Duke MBA Students Offer Consulting Services to Area Businesses
July 17, 2001
Durham, N.C. - Students at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business want to help small businesses in the Research Triangle area by offering their skills to develop better business practices for companies.
Through the Fuqua Small Business Consulting Program, MBA students volunteer their time to help small companies solve business issues. The focus of the program is to aid small businesses that cannot afford to pay professional consulting fees.
To be considered for the program prospective clients must meet the following criteria:
· Have been in business one year or more
· Location within easy driving distance of Duke (one hour maximum)
· Revenues exceeding $100,000 for the past business year
· Willingness of management to provide financial and operational data to the student consultants
· And a $200 administrative fee for companies accepted into the program
Fuqua students have served the local business community for 20 years. Past activities have included: computerizing accounting systems, analyzing cash flow, studying management problems, inventory control, operations, performing market surveys, developing marketing strategies, information technology, manufacturing, and analyzing issues pertaining to human resources.
Central Pharmacy, a local family owned pharmacy in Durham received consulting help from Fuqua's MBA students pursuing careers in the Health Sector Management field. The pharmacy learned that not only did the students provide academic skills but their practical work experience was also a great advantage. "It's always nice to have fresh and objective opinion on how your business is running," said Bill Burch, owner and pharmacist of Central Pharmacy. "We enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Health Sector Management students. They provided us with new ideas and strategies for doing business, some of which have already been implemented into our pharmacy."
Some of the former clients that have participated in the program are Central Pharmacy, BioResources International, MarkeTech Systems International and Bespak, Inc. About
20 % of the clients in the program are non-profit organization. In some cases the administrative fee for these organization is waived.
"Students are eager to apply what they have learned in courses to real-world situations,"
said William A. Sax, director of the program and executive-in-residence at Fuqua. "Companies benefit from the practical advice they receive from our students, who average five or more years' business experience before entering the Duke graduate MBA programs.
Jim Burson, senior vice president of MarkeTech Systems International, a Raleigh based company that offers strategy consulting, found working with the MBA students in the Fuqua Small Business Consulting Program a great asset to their company's development. "Working with the Fuqua students proved extremely worthwhile. Over the course of the project, we received sound analysis and good advice without the cost or hype associated with some consulting engagements. The depth and quality of work was as good as any we have received in the past."
Sax, who worked in the oil industry for more than 30 years, begins his 15th year of teaching at Fuqua this fall. He has helped more than 200 local companies though this program.
Sax and students select those clients that best match the experiences, interests and abilities of the consulting teams that include four or five students per team. Once selected, business owners meet with their student team to outline the problems to be addressed.
Students begin the consulting project in late September by meeting with the client and hold an additional four to six meetings with the client during the school year. According to Sax, "An extremely important part of the success of the program is for clients to be available for regular discussion with the students and to have a candid exchange of ideas. It is also critical that the students have access to the financial data of the company. Without knowledge of the company's financial information, "it's like trying to decorate a house in the dark."
Sax regularly reviews the students' progress until they successfully complete the project with a formal oral and written presentation. All contacts and information are kept confidential.
Sax is scheduling consulting projects for the fall term. Interested persons should complete an application form, which can be obtained by calling Beverly James at (919) 660-7789 or by writing to William Sax at The Fuqua School of Business, Box 90120, Duke University, Durham, NC 2708-0120 or via e/mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The application deadline is August 16.