MBA@UNC Global Immersion: Detroit - Day One

MBA@UNC Global Immersions are offered four times a year as unique opportunities for students to travel to major domestic and international business destinations with their fellow classmates, participate in engaging discussions with their professors and elite industry leaders, as well as apply what they have learned to real-life problems. At the Detroit immersion, MBA@UNC students participated in one of two tracks: consulting or urban development. Each track provided MBA@UNC students with the opportunity to learn about how Detroit is rebuilding itself into an entrepreneur’s city.


The first day of the Detroit immersion began with an opening keynote from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School alum Ritch Allison. President of Domino’s International, Allison extended a warm welcome to MBA@UNC students to his pizzeria’s home state of Michigan. During his presentation, Allison covered the ideas that went into creating Domino’s “Oh Yes We Did” campaign, which was based on listening to customer feedback, improving their core product and being transparent in their advertisements.

After Allison’s keynote, the urban development track joined Professor Dan Gitterman, Chair of the UNC Department of Public Policy, in a discussion about Detroit centered on the politics of people versus place.

Next, students left on an innovation and entrepreneurship tour of Detroit. They briefly explored the monuments of downtown, before making a stop at the city’s Eastern Market to hear from representatives of FoodLab Detroit and the Murals in the Market program. They continued their tour through distressed neighborhoods throughout the city, and ended at Good Cakes and Bakes, to hear entrepreneur April Anderson speak about the growth of her small business with the help of the local incubator Hatch Detroit.

As the urban development track enjoyed their first day getting to know Detroit — its past, present and future — the consulting track got to know one Detroit company in particular: Shinola.

Students on the consulting track were tasked with the job of helping Shinola — an upscale producer of American built watches, bicycles, journals, and other leather goods — solve a supply chain issue. Within a span of less than 72 hours, students were expected to come up with a well-researched solution to Shinola’s problem.

Prior to meeting their client, students were led through an introduction to the TEAM FOCUS model by professors Paul Friga and Steve Beisser. The TEAM FOCUS model, Dr. Friga explained, is to be used as a checklist of the most important elements of successful team problem-solving.


View the text-only version of the TEAM FOCUS "rules of engagement" graphic.

Dr. Friga highlighted one aspect of the TEAM FOCUS model in particular: Talk. “What is the cost of overcommunication?” he asked the consulting track. Students responded with answers like “efficiency” and “move off scope.” Dr. Friga then asked, “What is the cost of undercommunication?” To which students said “not aligned,” “decreased reliance on facts,” “not as engaged” and “redundant work streams.” By asking these questions he was able to show why consultants should be more worried about undercommunicating than overcommunicating.

After the lesson on the TEAM FOCUS model, Dr. Friga introduced the consulting track’s client, Shinola’s VP of Leather, Jennifer Guarino. Guarino provided background information on her company and their supply chain issue. She then opened up the floor to questions. Students took advantage of this time to get the information they needed to develop a solution. They then broke out into their assigned consulting teams and began work on their case presentation due Sunday morning. 

In the meantime, on the other side of conference center, the urban development track settled into their seats to listen to Matt Cullen, President and CEO of Rock Ventures LLC. Cullen delved into a presentation on how the Rock Ventures family of companies, including Quicken Loans, is revitalizing downtown Detroit and bringing jobs back to the city.

The day ended with MBA@UNC taking over Ford Field — home of the Detroit Lions — for dinner and a tour of the football stadium.