Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lloyd Greif: Nomination for 2007 USC Honorary Degree

Universities nationwide distribute copious awards, however an honorary degree is the highest recognition an institution may grant. As stated by James O. Freedman, in Liberal Education and the Public Interest, the honorary degree is not entirely to honor distinguished individuals who have made an impact on the university and society as a whole but “one of the ways in which universities advertise themselves”(125). The inheritor must be analogous with the Role and Mission of the University of Southern California, embody a diverse background and support the “cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” According to the Honorary Degrees Committee, the focal point of a recipient’s career must accentuate the university’s strengths and “honor alumni…who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part.” Of paramount importance, the recipient must adhere to the Mission Statement of the university, match the criteria of the honorary committee and conform to the Code of Ethics presented by The University of Southern California.

In the past, USC has awarded candidates typically associated and distinguished within the arts; however Lloyd Greif meets and exceeds all criteria through his generosity and exceptional presence within the University of Southern California. A proper match between the school and the honorary recipient is essential and the engagement must convey the appropriate image and thus is designed to “elevate the university in the eyes of the world” (Honorary). Lloyd Greif is the founder of the world’s first and only investment bank for entrepreneurs as well as a philanthropist involved in the university and fosters an environment of excellence through emphasis on the education of students analogous to the university’s Role and Mission of the University of Southern California.

Over time, Freedman states, "the original purpose of honoring distinguished personal achievement has widely been modified” with the current selection process now geared towards figures of “commoditized fame” (126). Being the highest award one may receive at USC, much effort should be put forth towards ensuring the candidate has distinguished himself through achievements that benefit not only USC, but also the surrounding community. When institutions select their beneficiaries “a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most” (Freedman 117). In 1998, a generous donation was made in the sum of five million dollars from Lloyd Greif and shortly after, a naming ceremony was held in which the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies was established. His philanthropy does not stop short of donations; Greif is chair of many organizations in USC and throughout the community. By nominating Lloyd Greif, the university will adhere to its honorary criteria while recognizing a man who takes a vested interest in not only the betterment of himself, but likewise those that surround him.

In Mike W. Martin’s, Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics, he believes the extent of an individual’s professional achievement can be measured upon three different categories, craft, compensation and ethical motives. How these three categories pertain to Lloyd Greif will be discussed in the following sections. Craft motives deal primarily with one's profession, the skills possessed and his application towards his craft. To quote Martin, craft motives encompass the “desires to achieve expertise and desires to manifest technical skill, theoretical understanding and creativity” (20). Compensation motives do not only apply solely to ones income, Martin includes abstract advantages of compensation motives including one’s “desire for social rewards, including money, power, authority, recognition and job stability” (23). The two components of moral motives include, “the desires to promote the good of clients for their sake” and “to enter into and sustain caring relationships with clients, customers, colleagues and the wider community” (23).

Craft motives are based on expertise, which according to Martin “is acquired through higher education” (22). Greif has obtained a degree in economics from UCLA, a master’s degree from USC in entrepreneurship and a J.D. from the Loyola School of Law. All three degrees further Martin’s belief regarding higher education. The myriad degrees Greif obtained has enabled him to distinguish himself within the investment banking industry and eventually become the founder of Greif & Company, a company that has reached immense recognition and success under Greif’s leadership. It was Greif’s past experience and success at Sutro where he derived his experience and expertise from. Within a decade at Sutro, corporate finance revenues increased tenfold and Greif was ranked as the firm’s top performer. In 1992, after ten years of acquired experience, Greif left Sutro and founded a personal venture, Greif & Company. In just six years of applying his technical skill and theoretical understanding “Greif had built his firm into the leading purveyor of merger and acquisition advisory services to medium sized businesses based in the Western United States” (Trojan). One short year later in 1997, Greif completed nearly one billion dollars in mergers and acquisitions for 'entrepreneurial' owned and operated companies. Martin also encompasses “exercising good judgment and sound discretion when providing professional services” (22) as another measure of craft expertise. Upon immediate upload of Greif & Co.’s firm profile one will find the five pillars of expertise that encompass Greif & Company’s foundation. Upon selecting “Integrity” the quote prominently reads “We are proud of our firm’s long standing reputation for honesty and integrity in all of our business deals.” Lloyd Greif meets and exceeds the craft expertise set forth by Martin and has proceeded to build a reputable and successful business model based upon his expertise.

With craft expertise and a status such as Greif’s, a high compensation does follow. As an entrepreneur in the investment banking industry, the salary potential is limitless. A theory proposed by Adam Smith states, due to substantial craft expertise and barriers to entry, “professionals generally receive above-average social rewards in the form of income and prestige” (Martin 22), though this should not sway the Honorary Committee from eliminating Greif from their considerations. As Martin believes, “compensation motives are not exclusively self-interested” (23). A five million dollar donation is evidence to the part and Martin also explains, “[Motives] may be linked to desires to support one’s family or philanthropic desires to obtain resources in order to help others” (22). Greif’s income gives him the necessary prestige and power to Chair the advisory council of the Lloyd Greif School of Entrepreneurial Studies at USC and the Entrepreneurship Mentor Program, a position that lacks any financial compensation but is sufficient in intrinsic rewards. Greif ensures USC students are given the best resources to succeed. His passion for the success of students is unparalleled and his involvement in students' education is unique, his donation far exceeded that of a five million dollar check. As Greif stated regarding the new center, “The establishment of this center will give greater emphasis to the critical role of the entrepreneur in the American economy, while providing the entrepreneurs of tomorrow with the tools and inspiration to fuel their future success.” Greif refers to the “entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” as students studying under his scholastic program. Greif and his firm have fostered a unique change towards philanthropic donations within the investment-banking field, a field considered by many to be brimming with carnivorous, over-paid executives. Greif’s achievements and donations show an individual motivated by passion for the university and community rather than just compensation.

Under Greif’s management, trust and integrity is never in question. He comments on the ethical nature of his firm when he suggests that one “must stand behind your deals. At Greif & Co. our word is our bond.” Ethics, an issue of paramount importance in business, often becomes a hazy subject in investment banking. As a result, figures that are successful often are held in a negative perception. Greif & Company’s competitive advantage is simple,“our good name and reputation are the most valuable assets we have,” and through this belief became the first investment bank to base itself on client trust. As stated by Martin, “caring motives are desires to promote the good of clients for their sake” (23). Greif transformed his venture in six short years from a boutique investment bank to an avant-garde mid range investment house established on a meritorious foundation with integrity on the top of the priority list. One searching for Greif & Co.’s characterization must look no further than the home page where the mission statement boldly reads, “Do unto others as you have them do unto you.” This statement bears a striking resemblance to one of USC’s moral pillars in which the code of ethics is constructed, “a commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons”. Integrity, one of the five pillars Greif founded his company around, reads, “to be an effective, credible dealmaker, you must stand behind your deals. At Greif & Co, our word is our bond.” In today’s demanding business world, allegations and scandals have sadly become norms; Lloyd Greif exhibits morals and ethics many individuals have breached in the hopes of obtaining success like Greif’s. The generous donation from Grief came in the sum of five million dollars, however one cannot measure the treasured hours Greif has allocated towards the program, organizing and attending events, listening to student concerns and ensuring the maximization of the educational experience. The time apportioned from a man of Greif’s reputation differentiates him from other donors who just write a check.

Honorary Degrees at the University of Southern California require that the candidate possess an exemplary reputation, be involved in the community and exhibit altruism to the university. Greif’s merit extends beyond USC to the surrounding community where he is a board member of Loyola Law School, an active member in the Boy Scouts of America, The Entrepreneurship Mentor Program and the Los Angeles Police Department. Lloyd Greif’s coupled donation of five million dollars and lifetime dedication has propelled USC into the elite class of business schools and has given USC’s entrepreneurs a competitive advantage and an ability to flourish as an entrepreneur. According to the Honorary Degrees Committee, a degree is presented to fulfill one of four important components. The award is given to honor distinguished individuals who have achieved superb achievements in not only their professional field, but in scholarships or creative activities. An award may also be given to honor alumni or those that have had a substantial influence on the development and furtherance of the university. An award may further be presented to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy and most importantly the Honorary Degree may be presented to “elevate the university in the eyes of the world” (Honorary).

Lloyd Greif has spent over twenty years in investment banking, and has established Greif & Co. as a top tier investment banking firm. Aggressiveness, considered by many to be a valuable asset has enabled Greif to set himself apart from the competition; however some critics may consider his aggressiveness to be an antagonistic trait. Often times, high profile executives are seen as cold and callous individuals and many feel they are greedy and have no regard for the party on the other side of the negotiating table. In reality, a client pays a colossal sum to Greif in return for his expertise and therefore Greif would be foolish not to represent his client to the best of his ability. Martin believes, “integrity motives are desires to meet the ethical standards governing a professional responsibilities-because they are one’s responsibilities” (23). In Greif’s situation, not representing a client to his maximum potential would be dishonest and immoral. Therefore, aggressiveness should not be considered a negative character trait when evaluating Greif, his industry is cutthroat and Greif is proud to admit that his employees are “in no immediate danger of being confused with shrinking violets anytime soon.” Investment banking requires “aggressive advocates” that represent their clients’ best interest. Unique to Greif & Co., they are experts at “pushing the envelope” but knowing where the ethical line is drawn. According to Greif, “many times other professionals tell us that we look out so much for our clients’ best interest and negotiate so hard on their behalf that they forget we’re that agent and not the principle.” Some may consider Greif too aggressive in his practice however; Greif’s aggression and his competitive instinct are essential to staying afloat in his industry. While at the negotiating table, he may be brusque and domineering, but Greif’s character is dynamic in that he shows a philanthropic side too, well suiting him for an Honorary Degree.

According to the University of Southern California and the honorary committee, the primary objective of the honorary award is to, “honor alumni…who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities in which they are a part”. Lloyd Greif is the President and CEO of Greif & Co., a member of both, the Board of Directors of USC Associates and the Marshall School’s Board of Leaders. Located in Los Angeles, a city known for finance and enterprise, the Marshall School of Business must perform up to the colossal reputation it had built and thanks to Lloyd Greif, USC is now surpassing all expectations, landing the number three spot in the rankings and setting new standards not only for students and entrepreneurs, but new donors to become involved beyond monetary donations. If selected to speak at commencement, Greif will have the opportunity to enlighten the audience to his many distinguished achievements and the importance of giving back to the surrounding community. He is a generous individual who has benefited the university in rankings, internships, donations and other incalculable measures. According to the former Dean of the Marshall School of Business, Randolph W. Westerfield “Lloyd Greif epitomizes the role of the modern, successful entrepreneur, always looking for new business opportunities to create value while, at the same time, encouraging the next wave of entrepreneurs to follow in his place”.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Alibaba.com: Uniting Markets Across Seas

International business, a thriving sub-category within the macro-sphere of commerce and trade, is a complex system which exists in global communication and connection. Moreover, bridging the gap between buyers and sellers is an arduous task, a task in which the player must be acutely aware of the competitiveness of his constituent market. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, as of April 2006, the percentage of adult Americans who use the internet daily has grown by 400%. Presently, 66% of Americans use the internet every day to complete such varying tasks as, checking the weather and completing basic business transactions.

A viable solution to international trade and commerce barriers is now available thanks to Alibaba.com, an international trade site that capitalizes on China’s industrial market and offers myriad resources to internet savvy business people hoping to capture a piece of the action. Alibaba.com received the 2005 “Standard of Excellence” from the prestigious Web Marketing Association’s “WebAwards.” A well deserving recipient, Alibaba.com has become the most reliable website, allowing international business to be conducted without expensive travel or extensive research and delivers information to prospective buyers about products manufactured in China via an organized website platfrrm. The WebAwards is an annual event showcasing the elite websites of specific industry categories and identifies a small handful of benchmark setting websites. There is substantial room for interpretation within the WebAwards categories due to loosely defined guidelines set forth in the list of criteria.

Foreign trade data,(FTD), recorded that China’s exports through July 2007 had already reached 30,833.80 units for seven months to date, compared to 28,367.90 units in 2003. The colossal power of China’s exponentially increasing export market is difficult to ignore. It is because of this very reason that Alibaba.com, a pioneer in the e- commerce segment of foreign trade, enables an individual to effectively purchase manufactured goods from China without any prior contacts or an intermediary

When a user would like to inquire about a product or service from China, one would simply select a category, for example “lights and lighting,” then a sub-category, “Dimmers” and locate the specific items they are looking for. If one were interested in dimmer switches he could scroll down the page until the exact product was located, then select the product and find any necessary information. The innovation behind the product display and description makes research and purchasing effortless. Few international business website has been able to successfully link international buyers and manufacturers while eliminating the middleman as Alibaba.com has. The user can order the product or contact the manufacturer immediately—an innovation and function unmatched in the industry. Alibaba.com’s main competitor,SAP, requires that they be initially contacted, and once matched with a manufacturer, a buyer can then establish a relationship. This process requires too many links in the supply chain, and increases the costs and hassles of a potential transaction.

Beyond uniting buyers to Chinese manufacturers, Alibaba.com applies interactivity and establishes considerable credibility through forums which enlighten users to potentially lucrative experiences with Chinese manufacturers as well as unpropitious undertakings. According to the Webby Awards effective interacivity is, "input/output, as in searches, chat rooms, e-commerce and gaming or notification agents, peer-to-peer applications and real-time feedback." The forum also lists advice, “empowering you to search and find the customs and certifications necessary to import /export goods to/from your country.” Importing goods from China is a formidable task that many individuals are immediately repelled once informed about the regulations. Alibaba.com is a forum where users can not only read about the regulations, but can interact through a virtual blog which allows questions and comments to be posted and discussed.

Alibaba.com offers an abundance of resources. Several areas of improvement, nonetheles should be further addressed. By shrinking the “categories” section, the homepage will appear less intimidating. Through the use of graphics, a user can seamlessly guide hiself down the page and fully capture everything Alibaba.com has to offer. Sidebar links such as “About Us” and “Advice to Importing” may eliminate barriers to entry. This could eliminate hesitation for common consumer. By informing the customer and making them feel at ease, Alibaba.com can vastly increase their customer base.

The emergence of Alibaba.com allows consumers to efficiently purchase goods without trade brokers or pricey liaisons and facilitates a virtual environment where the buyers are directly connected with the manufacturers—all with the click of a mouse.If one were to visit Alibaba.com with limited knowledge of international trade and e-commerce, they may find themselves a bit overwhelmed. According to the 2006 Webby Awards, a webpage devoted to honoring sites for excellence on the internet, content should “take a stand, have a voice, a point of view.” The home page of Alibaba.com, regretably displays inapplicable sidebar links forbidding the user to immediately access the category or topic they are looking for. They are not clear categories but list “hot products” and shortcuts for customers such as, “gold buyers” and “resources” for buying and selling. Although Alibaba.com allows immediate access to categories upon downloading, discomfort may occur for the users when they are immediately asked to search for a specific product from over thirty five different categories. If one were to select a sidebar link they would be directed to a new page with a small navigational bar titled “Search Gold Suppliers” on the upper half of the screen. Directly under the search bar, lie two overwhelming columns of industries where one may “browse by category.” This often results in inexperienced users shying away from downloading what could have been very useful information.

Alibaba.com offers an infinite amount of products from Chinese manufacturers, however the abundance of products and information is at the expense of simplicity and user disorientation. Web Style Guide, a site aimed at creating efficient websites that convey relevant and organized information state that the most successful e-commerce websites “kept things technically simple and basic. Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, and other successful Web commerce sites use remarkably spare page design schemes and simple text- or tab-based navigation systems.” Four tabs inhere upon the homepage of Alibaba.com, “Buy,” “Sell,” “Resources” and “My Alibaba”. The four tabs are basic navigational tools that offer no real depth and insight to the site. If one were to select ‘buy” he would immediately be directed to a page listing over thirty five categories, each with two or three subcategories. Within the new page of “buy,” there are no relevant sidebar links, instead they are advertisements which confuse and flood the user with products and selections.


Deprived of text and graphics on the homepage, which compels users to scroll down and inquire deeper into the site, Alibaba.com will be difficult in satisfying and heartening potential customers. However, “a rich set of graphic navigation and interactivity links within your Web pages will pull users' attention down the page, weaning them from the general-purpose browser links and drawing them further into your content.” Deficient graphics, music and sidebar links disincline users from proceeding further into the site and utilizing the efficient recourses Alibaba.com has to offer. Alibaba.com may overwhelm initial users and create some perplexity in navigating the site, but ‘Innovation’ is where Alibaba.com outperforms all enterprises within e-commerce. A feature not implemented by many sites, more specifically international business web pages, a live banner scrolls across the top of the screen allowing users to instantaneously purchase commodities from China such as rice,cameras and steel. This creates specific categories of competitively priced goods which are readily available for shipment, right at the buyer’s fingertips. If a user were to select, “buy 21 inch color TV,” one would be directed to New Tide (Shenzhen) Electronic Co., Ltd’s. profile page where the location and contact information is displayed as well as product specifications, when the product will be available, and shipment quotas.

The Webby Award’s judging process allocates points for a website’s structure and navigation and defines it as the “framework of a site, the organization of content, the prioritization of information, and the method in which you move through the site.” Alibaba.com allows the user great prioritization, but when evaluating organization and structure through simplicity and conciseness, Alibaba.com is clearly lacking. Upon initial presentation of the site, users may experience difficulty in locating categories because of the classification of products. If one were searching for twenty inch wheels for a vehicle, a popular product often manufactured in China, a user would locate the “automobile” category, and then proceed to the “wheel and tire parts” heading. Once the wheel and tire parts are downloaded, the user is flooded with parts and accessories that range from motorcycle rims to commercial tractor tires to glowing tire valves. A great selection of tire parts and accessories though has no category to search further, such as “rims or “wheels.” When attempting to narrow down the product results, a user may use the search bar located to the left of the screen. When used to search for “rims,” a wide product category came up once again, forcing the users to search through many irrelevant parts just to locate what they were looking for.

Although in the practice of manufacturing, prices are generally open to negotiation. Sale prices can be extremely beneficial to a dabbling consumer. If one were able to get a price range of a product, the outcome of a feasibility analysis can be quickly determined without lengthy discussions with the manufacturer. Prices will also captivate browsing customers looking specifically to capture a distinct segment within an industry.

As stated by Web Style Guide, the overall experience should "encompasses content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, and interactivity, but it also includes the intangibles that make one stay or leave." The overall experience and ease of use makes Alibaba.com the ideal web site for individuals associated with the foreign trade industry. Furthermore, Alibaba.com's vast resources make it a necessary tool for the industry professional. Alibaba.com finally bridges the gap between buyers and sellers overseas, a gap that has long been considered to be an inevitable aspect of conducting international business. Aside from the initial information overload on the homepage, and below benchmark structure, the ability to bridge buyers and sellers with a few clicks of a mouse and virtually no middleman is a novel idea, and a concept Alibaba.com has executed well.