Washington State University, Carson College of Business
Category: Engagement With Business
Location: Pullman, Washington, United States
Accreditation Status: Accredited
Innovation Title: Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program (MAP):
Through the Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program (MAP), the Carson College of Business (CCB) provides actionable growth plans for small businesses and experiential learning opportunities for students through a student consultancy and a monthly forum, contributing to regional economic growth.
Call to Action
Two factors motivated the Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program (MAP) launch:
The need to support small business growth: Small business creation was growing and the region did not have the resources to provide owners the action-oriented advice needed.
Provide challenging experiential learning outcomes for students: Many CCB Vancouver students are first-generation college students, working while attending school. They juggle complicated schedules but are ambitious, seeking to develop their professional, technical, and networking skills.
CCB Vancouver faculty have a long history of creating experiential learning opportunities. In 2011, CCB seized the opportunity to have a bigger impact on economic development by creating the Business Growth MAP student consultancy, providing students curriculum-based experiences while giving small businesses actionable growth plans.
With only four MAP faculty and one program manager, the results have been powerful. As examples, the growth plan to expand Bleu Door Bakery from a walk-up to full cafe gave the owner confidence to successfully move forward; custom software developer Mekos Corporation used students’ analysis to build a cloud-based subscription service that has transformed their business model.
In 2014, MAP developed an integrated system of outreach by adding the monthly MAP Alliance Forum. The forums are an easy way for small businesses to get content on relevant topics. The insights a small business can gain are easily implemented so owners can make progress toward growing their businesses.
Between the student consultancy and the alliance forum, businesses can get consulting, mentorship, and peer-to-peer community.
Business Growth MAP objectives:
Give students the opportunity to work on real business issues while building professional skills and relationships that equip them for future careers
Provide analysis and advice that bolsters the growth and competitiveness of client organizations
Help create and retain jobs, fostering economic development
Student teams perform analysis and create an action plan for the business owner. Teams work under faculty instruction and with the support of seasoned, volunteer business professionals called mentors. Student teams create growth plans and marketing plans, perform internal control assessments, and help startups create and validate their business models. Clients receive an average of 500 consulting hours per project.
Mentorship is key to success. Mentors help diagnose the client’s situation and translate it back to student teams. They support students by providing input and advice for them to create actionable plans and a professional presence.
The program supports about 40 clients a year, primarily through the required capstone course. Four faculty teach at least one MAP class supported by one program manager. To accomplish recruiting goals, the program has a referral network—organizations such as local chambers and those who work with small businesses like financial professionals and CPAs—that refers businesses to the program.
The MAP Alliance Forum occurs monthly. Topics include branding, pricing, social media, and succession planning. Participant input guides topic selection. After a short presentation, the expert leads them through an exercise designed to tailor takeaways to the client’s own organization.
Since 2011 more than 970 students participated in the student consultancy and helped 172 organizations. Participating companies grew 6.8 million USD in new revenues and created 67 full-time jobs. More than 90 percent of clients, students, and mentors rated their Business Growth MAP experience as excellent or good.
The MAP Alliance Forum has high participation. Over the last two years, 86 businesses attended at least one forum. Global Entrepreneurship Week headliner adn Columbia Sportswear CEO, Tim Boyle, shared his road from small business to global retailer.
Unanticipated impacts include greater alumni engagement, student career opportunities, and a revitalization of the core business curriculum. Unstructured problem-solving and team-building are now explicitly built into the core curriculum to prepare students for the rigors of the consultancy.
Surveys of all participants assess the process and deliverables. An advisory board reviews a selection of projects to provide external feedback. Mentors follow up with clients at the end of the project, and program manager follows up after six months. Clients are surveyed one year later to measure impact.
Assessment leads to continuous improvement innovations, elevating the learning outcomes and client deliverables. Pre-project boot camps for students and mentors prepare them for the consultancy. Writing, team-building, and career coaching resources enhance effectiveness.
In 2015, MAP was recognized with the AASCU regional and economic development award. In 2016, MAP was a finalist for the national UEDA Awards of Excellence. This university-community partnership is now a critical element in the strategic plan for economic development in the region.