Alumnus says MBA was best preparation for the real world of business

September 2011

When Jamey Phipps ’84, MBA ’85, graduated from the School of Management, he went to work for Faller, Klenk and Quinlan, a Buffalo-based advertising agency he had been interning with.

In 1986, he borrowed money from his brother and opened a marketing research company called Phipps Associates out of his house. In 1992, Phipps Associates merged with Gelia Wells & Mohr Inc., a local advertising agency. He was named president that year and remains so today.

Gelia Inc., as it's now known, is an integrated marketing communications agency with locations in Buffalo, Peoria and Toledo. Established in 1961, the company has 82 employees and capitalized billings exceeding $52 million. As a shareholder in Worldwide Partners, a global advertising network, Gelia is able to reach out to agencies in 53 countries and has access to 90 partners worldwide that can help with everything from understanding cultural nuances to executing campaigns in-country. Clients include Caterpillar, Independent Health, Sherwin-Williams and Trico Products.

Buffalo Business caught up with Phipps recently, and he shared the following insights about the path that led him to be president and owner of his own firm, and what he learned on the way.

How his MBA prepared him for his career

JP: UB's MBA program built my confidence through large daily workloads within every major marketing discipline. I would step into a class "weak in the knees" and step out at the end of the semester ready to take on any subject matter case. All those times sitting in the library with my head in my hands wondering how I was going to get all the work done prepared me for the real world of business. I hate to admit it, but the work volume and case study project management prepared me best. There were many challenging moments in my career, especially early on, but just like I was trained, I would address the problem, ferret out the root cause and resolve it.

On mentorship and real-world learning

JP: Though there were many talented professors, Dr. Arun Jain was my most valuable connection. His courses were always the most difficult and time-consuming. Like a "moth to a flame" I signed up for any course he gave, including marketing research, which was a life-changer for me. He challenged me like no one ever has and continues to challenge me to this day as a mentor, professional associate and friend. There are defining moments in your career when mentors can give you direction. Dr. Jain was that person for me. He connected UB to local businesses and force-marched us into large case loads for M&T and Chevrolet. This was the real-world knowledge I used to begin my research company.

Something he learned after his MBA

JP: Having the right answer is about 40 percent of the solution. Working informal networks and channels to build sufficient consensus so stakeholders will embrace and execute the solution is the other 60 percent.

Advice for new graduates

JP: Read best-selling business books every day. Be inquisitive and reach out to everyone with experience and ask them the one book they have read and the one skill they possess that has helped them most in their career and why.

On success

JP: Don't let someone else define success for you. Success is a very personal journey that doesn't always include being on the cover of Fortune magazine. The definition of success that balances family, self and profession is one that has served me best.

Written by Jacqueline Ghosen