Archive for the 'Business' Category

5 MBA Consulting Project Success Tips

Last week, I mentioned my interest in CSUF’s MBA capstone course.  I’ve been looking forward to the course since I attended the MBA information session.  The capstone course (taken in one’s final semester) centers around a student consultant project.  Local Orange County businesses hire students through CSUF as business consultants, who then help tackle problems and develop new strategies for these companies.  Since I work in the public sector, I feel the capstone would provide an excellent opportunity to practice all my newly acquired MBA skills.  Luckily for me, I get to experience the consulting project ahead of schedule; each of my courses this semester requires one.

(Courtesy of Flickr)

I have been assigned to groups in each class and know which clients the groups will be working for.  This past Saturday, my Marketing Management group met with our client and needless to say I thought it was an overwhelming experience.  We met for 3 hours, learning about our client’s challenges.  In particular, the company has numerous marketing channels they use to communicate with their customers.  They want us to determine which of these channels most effectively attract customers, and then develop a marketing plan to entice more customers to their business.

It was particularly overwhelming learning as much information as we could about the client.  We absorbed details about their operations, toured their site, met with staff, and discussed their vision for our project.  After going through that initial meeting, I walked away with 5 tips that will be valuable for future consulting projects.

Get everyone’s phone number.  And email and any additional contact information.  This probably seems obvious, and it should be the first thing a project group leader does after the group is created.  But having everyone’s contact information is immensely helpful for staying in communication with everyone.  As the group leader for this consulting project, I made sure to ask for everyone’s current work situation and their undergraduate and MBA degree specializations.  My hope is those pieces of information will help us down the road when dividing up responsibilities and coordinating meeting times.

Share documents in the cloud.  Immediately after forming our group, I created a group Google account and distributed the log-in information to everyone.  I’ve used Google Drive in the past, and it’s been amazingly helpful for coordinating project edits and sharing documents.  I upload important information there, and it helps us cut down on lengthy email chains that can grow to ridiculous lengths.  Dropbox is another great tool groups can use to help manage their numerous project documents.

Set up meeting schedules.  In my 10-person group, more than half the participants work full-time.  That makes meeting scheduling a challenging task.  Group leaders should find a time soon after forming the group to decide when everyone can meet, and whether it’s easier to meet in-person or online.  Services like Skype make meeting over the internet free and simple.  Our group is planning on meeting for 30-45 minutes before each weekly class session, in order to touch base and find out how each member is doing with their assigned responsibilities.

Remember you ABC’s.  In this case, ABC stands for “Always Be Communicating.”  I made sure to start calling our client immediately after forming the group, and I contacted our assigned coach as well to begin brainstorming with him.  Communicating early and often helps with scheduling that initial meeting, and my talks with our coach help me think through the next steps I need to take as project leader.

Check out other groups’ projects.  Mihaylo’s Center for Entrepreneurship allows consulting students to visit its office and look through previous projects.  I visited the office this past Monday, and was able to get a better feel for exactly what will be expected for our final presentation.  I recommended our group members visit the Center and check out the samples as well.  Hopefully that will help get everyone on the same page when we meet to discuss the project in the future, and each member will better understand what’s expected of him or her for our final product.

I know these tips will be immensely helpful in my other course this semester, and our group has already started implementing these strategies for that project.  I know I will continue to refine these tips as our groups progress with the projects, and I will share additional insights and developments as the semester marches on.

Have you participated in a similar MBA client project?  What tips or strategies did you find most useful when working on your project?  Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or tweet me @orangecountymba.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Doing Consulting Work While Earning My MBA

I’m two weeks into my third CSUF MBA semester, and this one is shaping up to be my most exciting and challenging yet.  The most exciting thing about this semester is that my classes are heavily exposing me to the business practices, techniques and tools I enrolled in the MBA program to learn.  And best of all, the courses will force me to apply my classroom education to actual business problems (which is something I’ve been looking forward too since before I enrolled).

I’ll be describing my courses in more detail throughout the semester, so this article will provide a brief overview of my first 2 weeks.  Based on the assignments I’ll be doing you can expect quite a bit of detail regarding the student consulting projects, so keep an eye out for those future posts.

Here a few initial thoughts about MGMT 540 – New Venture Leadership and Management:

  • The professor, Barbara Samara, has a lot of experience working in the private sector.  She worked for many years with IBM, and in certain capacities that had a very entrepreneurial flavor.  The coaches we are assigned for our consulting project (which I’ll talk about later) have extensive entrepreneurship backgrounds as well, and several of my classmates have started or managed their own businesses.  All this exposure to entrepreneurship will be great for learning the trials and tribulations of running one’s own business, and might even inspire me to start my own company!
  • In addition to the consulting projects, our assignments include case studies (which I’ve found are one of my favorite MBA classroom tools).  I love the spirited debates the students engage in, and it feels great to present a well-reasoned, astute point to the entire class.  These case studies will focus on leadership and entrepreneurship, which will differ from last semester’s focus on management and IT challenges.
  • Professor Samara recommends we watch Shark Tank each Friday night, which is perfect for me because I already make that my one show for regular weekly viewing.

Here are a few thoughts about my other course, MKTG 519 – Marketing Management:

  • Professor Kovacev has an interesting background.  He has a physics degree and worked in the defense industry most of his life.  He’s also been teaching for several decades, and has lots of experience preparing undergraduate and MBA students for careers in business.
  • I was nominated by the professor to be our consulting project team leader (I think it might have something to do with being the tallest member of our group; I stand out among everyone).  I don’t have any professional management experience, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of coordinating our project objectives with 9 other people and ensuring we complete a fantastic consulting assignment for our client.

Which brings me to the consulting projects.  I have one in each class, and I’m starting to realize how intense the assignments will be.  Orange County businesses can hire CSUF students as consultants to help them solve business problems they’re facing or explore new business opportunities.  Each project will take the whole semester to complete, and requires the groups to develop solutions they can pitch to their client at the end of the course.  The professors have stated some prior groups have done so well that they’ve received job offers from clients after completing the projects.  I’ve been selected as the leader for the MKTG 519 project, and we haven’t yet formed groups in MGMT 540.  No matter what happens though, I’m very excited to begin working on these consulting projects.  I’ve looked forward to putting my skills into practice ever since attending my initial CSUF MBA information session, and want to prove that I’m ready to start making a contribution to the world of private business.

So I’m definitely excited about this new semester, and a little nervous too about how challenging the workload will likely be.  But, the challenge will be good for me, and I will get exposure to ideas, tools, and strategies I don’t normally get to see while working my 9-5 job.  I know things will work out, but these next 16 weeks will probably be some of the longest and busiest of my life!  I’ll be keeping you informed on my progress throughout this crazy semester, and you’ll hopefully get an accurate first-hand account of CSUF’s MBA program.

Have you started MBA classes for the new fall semester?  How do you feel about them?  Or maybe you’re still considering whether to pursue an MBA?  What do you hope to learn by earning your degree?  Share your thoughts either in the comments section below or tweet me @orangecountymba.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

3 Ways Reading Creates Effective Business Leaders

It’s that time of the year again: the air’s getting cooler, the nights are getting longer, and eager MBA students are starting another semester of business school.  And each new semester brings with it lots of MBA-related reading.  It can be easy to think that all that reading is tedious (for me, it takes away from watching football), but reading is an important part of MBA students’ development into future business leaders.  Don’t believe me?  Well I’ve got a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article by my side for support.

John Coleman recently published “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read” on HBR.  For all its potential benefits, the article doesn’t paint a rosy picture about the current state of reading.  Coleman writes that despite nearly 84% global literacy, people are reading (what he calls) “less deeply”.  The average person’s daily reading might only consist of a few magazine or internet articles.  In fact, less than half of the U.S. adult American population reads deep, challenging literature.

Ok, that may seem slightly alarming to some people, but in the grand scheme of things why does this matter?  We have greater access to information than at any other time in human history.  Plus, people are busy; they don’t have time to read like they used to.  Surely this lack of reading can’t be all that bad.  We can find whatever we need on the internet and we’re filling that time we’d normally spend reading doing other activities, right?

According to Coleman, reading less (both in quantity and in quality) is something we should definitely worry about.  And MBA students in particular need to take note.  Coleman states that reading deeply about a variety of topics can help aspiring businessmen and women develop into tomorrow’s business leaders: “Deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and [that reading] can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.”  Just look at Steve Jobs, one of this past decade’s greatest innovators.  He loved the English poet William Blake’s work, despite it having nothing directly to do with Apple or iphones.

Deep, broad reading can be a magical experience.  Not hocus-pocus magic, but magical in the sense that it can positively affect MBA students’ development into business leaders.  But how, you might be asking, can reading possibly help make someone an effective business leader?  Well I’m glad you asked; here are three rewards MBA students can reap through broad, challenging reading:

1.      Emotional Intelligence.  Reading a variety of authors about a variety of human experiences can help improve aspiring leaders’ empathy.  This characteristic is especially important when managing employees.  Effective managers must understand their employees’ motivations, needs, dreams, and challenges.  And they must understand how to employ those factors in ways that motivate and inspire their employees.  That can only come about through well-developed emotional intelligence and empathy for other people.

2.      Problem Solving.  Reading helps solve complex problems.  In today’s world, more and more parts of our lives are interconnected.  Business problems grow larger and more complex as more data gets recorded and the world continues to shrink.  For that reason, MBA students need to possess knowledge on a variety of people, places, subjects and ideas in order to develop effective solutions for challenging, global business problems.

3.      Networking.  This may sound strange, but broad reading can help with business networking, too.  Being well-read allows you to engage others in a variety of conversations about a variety of topics and make genuine contributions to those conversations.  It gives you small talk ammunition, and it even provides gift ideas you can get for business clients and partners.

These are only a few ways reading helps MBA students develop into effective leaders.  My second year in CSUF Mihaylo’s MBA program starts on Monday, and I know I’ll have lots of reading to do.  But I’ll continue to try and supplement my business reading with broad reading on other topics, in order to help myself develop into the best possible business leader I can be.

Need some inspiration for broad reading material?  Check out one of my favorite non-business books below:

What are your favorite non-business books?  Share your favorites in the comments section below or on Twitter @OrangeCountyMBA.  I’m always looking to add more reading material to my bookshelf!