Friday November 17, 2006

From Coffee Maker to CEO

Two years ago, Adam Buckman served up coffee. Today, he's the CEO of a $1.3 million business, and still finds time for college classes. His resume has drawn the eye of corporate recruiters.

Six months before he's set to graduate from the University of Dayton, Adam Buckman has already received one offer and four other interviews for jobs at such major corporations as General Electric and Fifth Third Bank.

Buckman, a 22-year-old operations management major from Louisville, is confident he is prepared for the next career challenge. After starting out two years ago making cappuccino at a gourmet coffee shop on campus, he's now the chief executive officer of Flyer Enterprises, a profitable student-run enterprise with seven companies, approximately 170 employees and revenues topping $1.3 million annually.

"I feel well prepared to handle whatever career challenge is next for me. Flyer Enterprises has given me the confidence to handle anything. When I talk about managing a $1.3 million business, it catches the attention of company recruiters," said Buckman, who's received interest in second interviews from all the firms.

The Flyer Enterprises' companies range from gourmet coffee shops to an upscale café to convenience stores. Nationally, Flyer Enterprises has been compared to similar business programs at Harvard, Georgetown and Stanford, but this one takes a bigger risk because faculty don't get involved in day-to-day operations. Only at the University of Dayton do students manage every detail — from creating a leadership development program to launching new product lines. Leadership training is critical because half of the management team turns over at graduation every year.

The venture's success helped the University of Dayton this fall gain national recognition for its entrepreneurship program, named fifth best by Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review. UD's entrepreneurship program started in 1999 with 10 students and enrolled a record 140 undergraduate majors this fall. It's the fastest-growing major in the School of Business Administration. Students don't just study theory. They become entrepreneurs. All sophomores are given $3,000 loans from the Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership to start their own businesses, with any profits going to charity. Businesses in the Dayton region receive free consulting from teams of senior entrepreneurship students. Students compete in a business plan competition, and a number get involved in Flyer Enterprises.

"These are not college students. They are business executives who happen to go to school at the same time," said Dick Flaute, executive-in-residence and entrepreneur, about the 25 students in management positions at Flyer Enterprises. "They receive a level of experience head and shoulders above other college students. If I saw a resume from a college student who had fiscal responsibility for 170 other employees, I'd say, 'Whoa, what is this?' I'd immediately invite that person in for an interview."

When he's not interviewing for his first post-college job or taking such classes as managerial economics and quality control, Buckman is busy bringing fresh ideas to some of the divisions, such as Rudy's Fly-Buy, where the management team has redesigned the convenience store's layout, reduced prices, added hot food and is considering installing a DVD vending machine. He has lead the development of a "scorecard" to measure strategic decisions against performance measures for all seven divisions. His team is shifting its marketing away from flyers to online promotions on the popular Facebook.com. They're also evaluating the marketability of launching a spirit wear shop, in collaboration with the college bookstore.

All new ventures must be approved by a 15-member board of administrators, faculty, alumni and students. Last year, the board nixed a tanning salon, but approved the opening of three other new ventures in the past two years. Even failure can be a valuable learning experience.

"We spent between 100 and 200 hours developing a business plan and interviewing tanning salon owners, only to face failure. Motivating the team after a loss is tough," Buckman said philosophically. "Delivering negative news to people who have worked so hard to make something successful was probably the biggest challenge I've ever faced."

The real-life experience Buckman is gaining as CEO of Flyer Enterprises has boosted his confidence and his adrenaline. "My favorite part about the position is working with such great team members, developing your future talent and having the opportunity to try new things. For example, you learn something in the classroom, such as the most effective way to reach customers, then you go right out and implement it," he said.

"We don't have to wait until we're done with college to start implementing ideas in the business world."

Contact Adam Buckman at 937-229-4722 or adam.buckman@flyerenterprises.com and Dick Flaute at 937-229-3706.