Friday, February 27, 2009

Late Stage MBA - Josh Moritz- Will MY Education Solve the Stock Market Problem?

My son asked me a question tonight about the stock market. I did prod him to do so as part of learning how to think a bit more creatively about writing and to help me get started on a topic for tonight's blog. So the question is: by getting an MBA will this lead me to solving the stock market problem we have today?

Of course, no way. Although I consider myself a pretty bright guy,and unless there is some devine elightenment (and frankly given my performance in my finance course), this education is going to give me an idea of how we got into this mess, but not necessarily how to come up with a solution. There are plenty of smart people worrying about that. I am going to concentrate on coming up with a business idea that I love and that makes me some money. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind on taking a few minutes of making a contribution to the solution.

My feeling is that while I might join Wall Street either in the form of private equity or investment banking or just go back to being a marketing guy, is that our financial system is a form of legalized piracy even under the most draconian regulations. Smart Mafia dudes would do well to go to Babson (and if they have to settle for Harvard or Wharton, so be it) and leave the "business" behind and just come up with the next form of Credit Default Swaps that the SEC and Congress never even considered regulating.

I know that my finance professor disagrees with my POV regarding that the finance is really a form of legalized piracy. But he did give us to read a wonderful article called "Fuzzy Numbers" by a guy named David Henry (McGraw Hill, copyright, 2000-2004) which described that much of our financial reporting is clearly an art, not an exact science. I learned that GAAP is not short for Generally Approved Accouting Principles for nothing. You really have to read the footnotes in financial statements and then "scrub" the numbers by adding in and subtracting out certain items in order to get a fair comparable understanding of what is going on in a company. Given the broad way numbers can be presented and altered, legally, a regular old fashion consumer of financial products really should just invest in a well regarded mutual fund or bank CD's. You have to have the tempermant and at least a bit of training to understand the fine print--it is caveat emptor. Even though I don't think that I will be able to leave Quickbooks behind, I am hoping that by the time I take my next financial course I will be at least a bit capable of geting to the bottom of the annual reports and 10K's.

One of my favorite investment stories, is my father's investment in Chock Full Of Nuts coffee stock in the late 1950's to cover my college education. Despie almost finishing a PHD in engineering, dad did not exactly follow the stock market carefully. I think his investment went from $10 to $1 by the time I was 18. He should have read the fine print.

A more recent one are the people who have invested in bank stocks that were trading around $5 a few weeks ago and are now even lower, thinking that how could they go lower? Well guess what, you don't know what you don't know and the stock market is kind of emotional.

There was a great story of Iococca taking over Chrysler in 1979 when the car company was struggling then. The stock was trading at $11 and Ioccocca was quoted as saying how much lower could it go? The next year it went to $5. And of the soccer coach who had lost all 10 games for the season. How worse could it go? He lost 11 the following year since his team now had to play 11 games not 10. So my advice: invest heavily, take risks but with a juandiced eye; be sure that you are willing to drive a taxi-cab well into retirement just in case.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Late Stage MBA Application Process - Josh Moritz - Part 5

I asked alot of people about what they thought of going for an MBA in your late 40s or even your 50s. I turned to one of my virtual networks, Marketing Executive Network Group, (see: to find out what my peers thought.

It was an enthusastic response. Within hours of my posting, I had more than 50 responses and within a day over 70. One MENG colleague I did not know, looked up my phone number and called me from San Francisco to give me advice. Some it was negative, most of it was very positive and sometimes cautionary.

I found the summary of that requst, here it is. (If you want to see some the emails, please contact me.):

Thank you all that wrote in. The request generated more than 50 responses in few hours. Here are the findings:

1) Amongst responders, it was about 40 to 2 in favor of the EMBA (the others were more informational and not offering a comment one way or the other). In order of positive mentions:

a. Intellectual development
b. Expanding horizons
c. Network opportunities
d. Career development (valuable mid-career development especially
within the same industry and company)
e. Improved current professional situation
f. People not in favor said that it was age and where you are in your career vs. opportunity

costs that might make an unprofitable endeavor - see points 10 and 11 below-the older you are the harder the payback
i. Headhunters seem to be neutral on a later career MBA. But they do say it never
harms to have the credential especially as a consultant or as a tie-breaker for a job
ii. On theother hand, new knowledge could make you more valuable to an organization
-seems to refresh the brain (like I said, they seem kind of wishy washy)

2) People in favor of the EMBA were not just enthusiastic but effusive, even gushing about their programs even if they were not the name brand schools: it was about knowledge,

network and career. Age ranged from late 20s through their late 40s

3) It's hard work, 20 to 25 hours per week outside of class

a. Make sure your significant other and your family buy into you doing this. You must carve
out time for school, work and family if you are so situated

4) Columbia had the most frequent and most favorable mentions withstrengths in finance and

5) People love Thunderbird even though none of the Thunderbird attendees did the distance
learning MBA program, and even if some did not get jobs right out of the program

6) Only two people knew about Babson. One of them an instructor was quite impressed with the
program and students

7) People from SMU, U of Texas, Drexel, Rutgers all thought their programs were great and did
great things for their careers

8) The NYU EMBA had one favorable mention. It is widely seen as strong in finance (the lack of
mentions may reflect that MENG is a marketing group of people, not a finance group of

9) Name brand is important to the outside world. For example, a person from one of the top ranked programs in 2000 mentioned that he is introduced in meetings as having attended the XXX EMBA . Others made the same comment

10) One person cautioned that they cost much more than the regular programs offered by the same school, nearly 40% to 50% in most cases.

a. This leads to the cost benefit analysis discussion brought up by two people
b. If it is that more expensive, you have to be sure to leverage itvthat much more

11) Several people suggested that at a late career path, you might want to consider less
expensive certificate programs that focus on 4 or 5 courses in a specific area, such as finance or direct marketing.

a. On the MENG Site there is a document called "MENG-Saw Sharpening" that outlines a

number of educational opportunities outside of the graduate school environment

12) Make sure the program has a network that is open to networking, a strong Alumni association, an administration that stresses networking and post graduation collaboration, the students themselves, strong career services, post graduate seminars. Not every program in the top 100 has this- so investigate carefully. Strong network mentions included Columbia, SMU, Texas (not an EMBA mention), Rutgers, Thunderbird

a. There seems to be an issue with some programs that people become friends for life, but not business associates. This is not a common theme in most responses, but it came up a couple times.

13) In doing any online or offline course work, make sure it is accredited by strong regional and national associations

a. State accreditation is not considered good, especially if you want to teach
b. Regional - done by six regional agencies that are part of the National Board of Education. These degrees are recognized at all accredited institutions. The six agencies are NEASC, NCA, MSA, SACS, WASC, NWCCU. Do a google search to find these agencies and their list of schools
c. AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) Top tier of accreditation for business programs.

My take-away from all of this:

1) Its about the knowledge, the friends and network you make
2) The payback is up to the individual and how they leverage it at any age
3) Less expensive alternatives exist, but they are very focused
Thanks to all.
Much appreciated.
Joshua Moritz

Monday, February 23, 2009

Late Stage MBA Application Process-Josh Moritz -part 4

After selling DMTG in 1999 and working for a couple of years with Earle Palmer Brown, I started another agency partnership with David Klang and Peter Blau called Customer Growth. At the time I was also teaching various online and off-line interactive marketing courses at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

During the start-up phase of the agency, I started investigating several executive MBA programs in the New York area: NYU both the domestic and international program, Columbia, Baruch, UCONN. I also looked at a programs at the New School (a masters program that was more like a mixture of business and public policy) at McGill in Toronto, Babson and even Northwestern. I dropped the idea again when all of sudden we had 5 accounts towards the end of 2002 and just was too busy to even think about school. There were too many things to do.

I also dropped out of teaching. As I was leaving the Masters program at NYU, my supervisor also said that I should really think about getting my MBA since if I ever wanted to pursue life as a part-time college professor on the Masters level, that I would need the degree. While the commment made me pause, I was not motivated enough to think about teaching quite yet since I was pursuing business as a career and not teaching. It was again something to file away for the future.

Customer Growth was very well positioned for the types of clients that we took on: financial services, insurance and software arenas, traditional heavy users of direct mail and email. For a longtime it was a great system. As clients left one company and moved to another, we moved with them and kept our curent customers as well. We were concerned though that we were pigioned holed as the direct mail guys, and despite proposals to build web sites, utlize web analytics, banners, pop-ups, PPC, SMS Text, Blogging, PR, trade shows, advertising, outdoor, dancing emails, social networking, databases, lists, even twitters, we were always precieved as the direct mail guys.

Our clients loved our work but said that they had a slew of online specialists and that we needed to stick to our knitting.

The problem was defining what was the knitting. To us it was interactive marketing which encompassed a slew of media, to them it was direct mail and maybe email.

It wasn't helping that I just finished two book like reports on the credit card industry or that I was pulling together the interactive boot camp held at the Direct Marketing Association each year. Or acting as a CMO for start-ups where I really did use all forms of interactive, advetising, branding, outdoor, PR, telemarketing, CRM to sell and service all sorts of stuff.

I was beginning to think it was time to rename the agency to Dinosaur Direct.

I can't change my age and I am not about to dye my hair -- something about a 54 year old with those strange redish brown dews just don't seem very natural. Works for my wife, not for me.

But one can change the way one thinks, what they know and who they know. After working many years with NYU SCPS, I knew that education can turbo charge the brain cells and the netowrk.

I thought about getting a graduate certificate in social networking, bogging, SEO, but realized that all of this could come and go.

What I wanted was a new network and a degree that could lead in new areas. I was also facinated by the legalized piracy going on Wall Street (my Babson finance professor disagrees with my analysis) and I had no real understanding of finance, operations research, or international marketing.

I also think doing something counter-intuitive to the norm can be a game changer; and it can impress propects, clients and people in general for that critcal extra 5 seconds it takes to make a relationship or to get in the door. (Amazingly, there are quite of few people in their 50's at the Babson Fast Track program who must be thinking in the same way -- so much for being truely unique.)

Let's not also forget that what you learn can make you a better marketer, consultant or general manager helping your company and clients grow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Late Stage MBA - Josh Moritz-Part 3

I gave the MBA concept another half hearted try in the early 1980s but gave it up when I realized that many contemporaries with MBA's were no more successful than me within the advetising community. I also began to realize that what drove the ad business was new business and ideas, and MBA trained people did not do it better than anyone else. The only place it seemed to make a difference were those people who went back and moved into finance, usually M&A, private equity, etc. There was just no compelling reason for a mid- to -late 20's dude hanging out and having fun to go to school unless I was interested in a career change. I was working, exercising and floozing around with no responsibilities, making adequate money, living in a very cheap co-op on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The apartment was so cheap that I had more than enough money to do whatever I wanted to and save about 20% of income per year. Living there was also a return to the Shtettle where I began my life. M grandmother bothered the housing office for four to make sure that when my name came up, they were going to find me and offer me an apartment. See, these were non-profit Co-ops, set up under some strange NY State law that said you could only buy and sell the apartments through the housing office. The prices were frozen at the 1959 price, so in 1981, I paid a grand total of $1500 for a 1 bedroom apartment, overlooking the East River with a huge balcony. My monthly cost was about $250 per month, which topped out over 7 years to about $400 per month. Grandma was really happy that I was in the neighborhood. She asked for a key to the apartment so she could stuff the freezer with all sorts of food that would make the manufacturers of Lipotor salivate. Because of privacy I declined her offer, gave the key to my neighbor Faye instead. I was living fat and happy. Really low rent meant that corporate ambition could be deferred, being a floozy could continue.

Fast forward 20 years; by this point I have not only married, but I have three kids, my wife and I have sold our first advertisng agency. As any entrepreneur knows, getting to the point where you have a company big enough to sell is not easy, lots of potholes along the way, near death experiences and salvations. Fun stuff. While I enjoyed my time at the agency that acquired us, I also knew that in my early 40's it was time to move on. During that time, one of things that I did was teach at NYU in the direct marketing certificate and master's program. While that too was fun, I realized that the life of adjunct was very limiting and not monetarily rewarding. Without a master's I was not going anywhere fast in this type of track.

Although I had been a general manager at an ad agency before starting mine, I realized that if I were to change careers, I would have to seriously think about a graduate degree. I also realized that all my training was in marketing; I had no real experience in finance, operations and my negotiating skills were limited. So I had to broaden my experience and broaden my knowledge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A slight Diversion: MBA Degress Don't Get Clients or Jobs

A justified comment from an anonymous person:

"Do you really think an MBA this late in life will get clients? Do they care about your education or examples of your business successes for your clients? You may be spending your hard-earned money for basically nothing."

No formal degree will ever get you clients or a job or a career. You get there the old fashion way: hard work, networking, selling good ideas and selling yourself. Learning to be a collaborator. You have to sell yourself in person, learn to communicate well, provide an honest evaluation of your skill set and capabilities. You don't get hired because you went to Babson, Yale, Harvard or the London School of Economics, or by stretching the truth about who you are or what you can deliver. You get hired because you probably learned how to to think well and became a broader thinker as a result of professors, your peers and ideas and activities you get exposed to offered by any educational institution. How you leverage the education, that is what gets you the clients, the job or in front of a VC. It becomes one of the many, and perhaps one of the most critical, tools in your toolbox.

Payout is critical. If you think you have a limited number of years, you have to work really hard at leveraging the degree. That said, I met a 63 year old doctor at Columbia Exec. MBA who said he wanted to buy a bank, and that a finance certificate was not enough education. At Babson I met a guy in his 50s who was in the music instrument business. He was president of the company. As he said its about the 200 case studies you would never read on your own. He began to leverage that knowledge whether he was in China negotiating or on a factory floor in the U.S.

School is not just a place where a professor lectures you. You must be assertive (even to the point of making mistakes and what better place to do that in a place where you pay to make those mistakes) in making connections with people who can help you achieve your goals and lead you to new potential directions you never would have thought about. Going back to school is more than a conversation starter, it provides you with new talents ranging from negotiation skills to a deep understanding of finance and new forms of marketing and exposure to management concepts and technology that did not exist 30 years ago.

It provides a foundation for some and enhancement for many in leadership development and team building.

As for payback, which I will get into later, there is one exercise that I have already applied to my business and to my client's businesses: "Define one focused need statement." But more on this later.

How you leverage your skills and education to find a client, to start a new business or a new division for a company, becomes a critical component of success. Place an ROI against it; measure your own payback.

In the end, you create your own luck.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Late Stage MBA, Josh Moritz, Application Process, Part II

The half hearted quest for the MBA really began sometime in my senior year of college. I was meeting with my career advisor Bill Kolidinsky at the Rutgers Career office in New Brunswick who suggested two school: Thunderbird and Babson. Although I was not into the idea, I did go to the Thunderbird interview and did fairly well since they began sending me those direct mail pieces encouraging me to apply.

The truth was I was a bit arrogant since I had been running the business department of the college newspaper, The Rutgers Daily Targum. I figured I knew all that business school had to offer. After all, I had 5 or 6 direct reports and 100 part-time employees, a $250,000 annual budget and made $5000 per year in my junior and senior years at a time when tuition, room and board for school was less than $2000. I went to small claims court to sue deadbeat advertisers, settled all sorts of legal claims, sold advertising, learned how to manage the accounting (thank goodness we had a real book-keeper;there was no Quickbooks in those days). My friends Arthur and Sherwin sold advertising like crazy and I got commissions on their commissions. We still chuckle over the time the local sub shop - Greasy Tony's-- owed us money from the previous year (maybe a $1000) and they wanted to advertise their "buy one get one free" kick off for the fall semester. Arthur noticed that on the day he went to get the ad copy and I told him no advertising until they paid, that Greasy Tony's was taking a large delivery of cold cuts for the special. In an astute move that has made Arthur fairly well off as an adult, he told Tony that all that meat was going to go bad unless he could advertise with us and the only way he could advertise with us was to pay off the bill. Arthur walked out with a check for $1000. The ads ran, Tony sold out. The check did not bounce.

Further adding fire to find a job versus getting the MBA was that my grades were pretty mediocre, barely breaking 2.9 and those low down GMATs scores were just hanging over my head like little ice picks. Everntually, even Bill Kolodinsky came around to the realization that I was not going to graduate school and helped me get my first advertising job. MBA off the radar.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Late Stage MBA Josh Moritz , Application Process Part 1

It was a long process that began in 1977. What is interesting is that after 30 years, many executive MBA programs are willing to forgive the sins of mediocre grades and crummy GMAT scores. While I am not proud of it, my GMAT scores from 30 years ago declined by one point each time I took the test, something like 456, to 455, to 454. I did no prep for the first two and the last time I did take the Kaplan course. I did it half heartedly since I was living in NYC, working overly hard and more into the City life than studying. In those days, you went to the Kaplan building in the west 50s, had a pep talk by someone who successfully took the test and then listened to some nasely sounding guy on cassette tapes who took you through the basics of math and English. I was working in advertising where it is never calm and there is always shouting and some nasely sounding bugging the crap out of you and this post work nasel voice just did not cut it. It was boring and annoying. It was more fun to go out with my girlfriend who really was a rocket scientiest -- she had done some operations research program at Yale. (A good friend of mine reminded me that he probably passed operatons research at Columbia MBA because he dropped her name to the professor, so she and I were truely in a different intellectual category). I was working at Kenyon and Eckhardt Advertising at the time and one of my bosses was a guy named Mike Weinstein who went on to create some great soda brands and campaigns. He finished HBS a few years earlier , looked at some of my failed entrepreneurial endeavors and said, go fucking start another business. Then there was another very successful boss Patricia, a true bon vivant. She was 40, a devout Kengas Kahn Republican, about the size of an IPOD shuffle and a 1970's corporate poster child for the 1980s Madonna song "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." She could fly airplanes and pickup guys on the bus from the terminal to rental car counter. Her attitude was "why bother, party. " So with the exception of my girlfriend who was concerned about those GMAT scores from a genetic perspective, my mentors weren't exactly encouraging my intellectual endeavors. And after the first few Kaplan sessions, neither was I.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why Do A Late Stage MBA - Babson Fast Track Setup

I was looking for a program that would enable me to continue to work (although during this recession that sometimes seems to be a non-starter) and provide me with access to my professors and fellow classmates.

The Babson Fast Track program is a hybrid. After the first kick-off week - in which I felt that the program should be called Heart Attack, not Fast Track--we do our studies online during the week and then meet in person every six weeks on campus in Wellesely, MA. There is also a Portland program for people on the West Coast.

During the week, professors download lectures, readings and assignments. We read, discuss the ideas virtually via discussion boards, Sharepoint, Wiki's, conference calls and emails. We sometimes have live lectures online via product called Elluminate. While the subject matter maybe challenging, the lectures are in clear, concise Americanized English. To me this is an improvement over the calc lectures that were taught by non-English speaking professors who could not understand your questions and you could not understand their answers.

If you are like me, I sometimes phase out during course lectures, particularly at night. Since everything is online all the time, all you have to do is back-up a section of the lecture you might have missed to hear it again.

Unlike in the offline world, you don't have to hunt down professors to get questions answered. They answer them via email and pretty quickly most days. Classmates are also great at answering questions as well.

Our study group generally meets every Sunday night via conference call to discuss the next weeks assignments, some of which we need to respond to collaboratively. We can be anywhere. This week one my study group was calling in from India, while another called in from Italy at the beginning of January.

Overall, I would say that we have at least as good sense of community as any does in the offline world.

Why Do a Late Stage MBA? Babson Fast Track

I audited many executive MBA schools and classes. I asked one of my virtual networking groups what they thought about specific programs. It came down to two: Columbia and Babson.

I loved both schools from the start. My virtual network gave rave reviews to Columbia and Babson. The classes were really interesting. Even the instructor in finance kept my interest up for 2 hours.

Columbia while closer geographically, though, seemed at the time to be attacting a group that was very Wall Street and at this late stage in my career, that did not seem to be where I was going.

Babson's secret sauce is entrepreneurism, which is what I do; they breath it from main street to Wall Street. I met people who are working in family businesses, at start-ups, VC's and in larger companies. They came from all over the world. Several people in my cohort come travel in from places like London and Shanghai, Venezuela, New York, Connecticut (me) and California. People may live in Boston but they seem to be as likely to be US born as coming in from Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, China and Africa.

I had dinner one night with a classmate who grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China. His chief complaint right now is that his Americanized sons have it too soft. I don't exactly meet people with those kinds of experiences in Westport, CT. who are my contemporaries.

Why Do A Late Stage MBA; Education and Networking

I am attending the Babson Fast Track MBA program for several reasons:

1) To renew my marketing license. Much as changed in 30 years since I left school. While I am good marketer, I needed an update that I believe combined with my experience will make me a more powerful marketer either within my company ( or as an independent marketing consultant

2) I wanted to hone my entrepreneurial skills. I am pretty good entrepreneur, but I never believed I was a great intuitive business person. I felt that the Babson program would enhance this skill (more on why the Babson Fast Track MBA program later)

3) I needed to learn finance. I have zippo knowledge in this area and the intro course is proving to be really facinating even if i am finding it a tough slog. I have hopes that one of my next entrepreneurial endeavors (for self, a company, a VC or non-profit) will incorporate this knowledge

4) I needed diversity. Nothing against my partners, but after 6 years of working with guys who look like me, sound like me (well not quite that), think like me a bit, and living in the suburbs, it was time to be exposed to new points of view. I needed to meet people who were not like me, who had new perspectives, new ways of seeing things, new ideas. I had become clositered. Like a friend visiting me in NYC from the mid-west once said to me when I asked her what kind of food did she want and she replied: "Anything Ethnic." Multiply that thought a few times and you get my drift.

5) I needed to broaden my horizens. I have spent nearly thirty years in advertising, general branding and direct marketing. The world had changed; I needed to see it.

6) I needed to expand my network of contacts and friends. I wanted to see who else was out there to help me build my business and for me to build theirs. As one behavorial test once showed, a new prospect is a friend I haven't made yet.

Why Do A Late Stage MBA? Renewal and Recasting

It ain't all about mergers and aquirsitions and IPOs. Its about education, renewal and recasting onself for the next 50 years.

I started this epic just after my father died in August 2006 at the age of 82. I had been thinking about graduate school for many years and decided I was not getting any younger, so it was time to get on the stick.

I am also looking at potentially a long life. My grandmother died last year at 104. My other grandmother at 94 and my great-grandfather died at 96. Early deaths in the family are clearly attributable to smoking and I don't smoke.

While I had been well known in the mid-90s through very early 2000's as a direct marketing expert, that is now "so last year." Direct and database marketing guru's had become dinosaurs, the new hot ticket was internet, social networking, search engine optimizers. Catalogers were now multi-channel merchants. Even my wife morphed from being a well known direct marketer to a search optimization queen and started a successful e-commerce site:

I figured if I am going to be a successful entrepreneur for myself, another company, VC's or non-profits, I had to take a radical approach for a guy entering his 50s. That approach is MBA school.

Josh Moritz-Babson Profile in The Week


The Money Magazine story was also picked up by The Week magazine. Click below.

Money Magazine Profile

Money Magazine just did a write-up of me attending Babson. Please click on the link below