The Magician Who Became An MBA

When young Molton worked in the magic shop in New York, he would zip in from his home just across the New Jersey border. But the shop, says Molton, was an unappealing flourescent-lit space where staff functioned essentially as cashiers. Yet it remained an enterprise with a strong niche market. He worked an internship there one summer while he was studying journalism and history at Northeastern University in Boston. After finishing college with a BA in journalism and a 3.4 GPA, he found Louis Tannen had changed hands. Molton met with the owner and “pretty much gave him a list of 50 different ideas” for improving the business.

PANDORA’S BOX OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

At the top of the list were strategies for improving customer experience, Molton says. “Walking into a magic shop should be a lot like a magic trick . . . like you’re opening Pandora’s Box and you have no idea what’s going to come out.”

Staff, he suggested to the owner, should be trained to demonstrate magic tricks for customers, and show them videos, instead of just answering basic questions and ringing up sales. “You have to share magic with (patrons),” he told his boss. “You have to really engage with them.”

The owner offered him a job as sales manager, the shop’s first full-time hire in more than a decade. Molton backpacked around Europe for a month then started at Louis Tannen. Three months later, the owner made him general manager. From 2010 to 2013, Molton boosted the company’s annual revenue by 100 per cent, he says.

Molton has continued to refine his craft. He’s performed for actors Michael Douglas and Seth McFarland, Hollywood producer and director J.J. Abrams – an amateur magician himself – and while working at Louis Tannen marketed the shop by introducing legendary magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller in a Major League Baseball spot. In September, multinational pharmaceutical company Grifols hired him to entertain visitors at their booth in a trade show in Washington, D.C. Molton has continued to work for a week each summer as a magician counselor at Louis Tannen’s Magic Camp at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.

First stop Magic Camp, second stop Amazon - tannensmagiccamp.com

First stop Magic Camp, next stop Amazon – tannensmagiccamp.com

And now, he stars in a video shot at Kenan-Flagler by his MBA candidate peer Marcelo Marcos, an accounting and finance specialist from Mexico with a background in adventure sports photography and videography.

In the seven-minute video, Molton strolls through campus performing tricks for random people he and Marcos come across. With a dollar-bill transformation trick, Molton befuddles and amuses two men working at a coffee shop. Admissions and help desk staff gawp at his rubber-band tricks. Fellow MBA students watch in amazement as Molton makes coffee disappear from a cup.

“That’s a commercialized effect – you could find that at Tannen’s,” Molton says of the latter trick. “It takes a lot of practice.”

Molton made sure to scrutinize Marcos’ video clips to make sure the camera hadn’t caught any sleight of hand, Marcos says.

Kenan-Flagler MBA candidate and videographer Marcelo Marcos

Kenan-Flagler MBA candidate and videographer Marcelo Marcos

“There’s a point where Jared mentioned, ‘Don’t use this shot because you kind of see what’s happening,” Marcos says.