Turning MBA Students into Business Consultants
Tippie’s Business Solutions Center (BSC) Closes 11 Strategic Business Consulting Projects
by Shannon Juergens, Associate Director, Business Solutions Center
Tippie MBA student consultants faced down the spring semester with a singular goal: helping their client to overcome a specific business challenge. A few months later, as the Business Solutions Center (BSC) wrapped up 11 strategic business consulting projects, our students-turned-consultants reflected on the obstacles, successes, and unexpected twists they encountered - in short, they learned firsthand about the inevitabilities that make up any consulting engagement.
Spring 2012 projects ranged across several industries, as Tippie MBAs worked with companies like GE Healthcare, Fortune Brands Home & Security, Best Buy, Pearson, STIHL, Deere, and SourceMedia, to name a few. Over the course of 16 weeks, cross-functional teams of MBA students worked over 800 hours with business executives to solve real-world business problems. The student consultants had exposure to and worked closely with all levels of the organization, including the CFO of GE Healthcare USA, among other senior leaders.
This spring’s projects varied widely in scope, spanning from large-scale data analysis for Allsteel to business model expansion for Actuant. The slate of projects included market entry and expansion strategies for a number of other clients as well.
From the start, projects were executed just as any professional consulting engagement would be. Tippie MBAs were treated as consultant partners - rather than students - by our client partners. Tippie MBA student-consultants conducted themselves as on-the-job professionals with all parties, including clients, BSC directors, colleagues, and supervisors. They learned how business works, participated in actual business decisions, and experienced the impact of their decisions alongside the client.
As is the goal of every strategic business consulting project, the end result was twofold: a robust solution for the client, of course, but for students, they were able to apply classroom theories to a real-world setting. Their MBA education was grounded in reality and at the same time, each student consultant gained valuable experience that helped them to become a more marketable MBA hire.
We’ve spotlighted one of our spring projects below, so read on to hear how the BSC helped STIHL tackle the challenge of lithium-ion powered tools. You can also see more project spotlights and learn more about strategic business consulting through the University of Iowa's Business Solutions Center on the BSC website.
Project Spotlight: STIHL - Strategic Product Market Analysis
STIHL Inc. manufactures the number one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment in America for homeowners and professional landscapers, as well as the number one selling brand of chain saws in the world. STIHL products include blowers, trimmers, brush cutters, hedge trimmers, augers and mini tillers, and are sold through servicing power equipment retailers from coast to coast - not mass merchants. STIHL now also boasts a line of 36 volt lithium-ion battery powered hand tools (lithium-ion is the same type of battery that’s in your cellphone; it’s rechargeable and lightweight). The line includes a hedge trimmer, handheld blower, string trimmer, and a chain saw. The STIHL Li-Ion batteries are interchangeable, so each battery can work in each of the products. STIHL battery powered tools offer users an innovative option in environmentally responsible outdoor power equipment with low noise, no exhaust emissions, and unrestricted freedom of movement. Stihl even provided sample equipment to experiment with while working on the project. Gives new meaning to the term "hands-on learning"! Learn more about Stihl at www.stihlusa.com.
The Tippie Team performed a market analysis for STIHL’s lithium-ion powered products, and assessed the best way for STIHL to bring the Lithium Ion products to market. To help the team get a “grip” on their project, the STIHL team provided samples for the team to test out first-hand while working on the project!
Thank You to Our Spring 2012 Clients
The lessons learned as consultants in the BSC are invaluable to Tippie MBAs, and we would like to thank all of this year's clients for providing our students with this excellent learning opportunity.