This piece was contributed by Dr. Vince Howe, associate professor of marketing in the Cameron School of Business.
For the last 14 years, Cameron’s Professional MBA (PMBA) program has challenged MBA student teams with a “real-world” consulting project known as the Learning Alliance (LA).
The LA project pairs regional businesses with teams of PMBA students that provide comprehensive analysis of the companies’ business processes and competitive environments, as well as strategic recommendations for growth and/or profit improvement. The Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) is instrumental in selecting LA clients and helping manage relationships between the clients and the student teams.
The LA project is completed in a 12-week period and takes place at the end of the first year of the PMBA program. Students apply skills and knowledge from their completed classes in management, accounting, finance, marketing, operations and analytics to the challenges facing their LA client.
The student team’s first LA assignment is an environmental analysis of their client, covering all aspects of the firm’s industry, competitive and consumer environment. The next phase is a growth/profit analysis, which the client chooses in consultation with MBA faculty and their SBTDC counselor. It could be on growing profitability, revenue or markets, or looking at major process improvements.
Each year, one of the participating PMBA Learning Alliance Teams is selected for the “Most Value-Added Award.” Selecting the award winner was based on comments and assessments from MBA faculty, the SBTDC counselors and client representatives. Determining the winner was a difficult task, as eight other PMBA student teams also added value to their clients’ businesses. The team that provided their Learning Alliance (LA) client, Green Recycling Wattles, LLC, with the most value-added strategic recommendations this year consisted of Ilona Monahan, Alfred White, Matthew Mylott and Matthew Heiser. This team’s recommendations are already being put into practice by their client.
Green Recycling Wattles (GRW) was spun off from Green Recycling Solutions (GRS). One of GRS’ initial products was a colored mulch product that was recycled from construction lumber waste. GRS’ commitment to the environment results in less waste sent to local landfills and returns materials back to the economy to be repurposed. GRS then turned their attention to wattles.
An actual wattle is composed of recycled wood contained within a woven sock. The typical wattle is 100 feet in length with a diameter of 12 inches (other sizes are available). Wattles can be used during the construction phase of a project to facilitate erosion control. The team identified other usages of wattles, as well - as a storm drain, for curb storm inlet protection and to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff.
Results from the team’s Environmental Analysis identified key competitors, their key attributes and advantages and how they compare to GRW. The team then focused on the existing product markets, particularly highway construction, residential and industrial construction, agriculture, municipal stormwater control and gardening.
They took this information and developed a marketing plan for each potential market. The plan focused on GRW competitive advantages, positioning, cost and sustainability, among other areas. They provided James Maides, owner of GRW, with a comprehensive list of potential clients in North Carolina, including owners of “solar farms” that benefit from the wattles’ stormwater control. Finally, they reviewed the potential impact of the “proposed” infrastructure investment by the USA to repair and replace roads, bridges, sewers, etc.
“The Learning Alliance was an incredible opportunity for our team to make real-world applications with the processes, strategies and concepts we’d spent the last year learning,” team member Matt Mylott said. “This project validated so much of the program’s content by allowing each one of us to play an active and vital role to building the client’s business and driving revenue.”
When asked about the experience, Maides stated: “I am not surprised that our MBA Team was chosen as the Most Value Added Team. They were able to think outside of the box and present ideas that I had not even considered - for example, the differences between my company and my competitor and the ability to show me how to turn those differences into competitive advantages. Their marketing list of possible vendors was extensive. They were thinking on a more global basis rather than a regional basis. It was exciting to hear their presentations. I plan on taking some of their ideas and put them into practice.”
To learn more about Cameron’s Professional MBA Program, click here.
Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].
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