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MBA Alum Helps Two Men Move From Homeless Shelter to Executive Suite

June 12, 2008
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Frank KellyExecutive presentations in the School’s Storer Auditorium aren’t known for having homeless people in the audience. Or even the formerly homeless, which was the case on June 12, 2008, when Frank Kelly (MBA ’03), a Johnson & Johnson executive who has been helping homeless men return to the work force, told his story.

Kelly spoke at a program held jointly by the School’s Ziff Graduate Career Services Center and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. In 2007, he won Esquire magazine’s Best Dressed Real Man in America contest, and he has used that win to spin off a sideline as a motivational speaker and career coach. June 12 wasn’t Kelly’s first appearance in Storer; last fall he gave a presentation at the incoming MBA class’s orientation, during which he shed his jacket and tie and danced to hip-hop music.

For Kelly, success is about more than making a good first impression; it’s about making a lasting impression. He calls it “unleashing your ACE®.” ACE is an acronym for Attitude, Communication skills and Exterior image. Kelly is so sure that his system will work for anyone, not just MBAs seeking business careers, that he took up the challenge of getting some homeless men back to work.

In 2007, Kelly joined with Miami’s Community Partnership for the Homeless and launched Project Vacant Streets. He selected two men — Matt Fischer and Eric Hall — who had recently become homeless. “Approximately 35 percent of the people in homeless shelters have no history of substance abuse, mental illness or incarceration,” says Kelly. “They have simply had the bad luck of losing their jobs when they had no financial safety net of savings, family or friends support them until they could find another job. That’s exactly what happened to Matt and Eric.”

Kelly worked with each of the men for 20 days, coaching them in how to best present themselves. He also persuaded Damiani, a local men’s clothing store, to donate suits for interviews. After job interviews were set up, Kelly also drove them to the locations but did not go inside. Each man had several interviews, and each was hired for executive positions — Fischer at the Doubletree Hotel downtown and Hall at the Survey Resource Center in North Miami. After telling their stories, Kelly revealed that both men were sitting in the audience, and they stood to surprised, and enthusiastic, applause from the rest of the attendees.

Kelly says that this success is just the beginning for Project Vacant Streets. In a “pay it forward” gesture, Fischer and Hall have each agreed to coach two homeless men in Kelly’s ACE techniques. Kelly also hopes to take the program national.

For more information on Project Vacant Streets and Kelly’s ACE system, visit www.frankkelly.net.

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