Business Solutions Center

Spring 2011 Newsletter

BSC Kick-off EventThe Tippie MBA Business Solutions Center launched 12 strategic business consulting projects in January after an outstanding kick-off event last December! This year's companies vary across a number of industries, and include Zurich, Patterson Medical, and Allsteel. MBA consultant teams are geared up to solve their business challenges through highly analytical and cross-functional strategic business consulting. Take a look at our current client list for 2011 and learn more about this issue's project spotlight on Best Buy, featuring insight from students and alumni.

Spring 2011 Clients

Spring 2011 Client Logos

Project Spotlight: Best Buy - Alternative Business Models

MBA Consultants with Best Buy ClientsSince 1966, Best Buy's business model has been based on velocity, selling boxes, and attaching "value-adds" to the purchase. These items typically carry a higher price tag but lower margins, while the add-ons are the real source of margin. With an eye toward the future, Best Buy tasked a team of Tippie students with identifying alternative business models and determining how Best Buy might take advantage of those opportunities.

Scope of Work – The consumer electronics industry changes more each day, with competition on both the ground and the web becoming stronger than ever. An evolving business model is the key to staying competitive, and Best Buy executive had the foresight to recognize this. The Tippie team set to work brainstorming and analyzing possible alternative business models for Best Buy.

Best Buy StoreOutcome – The team brainstormed a number of business model alternatives. After receiving feedback from Best Buy business partners, the team narrowed its focus to 10 ideas and performed high level research on several population segments. The data allowed the ideas to be further focused to two, which the team pursued with detailed analysis. Findings were presented to Best Buy management at corporate headquarters in Minneapolis where the Best Buy team considered each for further research and potential implementation.

View more examples of BSC projects

Perspectives: MBA Student Consultants

Meggie SchuelkeReal World: "My BSC project was a great learning experience. Our project was a real business problem and we were treated like consultants, not students. I was fortunate enough to be on an exceptional cross-functional team of my fellow classmates. We challenged each other, produced great work and gave a solid recommendation to our client, Best Buy. This is really the best way to practice and solidify what you learn in the classroom."

Meggie Schuelke, Tippie MBA 2011

Vinod RamachandranImpact: "The Strategic Business Consulting course was one of the differentiating factors for me in deciding among MBA programs, and it proved to be an invaluable experience. Academically, the project provided hands-on experience interacting with clients and understanding their business model in a way that classroom instruction alone cannot provide. Professionally, it offered real-world experience in maintaining a high standard of work ethic and excellence, even amongst diverse teams. This project was very similar to work we will be doing as MBAs upon graduation. More than anything else, this course made me more confident that I will be able to make an impact in the world of business with my MBA."

Vinod Ramachandran, Tippie MBA 2011

Perspectives: A Tippie Alum on Her Consulting Experience

by Mindy Billingsley, Customer Insights Manager, Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions

Mindy BillingsleyI am grateful for the experience I had with the Business Solutions Center. My goal coming to the MBA program was to assimilate as many professional experiences as I could in a two year period. My semester working with John Deere as part of the BSC was among the most impactful of these experiences, rivaling my internship over the summer. It was not only an opportunity to share our team's talents in a way that was meaningful for our client, but also to immerse ourselves in Deere's culture and business model.

I am currently a Customer Insights Manager for Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions. In this role, I have the opportunity to develop and deploy a comprehensive strategy for harvesting customer feedback and converting it into market-driven product development opportunities. My role allows me to meet with customers in the field, listen to their needs, and advocate for them in the early stages of the product development cycle.

My experience in the BSC helped me practice and understand how to build team cohesiveness, and provided a disciplined framework for executing the critical path of a project. While the type of work I do tends to be more creative than my BSC project, my work productivity benefits from a structured framework such as the one used in the BSC.

My advice to future Tippie MBAs: Never underestimate the importance of team dynamics and managing it effectively. Realize the importance of the first meeting and then strategically exceeding the expectations of the client organization. While as a team you may be very excited to provide the client with as many "cool ideas" you can generate, you must not let it distract you from your core purpose. Adherence to the project scope is paramount, and satisfying the goals of the client organization fully is the first priority. Once these goals have been satisfied, you must strategically decide where you will go beyond their expectations in your proposal.

About the Business Solutions Center

Rich BoulgerStrategic Business Consulting at the University of Iowa’s Business Solutions Center (BSC) is a unique consultancy experience among Tippie Full-time MBA students and leading companies around the country. Cross-functional teams of MBA students work with business professionals on real-world business problems under the guidance of Rich Boulger and Shannon Juergens, directors of the BSC.

Companies are assigned 4 to 7 MBA students with diverse backgrounds in finance, marketing, technology, strategy, and innovation to work remotely on highly analytical projects defined by the company over a 17-week period. Weekly status meetings are held throughout with the client, MBA team, and directors in addition to formal midpoint and final presentations.

The BSC provides companies with access to state of the art analytical talent at a very low price and allows them to "test drive" a group of students prior to internship or employment decisions. In addition, students are able to apply theories to real-world settings which grounds education in reality, where real learning can happen.