Members of a strong work team learn to communicate, anticipate and bring together all their talents to build a successful company.
The same is true of a student group when it takes on the charge to develop a business plan for a new, high-technology company. It’s especially true if the team goes up against teams from 200 other top-rated universities in a national competition.
Six Cal State Fullerton business majors spent nearly a thousand hours last year conducting and analyzing market research, as well as the company’s financials, technology and competitors to develop creative marketing tactics for trueAnthem, a web 2.0 company that develops partners for viral marketing and promotions through the use of music and video.
Their winning effort, a report of more than 200 pages, recently won them second place in the national Small Business Institute Field Case of the Year Competition. Awards will be presented during a May ceremony.
“I knew when I turned it over for competition that it was a winning entry,” said proud faculty member Rick Lamprecht. “It was that good.
“This team (one of five from his upper-division "Entrepreneurial Management" class) used time and all the tools available to them extremely efficiently. They had their battles and frustrations and were forced to think outside the box but as true entrepreneurs, they came up with the right solutions for this company.”
“They kept their eye on the prize,” agreed Derreck Ford, a business owner who served as mentor for the students. Team mentors work with faculty members to keep the teams on track and accountable for their work. “They realized that what was being discussed in the course may not fit for the company they were working for and they took the opportunity to use themselves as a target market.”
As part of the work they performed, the student team conducted more than 400 interviews using a 20-question survey to identify the company’s target market, determined methods to help attract a larger customer base, developed marketing strategies and performed a competitive analysis with several of trueAnthem’s competiors. Finally, the team created a revenue projection for the next three years.
To succeed, the student team had to develop the idea of the different markets that would be interested in the company, said Ford. “They had to learn how to tie the client to potential advertisers by segment/genre of music, and they even came up with the where and how to promote some of the project. They did a fantastic job.”
“We were able to see real problems that existed in businesses, the logic involved in various CEO-level decisions and learn about several different industries and processes within business firsthand,” said team leader Matthew Gallizzi. “The experience of working with an outside business was probably the most cherished aspect of my college education.”
“I am very proud of my team and this accomplishment. Having a strong team of hard-working students definitely worked to our benefit, but we also had an amazing team leader, mentor, professor and client,” said Daniela Bolzmann.
“The trick was learning what people excelled at and what motivated them, and empowering appropriately,” said Gallizzi. “My role was to empower, lead, inspire, encourage, motivate, communicate and execute. I definitely learned a lot about leading others.”
Fellow team member Adam Polcyn agreed. “This project taught me about the value of working as a team and how vital that is to the success of any task. Working on our own was a big part of the project, but knowing we wanted to make the team proud added incentive to work that much harder.”
“The team had an excellent rapport with the client,” noted Ford, who had a student team consult for his own product identification firm, Jetec. The positive result prompted him to volunteer as a mentor. “With this client, they weren’t talking about a traditional brick-and-mortar company but an online business. They had to wrap their minds around this new business that wasn’t as they had read about in a textbook.”
Finally, the team made their presentation to the client. “Making the presentation was the easiest part of the project,” said Gallizzi, noting that the team had practice runs and took notes on how each member presented his or her part. “After spending months working on a client, we knew our presentation. We just had to articulate it and present it with confidence.”
“This was a great experience for me,” said Brad Barnes, CEO of trueAnthem. “The student work was really strong … well done. I'm glad to hear that their work has been recognized.”
Barnes say that his biggest surprise in working with the Cal State Fullerton team was the way in which they integrated “charity, global giving and environmentalism into what our company could do.
“I like the thorough processes and to be able to see the way they think,” he added. “It made me think (in new ways) as well.
“We are implementing many of the things that the team recommended,” Barnes said, adding that he would recommend other businesses consider using the student consulting program. “I have already done so.”
Barnes also would like to get involved as a mentor in the future.
“These consulting projects are the highlight of my college experience and offered me everything I expected from a business school curriculum,” noted Bolzmann. “It wasn’t until meeting other business grad students from USC, UCLA and LMU, who told me about their excessive in-class studies, that I realized how rare it is to get to consult in the field. These projects have made me aware of how capable I am as an individual and a team member.”
“This experience helped me with the numerous other projects I had because I felt prepared and completely ready for what was expected of me," said Polcyn. "It boosted my confidence in my skills ... and gave me the confidence to be able to do it again on my own.”
The trueAnthem team is the latest in a long list of national award-winning case competitors from Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. Last year, both graduate and undergraduate teams won third place in the case competition.
Working through the university’s Small Business Institute, companies request a student team to work with them, said John B. Jackson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, which houses the institute. When companies are qualified for assistance, they are pitched to the student teams, who are randomly assigned the companies that they serve.
Cal State Fullerton teams have worked with more than a 1,000 area businesses and won national case competition championships nine times since 1991.
The Small Business Institute is now accepting inquiries from business owners who wish to have their firms participate in the student consulting program. Small-business owners interested in mentoring students also are encouraged to take part.
For more information, please call 657-278-3464 or go to SBI website.