EMBA Alumni Update - It’s Now or Never: A Conversation with Cohort 15 Graduate Raymond Fyler
As the five-star Yelp reviews keep rolling in for Marco’s Pizza on the west side of the Las Vegas Valley, Raymond Fyler (Cohort 15) sits back with a confident smile, knowing that his Executive MBA helped make it possible.
“We’ve been operating for two months, and we’ve run in the black the entire time,” the 2017 graduate explains. “We’ve exceeded all of our service expectations, and we attribute it all to the process and ground rules we put in place at the beginning.”
Raymond and fellow cohort members first conceived of starting a business together shortly after completing the EMBA program. They had been talking about a “big idea” to join forces, and when the pandemic struck, the classmates determined that “it’s now or never.”
“We couldn’t say, ‘We don’t have the time,’ because if we don’t do this now, we lack effort,” he recalls. “We jumped in, we set our ground rules, we determined how we were going to communicate with each other, and if we didn’t have that culture, we knew we would have made a mistake.”
The pandemic afforded Ray, his classmates, and their partners some additional time to get their business plan together. Raymond put his focus on training and experience, while one of the partners focused on managing the operational and marketing elements, and another focused on finance. With clearly defined roles and decision-making abilities, the partners would avoid groupthink.
“My biggest role is to consistently challenge the status quo and poke at a process or idea – all with the best intentions in mind – to challenge our thoughts and push the best idea forward,” he says. “[The EMBA] is where I got that thought process, because we would work in groups and get to a point where it would be like, ‘Yeah this looks good’ and someone would have to say, ‘Is this what we want to put out in the world?’”
“If everyone goes with the status quo, it’s not the best idea. You’ll never be successful if you don’t challenge your thoughts.”
Connecting to Greater Opportunity
When he joined the EMBA program, Raymond was a fast-rising star at MGM Resorts International, with positions as manager and director of guest experience at MGM Springfield, Circus Circus (before its 2019 sale), and Excalibur. As he was progressing, he realized there were “conversations and dialogue that I wasn’t familiar with, and I started looking for something to make me a little more well-rounded.”
Raymond started looking into graduate programs, and as it turned out, one of the company’s vice presidents had already completed the EMBA.
“He sat me down and gave me his full experience, and that’s what made me want to jump into it,” he recalls. “One of the biggest things he said was that every day you wake up and don’t pursue this is a tomorrow that you’ll wish you had.”
Once Raymond started the program, he realized it was unlike any other business school experience. He was surprised to learn that in the first class, EMBA 701 Leadership and Team Effectiveness, none of the students are allowed to talk about what they do for a living, so they wouldn’t only acknowledge each other as their professional personas.
“You don’t realize how often people change the way they act or carry themselves based on someone’s job,” he says. “You learn to meet people, put away the superficial stuff, and see that, at the end of the day, we all put our pants on the same way.
“That first week was very eye-opening in the way I look at and engage with people in the world. It’s a big ‘Wow!’ moment, and if that doesn’t smack you in the mouth you need to go find your pulse.”
As the program progressed, Raymond transitioned to a new role overseeing equipment sales with Las Vegas-based Brady Industries, where he works with sales reps and consults or trains customers and their teams on products and processes. His new position also allowed him to enter into a business partnership and open the Marco’s Pizza franchise location.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed to have such amazing leadership that has supported and encouraged me in the different ventures that I take,” he says.
Not only does Raymond rely on his cohort members-turned-business partners, but he also stays connected to the rest of his class and even his professors – “I still message [Associate Professor of Marketing] Nadia Pomirleanu on Facebook when I need answers,” he says.
Raymond knows there’s more ahead of him to maintain the success that Marco’s Pizza has enjoyed, and says he’s grateful he didn’t put his graduate education on hold.
“You’re not going to walk away saying, ‘I didn’t grow,’” he says. “Ask yourself where you want to be in three years, and if where you’re at right now doesn’t get you there, this program will."
“If you wait three more years, at the end of the day you’re only hurting your growth.”