Archive for July, 2013

The Art of Bravery

BraveryBravery is indeed an art. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, “an artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally.”

Having had the opportunity to work with Seth this week, I agree that the message is spot on.  And even though may of us agree with the message, at times we do still experience fear. We don’t always take the risk worth taking, don’t always push the envelope worth pushing, and don’t’ always make the call worth making. Even though we know it could change everything.

That’s why being brave is an art and not about being fearless.  It’s about knowing fear is there and somehow figuring out how to move past it.  Somehow channeling your inner artist to use insight and creativity to get past what you feel right here, right now.

It’s about finding the precise words to push back when you had a point of view.  Connecting the dots of your intuition to speak up when you feel strongly about the issues.  Channeling your most visionary ideas to keep going when it seems like It’s not worth going any further.

When we decide to allow fear in,  we let it become stronger. We’re less likely to share our generosity with the world. And less likely to act, even when we should.

On the other hand, if we think bravely, we have the opportunity to do something that could change everything.

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 Careers, Entrepreneurship 1 Comment

The simplest but most effective marketing strategy

MktgDo you want to know the simplest, but perhaps most effective marketing strategy?

You probably have a lot of potential answers, but I only have one in mind.

You may not want to ask MBAs. MBAs will probably use analysis to give you a good answer.  MBAs will tell you how to size the market.  They may also tell you how to estimate your budget based on lots of numbers. But this usually doesn’t help with getting people to buy what you have.

It might also be risky to involve lawyers. They’ll tell you about all the risk and about all the potential litigation.But you don’t need that skill to be successful.

I propose that the best method to market is simply to care deeply.

I told you it was simple.

In short, care about WHAT you do and more importantly WHY you do it.  Care about the customer. Care about being generous and giving the customer the best experience you can.  And care about the story.  You don’t need a degree to do that, though the experience of getting the degree probably helps you understand others better.  But in many cases emotions, hard work, and a compelling mission will go a long way.

Just a thought.


The Unknown

UnknownThis is the concept that gives a lot of people terror but also gives others excitement.

When I chose to work at a startup many years ago, it was because unknown excited me.  I wanted to be connected to game changing ideas and to people who like shaking things up and causing a ruckus.

When I chose to work at a law firm many years later, I still had a love for the unkown but I chose it for longer term reasons and because it was more was known and stable. I was just out of law school and business school, so even though it went against my nature of spontaneity and excitement, it also appealed to have structure and routine.

Both types of jobs can be good for the right person, but neither of them is for everyone. People on each side are very different.  The tolerance for risk, especially when you don’t know when the risk is coming.  Their ability to work through ambiguity and things they don’t know.  The ability to deal with pressure, especially when the consequences can’t be predicted.  In short, the unknowns.

Both jobs are hard, frustrating and tiring. But both can also be very satisfying and help you develop in profoundly different ways.  But one of them is filled with more unknowns than the other. And it only works when you’re ready to take the unknown head on.

So what about you? Are you ready?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 Business School 1 Comment

Hard Work > Working Hard

hard workToday was filled with a lot of really hard work.  Not to be confused with the fact that we were also working hard

“Working hard” is what we do every day. For me it’s usually billing more hours than I can count for weeks at a time. I’m sure many of my readers have similar experiences at their jobs.

But “hard work” is what we do when we work on gamechanging ideas together.  Bringing a team of lots of people together to discuss disjointed ideas, debate different points of view, mesh our worldviews, and take a stand about an idea.  And often we are charged to do all of this without any framework, structure or leaders in the group.

Working hard is not new.  We all know how to buckle down and work hard.  But hard work flexes an entirely different muscle.  Because it’s difficult adapting to having more cooks in the kitchen, navigating a setting where at times it might be hard to speak up or propose an idea, wondering how many others are still not convinced with the concept, and skeptical whether you can actually make a difference. I have felt all of these things over the past day or two.

It always takes a lot more hard work (and perhaps a lot more risk) than working hard to answer these and other hard questions.  This is why is so important to be part of not just a talented team but also a “good team”.

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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013 Careers, Entrepreneurship No Comments

Rico Reyes for Texas State Representative in 2013

RicoEvery now and then, I like to highlight interesting professionals I know. One person I know is named Rico Reyes. Rico is not only a friend and a fellow dual degree JD/MBA degree, but he is also passionate about his community and now is currently seeking a seat as aState Representative in the state of Texas.

I first met Rico in Austin about 2 years ago, at an event called Latino Legacy Weekend (“LLW”).  LLW hosts Latino leaders from all backgrounds all around the country to think about their passions, ideals and biggest concerns.  Rico and I connected very quickly because we had similar interests and career experiences.   Rico worked as a lawyer for years, including as a Prosecutor at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office as welll as a Capitain as a United States Marine Corps.

Rico’s talk was compelling as was his interest in service.

But don’t take it from me, take it from Rico who has a great Facebook pages and great website, full of videos. Please consider visiting wen you have a chance.

Facebook @

Website @

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 Business School, Other Blogs No Comments

Three More Days

Three More DaysThree more days.  Yep, that’s it.  In three days, I’ll be working with a small group of people from all over the world, and we plan on doing something very special.

You must be dying to know exactly what this means?

What this means is that folks with game-changing ideas are coming together to work with a common purpose and to work for a common cause.  That purpose is to create something remarkable and in this case, the cause is related to education and the internet.  In just a few days, I’ll be joining Seth Godin, and his hand selected team.

In terms of what we’ll do, good question.  We’ll have discussions to see if we can up with a few ideas, maybe draw out a game plan, perhaps create and launch a product, and possibly even strategize on how to raise capital.  Who knows.

On one hand, the details are not all determined yet and that’s why the team is going to be important. On the other hand, we have to be quiet about what we are doing until we’ve done it.

But soon, that may not be the case.  So stay tuned. I look forward to sharing our progress with you.

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Essay Writing Tip: Stop Exaggerating

exaggerateI see it in just about every admissions essay I read.  Words like, “very” and “always” and other phrases and adjectives to make accomplishments sound bigger and better.  Only one problem: exaggeration in essays is usually not very helpful.

Sure, it gets your reader’s attention. It may even capture their interest.  But it doesn’t convince the skeptics or change the minds of the unbelievers.  Instead it makes them more skeptcial and less likely to believe anything you wrote about.

The most important thing you can do in any essay is tell a real story.  Not just a good one but also an authentic and believable one.  A story that resonates with the readers, aligns with what they believe, and creates a way for them to feel connected to the plot.

But when you exaggerate, more often than not you create a story that people are not connected to and one they couldn’t imagine taking part in.

So instead of exaggerating, you should describe in detail how things happend.  Summarize the background and explain how things turned out in detail.  Make the reader feel like he or she was there with you.  Like he or she felt the same excitement or fear.  And make them experience your anxiety, realizing they would have reacted the same way and learned the same lesson.

Exaggeration doesn’t really have a strong place in such essays.  On the other hand, finding common ground with your reader through persuasive yet realistic prose always has a place.

Good luck.

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 Business School No Comments

MBA Mondays: Weddings after Graduation

B&BDuring business school, not only are you surrounded with the highest caliber students and professions but you also are surrounded with amazing friends.  And one of the best parts of finishing business school is that you get to celebrate weddings with many of them.

The last year since graduation has brought a lot of weddings from my MBA friends not just at Kellogg but all across the country at top schools.  It has been a thrill and a pleasure to take part in some of them.

Last weekend, I had the chance celebreate one more wedding in Seattle, when my good friend (and now work colleague) Kent married his college sweetheart Emily. The wedding was wonderful and gave us all the chance to share the moment with good friends who live in different parts of the US now.

Congratulations to my incredible friends Kent and Emily for a wonderful weekend.  Thanks for letting us all share in celebrating the special day.

Everyone at the wedding had just one question though: who in the group is next?


Monday, July 15th, 2013 Business School No Comments

The Role of Local Counsel

lawphotoOne question that often arises in the practice of corporate law is whether you really need to hire local counsel for commercial deals? The answer is an unequivocal yes.  Here is the short answer for why.

Local counsel is the lawyer or law firm that is qualified to do business in a certain geography.  They are often hired becuase the laws of that geography might be critical to facilitating a deal, including a commercial finance deal, a secured lending transaction, or real estate deal just to name a few.

In many transactions law firms will hire local counsel because their clients have business going in other states. As a general rule, a lawyer can only work on a legal matter if he or she is qualified to practice law in that state.  If the deal takes place in a state where there lawyer is not qualified to practice law, then the lawyers would not be able to work on the deal.  On the other hand, if the deal takes place in a state where the lawyers are qualified to practice, but parts of a deal may involve an additional state, then a firm may hire local counsel to assist.

One reason local counsel should be a part of any relevant deal because, without hiring them, lead counsel may be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.  Anothe reason to hire local counsel is because counsel should also have more knowledge and experience in the states that they practice.  Without getting too far into the weeds,  local counsel is  very important because they provide opinions that give comfort to lendeers and induce them to move forward in transactions that ar eoutside their borders.  These opinions are relied upon to deem the transaction as valid, to show that it complies with all aspects of local law, and that the debt is secured by verifiable collateral in that specific state.

While the folks at many big firms on a deal are certainly smart enough to do such work, they wouldn’t be as close to the matters as local counsel would be and that’s the role of local counsel.


Saturday, July 13th, 2013 Business School No Comments

Ignore the Skeptics

skeptics“There’s no way you are going to be able to do this.  It’s too hard to get that job.  You don’t have the right background. It’s impossible to make it work.

We’ve all heard these words before. From skeptics and non-believers. People who don’t think we can do it.  It makes many of us feel like we can’t.  And like our work may not amount to anything.

But here’s the thing. Most skeptics don’t care enough to form a real opinion, and they don’t care if you succeed or not. They’re also often wrong.

The skeptics were wrong when they said that it was impossible take thousands of pounds of steels and fly it over the  Atlantic.  They were wrong when they said you couldn’t flip a switch and make an entire buliding light up.  And they were wrong when they said that the Internet would never amount to anything.  Time after time, skeptics have been proven wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to ignore the non-believers.  The negative words get to you.  You keep a mental list of the names of those who said it and the things they said.  The ones who laughed at your business idea and questioned your choice to apply to a top school.

But what if the skeptics were wrong again?  What  if you ignored them?  And what if, instead of thinking so much about what the skeptics say, what if you just ignored them and did it anyways. And what if it worked?

Just a thought.

Friday, July 12th, 2013 Entrepreneurship, Leadership No Comments


FinishYesterday, me and my team finished a very big private equity deal that we’ve been working on intensely for the last couple of weeks. And today, I finished another small Venture Capital deal that got a lot messier than we ever expected.  It got me thinking a lot about the idea of how hard it can be to finish.

Yesterday, minutes after finishing our first deal, I couldn’t help but think how long the last few weeks have been.  A colleague of mine left the office right after the deal ended and on his way out he said, “thanks for all your help the past few weeks”.  I replied “thanks for all your help”. We both really meant it, because there was so much work for us to do.  And in the end we were both very glad it ended well.

That’s because there is also something profound to finishing something you started. Especially when you  finish strong.

I can’t help but think of people who had to work really hard to get through college. People who start in communities where many people don’t graduate but still find a way to defy the odds and finish.

One of my mentees, Jaime Limon, is the perfect example.  Jaime went to an inner city high school in Los Angeles, where about 25% of the students graduate within four years, but he worked hard and went on to graduated with honors and go on to USC.  His struggle hasn’t been easy. He had to start at another University and spend some time at a community college before getting into the school of his dreams two years later. Now he’s working in a great summer internship in Los Angeles and will be finishing up in December.

Finishing takes vision, focus, discipline and comittment.  And it often takes getting up and trying again when the going gets tough   I am a big fan of working harder when it gets tough, defying the odds and finishing something you started.  Easier said than done, but worth getting better at.

Congrats to my team for finishing strong the past few weeks. And congrats to one of my clients (and former MBA classmates), who finished up the private equity deal on his side. He’ll be getting married out west this Saturday, and I look forward to joining him.

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Thursday, July 11th, 2013 Careers, Education 1 Comment

From the Archives: Reflecting on the 2010-2011 School Year

gradTo all of those who recently graduated from college and grad schools over the past few weeks, congratulations! What a important accomplishment! I really do believe that Education Matters more than ever in today’s world, as the gap between those with and without a quality education is bigger than ever before.  In the spirit of graduation season and embarking upon new careers,  I wanted to share one of my favorite posts, which comes from the archives.

2010 was an interesting year. Most of us left high-paying banking and consulting jobs and finally decided to return to business school. And what timing! The financial crisis was finally starting to fade and the prospects of recovery left the business world enormously hopeful. At the same time, the nomination of Sally Blount as the first female Dean of Kellogg had just made business news history.  Many of us were excited to be back in the  classroom during such interesting times, especially as we knew the markets were recovering just in time to land our dream jobs at business school.

But one thing we didn’t know is that many of us would also be scrambling in business school. Many of us had to scramble to learn accounting and finance since it was our first time ever taking the classes.  Others of us scrambled to stay awake in DECS and MECN, after spending the night before prepping for upcoming job interviews. And some of us scrambled all year trying to figure out exactly what our dream job was, or if that job even existed.

And so that leads me to the million-dollar question today. The one question that’s been on everyone’s mind since last August. What is the best opportunity to pursue at Kellogg? And what can I do to ensure that I maximize my success?

CLICK HERE to read the full post.


Friday, July 5th, 2013 Business School, Careers, Leadership No Comments

Happy July 4th Everyone

July4Hello Everyone, I realize many of my readers do not live here in the United States, but to all those who recognize the day, I wanted to wish everyone a happy  July 4 weekend.

For those who are unfamiliar with the details of July 4, I recommend spending 5 minutes Wikipedia to learn more about why Independence Day is a very important day in American history.

Otherwise, this photo pretty much sums up how a lot of people celebrate in the midwest.  If you were outside, you could probably see but small fireworks going up all over the city you live in.


4th of jUly


Thursday, July 4th, 2013 Events No Comments


EBITDAOne word I hear a lot in the finance world is EBITDA.  Most people don’t know how to pronounce that acronym, let alone how to define or calculate it.   But it’s quite an important concept in business.

Investopedia defines EBITDA as net income with interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization added back to it, and can be used to analyze and compare profitability between companies and industries because it eliminates the effects of financing and accounting decisions.

EBITDA first became common in the 80s with respect to leveraged buyouts, because banks and finance firms used it calculate whether or not a company could service its debt, based on how much money it earned.

The simple way I like to think about EBITDA is earning power. It is the profit that a company earns for doing exactly what it’s supposed to: sell a product or a service.

EBITDA effectively removes the effect of things people don’t want to consider – the effects of taxes, interest income, and expense as well as the effects of capital investments e.g. depreciation and amortization.  In other words, EBITDA is a measure of a company’s financial performance sheltered from the real world since all companies actually are impacted by those.

Because EBITDA helps measure the company’s underlying profit, it is often very important.

Banks use EBITDA when determining how much money they can lend (e.g. if a company can service its debt).

Private Equity firms use EBITDA to compare companies across the world which have different capital structures.

M&A teams use it to come up with valuations for companies to acquire or sell.  These figures often go into their financial reports.

Lawyers and investment bankers use it to create earn-out provisions. An earn-out provision is an arrangement in which sellers of a business could receive an additional future payment (beyond the selling price), usually based on future earnings or the satisfaction of other conditions. (This term deserves more explanation, stay turned for a future post on this).

Executive compensation consultants use EBITDA to help determine long-term incentives of executives and CEOs.  The higher EBITDA is, the higher the incentive payment the CEO receives.

The list goes on and on.  It’s probably worth learning more about this important term if you want to succeed in finance.


Monday, July 1st, 2013 Business School, MBAMondays 1 Comment

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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