Published quarterly by UCLA Anderson School of Management
Murray Neidorf Ensures Academic Excellence
When Murray Neidorf ('51) was 15, he was nearly expelled from high school for playing hooky. With great determination and effort, he turned his life around, joined the military and was accepted into UCLA's business program in 1949. Complete article>
|Anderson Faculty Ranks #1 in Intellectual Capital
"There is a direct connection between the worldwide reputation of the Anderson faculty and their work that drives the school's ranking as perhaps no other factor does," says Dean Bruce Willison. "(A number one ranked faculty) is even above our recruiter relationships or recruiter rankings." Complete article>
Part evolution, part revolution, the Parker Career Management Center (CMC) continues to offer new benefits and services to UCLA Anderson students and alumni. Complete article>
Turning Chocolate Into Gold
Steve Slater ('89) and Janice Ohta ('88) know the taste of sweet success. And it's a lot like chocolate. Complete article>
Fellowship recipients asked to give back to the school down the road
When Murray Neidorf ('51) was 15, he was nearly expelled from high school for playing hooky. With great determination and effort, he turned his life around, joined the military and was accepted into UCLA's business program in 1949. When funds from Neidorf's GI bill ran out, however, he faced the prospect of being forced to leave early. Several business professors rallied to his aid, insisting that Neidorf apply for a teaching fellowship as a way to stay in the program. He received the fellowship, graduated with honors at the top of his class and went on to teach the CPA review course at UCLA for 16 years. Grateful for the opportunities he was given to complete his degree and teach, Neidorf vowed he would pay back the university by endowing a student fellowship in the future.
Today, the Lenore and Murray Neidorf Fellowship rewards students who, like Neidorf, have demonstrated significant improvement in their academic careers.
"It's a given that fellowship recipients are going to be deserving of the award," says Neidorf. "However, I didn't want the fellowship to go to an A+ student, because I knew they could get a fellowship elsewhere. I wanted the recipient to show advancement in academic achievement."
Neidorf also explains a personal criterion he sets for the award. "I ask the recipients to verbally promise me that in 20-30 years, they will give back to the university to help needy students," he says. "I hope they remember my request and continue the tradition of giving to benefit someone else."
First-year fellowship recipient Chris Sabin had the opportunity to thank Murray and Lenore in person at a fellowship luncheon, held earlier this year. "As an out-of-state resident, the Neidorf Fellowship made the difference in my decision to attend UCLA," Sabin says. "I was happy to pledge to Murray that I would help other Anderson students down the road. Indeed, his spirit for Anderson is infectious."
Neidorf's request to his fellowship recipients comes not only from his gratitude to the professors who helped him obtain the teaching fellowship, but also from his realization that the cost of an education has soared since he was a student.
"Fifty years ago the state was probably financing about 78-80 percent of the school and today it's closer to 20 percent," he says. "There has to be additional funding coming from somewhere to maintain the quality of the university. I hope that alumni realize what they have received from their education and are motivated to give back."
Murray and Lenore have passed on the tradition of giving back to their three children. In 1998, Nanci, Michael and David each contributed one-third of the necessary funds to establish the Murray H. Neidorf Faculty Award in honor of their father.
"Michael suggested doing something that was meaningful for our father to thank him for everything he did for us," says Nanci Neidorf Christopher. "And we wanted to do something that was enduring. It was Michael's idea to set up an endowed fund that would honor our father every year, instead of a one-time gift."
The three Neidorf children decided the best way to honor their dad would be to recognize current UCLA Anderson professors who exemplify continuous improvement in classroom performance, creativity and innovation through curriculum development or the creation of new programs.
"I know my dad was so grateful for the encouragement he received from the faculty, especially that they personally asked him to be on the faculty at such a young age," says Nanci. "There are always great teachers who change our lives or our perspectives in a dramatic way and unfortunately, they are often overlooked. We wanted to honor our dad and current professors at the same time."
By establishing funds that invest in faculty and students, the Neidorf family is in alignment with the campus-wide program, Ensuring Academic Excellence. This initiative aims to raise $250 million over the next five years for recruiting and retaining faculty and supporting students.
"I'm very proud to see faculty have their income supplemented by this award," says Murray Neidorf. "I think it's very important to help keep talented professors here."
For additional information on how you can support the students and faculty through the Ensuring Academic Excellence initiative, contact Tiffany Alexander-Aldridge, associate director of major gifts, at 310-206-3934.
What's in a number? Actually, quite a bit when that number is one.
In late 2004, UCLA Anderson School of Management's faculty ranked number one in intellectual capital in BusinessWeek's 2004 biennial rankings of MBA programs. Of course, there is a fleeting rush of ego gratification that accompanies any such accolade. But of true and lasting value is one irrefutable fact: a top-ranked faculty - noted for the caliber of its scholarly output -- is the source from which every UCLA Anderson constituent draws for its own success and survival.
"There is a direct connection between the worldwide reputation of the Anderson faculty and their work that drives the school's ranking as perhaps no other factor does," says Dean Bruce Willison."(A number-one ranked faculty) is even above our recruiter relationships or recruiter rankings."
Put simply, there would be no recruiter relationships or recruiter rankings to speak of - there would be no rankings of any kind whatsoever -- if there were no faculty in the first place to create and distribute intellectual capital, to teach a curriculum based on that capital and to produce management leaders who use said capital to impact global business and society.
Though BusinessWeek ranked Anderson's faculty number one in intellectual capital, Chairman and Associate Dean Rakesh Sarin sees the issue as one of human capital, encompassing an interconnected faculty, student and alumni population.
"A top faculty attracts top students," he says, "and even alumni who graduated years ago continue to be impacted by the students we attract today. As the quality remains high, and these new graduates achieve leadership roles with respect in the marketplace, the reputation of the school and the degree is even more enhanced."
Anderson alumni are the primary beneficiaries of a top-ranked faculty noted for its award-winning intellectual capital, Sarin says. And this is true whether they are graduates of five or 50 years. After all, it is alumni who maintain a lifelong relationship to the Anderson MBA.
"Frankly, alumni have the most to gain or lose from the reputation of the faculty for this very reason," Sarin says. "Alumni, for the rest of their life, carry the Anderson degree. You cannot become some other school's alumni, right? If you think of it that way, alumni have a lot at stake when it comes to the reputation of the school."
And when you think of it that way, it's really good to be number one.
The Big Score
Anderson's top talent in research scored the "number one in intellectual capital" rating based on a BusinessWeek poll that tallied academic journal entries among 18 scholarly publications. The tallies of participating schools were adjusted for faculty size. BusinessWeek surveyed such prestigious journals as: Journal of Accounting and Economics, Journal of Finance, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, Operations Research, Academy of Management Review, Management Science, Journal of Financial Economics, Journal on Computing, Journal of Financial Studies, Journal of Marketing Research, Strategic Management Journal and Harvard Business Review, among others.
Take the BusinessWeek ranking out of the equation, though, and evidence of Anderson's top talent still is readily available to any amateur analyst conducting an independent "survey" of working papers, publication results, projects underway, citations, awards, professional appointments and other accolades held by the school's faculty. It is impossible to do justice in these few pages to the expertise and output of Anderson researchers. Fortunately, visitors to the school's Web site can read faculty research online and view short video clips in which professors illuminate their research findings in an informal interview context.
"If you look at our faculty," says Sarin, "they win awards in many different areas; they serve on editorial boards of top journals, they are invited to give seminars at top schools and they are serving in leadership roles in professional societies as researchers and scholars. From a student's viewpoint, to be in proximity of these people who are generating such knowledge has great advantage."
To be in proximity of people generating such knowledge also is of great advantage to other academics seeking a rigorous program and a productive environment to pursue their own research, says Andrew Ainslie, assistant professor of marketing. He joined the faculty in 2000, and his interests include consumer behavior, direct marketing, modeling techniques and new product diffusion. Ainslie says he was drawn to UCLA Anderson by the reputation of its faculty and a scholarly culture that fosters innovation and creativity.
"It's the people," Ainslie says of his decision to stick at UCLA despite well-documented disparities in salary and cost-of-living expenses between Anderson and its top-tier counterparts. "An interesting thing is the faculty compensation in the UC system is a bit of a struggle. Many schools compensate for that by offering a huge potential for consulting work. But is that what I want to do with my time? Not particularly. There's not the same sense of achievement you get through, for want of a better word, creating knowledge.
"The research orientation at any school is a sort of a mindset," he continues. "And we have a fantastic mindset at Anderson. You want to be with the brightest people you can, and among our senior faculty we have some unbelievable figures in terms of research they've done and the impact they've had on their fields."
That impact comes at a faster pace than ever these days. Sarin points out the lead time between research findings and translation into actual practices in management is reducing. "So we've got to be on top of it," he says. "But to add new ideas to (the school's) research portfolio, you need to add new people. In finance and marketing, we tend to have the most needs because there is the most demand for these subjects. But every area is important for building the foundation of an excellent education."
Building the Foundation
Pedro Santa-Clara, assistant professor in finance, currently is researching portfolio optimization from an investment perspective. The work is being applied by several money management firms and hedge funds. Like Ainslie, he cites the intellectual rigor, combined with the collegial energy of the Anderson faculty, as key attractions of the job and the school.
"The finance group has been very successful in attracting junior people and making them productive," Santa-Clara says. "I think we have been more successful than almost any other school I can think of, in the respect that almost everyone we've hired has turned out to be a very prolific and influential researcher."
Recent cutbacks in state funding have impaired the group's capacity to regularly attend annual hiring fairs in which newly minted Ph.D.s entertain offers from competing schools. At just 11 members, Anderson's finance faculty is determined to maintain a level of renown and output on par with schools counting five times their number. The ideal scenario, Santa-Clara says, is to be in a position in which you are not rushed to hire, and in which you only hire exactly who you want. But for that, a long-range vision is the key, even when faced with the economic uncertainties that come with shrinking state support.
Chairman Sarin agrees, and notes that in a marketplace in which you may not be the price leader, it is a tremendous bargaining chip to offer candidates access to the number-one "intellectual capital" and other professional intangibles available at UCLA Anderson. "The record shows that assistant professors who join us here see their careers take off," Sarin says.
Santa-Clara's own experience bears evidence of that fact. "If you look at our record in finance," he says, "you'll see there's a huge number of papers written in co-authorship by different faculty members, and by faculty members with Ph.D. students - much more so than in other schools." A less tangible measure of the collaborative vibe among the faculty? "Something as funny as the fact that we have lunch together almost every day," Santa-Clara adds. "And a lot of good research ideas come from that. This, I think is crucial. This is the aspect of developing faculty and how, once you have good people, good research comes."
But good people do retire at some point; others are wooed away by tempting alternatives. And the administration's charter to hire -- and hire well - is demonstrated by a number of initiatives to increase revenue streams for faculty support. Options range from the long-term: a quest to change the school's financial model so that Anderson may one day be self-supporting; to the short-term: prioritizing the school's current development campaign to focus fundraising on faculty support.
"It's extremely top of mind right now," Dean Willison says of the need for financial support from Anderson alumni. "Within the UC system, the financial pressures have resulted in a decline in faculty levels, which we've seen at Anderson, and it puts a greater onus on the need for the school to raise money to support additional faculty positions and not to rely on the state to fund them, as we have historically."
To that end, Willison says he is requesting budget approval to utilize school funds to support full-time faculty positions. "This will be the first time we've ever done that, and it really points to the fact that we need alumni and private support," he says. "It also will lead to a broader research agenda and a broader range of electives to offer our students."
Research support takes many forms, from travel expenses to costs related to data collection and analysis. Current needs are as basic as creating a fund from which stipends may be paid to research subjects, and as multifaceted as establishing and supporting centers for the study of particular specialties. One of Anderson's most noted research centers is the award-winning UCLA Anderson Forecast, founded in 1952. Newer centers include the Harold Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Richard S. Ziman Center for Real Estate, the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), the Entertainment and Media Management Institute and the Center for Management in the Information Economy.
"Research centers are important vehicles that provide bridges from our faculty to the business community and back," Willison says. The Office of Development currently is reaching out to the private sector to fund a center for finance and financial analysis. "Those dollars can help the finance professors with research support, can provide a conduit for them to interface with companies to facilitate their research, and it fosters fellowships for students interested in that industry," Willison says.
Finance is a timely option for a new "center of influence" at Anderson, as it is one area of study where research can most readily be applied to the practical realm. Certain scholarly breakthroughs can bring almost instantaneous benefit to professionals. Take, for example, FAS 123, a rule proposed by the Federal Accounting Standards Board that states companies must expense the value of their employee stock options on financial statements. Executing the calculations to comply with FASB and assign accurate value to options has confounded many working professionals, says Richard Roll, Anderson's Japan Alumni Chair in Finance.
"It's funny; being at Anderson gave me the idea to start a business helping corporations do this," Roll says. "Some of our Board of Visitors members kept calling me and saying, ‘What am I going to do about this FAS 123?' And I got to thinking, ‘Everyone's so worried about this. Why not look into it?'"
Roll is partnered with longtime colleague Stephen Ross, a chaired professor of economics, finance and accounting at MIT. Ross actually invented the "binomial lattice method of valuation," recommended by FASB for Rule 123 compliance. The complicated set of computations even takes into account the behavior of employees who've been granted stock options, as these "civilians" tend to exercise earlier than professional options traders, thus impacting an option's value.
Roll found many executives were concerned they would face market decline upon expensing stock options. But his own research revealed an alternate reality: companies who'd adopted the practice experienced a positive market reaction.
This is not the first time Roll has transformed intellectual capital into a profitable business. For two decades, he and Ross ran the investment management company, Roll & Ross Asset Management, which they founded in 1984, and recently sold.
"We'd done some research on a model of risk and return, which we published some papers in," Roll reflects. "And we used the ideas in that paper as the paradigm to manage money for 20 years."
One of the Anderson faculty's greatest strengths, says Dean Willison, is its ability to produce research that crosses specialties. He cites the Interdisciplinary Group in Behavioral Decision Making, formed in 2003, co-chaired by Shlomo Benartzi, associate professor of accounting and Craig Fox, associate professor of policy. The group's purpose is to draw together scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and shared interests in the behavioral analysis of judgment and decision-making. Anderson faculty from Decisions, Operations & Technology Management, Human Resources & Organizational Behavior, and Finance also are counted among the group's members.
Bud Knapp Chair and professor of marketing Dominique Hanssens also is embarking on an interdisciplinary project designed to bring together the fields of marketing and finance. "So instead of just looking at how the consumer responds to a company's marketing efforts, we're also looking at how Wall Street responds," he says.
Some 30 years after joining the UCLA Anderson faculty, Hanssens accepted an appointment as executive director of the Marketing Science Institute at Cambridge. He embarked on a two-year sabbatical July 1, and the temporary leave is bittersweet. Though his absence will leave a void in the marketing department, his role as an ambassador for Anderson will further enhance the school's reputation among its peers. Hanssens is the first MSI director to come from University of California; the post previously has been held by academics from Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Texas and Pennsylvania.
Like Roll, Hanssens has the experience of seeing his theories and methods gain widespread acceptance among professionals. He's worked with Dell Computer, Mattel and Hewlett Packard, among others. Chief marketing officers at firms are under increasing pressure to prove to shareholders that investment in marketing provides positive returns, he says. So his work building market response models -- the statistical architecture to show how a firm's marketing activities impact market share, profit and stock price -- is in high demand right now.
"It happens to coincide with my own career progress in that when I was an assistant professor, very few companies were even aware of these opportunities," Hanssens says. "But because of models that have been developed, and because of the better quality data and software available today, along with the pressing managerial decisions faced by companies, we are seeing quite a bit of dissemination of these ideas in modern day business."
A Lesson in Class
Sebastian Edwards, the Henry Ford II Chair in International Management and professor of global economics, currently is a member of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Economic Council. But his research portfolio regarding international economics is impressive and extensive. He's published widely on international economics, macroeconomics and economic development. He co-authored a book entitled, Preventing Currency Crises (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and has written editorials in The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times on Argentina's economic situation.
"What I'm doing now caught more attention because -- maybe the star power of the governor," he says. But if you go through the list of our faculty, there are lots and lots of people who've been involved in very important outside projects that are practical, significant, relevant -- and that add a lot to their perspective in the classroom."
Research applied in the classroom is the most significant factor that differentiates a top-tier research institution -- with the dual goal of knowledge creation and knowledge transmission -- from a school that focuses on knowledge transmission only.
"Today's research is tomorrow's education," Sarin says. "The basics can be taught by anybody and the content of a basic course may not vary from school to school, but the professors and their insights do -- how they handle the questions and how they bring their research ideas into these classes. The student learns by observing that, as well as the sharpness of the professor, particularly in the elective courses. Research and education are tied together. If you have top talent in research, your education will be more innovative."
Doing cutting-edge research helps teaching for at least two reasons, adds Jing Liu, assistant professor of accounting and winner of Anderson's 2005 Eric and "E" Juline Excellence in Research Award. "First, the newest ideas are often first known by the researchers and they are brought into the classroom," he says. "In a world of increasing competition, it is more and more important for students to acquire an edge over their competitors. Second, in the process of doing research, the professors naturally have to think about the issues more deeply and more broadly. This helps them to organize and present materials in the most useful way to students."
For these reasons, Liu says, "It is not surprising to find that research excellence and teaching excellence usually go hand in hand among research faculty members."
Patricia Williams, a 1999 Ph.D. in marketing, is an assistant professor of marketing at Wharton today. It was while she was pursuing her MBA at Anderson that she was inspired by the faculty to forego a career in industry, and opt instead for the path of a professional academic, scholar and researcher.
"I knew the faculty was enthusiastic about having me here," she says of her advisor, Prof. Carol Scott, and co-author-now-colleague Aimee Drolet, assistant professor in marketing. "I knew there would be a lot of effort devoted to me and there was. I felt tremendous mentorship and a desire by the faculty for me to succeed."
The Numbers Game
To succeed is the shared goal of all Anderson constituents - and one way to measure that success is rankings. While hitting number one in intellectual capital is an achievement par excellence, it also is temporary, Sarin points out. The primary goal, he says, is to see beyond the numbers and focus on producing research and intellectual capital that supports the school's mission to produce global leaders in management.
"Somebody has to be number one," he says. "But that is just the function of a ranking. The idea is that you have to be in that top group - that elite group of researchers that people look to for expertise. And we are firmly in that group."
Career Coaches, Online Benefits and More
Part evolution, part revolution, the Parker Career Management Center (CMC) continues to offer new benefits and services to UCLA Anderson students and alumni. First came the creation of new services for fully employed and executive MBA students (Assets, Spring 2005), now the Parker CMC has greatly enhanced and expanded services to alumni.
In response to the growing need for lifelong career services, the Parker CMC now offers individual career coaching for graduates and a new web site specifically for working professionals. Access to the site is free to all UCLA Anderson alumni; sessions with career coaches are available at significantly discounted rates when compared to similar services from private companies. And both types of services are accessible to alumni regardless of geographic location.
The Theory of Evolution
Career coaching involves more than facilitating a job search or arranging interviews. Specifically tailored for working professionals, alumni career coaching services range from exploring career options and skill assessment to resume presentation, job search tactics and interview skills. Services also can be directed toward general career development and career advancement strategies.
The new benefits are both a reaction to real-world changes and evolving expectations. "During the bottomed-out job market three or four years ago, alumni began contacting us for career assistance, says Parker CMC Associate Director Susan Dearing. "No one ever was turned away, though we had no staff formally designated to work with them.
"We knew the demand was there for an expansion of career services for alumni," she continues. "The only way we could do this effectively, and respond to that demand, was to charge a very reasonable fee for the coaching service and provide an adjunct staff of career coaches to deliver it. Offering career development services and resources to alumni is significantly valuable, as most companies do not provide much, if any, career development for their employees." According to Dearing, alumni services are offered at about half of the top 25 business schools, but the types of resources vary. And UCLA Anderson is a trendsetter in the career coaching arena, as only a handful of schools make coaches available to alumni.
Working the Web
The opportunity to work with a career coach represents just one element of the Parker CMC's alumni initiative. Its career resources web site meets alumni needs in a more immediate sense, allowing users to log on and take instant advantage.
"The site provides an array of career resources specifically designed for the working professional and executive, if you are in career transition or if you are looking for ways to take your skills to the next level within your current organization," says Dearing. She notes that the needs of recent graduates entering and re-entering the job market are different than, for example, a professional seeking to relocate or an executive looking to negotiate a bonus with their current company. "If you just received a job offer and you want to negotiate a signing bonus but you're not sure how signing bonuses work, you can go to the web site for information on signing bonuses. Or if you are preparing for a performance review -- or want to ask for a raise or promotion -- there is specific information on those topics, too."
The site includes 10 pages of practical, "how-to" executive-level information, with more than 150 worksheets, articles and links to the best online resources for everything from self-assessment, career management, job search strategy and targeting the job market to resume writing, interviewing, networking and negotiating. The site is dynamic, and content will be updated and enhanced on an ongoing basis.
"The combination of the content-rich career web site and personalized career coaching service offers UCLA Anderson alumni unprecedented access to resources that will really help them to effectively manage their careers," Dearing says. "At any time. From any place."
Services and Fees
The career coaching service is flexible. Alumni may choose to meet coaches in person, by phone and/or via e-mail. Five levels of service are available:
Service 1: Three (3) one-on-one confidential career coaching sessions, of up to one hour each, with a professional career coach, experienced in working with business professionals -- Discounted rate of $200 for three sessions.
Service 2: Up to one hour of CareerLeader self-assessment interpretation by a professional career coach following completion of the CareerLeader online assessment (does not include payment for CareerLeader assessment, although CareerLeader offers the assessment at a discount to UCLA Anderson alumni) -- $75 per hour.
Service 3: Up to one hour of resume review and critique by a professional career coach. Receive personalized constructive feedback and advice (via phone and/or e-mail) for enhancing and tailoring resume to the target job(s) -- $75 per hour.
Service 4: Up to one hour of interview prep time and coaching by a professional career coach. $75 per hour.
Service 5: Career coaching in person or by phone -- $75 per hour.
Access the Alumni Career Services Web site for detailed information about the new Alumni Individual Career Coaching Service.
Alumni Career Coaches
Mary Albright-Smith worked for nine years at the UCLA Anderson Parker CMC as director, associate director, employee relations coordinator and career counselor. Prior to that she worked at Women at Work in Pasadena. She has her M.S. in educational psychology and holds a B.A. in psychology from UCLA.
Michelle Beaudry was assistant director at the UCLA Anderson Parker CMC for three years where she worked extensively with MBA students. She left UCLA Anderson in 2004 to pursue her current entrepreneurial involvement as marketing director for Courtroom Connect. She has an M.A. in organization management from Antioch and a B.A. in history from University of Virginia.
Melissa Karz ('98) is founder of Kadima Coaching and Consulting, partner of Kruz Consulting and the Professional Relationship Institute. She has developed and led seminars and classes on a number of career topics, including facilitation of the Career Action Groups conducted through Next Step Partners. She has coached managers and executives from a number of companies including Sony Pictures, Agilent, HeathNet and PWC. Karz earned her MBA from UCLA Anderson in 1998 and her B.A. from University of Pennsylvania.
Andrew Johnson is senior VP and career transition consultant for Lee Hecht Harrison, and also has his own career management consulting firm, the Andrew Johnson Group. He has provided career transition and job search coaching to executives in virtually every field and function over his 13 years with Lee Hecht Harrison. His background also includes work for several years prior to joining LHH as an executive recruiter. He holds a B.A. in business and economics from California State University-Fullerton.
Michael Thompson has held teaching and administrative positions at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and the McIntire School at University of Virginia, where he served as director of the school's career center. Thompson's background also includes work in management consulting with firms in Boston and Tokyo. He serves as a faculty member and consultant for the Leadership Academy for State Farm Insurance where he teaches leadership development classes and provides executive coaching to the company's senior leaders. Thompson earned an MBA from the University of Virginia and a B.S. in psychology from Tulane University.
Scott Wimer has been an organization development consultant and principal of his own consulting firm since 1990. He specializes in executive coaching with senior executives. He has consulted with companies such as Amgen, Metropolitan Water District, Saatchi & Saatchi, Towers Perrin, TRW and the US Navy. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA, with a concentration in organization and behavioral science from UCLA Anderson. He received his B.A. from the University of Rochester.
Michelle Wolf is a marketing professional who recently came from the University of Southern California's Marshall Career Center, where she was an associate director. There, she coached, trained and mentored students from four different programs within the business school. She also provided her marketing and international expertise in working with students. Her business background includes positions in brand and product management at Turner Pictures, Mattel and Disney. Wolf received her B.A. in psychology from USC.
Steve Slater ('89) and Janice Ohta ('88) know the taste of sweet success. And it's a lot like chocolate
Though they were only a year apart at UCLA Anderson, Slater and Ohta didn't know each other as students -- they were introduced years later by a mutual friend and fellow alum, Steve Bandler ('90). Interestingly, Slater and Bandler had not known each other as Anderson students either; they'd also met post-graduation through Prof. Bill Yost, who periodically hosted an informal network of alumni to discuss the purchase of small businesses.
Slater, an IT consultant with an engineering background, was searching for a business he could buy and run. In the meantime, he put his networking skills to use, consulting for Ohta, who was running the business planning & analysis group at Amgen. Ultimately he moved on to a VP of IT position at DaVita, where he'd previously consulted for yet another alum he'd met through Yost, Mark Shalvarjian ('93).
Through a recruiter, he came across the high-end confectioner "Golda & I Chocolatiers" in Orange County, Calif. The company's expertise was more in the kitchen than the conference room and, with business down 30 percent, it clearly lacked high-level strategic analysis and execution. Slater could taste the prospects for acquisition. He realized his former client and fellow grad Ohta would be the ideal business partner.
"I had the operations, IT, sales and small business experience," Slater says. "She had the strategy, finance and human resources experience. Since we both lived in Pasadena (known as the Crown City), we formed Crown City Confections for the purposes of purchasing Golda & I."
Together, they wrote a business plan, and due to Slater's engineering background, it was steeped in a scientific method predicated on a number of hypotheses that turned out to be "completely wrong," Slater says. "We thought back to our strategy class at Anderson and tried to think about how our MBA friends would look at the problems."
In about a year, Slater and Ohta transformed the company. "With the right systems, we could consolidate orders and streamline production," Slater says. "Our goal was to keep the company's large clients and go after smaller ones too. We added a lot of 3- to 10-store regional chains and independent stores."
Golda & I uses almost no automation, making its own molds and decorating and packaging every piece by hand. One of its hallmark creations is an 18-inch, 4.25-pound bunny sold through NeimanMarus.com for $115. Shortly before Easter, The Wall Street Journal named their bunny "Best Overall," and they received national exposure on NBC's "Today Show." So many orders hit the Neiman Marcus web site that the retailer called to alert the chocolate factory. Slater and Ohta's new system allowed Golda & I to meet every order in time for the holiday.
Anderson Assets welcomes input from alumni and the UCLA Anderson community for letters to the editor, articles, or ideas on themes.