2017 Best EMBAs: Bill Fagan, Emory University (Goizueta)

Bill Fagan

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Age: 35

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: My work ethic defines me. I’m competitive, yet disciplined and patient.

Hometown: Middletown, CT

Family Members: I’m the youngest of 8 children.

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve broken my nose twice.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Miami, Bachelors of Business Administration (2004)

Where are you currently working? The Aspire Sports Marketing Group, Chief Operating Officer

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • 2017 Sports Business Journal’s 40 Under 40
  • 2015 ‘Leaders Under 40’ Awards global finalist
  • 2009 Partnership Activation Rising Stars ’30 Under 30’
  • Board Member, Emory Marketing Analytics Center
  • I’ve been involved with two charity initiatives related to supporting the homeless community:
    • The Homeless World Cup
    • Interfaith Outreach House

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of how my grades have improved every term within the program.  Having typical MBA-entry anxiety, I wasn’t sure how I would ‘match-up’ with the rest of my cohort. Within the program and by utilizing many assessment instruments provided through the coursework, I know my strengths better today than ever. I know how to share these strengths with those around me.  Furthermore, I am aware of my weaknesses and am comfortable sharing those.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The proudest professional achievement was receiving recognition as Sports Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 for 2017. I am honored and humbled by the recognition from the leading publication in my industry. As a typically unassuming person, I did my best to keep the news quiet for a period of time. But in the modern era of social media and omnipresent information, it wasn’t long until the news spread across my extended network. I have been aware of these prestigious awards for my entire career, yet I never thought I had a legitimate chance of joining this impressive cohort. Furthermore, with my studies at the Goizueta Business School consuming so much energy over the past two years, I would have never have expected to receive this professional recognition while balancing my work, school and home life.

When I joined The Aspire Group in 2009, I was hired as the first employee. Since that time we have built a sustainable business, having hired several hundred employees and servicing over 180 sports teams and properties, generating over $200 Million in revenue for our clients annually.  My experience at Goizueta has prepared me for my current role as Chief Operating Officer.  When I started my MBA studies, I was a Senior Vice President and was then promoted to COO. The program has provided me with a range of learning I could have not absorbed on the job.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Professor Robert Kazanjian’s Strategic Management course. Fortunately this course was provided in the first term, so I could apply the learnings to the balance of my education. We learned how to think and analyze cases in this class.  We learned about competitive advantage and Porter’s 5 Forces model. I have continued to use these frameworks in my career and this has provided me a framework for analysis and then building recommendations.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Goizueta has the best reputation in the southeast. Living in Atlanta, I wanted a program that was local and offered the weekend option.  Goizueta was the best. I spent more than two years researching programs nationally before identifying Goizueta as my top choice. I have been impressed with the diversity of students Goizueta attracts and the quality of professors within the Executive track.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? While I became much more analytical and data driven through business school, my biggest takeaway was the collective learning from my classmates.  The cohort (group of students in my class) surpassed my expectations. This diverse group came from a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences.  Thanks to the flow of the program, I was fortunate to have worked on teams with nearly all of them.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program? Consult with your team prior to committing to the program. So who is on your team?  It is the key stakeholders in your life, typically your family and employer. Their support is vital to a healthy, supportive learning environment during your MBA journey.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is that it’s not worth the investment of your time and resources. The MBA experience at Goizueta Business School met my expectations in returned value. I feel like a different person today. I’ve rewired my brain. This value has raised my game in all facets of my life.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is not spending more time with my professors outside of the classroom.  It is my hope that I can remedy this by re-engaging with them as I continue my career journey.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Amelia Randall. Amelia adds value to my learning experience. When she speaks, people listen. Unlike most high achievers who want to promote their intelligence and skill, Amelia is simply put – an amazingly strong woman who speaks her mind, yet is open to learning and hearing all perspectives. I am impressed with her rigor to education, work and overall life balance.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was a Senior Vice President at The Aspire Group. I knew that the next step for me was to COO, but I didn’t have the confidence to ‘own’ the role. I needed a broader perspective than the sales and marketing funnel where I grew my professional career.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…less data driven and more limited in my thinking. I am proud that I can use an entirely new tool kit to do work and be a better leader. I am more proud to share my learning with our staff and help them learn and develop.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? My favorite company is Starbucks. As an avid coffee drinker, I love their intuitive mobile application which rewards loyalty and makes ordering easy. Their ‘employee first’ philosophy resonates with me. Their commitment to education and community development is inspiring.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? I would develop a platform for students to view which courses their cohort members are taking so teams could be established in an efficient manner. There would be a good discussion about how to build ‘rules’ in the platform to ensure students would be continuing to have diverse groups over the course of the program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I intend to be CEO at my company. Furthermore, I could anticipate launching another business down the road and also being a university professor.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Dr. Bernie Mullin, the Chairman and Founder of The Aspire Group. Bernie encouraged me to go back for my MBA. Throughout the program ,he maintained a high level of interest in my learning experience and accommodated my crazy schedule.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Bill is easy to talk to and when he speaks, people listen.

Favorite book: Dare to Serve, How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others

Favorite movie or television show: 60 Minutes

Favorite musical performer: The Hamilton (Broadway) soundtrack

Favorite vacation spot: San Diego

Hobbies? Running, Eating pizza and learning about leadership.

What made Bill such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Bill is most deserving of this recognition. He combines the strategic perspective of a seasoned CEO, the intelligence of world-renowned scholar, and the charisma of a Michael Strahan.

Bill is a natural leader who makes those around him achieve a higher level of performance than they would without his presence. His classmates seek him out as a teammate on school projects, as a sounding board for work-related issues, and as someone who provides good counsel and perspective. When emotions and stress-levels are high, Bill brings a level of clam, patience, and compassion that becomes contagious. Bill is the leader others aspire to be.

Bill is a top performer in his executive MBA studies and at work. He was promoted to COO of his firm during the program. Though this meant a huge ramp up in his job responsibilities, he was able to maintain his same high level of performance in his studies. He combines intelligence and diligence with excellent communication skills. I am continually impressed by his ability to integrate concepts learned in other courses (e.g., pro forma analysis, team building skills, operations management), through his activities outside the classroom, and through his prior professional work experience. He brings perspective that is unmatched.

The intangibles are outstanding. Bill’s humble, yet confident, demeanor makes people at ease and confident in his abilities. He’s a very good listener, something that can be in short supply in an executive MBA program. He leads by example, understanding the importance of context in determining whether a collaborative or directive leadership style is appropriate. He’s truly the total package.

In closing, Bill is most deserving of this recognition. He’s an accomplished executive that has made a significant difference in the lives of others around him. He represents our school and the degree very well.”

Douglas Bowman

Senior Associate Dean for Working Professionals Programs

Professor of Marketing; McGreevy Term Chair

Co-Director, Emory Marketing Analytics Center

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School


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