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VFA Training Camp: Week 3

"Ooh, we're half way [through training camp.]" -Bon Jovi

The farther I progress into training camp, the more I find myself wanting to write about just the hiking trips I take on the weekends. In the spirit of this mini-series, however, I’ll spend some time on what I learned this week.


The training this week began with very technical Excel training. When I say technical, I mean “click Command, Shift, Question Mark, then press V, Space Bar, Enter.” Basically the training focused on how to use the program really fast and do more sophisticated things like dynamic models and pivot tables. The content was information dense, but our trainers come from the company that trains Wall Street investment bankers how to use Excel. So if I’m going to learn how to click Command, Shift, Question Mark from anyone, these are the people from whom to learn it.

After the basics, Chris Ryan came in and taught us how to use Excel for financial modeling—Chris had more of the upbeat quirky personality I like, so it made the day smoother.

Chris Ryan, VP of Manhattan Prep.

The rest of the week is a blur of speakers. From the Chairman of Havas PR talking about personal branding to Ivy League B-School professors leading case studies, VFA continues its streak of bringing in people who are the best at what they do.

Marian Salzman, North American CEO of Havas PR.
Bob Jeffrey, Non-Executive Chairman of JWT Advertising.
Danny Warshay, 16x serial entrepreneur and B-School professor at Brown University.

The Challenge

Then there was the challenge this week: the profit challenge.

This continued from last week. The goal: make as much profit as possible in 10 days, crowd funding recommended. My team partnered with a premium food startup in Cincinnati to sell their meat online for a 25 percent cut, and also struck up a seven percent royalty deal with another campaign in exchange for content creation (shout out to Ben for setting up the deal).

Lesson learned: meat doesn't sell well on crowd funding. Go door to door.
Lesson learned: Find someone who is doing well, and get a royalties deal. 

The challenge taught me a little about crowd funding. It taught me much more about cold selling—eventually my team took to the streets of Providence with a price sheet and started walking into restaurants and bars trying to make sales on the spot. We couldn’t close in the time we had, but we set up potential deals for the startup to pursue. That, plus online sales and other warm leads from across the country, brought us to a total of about $900 in revenue and $300 in profit.

And that $300 goes into the pockets of my team. #capitalism

The Weekend

I’m definitely not the “working for the weekend” type of guy. When the weekend comes and I’m living in a new city with state parks, however, I am the type of guy who organizes hiking trips.

This weekend a crew of ten went to Lincoln State Wood Park. We hiked. We climbed boulders. We swam in a lake with bluer waters than I’ve ever seen in Oklahoma. I could write another 500 words about this, but I’ll summarize by saying it was an absolutely fantastic hike topped off with dinner on Federal Hill and a movie in downtown Providence. What a perfect day.

Great lake water to swim in.
Typical cheesy group shot.
Lots of climb-worthy boulders in the park.
Federal Hill-- the center of all the best Italian food in Providence.
Kelly loves the camera.

As camp progresses, two trends are beginning to occur.

  1. The number of quality connections with fellows is increasing. I'm starting to build tangible relationships with people that are the equivalent of six month friendships in the real world.
  2. I am ready to go to work in the real world.

VFA training camp is a too-good-to-be-true experience. It is getting me amped up and excited—and I’m getting more and more ready to go apply that excitement and “amped-up-ness” to the company I’ll be joining in Boulder.

It’s also getting me amped up for the hiking in Boulder. Can. Not. Wait.

How do I sum up week 3? It was training that spanned from B-School style financial Excel to creative and PR training from top MarCom agencies. It was a mixture of playing Indiegogo crowd funding wizard and door-to-door salesman. Best of all, it was another round of quality conversations that happened on the hiking trails, in sandwich shops at 1:00am, and every place in between.

And it only gets better from here: week 4, VFA is bringing in IDEO. It's time to get crazy and start building stuff.

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