Joseph Helmy: A Student with Three Businesses
Helmy is a 22 year old School of Management student who takes a full load of classes. And even though he helps run three businesses, he maintains a 3.72 grade-point average in his major – business management. You’d think that after he graduates in May, he’d focus his energy on the three businesses. But 10 days after he graduates from NJIT, Helmy is headed to South Bend, Indiana. He’ll pursue an MBA at Notre Dame. It’s an accelerated one-year MBA program that accepts only top management students.
While he’s away, he’ll entrust the running of the three companies to his partners, with whom he has especially close relationships. Perhaps that’s because one partner is his older brother, and the other is his father. The three businesses are owned jointly by the three Helmys.
In the below interview, Helmy talks about his family businesses, his studies at NJIT, his plans for Notre Dame and how he has manages to be so enterprising at such a young age.
Can you describe your three businesses?
My dad started our first business, GJT Trucking, the chemical trucking company. It’s a medium-sized trucking company that transports chemical waxes used in industrial paints. My brother and I help him with the business. Next, we opened two UPS retail stores; one in Cedar Grove and another in Livingston. UPS stores are franchises, dealing mostly with office supplies, faxing and copying as well as, of course, shipping and packaging. I’ve been strongly involved in the opening and managing of the two stores. Our the third business, GJT Properties, is a real estate firm in Cedar Grove that deals mostly with renting, buying and selling of commercial properties. I was instrumental in starting this business.
What’s your title and main job? And what about your brother and father?
I’m a managing partner for all three firms, and as such I deal mostly with operations, research and future business growth. My brother is also a managing partner. We have an umbrella company, GJT Inc., and my father is the CEO. He was born and grew up in Egypt, where he received a master’s degree in chemical engineering. That explains his interest in the chemical trucking company. But he’s also a great businessman. He’s from a traditional culture – Egypt – and he is well-mannered, honest and warm-hearted and is always eager to help our customers, who respect and like him for that. He didn’t study business management. He just has a natural capacity for business. My brother and I learn from him.
Are you getting a good business education at the School of Management?
Every class I’ve taken I’ve loved. The professors are excellent and the classes are great. The school has also given me credit for running the businesses and for doing an internship. It’s a great school and a great major. Many of the professors come straight from the business world, so their classes relate directly relate to how business functions. They are not teaching theory out of textbooks. The school also has a great adviser, Mary Kate Naatus, who ably guides the students through their classes and their requirements.
What have been your favorite management classes?
I have a concentration in marketing and I’ve taken great marketing classes with Professor Nathan Himelstein. He has a marketing background and that knowledge informs all of his classes. One class, called Models of Consumer Behavior, gave us an overview of how to understand a culture and divide it into demographic groups and then how to market to those groups. I took a terrific class called Business Ethics, where we studied case studies of businesses that lapsed into unethical practices. And for my senior Capstone class, I’m analyzing a business and examining its strengths and weaknesses. The business I’m analyzing is UPS, in Parsippany. I’ve met with UPS managers and its financial officers. I’ve visited its sorting plant, which is amazingly automated and high tech. My final class presentation will include an in depth study of UPS, similar to a report that a management consultant would produce. It’s a great experience for a student.
You switched your major from mechanical engineering to business management: Why?
All students here are required to take one introductory business management class. I was lucky because the intro class I took was taught by Professor Himelstein. I was captivated from day one. I sat there saying to myself, ‘I love management.’ So I switched my major to management and ever since have been happy. I love all aspects of management -- marketing, accounting, finance or coming up with ideas for new businesses. I can talk for hours about my major.
Did you also have an internship?
I did a marketing internship at Nolej Studios in Manhattan, a web design firm. It was unpaid, but I learned so much about how web marketing works and what it is like to establish rapport with clients. The owners gave me a lot of responsibility and I was able to apply what I learned there in all of my management classes. In my businesses, I’m an owner and a partner, not a worker, and I wanted to see what it’s like to work for someone else. I loved the internship and it motivated me to learn more about marketing and websites and business.
How do you balance work and school?
That’s why they made 2 o’ clock in the morning – I stay up late many nights. But really it’s about time management and being able to balance responsibilities. My parents were born in Egypt and we’re first generation Americans. We like to get up and do things and we work together. In our eyes, we are living the American Dream. We want to be here and we want to succeed. My parents always told me to do what will make me happy; to do whatever I do with excellence – to give it my all. Business management makes me very happy, so it’s easy for me to give it my all.
Why did you pick Notre Dame and what do you plan to do there?
Notre Dame is a highly-ranked university, and the one-year MBA program only takes undergraduates who have a sound background in business management. And thanks to the School of Management, I have such a background. I’m also interested in working in sports management and Notre Dame has a strong alumni network in that field.
What are your plans after you finish at Notre Dame?
As I mentioned, I’d like to work in sports management, either as an agent, a team manager, a recruiter or a marketing expert for a professional team. I love sports -- I played football in high school -- and I love business, so I hope to combine the two. And I’ll always be involved in my family’s three businesses at some level. Juggling it all is just a function of time management, and thankfully I’ve learned that at NJIT.
(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)