Each week, JWMI profiles students and alumni in its new featured series “Winning Voices.” Learn about our diverse community and what sets our program apart from those who have experienced it. For more great “Winning Voices” content, click here.
Marina del Rey Foods & Frankie’s Organics
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR COMPANY.
I’m the founder and CEO of Marina del Rey Foods. I started this company in December 2009 in a 10’ by 10’ shared office space. At that time, I was the product developer, the salesman, the receptionist, the warehouse manager, and all the “exciting” roles that involve starting a company. Today, my focus is on both the short term and long term direction of the company. I work closely with our sales and marketing team, CFO, COO, and my daughter, who is our Product Developer on growing our brands. At the same time, I am developing a strategic direction and vision for Marina del Rey Foods as we look to the future and the next three to five years.
WHY WERE YOU LOOKING TO GET AN MBA?
An MBA was on my bucket list for a very long time, and it was the online platform coupled with the Jack Welch name and brand supporting the program that made it an easy decision to enroll. Most importantly, I wanted to set an example for my children to know that you need to be a constant learner throughout life and that you can achieve your goals no matter your stage of life if you have a passion for succeeding. My wife and I have twin boys who are now in college and a daughter who completed her Master’s in Education in 2014. In 2016, she asked to join the family business; I said yes, with one condition, you will have to earn an MBA. After two years working for Marina, she’s about to complete her second MBA course at the Jack Welch Management Institute.
HOW HAS THE JWMI CURRICULUM HELPED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
As a founder and major stockholder in the company, there is no upward position to aspire towards, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to grow the business and as an individual. The program has helped me immensely to demonstrate learned leadership skills and refine my strategic plan.
When I was first accepted into JWMI, I spoke to a senior leader at a bank who said to me “I completed my MBA years ago (from a different program), and it has not helped me in any way.” My journey could not be any different. JWMI serves their students well, putting their success and growth first; it has helped me become a better leader.
DID YOU FIND THE CURRICULUM WAS IMMEDIATELY APPLICABLE?
The curriculum was immediately applicable from my first class in Leadership in the 21st Century. We learned the importance of emotional intelligence, using empathy, candor, and improving the employee evaluation process, techniques that I immediately implemented within our company. My first candid evaluation experience was with a senior sales person who was not performing well. I started the program in late August, and in mid-October, I sat down for his evaluation; being open about job performance was difficult for both of us. He took it hard, but rather than roll over and quit; he improved his performance tremendously. Today he is one of our top performers. I am so proud he was able to take the honest feedback and use it to his advantage to show us all of what he is capable of.
LOOKING BACK AT WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT AN ONLINE PROGRAM WHEN YOU FIRST EMBARKED, WHAT WAS YOUR OVERALL IMPRESSION NOW? DID IT MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS, VIA DQ BOARDS, EOP VIDEOS, JACK CALLS, FACULTY ETC.
When I first considered the program, I thought can I possibly learn as much as I would within a physical classroom? Today, I can say that the JWMI online MBA is much better than a classroom due to the fact the resources are still available for you once you complete the program. As an example, during my last class, we had a serious crisis with our company, it involved a large customer. Thanks to the online platform and access to the entire program, I went back into my lectures and videos of my second class, Business Communications & Executive Presence to review the material. In that course, there is a video where Jack interviews Warren Buffett, and he asks about how Mr. Buffett handles a crisis? I applied the same strategy he suggested in the video.
Within 72 hours, we dealt with the crisis and moved forward, back to managing the business.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE IN THE PROGRAM?
The talented and smart students and professors within each class were the best parts of the program. I learned so much working as a team, and the professors were always available to help answer questions. In fact, I continue to stay in contact with some of them.
HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE JOB, FAMILY, AND WORK? WHAT STRATEGIES DID YOU IMPLEMENT TO GET IT DONE?
Some times navigating the program was challenging. But, like everything else in life planning ahead is the key. I need to thank my wife and children for their patience, support, and flexibility with my schedule. The entire family was understanding of the process and time an MBA would take. But there are always breaks between terms, and it was then we would take family vacations.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE FUTURE?
When I decide to leave my company or slow down, I would like to work with Private Equity as an investor or advisor in the Consumer Packaged Goods space.
PLEASE SHARE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW STUDENTS EMBARKING ON THE MBA JOURNEY.
Plan ahead. Work ahead. Don’t fall behind. You will have access to 3 future weeks of lectures, videos, and Experts of Practice content, try to stay a week or two ahead of the class requirement.
Connect with Franco Cristiano on Linkedin
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