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University accounting programs ranked high in affordability

Accounting Classroom
Accounting Classroom

Accounting Degree Review, a website that reviews and ranks the best accounting programs across the nation, placed Missouri State University’s accounting programs in the top five schools for affordability.

The undergraduate program was ranked fourth, while the graduate program was ranked second.

“We are proud of both the quality and affordability of our accounting program here at Missouri State,” said Dr. Stephanie Bryant, dean of the College of Business. “Accounting is a hot area and jobs are relatively plentiful. Being so affordable allows more students access to a great education and great career.”

Accounting Degree Review researches and reviews those schools that are accredited in accounting by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the premier accreditation agency in the world for business and accounting programs. There are currently 170 schools with this accreditation.

View the undergraduate and graduate program rankings.

Accounting Degree Review compared schools by looking at their annual tuition and out-of-state fees for incoming freshman enrolling in the 2014-2015 academic year. There were 30 schools that made the list.

For more information, contact Bryant at (417) 836-4408.

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Bears Business Brief – Creating the greatest place on Earth to work

By Mike Merrigan, J.D., MBA

Mike Merrigan
Mike Merrigan

According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report, only 30 percent of employees are actively committed to doing a good job. Fifty percent of employees merely put in their time, while the remaining 20 percent act out in counterproductive ways, including: negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20 percent group costs the U.S. economy around $500 billion each year. We also know through research done by the Hay Group that highly engaged employees are, on average, 50 percent more likely to exceed expectations than the least engaged co-workers. And companies with highly engaged people outperform firms with the most disengaged employees — by 54 percent in employee retention, by 89 percent in customer satisfaction and by 400 percent in revenue growth.

So how do we create the greatest place on Earth to work? What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? What does it make you think about? Each fall I start my Human Resources Management class with these questions and ask students to depict their answers in a team poster. Most business students won’t win any art contests, but they do come up with some very common themes that are consistent with those found each year in Fortune’s “Top 100 Places to Work.” Some examples include great workout facilities, a Starbucks on every floor, open space with natural light, all the amenities of home and being located in a great city. This description sounds a lot like Google, and it’s probably no surprise that Google consistently ranks near the top of this list. But you don’t have to have all of these amenities to be a great place to work — just ask the people at our SRC. Yes, Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation has consistently been on this list for years. So how does SRC and, for that matter, all the other non-Google companies do it?

Over the course of the semester, I have my students interview the top companies and then give a formal presentation about them during our final class of the semester. I am always amazed by how creative the students are in getting interviews with top-level management at these organizations. It should really be no surprise, since a common theme of these organizations is an open and transparent culture. Not only are they transparent by sharing the good, the bad and everything in between,but they also teach their co-workers what the information means and how to think critically in order to help create a sense of ownership. Jack Stack, SRC’s president, reinforces this concept with my students each fall during his guest lecture. He believes that culture is no accident and it is achieved through repetition. He also reinforces that the arrogance of management and the illiteracy of employees are two things that will kill a business. Organizations that unleash the flow of honest information, instead of parceling it out on a “need to know” basis, reinforce this sense of ownership.

Another common theme among these organizations is servant leadership. The theme runs so strongly within these organizations it is almost like a religion to them. Many of these organizations go through several processes to make sure the leaders “fit” the organization and that they are driven, optimistic, show mutual respect, value teamwork, pay attention to even the littlest things and exhibit an openness to change. These are also the core that drives the third theme, an “employee first” attitude. Although the companies rate very high in customer service, they have also found that if they take care of their employees, their employees will, in turn, take care of their customers. Several companies mentioned a mentality of treating their employees like “volunteers” and constantly re-recruiting them by making work enjoyable. “At SRC the employees are the heart of the company and they are the ones who drive the customer experience. We are really in the business of creating leaders and a great company, not just a product or service,” said the SRC interviewee.

About benefits, most do not try to imitate Google, but the organizations recognize the changing demographics and diversity in their workforces and that the “old” standard benefit package is outdated. Work-life balance is a key component to their cultures and their “unique” benefits are aligned to support this. They also nurture individuality and self-determination by supporting their employees with extensive training and development programs. According to Gallup, organizations that focus on their employees’ strengths can practically eliminate active disengagement and double the number of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide. As one executive put it, “we don’t hire people to fire people and we don’t make them check who they are at the door.” It would seem that the key to creating a great place to work is giving employees the opportunity to be themselves and the support they need for them to reach their full potential.

Sources: “Creating the Best Workplace on Earth” by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones (HBR May 2013), “Blue Ocean Leadership” by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne (HBR May 2014), Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace.

This article appeared in the March 14, 2015 issue of the Springfield News-Leader.  It is available online here.

Mike Merrigan, J.D., MBA, is a clinical professor in management at Missouri State University. Merrigan, a former vice president and regional general counsel for St. John’s Health System and Mercy Health, writes on issues related to health care, including the Affordable Care Act. Email: michaelmerrigan@missouristate.edu.

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Bears Business Brief: Big Data means better security needed

By Shannon McMurtrey, Ph.D.

Shannon McMurtrey
Shannon McMurtrey

Lately it seems like there have been news reports of data breaches almost on a daily basis. It turns out that isn’t too far from the truth. Five of the top 10 data breaches of all time have occurred within the past two years. Household names like Home Depot, Target and Sony Entertainment have been among the more recent victims of massive data breaches. One common theme running through all of these breaches is that the signs that trouble was brewing often went completely unnoticed.

We can all relate to the overwhelming feeling that occurs when we think about all the data we have to deal with on a daily basis. In the endless stream of data coming our way from text messages, email (I’ve dated myself with this one, but don’t try to email anyone under the age of 30 — they won’t get it), phone calls, voice mails, social media, endless stacks of junk mail, it is very easy to miss something important. Take that and multiply it by a factor of about a billion and you get a sense of the size of the job business owners face on a daily basis. Even small retailers are now advised to have a strong, engaging social media presence coupled with a well-thought-out content marketing strategy that engages their customers one by one.

The challenges driving the securing of big data implementations feel very similar to the challenges created when consumers started bringing their own electronic devices into the workplace (the BYOD movement). The functionality provided by BYOD outpaced the security concerns and led to many ad hoc security programs being put into place with varying degrees of success. In a similar manner we are now seeing small teams rushing to take advantage of the open source tools that they can easily download and leverage to mine the vast amounts of interesting data in their environments, with very little thought given to the security and privacy implications involved.

This is why the term “big data” is showing up everywhere now as business owners and leaders wrestle with the best way to make sense of all this data as well as how to best secure it. There are competitive advantages to be had by those who best learn how to identify trends in this data; there is also better security to be had by those who best learn how to leverage “Big Data” to identify emerging threats.

This last point, the potential to pick up signs that a data breach is about to occur, is compelling. Unfortunately, that is exactly what didn’t happen for the companies mentioned in the opening paragraph. Target, in particular, is reported to have even discovered signs of a data breach with its existing security tools, and decided at the time that it wasn’t worth following up on (New York Times, March 14, 2014).

Some of my colleagues from Missouri State University and I are hosting a “Big Data” conference on March 17th, where we will address many of these very topics. We are fortunate, here in the Ozarks, to have access to some of the best minds in the retailing and cybersecurity world, some of whom have agreed to participate in a round table discussion on “Securing Big Data.” If this is a topic that interests you, mark the date on your calendar.

This article appeared in the March 7, 2015 issue of the Springfield News-Leader.  It is available online here.

Shannon McMurtrey, Ph.D., is director of Missouri State University’s master’s program in cybersecurity, as well as program director for the master’s in computer information systems in the department of computer information systems. Email: shannonmcmurtrey@missouristate.edu.

Posted in Bears Business Brief, College of Business, Computer Information Systems | Leave a comment

Owner of award-winning boutique credits MSU for business acumen

Andrea Pena
Andrea Pena

Andrea Pena imagined she would spend years working her way up the corporate ladder at a fashion giant like Nordstrom. In 2011, however, a hard-to-beat opportunity presented itself and she took it, resulting in an award-winning Springfield boutique that focuses on contemporary, casual fashions.

Pena, who graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising, bought an existing boutique on south Campbell Avenue in 2011 and renamed it Modern Society. In 2014, the retail store won the Downtown Springfield Association’s Downtown Business of the Year award. Pena credits her loyal customers for the honor.

“The Downtown Springfield Association narrows it down to five businesses, and then they put it out there for people to vote, and so of course we pushed it through our social media.”

Her secret to building a large clientele in just three years: diverse target market, exclusive brands and outstanding customer service.

“There are really not a lot of other stores that have men’s clothing; I think that sets us apart,” she said. “We also go out of our way to do things for the customer, like sending ‘Thank You’ cards.”

Pena wasn’t planning to run her own business as a student — her goal was to be a buyer for an established fashion firm. After graduation, she worked as an assistant women’s buyer with Bass Pro at their corporate offices.

At that time, she was a customer of the venue that became Modern Society. “I had already gotten to know the owner of that store, and she knew my background. … She needed to sell the store, because she was moving.” She asked Pena: Would you be interested?

“I went home and talked to (my husband). The next night we went to dinner with her, and about four weeks later, we had Modern Society. It happened really fast. It was just from me shopping here and getting to know her, and her knowing what my passion was.”

Her education prepared her for the quick change. As a marketing minor, she took advertising classes that continue to help her grow the business.

The class that resonates the most with her, however, is entrepreneurship: “It was basically starting a business from the ground up; it was very real-world. Once the business plan was put together, we actually had to take it to a bank.” The bank then told the students whether or not they would be approved for a business loan if this were a real scenario. “We had to put in every aspect you can think of, from finding a location down to ordering price tags.”

Now, she takes advantage of opportunities to give back to Missouri State — not just through monetary donations, but also in time and advice.

Andrea Pena
Andrea Pena

“I still keep in touch with (assistant professor) Jenifer Roberts. I felt like she was my professor and also my mentor. I speak to some of her classes, and last spring I was on a panel for prospective students who were thinking about the fashion program.”

Modern Society boutique — which recently moved to an expanded space in south Springfield — is also going to be a part of the University’s spring 2015 Association of Fashion and Design fashion show.

“Any way that I can, I still try to stay connected.”

— By Trysta Herzog, Missouri State University office of publications

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Bears Business Brief: 2015 investment outlook

By Jeff Jones, Ph.D.

Jeff Jones, Ph.D.
Jeff Jones, Ph.D.

A new year is upon us, and that is always a good time to reflect on the prior year and assess what to expect in financial markets in the coming year. Relative to the last five to 10 years, 2014 was considerably less exciting, which to many was a welcome change. The U.S. stock market had a solid year, with the S&P 500 exhibiting a return of approximately 13.48 percent. Despite the expectation of rising interest rates and declining bond prices in 2014, rates actually declined on average in 2014 resulting in rising prices for bonds. In fact, 10-year T-bonds experienced a total return of 10.75 percent. Furthermore, in both the stock and bond markets, volatility was relatively tame. In commodity markets, the biggest news in 2014 was the extreme price decline of petroleum products near the end of the year, which was an unexpected (and appreciated) Christmas gift for consumers.

As 2015 begins, however, it appears we might be in for a more tumultuous year. Here are my thoughts on what to expect in various financial markets over the next year.

Stock market

The stock market has gotten off to a lousy start in 2015, and I expect considerable volatility in the stock market throughout the entire year. U.S. companies will have a difficult time maintaining the level of earnings growth that has occurred over the last few years. I expect that by the end of 2015, the stock market will be at levels very similar to those at the beginning of the year. In short, my prediction is for lots of ups and downs, but very little in the way of total returns for 2015.

Bond market

The bond market continues to perplex investors. For several years, economists have been calling for interest rates to rise as the Federal Reserve begins the process of ending and unwinding its Quantitative Easing (QE) programs. The general consensus has also been that the Fed will begin to raise the federal funds rate. These expectations, however, have simply not yet come to pass, with rates actually falling in 2014 and continuing to fall into 2015. Given increasing signals of a global slowdown, I don’t believe the Fed will take any action to raise interest rates in 2015. Bond prices, which have returned to near historical highs, will remain elevated throughout 2015.

Petroleum market

The fall in oil and gas prices that began near the end of 2014 has continued with force into the beginning of 2015. While all of us appreciate paying less at the pump, the precipitous decline in petroleum prices is not all good news. Certainly over the last decade, the U.S. has ramped up oil production and reduced its dependence on foreign oil. However, much of this expanded U.S. production has a higher marginal cost per barrel. If oil prices stay below $50 per barrel for an extended period of time, U.S. oil companies may find that it is no longer profitable to extract oil from certain areas, and shut down production of those facilities. This will result in lost jobs, and consequently, higher unemployment. In addition, the decline in oil prices may be a signal of a further slowdown in global growth. I expect that oil will fall at some point in 2015 to as low as $40 per barrel, and barring some political event (war, major terrorist attack, etc.), I don’t believe oil goes above $60 per barrel in 2015. In conclusion, 2015 will be a challenging year for the U.S. stock market, and tepid global growth will result in interest rates remaining at near record lows. But let’s all enjoy the low gas prices while we can!

This article appeared in the February 28, 2015 issue of the Springfield News-Leader.  It is available online here.

Dr. Jeff Jones, CFA, CFP, CPA, CMA, CFM, is an assistant professor of finance at Missouri State University. The views expressed in this article reflect those of the author, have been distributed for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any specific security, strategy, or investment product.

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