability, and success to brave the risky unknown -- taking a promotion into an entirely new setting. The many case studies revealing the secrets of growth and constructive change lit a passion and strong interest in organizational culture change. If ever an opportunity presented itself to perform in this capacity, I would certainly relish the chance to serve.

2. Advanced Marketing Concepts
Concentrating in marketing through the MBA program has brought some very interesting insight as to what marketing truly is. One such class that really pounded out a strong vantage of good marketing was "Advanced Marketing Concepts." In this course, I learned that marketing has more to do with how a firm is positioned on a chessboard than anything else. I saw that a comprehensive marketing campaign was heavily involved with financial analysis, accounting, business strategy, product development, and consumer perspectives... little emphasis (if any) was given to advertisement, "getting the word out there," or even "informing the public."

For more of my thoughts on marketing, please click here.

3. Operations Management
This was one of my first courses in the MBA curriculum. It was also one of those courses where, upon beginning the material, I immediately knew I wanted to be good at business management. The course content had a lot to do with how firms should organize their function, how swiftly a well-tuned-company can be ran, and how to best structure operations for striking success.

It was with this course than I first clearly saw how backwards most healthcare organizations manage their operations. There is so much opportunity in healthcare operations if only the system of management were to appreciate the significance of flow beyond the confines of their immediate supply chain.

So What's Happening Now?
As I'm finishing up the program, my current courses include exciting topics such as "Managing Strategic Innovation & Change" from the Business Strategy department. Another marketing course is also around the corner. I'm confident the following term will hold content which will blow my mind. And, of course, I hope to write a follow up post once the degree is completed.

Until Then, I Remain Respectfully Yours,
-Ben Fung

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Case Study In Brand Experience: Target

Wasn't it just the other day when Target employees knew nothing about their own products? Where things were located? Or, even said "Hello" to you? Now they are approaching shoppers, asking you if you've found everything okay. Honestly, it creeped me out the first time. But now, it's become the company standard. Customer experience matters.

This is a case study in brand experience - Target.

Target had several holes to dig themselves out of as of late. Not only did their stocks plummet for a variety of suspected reasons, they also needed to patch up their big privacy leak. They were positioned just above the competitive discount grounds by which Costco, Walmart, Big Lots, etc. were already crowding out.

They up-marketed to attract buyers who wanted things at good prices, but, still with a nice and classy feel. However, this didn't attract enough customers. The problem was, one could easily go down a run into the lower-end of the market and get satisfactory products for cheaper. Sure, the products may not have been as good -- light bulbs busted earlier, clothing didn't last as long... you got what you paid for at the lower-end of the spectrum. However, it was acceptably lower because the savings were there and the experience didn't matter between Target & its competitors.

Now, it does.

Now, Target is clean. Employees are quick to respond. There are price scanning/calling stations all over their stores with people on the other end of the line, quick to send a team member to assist you. Also, they've done a few interesting things from a sales perspective: themed sales (like the recent big baby sale), the Cartwheel app, and the Target Red card -- all elements which reinforce the value of the new Target brand experience.

When one thinks about it, you save 5% on each purchase when using the Red Card. Every cashier asks you if you are interested in signing up TODAY. And, each purchase at 5%... WELL, that is a lot better than the 2-3% you get on your American Express/Discover, isn't it? Additionally, Target happily accepts manufacturer's coupons to be stacked on top of that 5% discount - AND - any other discount the Cartwheel app has to offer. However, the Cartwheel app requires that you physically search for items on sale (at least once, then the deal is saved into a queue). Being that you have to do it yourself and purchase in person, you then commit yourself to more time in the store. And, we all know, the more time in the store (the very clean store, I might add), the more likely you will purchase more than originally planned. Additionally, by investing your time into making your own savings even better, you have also invested into Target's brand experience and therefore brand loyalty.

But!!!! Other competitors offer cheaper prices, right? Actually, when the numbers crunch out, there are lots of non-perishables offered by Target that, per unit price, beat out even the likes of Costco. Target has also penetrated into the beer/wine/booze market, expanded frozen section, and some fresh produce options as well. This is a savvy gobbling up of market share by Target. Things are getting cheaper at Target on a daily basis. If you are willing to dig up the deals, investing your time to do so, you will find even more deals. And, why not? Everyone can appreciate the saving of money, right?

So why is this such an interesting case study in brand experience? TRANSFORMATION. There are volumes of brand experiences out there. Few brand experiences have offered transformational changes, improvements, and intrinsic loyalty development. Target has done this. They have given you more reasons to shop there for all ranges of needs for all areas of life. Target has done this through behavior incentives, financial incentives, convenience, and brand experience.

If one surveys the market, we're noticing most firms and industries are reaching a point of critical mass. The sustainment of the current economic model is coming to the end of a cycle; new cycles must start or companies and entire professions may be left behind. What is more, the next evolution  is changing businesses at large; development must include consumer lifestyle integration.

So, I ask you: How has your business innovated strategic change to keep up with the times? Perhaps, get ahead of the times???

If you enjoyed the content in this post, you may appreciate this special mention on how Rubio's rebranded their restaurants with a new and improved Service Experience Value Statement.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beef Bourguignon

So this summer, I tried my hand at French sauces. In the past, I spent an entire summer working on French Onion soup. For whatever reason, the last month or so I've had a craving to make Beef Bourguignon.

This is how it went down.

Wifey taking an action shot of me.

Oil & bacon! What could go wrong?

The meat!

Browning the beefy goodness.

Another action shot by wifey.

In go the veggies!

Everyone ready for the fire?

Fire! Fire Fire!

Adding the wine...

Lots of wine.

All the wine?!

Topping off with some beef broth.

Into the oven, then onto the stove top for reduction.

The final product.

I gotta say, making this was a BLAST. I felt there was definitely times I could've done better. I laid the Beef Bourguignon on top of a bed of mashed potatoes. I actually over salted the potatoes so I added a bunch of milk. Then it became creamy potatoes... haha. No worries, it worked out well because I purposely under salted the soup itself. The result: flavors met in the middle for a culinary waltz on the tastebuds.

I felt reducing the soup was quite important. Most of the recipes I studied didn't say much about it. If I were to have just taken the soup out of the oven, it would've just been a pot of wine. I purposely had my wife (who arguably has a WAY better palate than I do) try out the difference before and after reduction. Reduction was DEFINITELY the way to go.

All in all, a wonderful experience. Beef Bourguignon, Episode I = SUCCESS! And, it shall certainly not be the last time I try my hand at it :)