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July 15th is probably as good of a spot as any to declare that a college summer vacation is half over. My Pikapp chapter adviseeshave been working and planning for the fall recruitment period that starts up at just the third week of classes. By then, most freshman probably haven’t even been forced to perform their own laundry duties yet, but on campus they will be confronted by people wearing shirts with Greek letters and then asked to decide about joining such and such organization. As much as it requires a share of sales people to try to entice these next ranks, the groups will also need the simple manpower and show of solidarity to reveal their character and culture as well as answer questions about themselves to have hopes of potential members. The internal process may sound simple, but motivation for a group’s own recruitment activities is often times lackluster.

While as an adviser, I won’t be doing any actual sales pitching or activity planning, but I’ve been trying to think of ways to both keep the leaders on track for getting things done on their vacation and also ways they can transfer motivation onto the other members. On this 15th of the month midway point, we have our second, and final, summer check-in meeting to see that the leaders will everything planned for when school starts. Regarding group motivation, one thought I’ve had and need to introduce is to emphasize that the members keep tabs on their competitors. No matter where they fall in the membership size rankings, there’s always going to be that other group who seems just ahead of you in size, or involvement, or sports team record, etc. There is that next-closest competitor who you can act as your measuring stick and who will give the troops a sense of victory if they were matched or exceeded in recruitment intake. For my own undergrad experience, this competitve vibe was always in the forefront for me and my brothers as we went through planning, publicizing, and then execution of our recruitment/rush week. I hope relaying my experience can raise engagement in this new time and place, and give the current leaders some fodder for improving their odds at definitely their biggest priority of the fall.

(photo credit by scazon)

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It doesn’t take long within my eBay initiation to learn how great of a equalizing marketplace it is. Price competition is fierce and there’s only so much you can do to differentiate yourself with such things as customer service. Having a key product is absolutely essential so that you can not get overly commoditized and marginalized, especially from all the established companies who operate at a much different scale for generating profit. Even an item with the most shoddy description from an inexperienced seller can kill it if you’re shopping the right wares.

At first glance, the valuable products that jump out at you are the brands, but even more so comes anything that has some provable sort of scarcity to it. The starkness of this reality is just huge, and can be seen 24/7 in the massive community of collectibles traders that exist on eBay. I’ll admit, I had some not so subtle hinting to check out this area by one who I would dub my eBay mentor. This friend makes considerable cash dealing in sports cards, and between scouring outside message boards and weekend hobby shows, it’s definitely expanded beyond the level of a hobby for him. The thing that truly gave me a sense of how big the collector’s market and the sports collectors market was, specifically, was the eBay reaction to the New York Knicks sensation, Jeremy Lin. The craze began back in early February, and through the end of that month you could still find the eBay home page had a massive graphic, front-and-center, to push his related merchandise. Pretty unthinkable for a site where you can buy nearly anything to focus on something so limited, and for such a long time!

So taking the Lin evidence, the memorabilia market rises and falls off the latest news makers probably more than anything else. At the same time though, I’ve started to wonder if the market as a whole has been seeing some noticeable upward trends in the recent future. The huge popularity of Pawn Stars and it’s many spinoffs (Cajun Pawn Stars, American Picker, Storage Wars, Hardcore Pawn, etc.) does a great deal to bring back perceived collectable value into everyone’s consciousness. That coupled with a gradually improving economy, and people having expendable cash, makes for a great recipe for gain potential on the collectables front. After all, once you’ve got all your necessities covered, who wouldn’t want to brag about owning the one-of-a-kind presidential-shaped Chicken McNugget!

The latest Pawn Stars-esque show to appear even focuses completely on sports memorabilia, as told through a small retail operation outside Baltimore called Robbie’s First Base. The show, named “Ball Boys”, first airs during an afternoon slot on March 24th on ABC (probably running alongside NCAA tournament games). The collectables trend on television is at a hot clip, and I’ll be keeping tabs on how things work out for this maybe not so small segment of the eBay world.

(photo credit: “SILLY BANDZ” by Scot Scoop)

The last broad topic for my MBA Frontier roadmap addresses the management of other people and leadership principles.  Without a doubt, they are two of the key ingredients to accredited business schools and the Personal MBA alike. A quick glance shows at least 14 of the 99 titles related to such interpersonal topics within the PMBA recommendations.  Yet even with 100 books between your ears, a personal style of management will be developed over time and under real life trials. Even within the texts, recommended styles contrast and contention reigns across this topic. While Jim Collins stresses humility, Harvey MacKay speaks of high confidence, but you may never know what brings success until you are confronted with taking action and handling the results.

I will be writing on this topic through my experiences with a volunteer activity that I have just passed over the one year anniversary of.   This student advisory and mentoring post has taught me a great deal about myself, and as I think about my successes and shortcomings it becomes easy to see how it lends itself to my personal development and my fluency of organizational dynamics and management concepts. I’m very happy to be serving this role as a Chapter Adviser for the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity. Helping a group of undergraduates toward achieving their own personal development, philanthropic, social, and campus goals is something that I am proud to be able to offer.

During my time as an undergraduate, outside of classwork, the only other constant/unifying aspect was my Pi Kappa Phi fraternity chapter.  I continually acknowledge my growth throughout the offices I served in and through expansion of my personal network from joining such an organization. Now, I’m in a circumstance where I can help groups of otherwise strangers to also grasp the big experience that I had from such a student group. In future writing I’ll continue to discuss this Chapter Adviser position in more detail, and ideally weave in the key business topics and takeaways from my readings.  Aside from reasons already mentioned, I’ll leave with my growing list of motivations for keeping up with a position, at times, demanding and with usually little fanfare:

  1. Having a front row view of mentees during their own successes and challenges and knowing of my ability to help to guide them through.
  2. Keeping myself intact with some semblance of public speaking skills, hopefully balancing out spending days at the office putting to use technical skills sitting in front of a computer.
  3. The welcome influence from the young crowd -the university age that prompts so many trends and new ideas. Could this be a group that plants an idea in my relatively aged mind?
  4. Not to mention the exposure to diverse backgrounds and strengths that Pi Kapp attracts on campus.
  5. Being able to look back at my own time as an undergrad in this organization and have renewed respect for what we were able to accomplish.
  6. Collaborating with the other dedicated alumni advisers, who help myself and the other local campus chapters within the brotherhood.
  7. Personally growing this network of advisers by identifying, recruiting and engaging them through the needs of my advisees.
  8. Lastly, the list of things at this point in my life that I can consider myself to be an expert in is very minimal. Typically, with a window of four years or fewer to experience being in a fraternity chapter, it feels good to pass on my deep knowledge and enthusiasm I carry from back when I was in their shoes.

Thanks to those friends, other volunteers, and fraternity staff who supported me and continue to support me through my advising position.

(photo credit “Victor Stalberg and Coach Q” -by dtkindler)

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