2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Timmy McCarthy, Ohio State (Fisher)

Timmy McCarthy

Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business

Age: 41

Competitively self-aware future oriented person deeply engaging others to learn life with them.”

Hometown:  Originally from Mentor, Ohio, and now living in Worthington, Ohio for the last 17 years.

Family Members: My family is made up of a 95-year-old Grandmother, my Mom and Dad, my brother Kevin (14 months younger), my sister Caitlin (4 years younger), my wife (of 10 years) Natalie, and our 3 kids: Noah (7), Rowan (5), and Stella (2).

Fun fact about yourself: There are two fun facts about myself: the first, I jumped out of an airplane on my 21st birthday (the one and only time I have done that). The second is that I took 3 months after I graduated college to backpack Europe on a Eurail pass; I made a figure 8 type pattern through Europe, making it as far East as the Czech Republic, as far South as Athens, Greece, as far West as Madrid, Spain, and as far north as Edinburgh, Scotland.

Undergraduate School and Degree:  Undergraduate at Wittenberg with an English Major in Creative Writing

Graduate at The Ohio State University with an EMBA

Where are you currently working? I am a Partner at Cara Zale; which is the parent company for Raising Cane’s Ohio, OLIO Development Group. Cara Zale also has a stake in United Midwest Savings Bank, Pepper Tree, and Cleveland Whiskey.

Raising Cane’s Ohio is a 45 restaurant – and growing – franchise partner of Raising Cane’s Restaurants. I started this 17 years ago and built a professionally managed company, where I am the Founder and Culture Captain

OLIO Development Group is an end-to-end, turnkey developer mainly for single tenant restaurant concepts including, but not limited to, Raising Cane’s Restaurants. They turn over about 10-12 buildings a year.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Guest lecturer for OSU and Wittenberg.
  • Hockey teammate on a local hockey team.
  • Write poetry, and curate a poetry blog for fun.
  • Write and speak at a local essay club called the 20/20 club.
  • My wife and I have a Donor Advised Fund called the McSki Fund.
  • I am a Festival For Good founding member for the annual local festival focused on expanding the mission of Social Enterprise.
  • Member of the Social Enterprise Partnership.
  • SEA Change (a local social enterprise accelerator) mentor.
  • Board Member for The Business of Good
  • Vice-Chair for the Marketing Executives Group (MEG), an independent study group which puts on an annual conference for 400 National Restaurant Association marketers.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am working on a concept called Self Center, which is a set of workshops and peer groups focused on the development of individuals. It meets them where they currently are in their life and career and helps them to convert the dreams in their heads on to paper to achieve their goals of where they want to be. It is currently active and is available for all members of Cara Zale affiliated companies (the parent company where I am a partner). I think that this concept can help benefit other companies beyond Cara Zale and the middle managers who work within those companies.

I used the individual class project work assigned for both my Operations class with Aravind Chandrasekaran and my Marketing class with Joe Goodman, to really understand what is going on with Raising Cane’s Ohio’s middle managers. This also helped me to understand better why our managers do or do not stay with us (helping me get a better understanding to hone where Self Center can be more beneficial). These projects also helped me to build a strong marketing plan and a competitive study so that I could utilize both to propel Self Center outside the boarders of Cara Zale.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? There are three things we instituted that Raising Cane’s USA did not, and these are the things I am most proud of. First, we instated Cane’s Cares in 2007 before President Obama was elected. Cane’s Cares is a debit card that allowed for every crewmember and manager to gather $50 a month on that card and use it for any medical related expense. This ranged from an Ace Bandage in the local pharmacy (and it could tell the difference between a bandage and a pack of gum), to a doctor’s appointment (usually $100 per visit). We have been told stories of people who got surgeries and their first ever pair of glasses with the help of this program.

Second, is our Profit Share Program. We pay 15% of every profit dollar quarterly back to every person in our organization. It is a separate check, so it doesn’t get confused with payroll, and it comes along with a letter from me, talking about performance of the business (or underperformance of the business). Here too there are stories of crewmembers coaching other crewmembers and managers on how their decisions impact their profit share check.

Finally, there are the goal setting workshops (called Wonder:Fully) and the peer groups (called Develop:Fully) that we have instituted. Over 200 people have been through the workshops, and 20% of them are actively participating in their monthly peer groups. The workshop is about having them talk with themselves and their cohort about their strengths, and layout their life goals on paper (some talking about their strengths and their life goals out loud or on paper for perhaps the first time in their lives). Studies have shown that if you write your dreams down, they are 10 times more likely to happen. The peer groups help them talk about the bump’s life throws at them between where they are and where they want to be on a monthly basis. These have been going on for 2.5 years now, and already I am hearing stories from participants of their achievement of their dreams.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? First, I chose The Ohio State University because of the geography. I live in Columbus, and I wanted to be in-person. With a family, the drive time would make the least amount of impact to them.

Second, I chose OSU for the prestige. My parents were Buckeyes. I’ve grown up going to Ohio State games.

Third, I chose OSU for the impact to my family. The proudest moment I have had in the last 17 months of the program, was when my wife said, “I didn’t really notice, that he was in the program” to a friend of ours in a conversation.  This showed me that I had chosen the right program.

OSU EMBA program allowed me flexibility I needed to maintain the work/life/school balance that is so important to me. And though I worked hard throughout the program keeping early mornings and late nights, I knew that the faculty at OSU was always there to help me make it through.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The biggest lesson I gained was in Operations. I had always fancied myself a poor operator and loved watching and hiring great operators in my restaurants. How they executed great operations day-after-day amazed me. Day in and day out, working with people, call offs, great shifts and poor ones, these operators delivered results even when the deck was stacked against them.

I thought I was a poor operator, until I took Professor Chandrasekaran’s Operations class, and saw that my view of operations was very limited. Executing on his A3 project, I focused on shift management turnover: how it is impacted and what happens in the different moments of the shift manager experience (and life cycle) at Raising Cane’s Ohio. This has impacted our company immensely. Sharing that data with our VP of Operations, and the rest of the leadership and departments, was eye-opening for the whole organization.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I wake up early, naturally. I am a morning person, so all I did was to wake up a little earlier, before my wife and kids got up, to do about an hour or two of work a morning. This is when I would do papers and my reading. My company is professionally managed (I built it to be so), so my time is more strategic, and the MBA programming and the projects needed to complete it dovetailed perfectly together.

Through the kindness of Dr. Nathan Craig, I was again able to weave EMBA and work together. I would meet with him virtually and walk through the data study I did for his class and step through with my senior leadership team (both our president, and the two heads of our operations team) to talk through the correlation study of drive-thru times to average checks. Our takeaways from these two meetings with Dr. Craig helped us to implement some paradigm-shifting programs that allowed us to increase speed of service and average check size. It was very impactful to our business, and helped me to see how data and correlations can be real and impact the business if you are willing to invest the time.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? There is never a “perfect time” to get your MBA. If it feels right, right now, do it. Don’t second guess. You can figure out where and how everything in your life fits, and you will surprisingly find time you didn’t think you had. Time is fluid and can shape to fit your needs. If you feel like you need to get your MBA…do it. Everything else will work itself out.

What was your biggest regret in business school?My biggest regret is that I felt like I ‘coasted’ the final 30 days. I knew I had gotten good grades. I knew I had done everything that I needed to do and had pushed hard through the last 17 months balancing everything in my life. In reflection, I find that I wish I would have dug deeper within myself to find the energy to finish the last 30 days with a really aggressive effort. Whenever I take a morning run, I have a tendency to go about 2-3 miles. Growing up, my dad taught me when I ran with him to sprint hard the last 100 yards or so. He never explained why, but it always felt good to finish strong, even after all the effort it took to run the couple miles I had already run. I wish I would have done that in my EMBA program, and finished the last 30 days in a sprint.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Adrienne Schmole. She is super smart, and the way that she balanced work, family, and was always over prepared for class amazed me. She always engaged her cohort in whatever way she could. She talked with everyone and was always inviting, giving, curious, and kind and she seemed to find the time to stay engaged with people outside of class.

In addition, she would write up the class schedule and work assignments and share that with her classmates without any expectation for anything in return. That always floored me. The way she had it set up on a spreadsheet, it had to take her at least an hour or two to set up each time. Yet, every quarter, about a day after we got our assignments, Adrienne’s spreadsheet of the assignments would pop into my email inbox, and I had everything I needed for the next three months staring in my face with zero heavy lifting on my end.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The reason I chose an Executive MBA program was that I wanted to take the challenge head on and ‘get it done’ by taking it all on in one chunk. I knew that if I did it part time, and I could pick-and-choose where and when I could take classes, I would not be rigorous or diligent enough with my schedule to keep the momentum I started with a couple years before. I guess part-time felt too ‘light’ for me.

A friend of mine did it online. While I could tell he liked it a lot, the lack of in-person camaraderie would not work for me. I like being a part of a team, and I like those in person bonds that form by being around people. Growing up, I played all the team sports I could get my hands on (hockey, rugby, lacrosse, baseball, basketball, football, etc.). Apparently, that team component seeped into my bones. I seem to really thrive in that kind of environment. That is why I chose the Executive MBA program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal is a little hazy right now. I am in much transition, as the restaurant company I started 17 years ago is merging with our Franchisor. I haven’t decided what I am going to do once this merger is complete.

Before I became a franchisee, I had applied to graduate school to get my master’s and then my PhD with the long-term goal of becoming a professor and teaching college. Then, this restaurant franchise opportunity was right in front of me. There was something in the back of my mind that told me that I could always go back and get my graduate degrees, but this restaurant opportunity would never come around again.

Ee are ‘back to the future’, meaning that I am at those same crossroads again, but now I have my Masters. I have been entertaining going down the path of starting a new business when this one merges, and I am also considering becoming a teacher.

If I am not careful…I might actually decide to have fun with this choice.

What made Timmy such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“I would characterize Timmy as a student with purpose who helped facilitate the EMBA program learnings not only with his team but with the entire cohort.  Timmy was willing to openly share information, experiences, perceptions and feedback in an engaging and thought provoking manner.  He listened to others, was open-minded, yet could always be counted on to provide a candid and straight-forward answer especially when asked how the Founder of a multi-million dollar company (one of his many professional roles and achievements) would handle an event or issue. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Timmy McCarthy.  I believe this echoes the sentiments of the class as Timmy received the “EMBA Student Recognition Award” which is our top EMBA student award nominated and voted on by the cohort.  Specific quotes from classmates include:

“Timmy always was very inquisitive and added value”

“Timmy listens intently; he pieces multiple ideas and topics together sharing his insights and curiosities with others.  He willingly shares his new found ideas, he provides thoughtful feedback to those whom he interacts, and he brings people together encouraging them and connecting them.  He leads with generosity, honesty and integrity.”

“Timmy clearly works hard as a leader in his business and is thoughtful in the questions and comments he brings to the classroom.  As my back-row buddy, we spent the entire program sitting next to each other trading notes during “light bulb” moments or having side conversations during breaks or at lunch.  It is humbling to receive encouragement from someone who has already accomplished so much in his career.  Timmy is already an authentic leader and generous in so many ways.  I’m so glad we were classmates and now friends.”

Timmy stands out as a unique individual with a rare mix of empathy, intelligence, insight and entrepreneurial success.  It is comforting to know that Authentic Leaders such as Timmy will continue to build both businesses and social awareness that will help the world move forward.  Timmy’s presence and grace greatly impacted both myself and the EMBA Class of 2021.”

Daniel D. Oglevee, MBA
Executive Director, EMBA
Sr. Lecturer, Finance
Department of Finance
The Ohio State University

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