MBA students helping companies take their business to the next level

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MBA Team Consulting program utilizes what’s been learned in the classroom to real-world business challenges

When Dan Hogan needed some expert help to assist him in coming up with a plan to expand his security door business, he could have hired any of the big names in consulting – McKinsey, Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Instead, he went with a group of MBA students from Rutgers Business School. And the president of Hogan Security Group in Pennington is glad he did.

“I thought it was fantastic. They did a great job,” Hogan said. “They opened my eyes to things I never considered in the past.”

After spending some time reviewing the information he received from the MBA students and blending it with his own thoughts and ideas, Hogan closed on a significant loan from the bank. The loan will help him expand over the next three years from seven full-time and two part-time employees to 24 workers.

“There’s some great opportunities out there we’re positioned to take advantage of,” Hogan said. “I believe the focused, professional approach presented to me helped me to modify my plan and move it to the next level sooner than had I done it all by myself.”

For nearly 40 years, Rutgers MBA students have been opening eyes of businesses from non-profits to the likes of AT&T and Merck through a program called MBA Team Consulting. Companies that need a marketing plan or a strategy to obtain funding are teamed with a group of motivated graduate students who spend 15 weeks working on solutions.

Hogan Security Group is one of the 20 to 30 businesses that partner with Rutgers Business School each year as part of the MBA Team Consulting program.

It has taken on new relevance as firms big and small try to do more with less as they emerge from what has been dubbed the “Great Recession.” Although companies are charged a nominal fee that goes to the business school, the students are not paid.

“They (businesses) are getting 700 hours, whether it’s free labor or free ideas,” said Susan Gilbert, executive director of MBA programs at Rutgers Business School. “How many companies can just go out and hire five MBAs to work on a problem? It’s an awful lot of talent they’re getting.”

The consulting program takes on between 20 and 30 business clients a year. Teams of five or six MBA students are assigned to each company and because it is also a required course in the curriculum, they complete projects by the end of the semester.

This year, Gilbert added a faculty adviser or subject matter expert to each team to help guide them and keep them on track. The students typically deal with board members or high-level executives from client firms during the consulting period.

“What is really unique about this experience is that students are tackling problems they will not likely face in their own careers for another five or 10 years, after a promotion or two,” Gilbert said.

In the case of Hogan Security Group, Dan Hogan was looking for some fresh insights on his continually evolving business plan and for ways to map out a significant expansion made possible by new regulatory requirements for fire doors.

“I wanted to get a different perspective on my business plan from people in the MBA community, from different disciplines within industry,” he said. “You kind of get tunnel vision when you’re doing a business plan on your own all the time.”

Enter Ryan Crelin, Jay Ghoshal, Laura Colicchio, Kamran Hashmi, Gennadiy Barskiy, Raja Haddadin and Huanwei Zhao. Last spring, the group began meeting with Hogan to review his business challenges and start working on ideas. They took it very seriously.

“The main thing that was on my mind all the time was this was the real deal,” said Ghoshal, 41, who graduated last May and now works in IT at Verizon Wireless. “This gentleman was paying the school money, he has to get something in return that’s beyond what he could do himself.”

The students researched the expansion opportunities for Hogan Security Group, along with the personnel and financial requirements that coincided with such an expansion. Ghoshal focused on marketing issues, while Crelin worked on the financial side of things.

“When you have to present to someone other than the teacher, you have a sense of a bit more responsibility,” said Crelin, 25, who works full time handling the finances of ECHL, a double-A minor league hockey league and is set to obtain his MBA this May.

In the end, the team presented Hogan with an enormous amount of information, including complex spread sheets that allow the entrepreneur to run “what if” scenarios using different figures and assumptions.

Ghoshal, who already had 15 years of IT consulting work on his resume before getting his MBA, said the experience showed him what he’s capable of doing.

“I felt after this I was ready, I can do it,” said Ghoshal, a Hillsborough resident. “The confidence I got was really great.”

Gilbert noted the program teaches students to deal with satisfying multiple stakeholders – from the course professor to the company. Crelin, who spent extra time with Hogan outside of class working on the company’s financials, said he gained valuable knowledge about how to work with a client.

“It was certainly a worthwhile experience,” said Crelin who calls Middletown home. “It’s a business relationship I still keep.”

MBA Team Consulting Testimonials

- Greg Saitz

TAGS: Current Students MBA MBA Team Consulting Partnerships