Category Archives: Spotlight

EPIC Spotlight: Bjorn Simmons

If you think marketing and entrepreneurship pertains only to business, guess again. Bjorn Simmons will tell you that entrepreneurial spirit and a know-how attitude can effect change in many aspects of life, whether it’s helping free a man wrongfully imprisoned or creating a tool that can benefit businesses globally. Continue reading EPIC Spotlight: Bjorn Simmons

EPIC Spotlight: Ross Lawrence

Many fresh college graduates look for exciting careers in big cities like Chicago or New York.

Ross Lawrence was one of them. With a bachelor’s degree in finance, he applied to more than 70 jobs in the Windy City and Big Apple. Then he decided he’d give Nevada, Missouri, a try.

It changed everything.

Less than five years after earning his degree, he became CEO and owner of Hoffman Financial Resources LLC, a dually registered affiliate with LPL Financial, the largest organization of independent financial advisers in the United States. He manages four full-time employees and about $120 million in investment assets from clients in 34 states.

He has a huge responsibility to his clients. “They literally entrust me with their life savings,” he says.

When Lawrence began applying for finance jobs with big banks, he became keenly interested in owning a firm. Walton College’s Career Center posted an ad for an associate wealth adviser with a firm in a Missouri town of about 8,000 people. Lawrence applied for the job with a mission in mind: he wanted to buy it.

He wasn’t shy about it, either. At age 22, during the interview process, he announced his intentions to the firm’s founder and owner, Greg Hoffman, who was entertaining the idea of retiring within the next ten to fifteen years. He took Lawrence seriously. The two worked out a purchase plan and, as of January 2016, Lawrence assumed ownership.

Now he tells students and new graduates to not be shy. Many firms are owned by baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – who are retiring and need someone skilled to take over and make sure their clients are taken care of. They’re often in cities and towns where there’s little competition for financial planning, which makes for good opportunities, Lawrence says.

A Fayetteville native, Lawrence initially majored in biology with the idea he would be an oral surgeon. He soon switched gears, however, when he received a tip for a promising stock. Though he ended up not making the investment, it got the wheels spinning. He Googled “finance,” grabbed his best suit and began asking for internships at area firms. He found one at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Rogers, where he worked for two years while finishing his degree.

The decision to change majors also delayed his graduation. To catch up, he went to summer school while working two business-related internships and at the Olive Garden restaurant.

During this time, the Great Recession took hold. Lawrence saw bad financial advising at this time, as well as good. The bad, in fact, was so awful he vowed to be an adviser who always puts his clients’ needs first.

With motivation in place, Lawrence took advantage of his Walton education. Mark Zweig’s entrepreneurship class proved to be very important and was where he learned the differences between the types of business ownership and the tax advantages of each. He says he still uses the Excel spreadsheets from his financial modeling class. And, of course, without the Career Center, he might have never known about Hoffman Financial Resources.

Since taking over, Lawrence is expanding his firm to Fayetteville and spends at least a couple of days a week there. His goal is simple: to keep growing the firm by providing the best client experience possible.

“When it comes to financial planning and investing most people just hope that they are doing things the right way, we make sure that it’s not just ‘hope’ that’s guiding them” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Tim Riley

A method used by a University of Arkansas finance professor got Tim Riley to thinking.

Riley, a financial economist at the time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, wondered what would happen if he borrowed an idea from Alexey Malakhov, whose research includes hedge funds, and modified it to see how actively managed mutual funds perform against passively managed investments? Continue reading EPIC Spotlight: Tim Riley

Students Help Consumers Discover Durable

American explorers Lewis and Clark, Teddy Roosevelt and Neil Armstrong all “discovered durable” … well, among other notable things. While each may have their unique place in history, they now feature in a student-created advertising campaign, courtesy of Anne Velliquette’s Integrated Marketing Communications class at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

In spring 2016, Velliquette directed student teams to create an ad campaign focusing on backpack manufacturer Piltdown Outdoor Company of Springdale. To give the students a hands-on project with a real company, the clinical assistant professor invited local entrepreneur Trey Ansen to introduce his backpacks to students and enlist their ideas for an ad campaign.

Piltdown3“This is such a valuable hands-on experience for the students who form small ad agencies to pitch their ideas to a real client,” Velliquette said. “They get to experience what it is like to work with a client, to hear their needs and desires and to then work as an account manager and creative team to deliver an integrated creative ad campaign that delivers the right brand positioning and the right message for the target market the client wishes to engage. “

Teams were to deliver three components for the project:

  1. A written creative brief
  2. An ad campaign with three visuals
  3. An oral presentation to the client

Walton senior Ann “AC” Hansen was a member of the winning team, along with Davis Trice, Austin Allen, Grace Ann Lile and Esther Udouj. This group of students named their agency Boulder Branding.

“We thought of the name Boulder Branding because we liked the idea of having a brand that was strong (like a boulder) and daring,” Hansen said. “Thus, the name Boulder was born.”

Piltdown1Piltdown’s two main promises to its customers are that its backpacks are made to last and are designed and assembled in the United States. The campaigns needed to reflect the product’s rugged durability and its American roots.

“We tried to give the students as much freedom as possible,” said Ansen, founder and chief executive officer for Piltdown. “We told them the story of our company then asked them to put together a social media campaign that tells that same story to our customers.”

The Boulder Branding team listened to Ansen, brainstormed ideas, researched and then designed an ad campaign using American explorers.

“I knew that Trey wanted to get across that his product was all American,” Hansen said. “He wanted to show that his brand could be trusted until the end. With those thoughts in mind, we thought up famous American pioneers and pasted the packs on them. This delivered humor and showed the true American spirit of Piltdown.”

Piltdown2“The campaigns were unbelievable,” Ansen said. “The students were in our target market and they knew exactly how they’d want to be talked to. They had the right voice and attitude and came up with several ideas that none of our professionals had thought of.”

“This project taught me a lot more about the importance of knowing your brand and not straying from it,” Hansen said. “It taught me that creativity is important and should be leveraged. I learned that taking risks is good and necessary.”