2017

Stories related to "The Workshop".

conversations

Power Sources

The Challenge: In 1999, Ted Brandt cofounded Marathon Capital in Bannockburn, Illinois, a $25 million investment bank focused on renewable energy. The original compensation structure hewed to the industry norm of a steady balance between salary and bonus, based on both individual and company performance. But in the first several years, Marathon was short of capital and the model was unsustainable. How could the company devise a system of incentives while maintaining the necessary cash flow to sustain the business, Brandt wondered. The Strategy: For the next three years, Marathon slashed salaries and paid bankers big bonuses when deals closed. Revenues grew, but that led to new challenges. This “eat-what-you-kill” model, as Brandt calls it, discouraged teamwork and was unfair to younger bankers who had no say in what projects to join. Also, by paying out bonuses before fixed costs, Marathon had few profits. Compensation ran about 90 to 95 percent of revenues. In comparison, similar banks

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Worth the Risk

The Challenge: For most homeowners, buying insurance isn’t a customer-friendly experience. It takes time working with an agent and finding answers to numerous detailed questions. Filing claims can be arduous, and agents might not keep up with clients’ life changes, potentially leaving them underinsured. “They don’t even call you a customer; they call you a policy holder,” said Assaf Wand, cofounder and CEO of insurtech company Hippo. The Solution: Wand wanted to use technology to streamline the customer experience, but first he needed to learn the industry. Starting in 2015, Wand used his Booth training to break down insurance regulations and compliance into their smallest parts in order to understand how to build Hippo’s customer-centric model from scratch. “Basically we locked ourselves in the office for two years to figure this thing out,” he said.

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Checking In

The Challenge: FibraHotel (FIHO), a Mexican real estate investment trust (REIT), had good partnerships with local operators and wanted to expand its hotel portfolio with international brands. Previous negotiation attempts with international franchises and hotel operators were not successful because they weren’t willing to negotiate beyond the standard international deal terms and US hotel standards that are generally used internationally. The Strategy: Guillermo Bravo Escobosa joined FIHO following the REIT’s successful initial public offering in 2012. FIHO built a reputation as a solid developer and real estate owner, and it had the capital necessary to secure strong growth in hotels in Mexico. At the same time during which FIHO wanted to grow its hotel portfolio in Mexico, it was looking for a new international partner with whom it could reach an agreement similar to those FIHO had previously negotiated with its local partners—a new international partnership that would better align incentives for both parties. FIHO wanted to find an international partner and develop a deal that was based primarily on a variable fee structure, rather than a standard top-line heavy fee structure deal. Additionally, FIHO wanted its international partner to be willing to “tropicalize” its products to the Mexican market and invest in expanding local operations teams. <br/>

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Getting Real

The Challenge: In late 2010, Seth Hewitt was a senior vice president of asset management with Chicago-based ST Residential, which managed (and whose investors owned) a $4.5 billion commercial real estate loan and asset portfolio, including the defaulted loan on a high-rise condominium property in Chicago’s South Loop. The property was saddled with cost overruns, unpaid bills, ongoing contractor litigation, and significant water damage in the building from a burst pipe. Upon taking ownership, ST considered selling the building as is for approximately $40 million, which would have been profitable and reduced risk.

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To Your Health

The Challenge: In the early 2000s, a 50 percent failure rate for mental-health-drug trials meant the Food and Drug Administration approved few new treatments for psychiatric diseases, says Amy Fershko Ellis, ’80, who cofounded MedAvante in 2002 to analyze how the pharmaceutical industry tested psychiatric drugs. Her team found the root cause of trial failure was measurement variability and investigator bias in subjective assessments of trial participants. MedAvante created a holistic methodology to improve testing, but the company encountered industry resistance as outsiders looking to change the way clinical trials had long been conducted. The Strategy: Ellis applied universal principles to product development. Because drug trials are conducted in various parts of the country and around the world, companies pay investigators to find, evaluate, and enroll patients. But differences between investigators result in unreliable outcomes. MedAvante, however, proposed a way to control and centralize the evaluation process, using the internet to connect remote clinicians to patients to ask the same questions in the same way and characterize patient responses identically. MedAvante also digitized the process and made it cloud based, so researchers would have instant results. To build credibility, MedAvante enlisted key medical and scientific leaders who believed in their strategy and concept—mostly academics who didn’t have an economic bias. In 2005, MedAvante’s first two trials involved drugs that had previously failed. The new methodology showed significant results demonstrating the drugs worked, and the treatments were approved. Even with those results, industry skepticism of MedAvante’s nontraditional approach meant slow methodology adoption. But by 2009 the psychiatry industry embraced the system, and MedAvante dropped the 50 percent trial failure rate to the low teens. In 2014, MedAvante expanded the platform for use in all medical drug trials, using new technology to enhance data quality for drug developers. New services were quickly adopted beyond psychiatry, especially in studies of Alzheimer’s disease, where the company now holds a leadership position. “We benefited from the halo we had from our success,” Ellis said. The Takeaway: A great strategy can work in all sectors, even if implemented by industry outsiders. If the strategy and results are sound, don’t be discouraged by naysayers.

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Acquired Taste

The Challenge: Food producer Kellogg wanted to enter the Chinese market, but failed its initial attempts to do so organically or through acquisition. It decided to pursue a joint-venture partner to lower its market-entry risk since Kellogg could leverage the partner’s local expertise and scale the business, saving time and expense. Joint-venture partners also share the required investment to achieve success. While a joint venture might reduce the possible absolute upside of entering a new market, the probability-weighted return is usually higher than with a go-it-alone strategy. Yet finding a solid partner is difficult. Kellogg worked with Dwight McCardwell in 2012 to find the right match.

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Taking Inventory

The Challenge: Apple’s customers had evolved, and Cheryl Eng’s retail programs needed to keep pace. Customers could participate in small group demos intended to introduce them to Apple, the Mac, and later iPhones and iPads. But as technology became ubiquitous, basic tutorials weren’t cutting it for Apple owners. Customer feedback showed that “we weren’t meeting their needs. They wanted to capture memories from a child’s birthday party, but didn’t know how to do it in the best way,” Eng said. Addressing this need required a new strategy, not only to enhance the customer experience, but to change the mindset of senior leadership.

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Getting Personnel

The Challenge: How do you go about creating the first diversity and inclusion strategic plan for the Department of Homeland Security, the third-largest and newest US federal government department? With 240,000 employees, not only is the DHS large, it includes long-established agencies such as the Coast Guard and newer agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, all with their own policies, priorities, and cultures. When Nimesh Patel joined the DHS in 2011 as executive director for diversity and inclusion, the department had no cohesive strategy or oversight of diversity and inclusion, which sometimes resulted in significant challenges for senior leaders when briefing members of Congress about diversity efforts. “We couldn’t even clearly identify our successes, challenges, or the strategies to address the challenges,” said Patel, who recently left DHS to lead diversity and inclusion at WilmerHale, a large international law firm. The Strategy: Patel relied on his experience consulting with Fortune 200 companies regarding their diversity and inclusion efforts, as well as his relationship building, consensus forming, and negotiating skills, to create the department’s strategic plan. He established a task force including representatives from all of the major agencies to create a collaborative process, enable different perspectives, and gain buy-in from all key stakeholders.