It’s five minutes before class is set to begin on a Tuesday in the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, and nearly all the students taking professor Bob Grimm’s Fundamentals of Business course are in their seats—waiting.
“This is no surprise you’re all in your seats,” professor Grimm tells the students, all of whom are Direct Admits to the Kelley School Indianapolis Undergraduate Program and first-semester freshmen. Many of them are in the Honors College. “This is a testament to the talent and drive of our Kelley Indianapolis Direct Admit class.”
On this day, Grimm, a clinical associate professor of management, opens class with a story about the importance of being in your seat early, especially in business meetings. He describes his experience with rigorous corporate conferences run by his executive development staff while working at May Department Stores in the 1990s. He explained the CEO of May Company David C. Farrell was typically the first presenter, beginning at 7:30 AM sharp. However, if conference participants weren’t in their seats by 7:15 AM, they could miss the CEO’s remarks. You see — Farrell had a reputation for arriving early and starting immediately.
“If a merchandising manager or store manager was in the hallway when the doors closed to the conference room, he or she had to wait until the break. Mr. Farrell did not like interruptions and distractions. ‘Focus’ was the operative word,” remembered Grimm.
“The way professor Grimm is able to apply concepts to the real world is really eye-opening. Instead of staying in a textbook, we learned about what was happening in the economy and the marketplace at the time of our discussion,” said Michael Devor, BS’20. “I liked that. It made us very socially aware, and that’s unique. This semester definitely solidified the fact that I’m going to stay with business, and I’m excited for the future.”
“We want students to leave this class grounded in the basics of business. This course is all about understanding the key concepts and key business practices,” explained Grimm. “We want everyone to start at the Kelley School on a level playing field. This course gets them all up to speed.”
There’s no doubt Bob Grimm’s students appreciate the knowledge and business expertise he brings to the table. They also appreciate his one-liners—often quoting him in their presentations.
“I get the most out of class when professor Grimm shares his personal stories with us, and when he gives us specific examples of when he’s used business strategies we cover. By the end of the semester, we all have favorite ‘Grimm quotes’ memorized and incorporate them into our daily conversations,” said Brian Doyle, BS’20.
“We want to get these students excited about business; we want them to be inspired,” said Grimm.
“The best way to learn about business is to analyze businesses—not to listen to some gray-haired professor,” Grimm added.
As such, the class completes five case studies throughout the semester, looking at significant businesses across the country. They also rigorously analyze one Indiana publicly traded company. In business Grimm says, “God is in the details.” He explains — the students must also focus on the details.
One of the course’s final projects asks student teams to select any publicly traded company in Indiana, learn everything there is to know about its history and financials, and present it to the class with a recommendation as to whether or not to invest in that company.
“Our expectation is that by studying business, they’re going to internalize the concepts and practices that are common in business and, at the same time, continue to be inspired about business,” said Grimm.
In that particular project, student groups present on several different companies within Indiana: from Cummins to Kimball Electronics, to Simon Properties and Steel Dynamics.
“When we selected Interactive Intelligence to research, we knew little about the company,” explained Doyle. “Our group wanted to challenge ourselves and look into something we were unfamiliar with. This led to the biggest challenge of the presentation; we found out Interactive Intelligence was scheduled to be acquired by a privately owned company, making an investment opinion rendered useless. Our group also learned more about the importance of coordinating schedules and working ahead.”
“It’s interesting to see how everything we learned in class works in one business model. I also like that everything we analyzed for the project related to Indiana companies,” said Devor.
“This semester really opened my eyes to the fact that business is everywhere — and I realized just how much it affects the world and our daily lives,” said Ashlyn Bell, BS’20.
“It’s interesting how many little details go into building a business and keeping a business running,” Bell added.
“The biggest thing that I will take from this class moving forward is how to have a business mentality and how to get my nose in the business,” added Doyle. “I also enjoyed the corporate tour to visit with executives from P&G, GE Appliances, Churchill Downs and Roche Diagnostics. That gave us time to talk one-on-one with executives from some of the top performing companies in the Midwest.”
During the corporate tour to companies in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville, students heard from top executives and even helped a brand manager solve a significant business challenge. Also, students visited the industrial design center for GE in Louisville, where they were able to see what appliances will look like in 2025.
“In this class, I get to know the students personally,” said Grimm. “They’re very bright and talented people. It’s thrilling to work with them. I’m very excited by what I see. We have raised the bar at Kelley Indianapolis, and it’s evident.”