By Trevor Crombie, Wharton 2014
“Management 251: A course centered on experiential learning, ‘Consulting to Growth Companies’ elevates the largely technical curricula otherwise prominent at Wharton. Professor Eric Siegel encourages his undergraduate students to draw on fundamentals mastered in their core classes and then apply them to very real business engagements. In partnership with the Wharton Small Business Development Center, Siegel’s students spend their fall term working for local growth-stage companies in official consultant capacities. Students adopt and manage projects ranging from business plan development to advanced financial analysis, from marketing strategy design to supply chain organization.”
That’s how I would write the course description for Management 251: Consulting to Growth Companies. Within an undergraduate culture where the allures of institutional careers are rarely denied, this course challenges students to examine business in an entrepreneurial light and outside the singular lens of a financial spreadsheet or a SWOT analysis. A comprehensive perspective like that equips students to better approach and tackle problems in real business functions.
I enrolled in MGMT251 in September 2012 and immediately found my quelled passion for creativity, problem solving, and cross-discipline solutions reinvigorated. Throughout my consulting engagement, I was able to not only apply skills learned through my coursework to aid my client and their company, I was also – and perhaps more importantly – encouraged to challenge the expectations of what a student is capable of contributing to established corporations. No longer was I to simply assume the role of a relatively inexperienced student; rather, I was to leverage my skills and technical proficiencies and rise to meet the demands of my client. That experience of simultaneous personal and professional growth was vital to my development as a business student.
The consulting engagement during the course evolved over time. I worked on a three-person team and was initially hired by a firm to assist in the re-launch of one of their products. Specifically, we were hired to assess the competitive environment, devise a marketing strategy, and construct a high-level business plan for the potential spinoff of the product into a subsidiary company. As the team began to evaluate the project, however, we determined that essential strategic steps during the product design and the target market identification processes had been overlooked. As such, we realigned the goals of our engagement to address the client shortfalls.
With the goals of the engagement redefined, my team was able to create value for our client. We determined that customer needs could be better matched through a slight redevelopment of the product and outlined ways by which that could be achieved. We acknowledged the necessity to circumvent highly saturated and competitive markets and identified opportunities to reach new market segments. We assumed the preferences of the targeted segments and built financial models to predict the success of various adoptable pricing strategies. Ultimately, we were confident the client was left in a better position to resume activities to achieve a more successful product launch.
Engagements like the one my team held have the potential to serve as a capstone to the undergraduate experience at Wharton. The work involved draws resources and skills from a variety of disciplines and studies, forcing students to analyze business activities with an appreciation for complexity. The exposure to real business functions that is afforded by the Consulting to Growth Companies course is invaluable.
Bio: Trevor Crombie is a 2014 candidate for Bachelor of Economics at The Wharton School. His concentrated areas of study are in finance and management, with specializations in entrepreneurship and innovation. Professionally, Crombie is a small business owner and has worked as a growth company consultant, a political speechwriter, and a governmental policy analyst. He is also President of the Beta Nu Chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity at The Wharton School.