JUNE SPOTLIGHT PROGRAM
MBA Dartmouth Skiway team members Judy Stabolepszy, MBA '11 and Patrice MacNevin, MBA '12 with from l to r: Bill McDowell, VP Publications/POY Competition SBI; Craig Zamzow, PSU MBA program coordinator and SBI director; and Michael Harris, SBI president. Skiway team member Jennifer Johnson not pictured.
You may not expect to find one of the nation’s most successful and sophisticated SBI programs nestled in a quiet, central New Hampshire small town. But Plymouth State University has an impressive track record of assisting small-businesses through its Small Business Institute (SBI) program, starting with its inception in 1976 as one of SBI’s founding institutions.
Over the past 36 years, the institute has worked with more than 350 clients around the state, assisting small businesses by providing teams of graduate students who work as consultants to help the businesses reach a higher level of operation. Currently, two to four businesses are chosen for projects in a calendar year.
“This country is built on small businesses,” says Craig Zamzow, who has been the SBI director at PSU for 11 years. “Ninety-eight percent of people in the U.S. work at a small business.”
Working with a business faculty member, SBI teams visit their client companies, define the scope of their projects, and execute the tasks they agree to complete for their clients, and prepare and present a professional-quality formal report. Team members are usually MBA students, though any PSU graduate student is welcome to take part in the program.
“Our students provide a third-party perspective, giving new ideas or coming up with new ways to manage operations,” Zamzow says. “The reports they deliver are professional and thorough, containing a current analysis of the business, a look at any opportunities that exist, and recommendations on how the owners can proceed.”
PSU’s student–led teams have garnered dozens of statewide, regional and national SBI awards in the past decade, including two, first place national awards in 2006-07, 2008-09 and 2010-11, as well as single first place awards in 2004 and 2005. PSU has earned eight national second place awards and six regional, first place awards since 2000. Aside from the national recognition, the true value of the student work is boosting a client’s bottom line.
The Mill Fudge Factory, based in Bristol, N.H., engaged a PSU SBI team to help them.
The team, which won first place honors in the 2011 Specialized Category, suggested a customer satisfaction survey to guide menu decisions and the entertainment options at the arts venue located on-site. The team also recommended marketing the trademark product, fudge, through corporate gift packages and wedding favors.
Noah Munro was not only a member of the Mill Fudge Factory team, but also represented the client as the co-founder and general manager of this growing local business.
“This SBI project was incredibly valuable, both for my business and for me as a student,” noted Munro. “On behalf of The Mill Fudge Factory, we are simply thrilled with our partnership with Plymouth State University. Almost all of the suggestions made by the SBI group were implemented and have already helped us improve our bottom line. The marketing plan for wedding favors and corporate gifts has proven useful, too. We plan to build on that success this year.”
A PSU team also won first place honors in the 2011 Graduate Comprehensive Category by designing a three-year business profitability plan for the Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme, N.H. The Skiway project team produced a broad overview of the operations with the goal of improving profitability. Their findings included: The Skiway needed capital investment, including snowmaking and the addition of a marketing director who would emphasize public access to the facility. Team member Judy Stabolepszy said the competition combined with the MBA coursework has given her tangible skills to succeed.
“Where I really gained the most was in the project itself and the skills that I learned from being involved with a terrific team, working with Craig who was a terrific mentor and coach, working with the client who was supportive and enthusiastic, and all of us working together to produce a professional, applicable product,” said Stabolepszy. “It was the best educational experience of the MBA program.”
PSU is not resting on its SBI laurels; the University is constructing an Enterprise Center in conjunction with a regional economic development group to house business incubator space, providing more opportunity for local businesses and entrepreneurs to develop ideas into successful ventures, with the help of SBI students.