I’m often asked about luck and the role of luck in strategy and success. Now, I’ve been doing what I do for a long time, so I’ve heard all the clichés, from the popular, “luck isn’t a strategy” to the venerable, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Of course, there’s truth in both. But there’s also truth in recognizing luck as a powerful, sometimes even dominant, force in the success of an organization. So, naturally, people are curious about it.
Let’s begin with what we know. Luck is “success or failure apparently brought on by random chance, rather than intentional action.” Why does one roll of the dice produce a winner and the next a loser? It’s impossible to say, short of random chance or luck. Also, there is very little good research on the effects of luck on strategy and performance. The main reason for this is that there’s no good way to measure and model luck, because it is random in nature. Moreover, when things go bad we tend to attribute it to luck, whereas when things go well, we tend to attribute that to ability. So, our view of luck is bound up in our tendencies to recognize and acknowledge it, which makes things even more complicated. Nevertheless, we all agree that luck operates in the real world and that it very much influences outcomes, for gamblers, for football teams, and for organizations competing for success. Given that, what can we say about luck and what do I, as a scholar, teacher, consultant, and dean of the Parker College, think about its effects on our own strategy and success? Well, first, I agree with the great Louis Pasteur, that “chance favors the prepared mind.” Luck doesn’t always appear as a winning lottery ticket. Rather, what we see are mere bits and pieces of events, coming together in faint but discernible patterns. It’s up to us to sense and recognize those early indicators and trends. The second thought reflects a Benjamin Franklin quote, “diligence is the mother of good luck.” I’ve often found that the harder I work, the luckier I get, and for good reason. Just like a batter in baseball, we can’t succeed if we don’t try. But more than that, it’s in the trying that we hone our skills and improve. Finally, I try to remember that random chance operates continuously. So, as Einstein observed, “in the middle of every difficulty, lies opportunity.” Much of what we believe about luck has to do with the way we choose to view it. There is always an interaction of the deliberate and intentional with the unforeseeable and random. It is up to us to see and understand the two accurately.
So, let’s circle back; what is the role of luck in an organization’s strategy and success and how does that shape our thinking and action in the Parker College? Well, we look constantly for leading indicators, early signs from the market, whether positive or negative, and we play out scenarios while building in options and alternatives. If luck favors the prepared, then we want to be well prepared. We like experimentation and change; we’ll do things differently just to learn what is possible and we’ll push the boundaries of our traditions and bureaucracy, so as to develop new skills and capabilities. At some point, competence will meet with emerging opportunity. When that happens, we want to take advantage. Finally, we try to see everything as opportunity. Framing issues and challenges as opportunities, rather than threats, changes our mindset towards them. Even difficulty can be positive when viewed in this light. And those three points sum up my own view, as well as the approach we take. Prepare well, work hard, and stay positive. If that’s a philosophy, then it’s one we’ve instilled in our culture, embedded in our teaching, and that we hope is a hallmark of the Parker College.
On November 15, the Parker College student chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) met at the Recreation Activity Center (RAC) on Georgia Southern’s Statesboro campus for what has become an annual tradition since 2021. In a literal demonstration of NABA’s motto, “Lifting as We Climb,” club members scaled the RAC’s rock wall. Much hilarity ensued, but everyone agreed the experience was a fun one. For more information about NABA, go to nabainc.org.
Sipe and Smith Present “Business, Affirmative Action, and DEI Initiatives After the 2023 Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case”
On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court severely limited the use of Affirmative Action Programs in College Admissions. What does this decision mean for DEI business strategies that have recently become deeply embedded in American corporate culture? On November 14, in an event open to faculty, staff, and students, PDEIBC members Stephanie R. Sipe, JD, professor of legal studies, and Rachel W. Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, presented the position of Major American Business Enterprises (MABE) in support of Affirmative Action in Education, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives in business, based on the Amici Curiae Brief filed by some 70 major U.S. corporations in the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard University. Sipe and Smith explained that, in this brief, MABE argued that their organizations are strengthened when their team members and leaders have rich individualized experience with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and that university education remains an essential environment for fulfilling that need. Following the lecture, a lively question-and-answer session provided additional insights.
D. Muffy Charlton (MAcc, 2012) is director of financial reporting and technical accounting at Priority Technology, a FinTech company based in Alpharetta. He leads the team preparing the firm’s filings with the SEC, oversees recurring and ad hoc complex accounting transactions, serves as a technical resource for his team, and serves as the liaison for the firm’s consultants (i.e., auditors, valuation specialists). Working with his team is the best part of his job, but Muffy also enjoys learning new things and solving complex issues and then sharing the insights he gains with others so that they can add what he’s learned to their toolbelts.
Muffy admits spending almost a decade in public accounting definitely comes with its challenges, but two things have helped him to deal with them. The first was perspective; although Muffy admits that sounds clichéd, reframing challenges as opportunities to figure things out helps him calm down and address the issue. He adapted this method from Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle Is the Way. In addition, partnership and mentorship have helped him deal with challenges. Muffy was blessed to establish relationships that he has to this day with people who played pivotal roles in my personal and professional development. He says that having someone in his corner to confide in, someone to pick him up when he was down and who would tell him when he was wrong is especially valuable.
Graduating with his MAcc having already passed the CPA and CFE exams is Muffy’s proudest accomplishment. He attributes his accounting courses in the Georgia Southern Parker College of Business with allowing him to achieve this success. In addition, Dwight Sneathen, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting, encouraged him to take an interview that resulted in Muffy getting a job that lasted eight years. He also shared four of his most favorite memories of his time at Georgia Southern:
- The mock trial at the Bulloch County Courthouse with Thomas Buckhoff, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting
o Muffy remembers being in awe as he watched students participate in the trial. They seemed so well-prepared and professional. Fast forward a year later and he had a surreal experience because he was participating in the mock trial while watching students observing his classmates and himself.
- Don Berecz, emeritus senior lecturer of accounting, bringing a polygraph machine to class and letting the students test it
- Stephanie Sipe’s, JD, professor of legal studies, fraud and society course
o He says this class was amazing. They read lots of articles and had these very insightful and in-depth conversations during class. Muffy became very studious, to the point he didn’t recognize himself. He misses those in-class discussions.
- Britton McKay, Ph.D., associate dean and professor of accounting, suddenly stopping mid-lecture in accounting information systems class and giving “real-life” talks
o Muffy remembers her talking about 401K contributions, Roth IRAs, and tax implications when deciding to propose. He says these were very funny because they would come out of nowhere.
In his spare time, Muffy enjoys playing golf. He had played until middle school and then swore to never do it again. Earlier this year, he watched Full Swing on Netflix and immediately jumped right back into it. Oddly, he likes playing alone when he can. Muffy finds walking the greens and focusing on the mechanics to be very peaceful and Zen-like. He hopes one day to be good at it. He also loves listening to vinyl records, including albums by Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, James Blake, Snoh Aalegra, Bon Iver, A$AP Rocky and Buju Banton. He is also a burgeoning mixologist, spending his weekends crafting cocktails. Muffy makes his syrups from scratch with coconut fat recently washing some bourbon.
Muffy says his biggest goal is to live a fulfilling life. Stoicism has taught him to focus on what he can control and not to get too worked up by things that he cannot. Life has taught him that the path isn’t always linear, nor will things go the way he wants. So, he remains present in the moment, doing the best he can with the resources he has.
The INFORMS student chapter recently concluded an internal case competition called Visualizing Diversity. Students were given actual survey data to analyze and present. The data were related to students’ perceptions of discrimination in the workplace. Three teams of students made presentations before a panel of judges consisting of private sector professionals and a faculty member. Prizes were awarded for first, second, and third place. “All the judges were impressed with the analysis and visuals presented by the teams. The judges asked very challenging questions, and the students responded admirably. I am so proud of all the students who participated. They represented our chapter well,” said Janet Moss, faculty advisor.