Persistence vs. Insanity

by Robert Kunisch 13. March 2015

Team Synergy Presents Their Case Solution

The difference between winning and losing business is often boiled down to basis points. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1%. To quantify it further, for every $10,000 we lend, we generate $1.00 in revenue for each basis point in interest we charge for a loan. Why does this matter, you ask? Because that is exactly how close Towson University’s “The Associate” competition is between teams Eminence and Synergy. In terms of basis points, the difference between the two teams is inconsequential and almost unmeasurable.

The score board tells a different story with team Synergy leading by a score of 3-0, but anyone who has observed the last three weeks of the competition could easily make the case that Team Eminence should be leading 3-0. This week’s challenge to produce a television ad for Merritt Athletic Clubs promoting zero enrollment fees and a family community lifestyle at their gyms left everyone in awe at the final product developed by the competing teams. In the end, the client, Merritt Athletic Clubs, picked the case presented by Synergy. It was a razor thin loss for team Eminence by mere basis points.

So what’s the takeaway? Sometimes in business you have a better proposal, a lower bid, a superior product, better customer service… and you still end up losing the business. When this happens – and it will – pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward. I was rejected by over 150 potential investors before I was able to raise $110 million to recapitalize 1st Mariner Bank. Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. "Insane" was one of the kinder words people used to describe the likelihood of recapitalizing the bank.

Every time I was told that I was insane, I responded that I was persistent. Persistence is defined as firm continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. I guess Albert Einstein would say that there is a mere basis point difference between insanity and persistence.

Team Eminence will have to pick themselves up after last night and remain persistent in their pursuit of convincing Cintas (next week’s presenting company) that they have the best proposal to resolve Cintas’s case. Synergy can continue to bask in the glory of their 3-0 record, but a word of advice: it’s fun when you’re on top, but remember, there is always someone below you who wants to knock you down (a blog for another day).

Congratulations to both teams on another outstanding week.

See Also:

I Fired a Woman Yesterday

The Lesson I Learned from "The Associate" Week 2

The Lesson I Learned from "The Associate" Week 2

by Robert Kunisch 26. February 2015

The Associate Presentations

Do you want to win in business? Then listen to what the client wants and deliver a clear and concise proposal to meet their needs. It’s a simple concept, but it’s often forgotten. Too frequently we want to tell the client what their needs are and how we are going to resolve them our way. This week, the Towson University Associate program reminded me to look at how 1st Mariner is responding to our customer and prospect needs.

In week two of the competition, team Synergy and team Eminence locked horns in an epic battle to increase the brand awareness of Baltimore-based B’more Organic. B’more Organic has a great product with enormous benefits for the consumer. Their challenges are typical of a young growing company.

The rules of the game state that the presenting company, B’more Organic, reveals the issue that the teams must resolve. B’more Organic selects the winner. We (1st Mariner) have to fire a person on the losing team.

Here comes the lesson learned. The 1st Mariner judges believed that team Eminence had the better presentation. B’more Organic, the client, thought otherwise and selected team Synergy as the winner. B’more Organic explained that team Synergy met their needs better than the other team. We fell into the trap of liking a presentation despite what the client wanted.

The winners from the night were B’more Organic and team Synergy, but also 1st Mariner Bank for being reminded of a valuable lesson: ideas may be great, but if they fall short of client expectations then you won’t walk away as the winner.

Next up is Merritt Athletic Clubs, a well-known and respected Maryland company. Their case is materially different than that of B’more Organic. I hope team Synergy and team Eminence take note.

I Fired a Woman Yesterday

by Robert Kunisch 18. February 2015

The Associate photo by Kanji Takeno

I fired a woman yesterday. The decision to do so was one of the hardest of my career. She was smart, highly motivated and worked more hours than most of her peers. Why did I do it, you ask? I had to. Someone had to go - it is part of the rules.

A few months ago I was approached by Towson University to serve as the “Donald” for an annual competition called "The Associate" that simulates the hit TV show The Apprentice. In the Towson version, the presenting company offers the winning student a job.

At the time Towson asked me to participate, I had never seen the show, but like many, I was familiar with the tagline, “You’re fired.” In truth, I have little in common with Donald Trump. He owns airplanes; I hate to fly. He's been married 3 times; me just once. He loves New York; I love Maryland. I naively accepted the role thinking it would be fun to exclaim, “You’re fired” to some college student. Man, was I wrong.

There are two main reasons why I accepted the opportunity to portray the “Donald” and give 1st Mariner’s commitment to hire the winning student.

1) 1st Mariner has several Towson University alumni in key positions in our company, so we are familiar with the quality and integrity of the students they produce.

2) We are a local Maryland bank and we look to partner with other institutions that have a vested interest in our marketplace.

Eight students from the College of Business and Economics were selected to compete in "The Associate" competition. They receive no college credit for participating. The students are divided into two teams, and each week a local company presents the teams with a real-life case study. The teams have one week to prepare a detailed presentation outlining a solution to the local company’s case study. The following week the local company selects the team they believe offered the best solution to their question.

It is an extraordinary amount of work to complete in one week and all for no class credit. One person from the losing team is let go from the competition each week until there is one person standing.

If your company is in the market to hire a highly motivated, smart individual who outworks their peers, here's a great place to start.

If you are a company who wants to improve your product awareness, contact the university and ask them to be involved next year. It will benefit your organization tremendously.

Next week B’More Organic, a vibrant Baltimore-based company, will select the team that provides the best solution to their case study. I can’t wait to see the presentations by team Synergy and team Eminence. I know B’more Organic is excited as well. It's reality TV without commercials, and it’s a lot of fun up until that final decision on who has to go is rendered. Hats off to Towson University for creating an event that benefits everyone who participates.

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