MBA student working on consulting project
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Tom Snee

University of Iowa M.B.A. students will provide consulting services this spring that help several businesses across Iowa to grow and become stronger.

The Tippie Business Solutions Center is a spring semester course required of all first-year students in the Tippie School of Management’s full-time M.B.A. program that offers those students an opportunity to gain experience by working with real-life clients on real-life business challenges.

“These are real projects with real clients solving real problems, so it gives our Tippie M.B.A. students on-the-job experience in a protected atmosphere that allows them to learn,” says Mark Winkler, the Business Solutions Center director and a former vice president of Bridgestone/Firestone operations in Muscatine and Des Moines.

The experience also helps businesses across the state address challenges and better position themselves for growth.

“These projects also serve as a valuable outreach program for the Tippie College of Business and the University of Iowa, as well as an economic development tool for the state,” Winkler says. “The center will provide an affordable resource of talented and energetic M.B.A. students and expert faculty to help Iowa businesses grow and prosper.”

The students will work with 10 clients this spring in teams of four to six. Seven of the clients are based in Iowa or have a significant presence in the state:

  • Hillphoenix, Keosaqua—The students will develop a better way of pricing the custom refrigerators produced at the company’s plant to improve profitability.
  • IGOR, Des Moines—The students will develop a go-to-market strategy for this startup that’s developed new technology and methods for controlling residential and commercial lighting using Wi-Fi that provides users significant energy savings and added security.
  • Pella Corp., Pella—The students will examine trends in the window and door industry and look for opportunities the venerable Iowa company might take advantage of for growth.
  • Polaris, Spirit Lake—The company has developed a new, more effective way of managing parts inventory for its motorcycle line and the students will look for ways to refine then implement the system in its other product lines.
  • Summit Equity Group, Des Moines—The students will assess the market for a proposed agribusiness investment fund.
  • University of Iowa Biomass Energy, Iowa City—The students will develop technical and operational requirements for a biomass energy supply and burning system, meeting UI’s sustainability goals for energy by 2020.

Winkler says the Business Solutions Center uses a consulting firm model so projects will be like any consulting project, with students defining the scope of services, estimating costs, and writing reports. The projects are also so they can be completed within the semester, requiring about 10 hours of work a week per student. Students will receive a grade and academic credit for the work as well as written feedback from the client reflecting their individual as well as team overall performance

The students will also work with four businesses located outside Iowa: TIAA-CREF of New York City; Strategic Health Solutions of Omaha, Nebraska; Textura software of Deerfield, Illinois; and Urban Teacher Residency United, a nonprofit organization that provides study services for those preparing to take the state-level teacher certification exam, based in New York.

Past clients have included both Iowa-based companies, such as ACT, CRST, The Principal, and Rockwell Collins, and national Fortune 500 companies based outside the state, such as Deere and Co., US Bank, Best Buy, and GE Healthcare.