MBA students learn role of business consultants through work in community

May 5, 2014

Armed with theories, students enrolled in the capstone and introductory courses for Indiana State University's Master of Business Administration program went into the community to apply their consulting skills at several Terre Haute businesses.

Students in MBA 690- taught by Aruna Chandra, professor of management in the Scott College of Business - developed questions and recorded interviews with management from Erin's Pit Stop and Wise Pies, which the students used to create recommendations for improvement.

"It was a good experience in learning how to start a business and to be able to watch it grow," said Xin Dong, whose group worked with Erin's Pit Stop, a oil change and auto service business that opened about a year ago on the north side of Terre Haute. The group recommended the owner consider expanding services at the current location or opening another branch in the future.

Expanding services was also recommended to Wise Pies, which competes with bigger pizza chains in Terre Haute. The group that worked with the restaurant suggested the business broaden its customer base with a food truck that would allow for serving meals in different areas of the community during peak lunch hours.

"These businesses all started because of people with a dream and a vision, and I hope that the theories we were able to apply helped show them ways to add to their businesses," said Jason Downs, who worked on the Wise Pies project. "This showed me that if I ever start a business, I want to get all the feedback I can and have an extra set of eyes, like we were in this project, to provide thoughts on what I'm doing and how I can make it better."

One of Dong's group member, Yuxia Li, added, "The project also showed that business' have to be unique in what they can offer to stand out from their competitors, especially when it comes to a business that is new to the community."

Chandra doesn't wait until an MBA student's final semester to give them business consulting experience. In her introductory course, MBA 610 Advanced Management Practices, a group worked with Baesler's Market and delved into how a business owner needs to approach situations to create the best outcomes possible.

"I like when students actually go interact with the business because they get to see how the theories they've been learning about can be applied in a real situation," Chandra said. "Sometimes when you apply theories to business situations, things will start to come to the surface that you didn't notice before."

From examining target markets to learning about competitors through an interview and tour of the store, the students' recommendations for a plan of action for Terre Haute's hometown grocery store included offering an eat-in area in the store, creating a social media presence and updating the look of the store.

"Being a business owner really requires a person to look at the whole picture," said Brandon Henman, a student in Chandra's MBA 610 class. "People can offer their thoughts on different aspects of the business, but the business owner has to look at things from every angle and consider all of the outcomes when developing a plan of action for a business."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or betsy.simon@indstate.edu