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What were some of the influences that helped you choose Booth?

I was very deliberate in choosing which MBA programs I would apply to. It wasn’t just an exercise of looking at the top 10 programs and shot-gunning my applications. I applied to three programs, and from the start Chicago Booth was my number one choice for two reasons. First, Booth takes the discipline of business education seriously. From conversations with alumni, a campus visit, and reviewing its class offerings and approach, it was clear to me that Booth would provide me the technical, intellectual, and personally challenging environment that I was looking for. Second, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted out of an MBA, which was to build my technical finance tool-kit and explore entrepreneurship. There is no other program that marries those two worlds better than Chicago. Long known as a “finance” school, the reputation encompasses everything I could say about that aspect of the program. What is less well known is how successful, empowering, and unique the entrepreneurial aspect is of what Booth offers.

In your words, describe the culture and community at Booth, and what makes it so special. 

There are so many wonderful aspects of Booth culture, but the following story encapsulates everything Booth is about to me. I was eighteen months out of my Full-Time MBA when I decided to leave investment banking and start my company. Making that switch comes with a number of different challenges mentally, financially, and practically. Almost day one I reconnected with the Polsky Center, where I was welcomed with open arms and an open desk. I spent the next six months working out of the Gleacher Center and the Polsky Center, leaning on other aspiring entrepreneurs, Polsky Center events, professors, workshops… you name it, to get my business off the ground. I will forever be grateful to the school for that time. Being welcomed back and supported in that way cemented for me that the connection with the program is for life.

Considering the current state of the world, would you still encourage prospective students to get an MBA?

I think the consideration and commitment to an MBA is a highly personal and relative decision. That said, two of the most powerful elements of an MBA are the “safety net” and career preparation a premier program can provide. Having a Booth education and network was one of the most important considerations that gave me the courage to pull the rip-cord and leave investment banking to start a company. I knew if I fell completely flat that I could pick up the phone and through the alumni base have a direct connection to the top companies and firms in the world. Not to mention my education and experience would give me a really good chance at landing a premier job to get back up on my feet. In times of uncertainty like we are living in now, having the baseline education and network an MBA provides allows one to take risks.

What were some of the challenges you were able to conquer at work because of your MBA? 

Booth has empowered me in so many ways. Recently I was talking to a colleague and she asked me the question of where I learned to “think big” and immediately I shared that my experience at Booth gave me the perspective, skills, and confidence to dare to do something special in my professional career. Our current business model is a direct result of concepts and frameworks I learned from professors like Scott Meadow, James Schrager, and Craig Wortman, who was at Booth at the time. The introduction to our capital partners came as a direct result of the reputation the University of Chicago carries, as well as the network I built during my time living in the city of Chicago. One of my current business partners, Tyson Chapman, was a classmate at Booth. And the list doesn’t end there.

Describe the type of connection you have with other alumni.

I connect with other classmates and alumni steadily both in formal Booth gatherings and informally via calls and text messages on a regular basis. It isn’t an exaggeration to say anytime I am traveling for work to a new city, I have a friend I can reach out to and invite to dinner. On the professional side, I have two Booth classmates and one Booth alum that I speak to whenever I am facing difficult decisions or uncharted territory in my career. The connections I formed through the program continue to pay dividends long after I have left.

What has Booth done since you graduated that makes you proud to be an alum?

Booth has a long legacy of inclusion that goes back before it was a given that MBA programs should proactively seek diversity. So, while I am not surprised to see Booth has continued to build upon that legacy, I am very happy and proud to see it thriving. I recently went back to campus for my five year reunion, and took part in an event co-hosted by Hispanic American Business Student Association (HABSA) and the African American MBA Association (AAMBAA). The groups had grown since my time at Booth and it was exciting to learn about what the current students were working on and developing. On a similar note, I continue to be invited every year to Booth’s annual Fogel Dinner, a dinner that is geared toward celebrating diversity and inclusion. Although I can’t make it every year, I am always thrilled to get the invite and see that providing opportunity for underrepresented groups remains a priority for the school. 

Any regrets for something you wanted to try or accomplish while in business school?

I honestly have zero regrets about my time in business school. I felt like I found a very healthy balance between class, career advancement, social activity, career exploration, and extracurricular activity. Not to mention how much I fell in love with Chicago as a city. My first two kids were born in Chicago, as my wife and I stayed in the city several years after graduation. The city will always have a large piece of my heart. The “choose your own adventure” structure to Booth was perfect for someone like me who came in with a clear vision of what I wanted out of my experience. I always felt empowered to chase and explore the things I was interested in and wanted to do. I didn’t ever feel restricted or bogged down. Once in the program, I felt like I could reach out to anyone, anywhere and get a response — the email makes you a bit higher priority in that way. I certainly took advantage of that on many occasions. 

What book, movie, or podcast do you recommend given the current times?

I am just wrapping up a book entitled Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason by Justin E. H. Smith. The book is the best articulation I have come across as it relates to the current political, cultural, and philosophical state our country is in. I highly recommend it. As an interesting side note, I was excited to see one of the primary topics that runs throughout the book was also the cover story in the Winter edition of the Chicago Booth Review. Further evidence that the school continues to remain a thought leader in areas that extend well beyond business. 

Reyes Florez is the CEO and Founder of the Platform Accounting Group, a private equity backed business services company focused on acquiring and operating boutique accounting firms in the Western US. Previously, Reyes was an Investment Banking Associate at Credit Suisse, where he focused on M&A and capital markets advisory for companies in the Business Services and Education Technology sectors. Prior to joining Credit Suisse, Reyes was a Corporate Finance Associate at Goldman Sachs in their Salt Lake City and New York offices, where he oversaw the financial reporting, forecasting, and analysis for several legal entities and business segments. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he was an 1898 scholar and earned concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Accounting, and he holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Utah where he received cum laude honors.