Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CEO tells what it was like to earn his MBA degree online after 30 years in business

LEARNER FOR LIFE: Paul Caliendo
says it's a "privilege" to earn his MBA
Paul Caliendo is similar to many MBA students in that he began earning his degree after working and getting some business experience under his belt. But while most MBA students bring about three to 10 years of experience to their education, Paul brings 30.

And not just any 30 years of experience -- 30 years serving as president and CEO of six companies in the health care industry. His current position is President and CEO of a company he started called Preferred Medical Claim Solutions in Scottsdale, Ariz.

So you're probably wondering why an already accomplished entrepreneur, business owner, and executive decided to earn his MBA. Well, when he chose Post University's Online MBA Degree Program, so did we! We recently interviewed Paul, and we got his unvarnished perspective on
  • The value of an MBA
  • Why earning his MBA made sense even after decades of business success 
  • The #1 benefit of choosing an online MBA degree program
Hit play to listen to our podcast with Paul, or scroll down to read the transcript.



Thanks for joining us, Paul.



Paul Caliendo's Entrepreneurial Background

Janelle: Greetings, everyone. Janelle Kozyra here for a Post University podcast. Today I am joined by an MBA student from Post University. His name is Paul Caliendo. Paul, it's great to have you with us.

Paul: Thanks very much for the invite.

Janelle: So, Paul, for everyone out there, is the president and CEO of Preferred Medical Claims Solutions which is located in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has spent the past 30 years serving in that same role -- president and CEO of six companies in the healthcare industry. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in business finance from San Diego University and, like we said, he's now working toward earning his MBA from Post.

So, Paul, first off our listeners are probably most interested in knowing why someone with so much experience already in leading businesses is now earning his MBA? But before I get to that, let's learn a little bit more about your background and what you do. So give us a nutshell of what Preferred Medical Claims Solutions does, what you do there and what you've done previously.

Paul: Well, the company -- Preferred Medical Claims Solutions, we call it PMCS -- has been in business 14 years and it's in the health care delivery system. What that means is that we deal with large employers throughout the United States with large insurance companies, the largest in the United States, and our website, which offers up some of the names, would be the United Healthcare, the Aetnas. We actually work with the DOD, which is the Department of Defense, and clients such as Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA, and then approximately 408 different municipalities.

And medical claims are submitted to us from the plan sponsor, which I have already indicated their names, on behalf of their patients to make sure that the services provided were correctly in accordance with the plan design. I don't want to drill down too deeply, but what we do is we save our clients money. And by saving them money, we're able then to reduce the cost of healthcare for the plan design and for the plan participants which is you and I, Janelle, the same.

And the medical necessities are going to occur at all times, so our company has grown. The cost of healthcare clients each year, and the cost of healthcare in the last ten years, has literally doubled, so we grow organically. And prior to creating PMCS I had created, like you had said, five other organizations all within the healthcare delivery programs. Therefore we do not underwrite healthcare, but we help in reducing the cost of healthcare for the plan design, the plan participants, and we assist medical providers in receiving their required accounts receivable on an accelerated basis.

Janelle: So you have founded all the companies that you've served as president and CEO for over the years?

Paul: Yes, I have. For some reason I believe I have an entrepreneur spirit. My concentration with the Post University MBA classes is with entrepreneurship as my concentration. And the reason why I selected entrepreneurship is because it involves having innovation, which is a concentration. You must have skill sets in accounting, HR, management.

I believe anyone that's a CEO that has a good ethical background would be considered a leader. And the courses that I've taken through university have really emphasized the ethical needs of a CEO, they have emphasized the leadership, they've emphasized organizational creativity, dynamics. Each of the professors that I've worked with have done an excellent job in, I guess you could say, managing the criteria.

And you asked what I had done before - PMCS, and really the best way to share with you is, I invent companies and I invent companies that fit into a market niche that gives us a competitive edge. And so that's why I really enjoyed taking the courses, Janelle, I think that's probably the best way to describe it.

Janelle: Why is entrepreneurship important to you, Paul?

Paul: Well, entrepreneurship is a multi-faceted concentration. Someone said, "Why should you have a dual MBA?" I believe MBA is a master's -- and picture that term -- the master's in business administration is a lovely term, but it's a master's in business. And business is not finance. Business is not accounting. Business is made up of multiple disciplines.

When you're a CEO -- and I apologize, I chuckle sometimes -- but when you're a CEO, you must have an excellent team. You have to have an outstanding CIO which stands for chief information officer. We have to have an excellent chief financial officer. We have to have a wonderful operations officer. We need a CMO, which is the chief marketing officer, and then you need someone to oversee those department heads, and that's what the chief executive officer's position is.

Some would say, "What about the president?" Yes, I'm the chief CEO and I am the president, but on some companies I'm strictly the CEO. And what that means is, take the vision that you have and share it with your entire team. That's very, very valuable.

There was a conversation with JFK, the President of the United States went down to the Kennedy Space Center and a gentleman was sweeping the floor in the hallways and the president approached him and said, "May I ask, what do you do here at the Space Center?" And he looked up at the President of the United States and said, "We send man to the moon." What do you mean you send man to the moon? The point was is that the theme resonated among even the man sweeping the floor. He did not say, Mr. President, I only sweep floors. He says we send man into space or man to the moon.

That's the way I like to create companies. Create a vision and get the entire team working on the mission so that when you're in our office, Janelle, and you would be in accounting and I ask what do you do at the firm, please don't start out by saying I just work in accounting. There's no such thing as just working in accounting. You work in accounting, you work as a team in order to reduce the cost of health care for Americans.

We have 34 million Americans that are using our system to reduce the cost of health care for them. And that's what I like to do is I like to pollinate ideas. And Lee Iacocca in his book, "Talking Straight," in 1988 said, "Find the best you can afford and get out of the way." And I believe in that. I believe that what you need to do is find the people that can really help you grow, and by me enrolling at Post I was able to use your education tools online 24/7.

Now, I stated once before, for the audience and for yourself, that I have four different companies that as CEO takes up a great deal of time. But I do not believe, Janelle, that we can exhaust our brain. You can become physically exhausted working manual work, you can become physically exhausted, you can have watched this TV show undercover Boss and it shows this lady working in an assembly line for 26 years and all she said, "Wouldn't it be nice if we had a big fan to cool us off?"

That's another family show I think some young -- I apologize if it's the wrong term -- but some young students, young kids that are going to college with us, I believe they need to look beyond the MBA experience. Some of them have said, boy, when I finish my MBA I'll be ready for anything. And that's not so. It really is not.

You really need a lot of time on the job to develop skills and to find mentors. I know I haven't given you much time to ask secondary questions, but when you get to the mentorship that MBA and Post has provided for us, it's over the top. I've spoken to Dr. Goldman about this, I've spoken to Dr. Mueller, I've spoken to Dr. Brown. I emphasized how valuable your mentorship is for the capstone program. So I'll pause and let you ask another question.

Why an Accomplished Entrepreneur Decided to Earn His MBA Degree Now

Janelle: Sure. Thanks, Paul. So then how does the MBA degree fit into this? And why now is really what I want to get at. Why now after four years of being a professional and having so much experience launching and running companies did you decide that now is the right time to earn your MBA?

Paul: I think there's a lot to do with -- it would be very personal. I could share some of it with you and that is, I have time and I believe I've always had the skill sets to have a higher education. And why now is because time has permitted me to do so.

When you raise four children and they no longer live in your household and you have some time in the evening or -- if I may share with you -- I travel over 100,000 miles by air each year. For the last five years I think I've exceeded 135,000 air miles traveling to our clients, visiting, having client dinners, having client appreciation, presenting our products of services to other companies, and then board the plane and fly another five hours from coast-to-coast.

So, Janelle, you can picture yourself sitting up in an airplane wondering what am I going to do for five hours and I'm personally not going to watch a movie. Therefore, what I did before joining Post is I studied languages. I learned to speak Spanish, I learned to speak Italian, I learned to speak Japanese. And I did that because of my colleagues that are from Argentina and from Italy and from Japan. And so therefore I decided to study languages and I enjoyed that. I've not traveled to those countries other than Mexico.

So what I can share with you is that after studying those languages I thought, "You know what? Maybe I should go ahead and try something else." What if we try going back to college? And I researched different schools. I don't have the luxury in my business career to sit on campus. I believe that campuses with class attendance is -- it's not a dinosaur, but it should be some of the past. Today companies can be virtual companies setting up offices within the residence, setting up offices at satellite places, have an executive in one state and have other executives in other states and communicate very effectively.

And of corporations who are spending hundreds of million dollars and generating hundreds of million dollars can do it online, why can we not have education online? I think it would be an honor to meet Dr. Goldman, Dr. Mueller, Dr. Brown and some of the other professors, Kenneth Wade. It would be an honor to meet them. But you know what? We've established a pretty good rapport over the telephone the same way as you and I have. We communicated maybe three times by email and now we're speaking today.

So I don't think there's a great deal of need for these big expensive campuses when I have achieved an MBA very effectively by dealing online, studying any time of the day I like, traveling in the air doing my assignments for each of the classes, reading the periodicals and the texts you're given. And then when I land, I go online and post my results.

Janelle: So why did you decide that Post University and their online MBA program was the right program for you?

Paul: I spoke to three different universities and one of the things that triggered it for me -- and I apologize, don't remember the young lady, she has moved up to another division -- but I dealt with a young man by the name of Keith Hudson in the student counseling department, and when you folks told me that as a military representative for the Marine Corps and any other branches were able to receive a 10 percent discount on our tuition, the financial cost of this was not a burden to me or to my family.

Then you also said, you know, Paul, as a military veteran you receive free textbooks. And that seemed to be quite a privilege. I can tell you that earning $137 a month in the Marine Corps didn't seem to be a great deal of money and, you know, therefore by getting something back from you folks seemed to be wonderful. I called others and they said, no, they did not offer it. And I thought that means that they don't have the culture to embrace what the military has done.

So maybe that's one of the triggering points that convinced me. Regardless of the financial reward of you waiving some of the cost, I'd like to share with you that just your staff and faculty have been outstanding. And therefore that confirms that I made the right decision and I would recommend Post to others.

Benefits of Post University's Approach to Online Education

Janelle: What do you like about Post's approach to online education? Because as you're talking, you were saying that these physical campuses, you don't see the need for them and that you can accomplish these educational objectives very well online. So what is it about Post's approach or the instructors or what combination, what qualities has cemented in your mind that this is and was the right program for you?

Paul: Well, that's a good point. I'd have to say structure. You know, when you run companies you need a great deal of structure. I don't mean browbeating. I mean formulating structure Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For whatever the company needs, you need to create a structure and Post has defined structure. The lead professor -- is it pronounced Mroz?

Janelle: Oh, Dr. Mroz.

Paul: Dr. Mroz? I have not spoken to the gentleman, but he probably has a great deal to do with the structure of this. The professors do not deviate from it. Some excel. When I spoke about Kenneth Wade and I spoke about Dr. Mueller, for me they excelled in the way they presented the syllabus, but just the keyword syllabus alone -- permitting you to look at what your class is all about, where's it's headed for an entire semester. Then they force themselves -- if I may use that term, they force themselves not to deviate from that, which helps me plan out my day.

I wish I could de-emphasize how much time I spend at the office, but I spend 70 hours a week working. And then I put in 20 hours -- between 12 and 20 hours a week at the Post. Capstone has required me to bump that up to about 36 hours. But that's just because I'm finishing the capstone. The key reason for using your system was the structure, the support of the faculty and staff, and the fact that they did not deviate from the curriculum that was presented.

I looked all the way down. I was considering taking three or four courses at a time until I realized how much writing would be required, how much extensive reading, and then looked back and said -- you know what? -- I still need my private time. So you permitted me to maintain time to play with the grandchildren, time to socialize with my wife and friends, have my social time, have my education, and still put in 60 and 70 hours a week at my corporations.

How Post University's Instructors Help Adult Learners Apply What They Learn in the Classroom to Their Careers

Janelle: Now, Paul, as someone with a great deal of business experience, would you say that the Post instructors curricula is on-target with helping adult learners hone their business skills and really use what they learn in the classroom in their jobs and careers?

Paul: I would say yes with an asterisk. And what I mean by that is, I believe some of them did not personalize the courses as much as they could have. Some gave us very current reading. You know, if you want to talk about Enron, we can. It's now become a historical. We could talk about current events. Dr. Mueller did a wonderful job on that. Dr. Goldman has permitted individuals in capsule to deviate from what they recommended.

Well, why did I take the MBA personally? I'd like to make a checkmark, Janelle, that I have an MBA. But I'm very enthused about the opportunity of having -- let me use the right word -- the privilege of earning an MBA. The fact is that there are certain things we need to do. We need to challenge ourselves, and Post is pushing the student to challenge themselves -- and I don't know if this interview provides for constructive criticism -- but I think sometimes they don't reinforce that the student did not challenge themselves.

I believe there are certain times that the University could say to the student, "You've missed what I was asking you. Your answer does not apply to the question." And I saw that a lot because we're not on campus at the water coolers talking. We have to only talk through postings. And so I saw a lot of the students, Janelle, they just don't even use the spell check that you've provided for them. How simple.

So if we take ourselves and raise ourselves to those standards, we will work very hard to make sure all of the information submitted on posting and all of the information submitted to the professors were at a higher standard, in my opinion. I'd like to see Post reinforce that. Just don't pass out grades. Make them work for it.

Janelle: Paul, do you have any thoughts on how Post could improve that aspect and increase those standards?

Paul: I do. Yes, I do. I was overwhelmed, though. Dr. Goldman asked us to put down some "aha" moments. I don't really like that advertisement on the TV -- aha -- but I'm catching on to what that means. And that means what -- just when did the light go off? And one was the online education. That was my first aha moment.

Number two was it's 24/7. Number three, you have qualified professors teaching the courses. And there's a few that I've mentioned on this call, whether it was Kenneth Wade or whether it was Dr. Mueller or Dr. Brown, do you know that they personalized what they do during the day in their career with the students? Others did not take those liberties and I believe that you've asked a very good question, What did I learn?

What I learned, Janelle, I share with my staff at my offices. What I learned I implemented if it had applicability to my daily activities at the corporation. So, therefore, yes, I applied them while I was learning them, but more importantly what if -- I sound a little arrogant and instead I just state it as a fact -- what if I didn't learn from certain courses? What I would tell you is that the courses you provided, some of them were 30 years of business, was that it validated what we're doing is correct.

You have a term called a SWOT analysis. It was in one of our courses, probably organizational studies. A SWOT analysis is describing your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities, and your threats. And it's really worth doing in a corporation. Do you know we were doing these in the mid 80s? And sometimes, Janelle, you would call it just pros and cons. Take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, put the pros on the right side, put the cons on the left.

Pros and cons are SWOT analysis. But we looked back at some of the documents that I've written for my firm, and in the mid 80s we were doing SWOT analysis and yet you're teaching them today. Which, I guess, if I'm answering this for you correctly, it validated what we're doing at our corporations are really pretty darn good. We're following good academic practices, applying them on a daily basis.

If you want to know what I gained, what I gained academically from you folks is something that resonates and confirms that what we've been doing in the office is -- in the corporations we built are correct. They're academically sound and they're proven to be good business models. That's the best way to summarize the point.

Benefits of Post University's Online MBA Degree Program

Janelle: What would you say is the biggest benefit of Post's online MBA program?

Paul: Until the mentorship, I think I've stated that maybe three or four times, and that is have an accessibility 24/7/365. Celebrate your own religious holidays, celebrate your own personal birthdays and anniversaries and go on vacation. But, my gosh, I was in Mexico for eight different weeks over the last 12 months -- maybe 16 weeks -- on business, some on pleasure, and I didn't miss the beat whatsoever. I went online, did my homework, submitted my assignments, and I'm in sunny Mexico.

I then went to Canada, I've been to Florida. I've traveled to 82 different cities in 2011. I traveled 135,000 miles to 82 different cities and I stayed online keeping pace with each of the assignments, speaking to the professors, doing the Webinars, sending in the assignments, and received a 95 or greater on my course. And that's really the best part of the whole program.

Janelle: Now, Paul, you mentioned earlier that you plan to get your doctorate after this. So tell us more about your next steps after earning your MBA.

Paul: When I complete this, the first opportunity to apply is after you give us our grades, which I understand doesn't come out until August, and that is a pretty quick window. But the first classes start in September at one university and start in October in the other. So they pre-qualified me with an MBA to go.

I was considering getting a doctorate in business in lieu of a PhD in business because PhDs, Janelle, are based on theories and a doctorate in business, which is a DBA, is based on practicality. It's actually using the tools you learn and you make it more of a functionality rather than a theory. Some will say, well, it sure seems like a shortcut. It's not a shortcut. It's going to be a great deal of work. It's going to take three and a half years instead of five. But I don't think that I would need a PhD because I do not see myself as a teacher.

I'm on five different boards, maybe six -- I apologize -- some I have to fly to attend. And being a board member was based on my 30 years of experience in healthcare. It's not a board member because I have an MBA or a doctorate. But I think what I've learned from you folks is how you've introduced me to higher education and I find it intriguing. I find it rewarding. I don't mean to diminish my time at Post, but I find it just as rewarding as running the 400 miles training for the marathon. And when you ask me how did I do, the answer is I finished. And that's what I'd like to say about Post.

This June I will have finished my MBA. I don't know what to say except that it's a personal achievement, it's been rewarding, and for the $20,000 or $25,000 it costs to achieve an MBA, I think more people should do so. And they should do it online so that you can spend time with your family. If you have grandchildren, spend time with your grandchildren, spend time with your holidays, with your colleagues, play around and golf and dedicate a couple of hours a day.

Janelle: Well, thank you, Paul for joining us today. Appreciate you sharing your story.

Paul: Well, I appreciate it very much as well and it's an honor that you've asked me.