Category Archives: Consulting

Bright ideas for Seattle City Light

SCL_WinnersSeattle City Light has been trying to shine a light on the issue of how to derive 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. This deadline based on state legislation presents a clear goal, but not a clear solution. The utility is actively debating how to most effectively balance between hydro-power, wind and solar energies while being mindful of the interests of their various stakeholders. The Foster School of Business partnered with City Light to put teams of students to work on innovative solutions to this issue through the strategic management course.

This required capstone course for all graduating seniors features a customized case competition. Instructors and case writer Alex Murray, a Foster PhD student, worked closely with senior leaders at Seattle City Light to understand this strategic question. Using publicly available research, the case was created and then analyzed by nearly 250 students in 46 competing teams.

The teams were charged with providing recommendations as to what Seattle City Light’s strategic position(s) should be regarding solar energy, including whether the utility should actively promote and develop its use or invest in other renewable energy sources; and how to most effectively market and price various solar projects, including a viability analysis of an existing Community Solar program.

The case study focused on short-term and long-term strategies to satisfy key stakeholders, encourage supporters and overcome detractors. As a publicly owned utility, Seattle City Light operates as a non-profit organization that must balance environmental, financial and social considerations in its decisions. The complexities of the case required a great deal of research and a thoughtful approach.

“The most challenging aspect (of the case) was hashing out with my team what view we were going to take,” case competition participant Cara Haas said. “(Many) of our meetings were solely focused on researching and discussing alternatives before we decided on our approach.”

Her team’s solution: a marketing program, Solar|Sea, to build awareness and support amongst the community and important constituents. The YDC Consulting team members Ken Luginbuhl, Ryker Young, Erin Hoffinger, Julia Kuhn, and Cara Haas attribute their success to the synergies they found in their ideas and team dynamics.

Hoffinger found the most valuable takeaways from the case competition experience centered on knowing “how to speak and pitch ideas to members of the executive board… and being able to think on your feet about (responses) with concrete numbers and analysis in order to answer questions.” These skills she and her peers will surely be able to put to good use as they enter the workforce in just a few short months.

The case competition proved to be another win-win for Foster School of Business students and a local organization. “Seattle City Light was pleased to partner with the Foster School of Business to examine one of the most complex and important issues the utility faces in the medium to long-term,” general manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said. “It’s also an issue that confronts the industry as a whole. We were excited by the fresh ideas and perspectives the students brought to the table.”

MBAs sharpen consulting skills with local non-profits

ServiceCorp7MBAs at the Foster School are honing their consulting skills and giving back at the same time. The Service Corp initiative matched teams of Foster students with local non-profits that needed assistance with a specific business problem. This year, 20 MBAs worked on projects with the YMCA and the Children’s Therapy Center, an organization that serves families of children with special needs.

MBA Career Management organized and brought together Social Venture Partners, McKinsey and Accenture around the Service Corp projects. Paul Shoemaker, executive director of Social Venture Partners (SVP) – an organization devoted to cultivating effective philanthropists and strengthening organizations that drive community change – provided preliminary contacts with local nonprofits needing strategic consulting help. Paul came to Foster to launch the Service Corp initiative and discuss how MBA skills can be leveraged in ways that make a huge impact to nonprofits. McKinsey and Accenture played a key role in mentoring Foster students, helping them develop business models and consulting skills that were used in working with their clients.

ServiceCorp5During the course of the project, the MBAs attended seminars where Jun Kamata, a former McKinsey consultant now in charge of strategy at Nordstrom, presented models used by consultants on how to manage project workflow, manage client engagement, present data and make recommendations to clients. Mike Quinn of Social Venture Partners instructed students on how to navigate from the profit to non-profit world while building consulting skills with clients.

The student’s primary goal in working with each of the non-profits was to enhance their current effectiveness in the non-profit sector while also investigating opportunities to diversify the non-profits into opportunities that might support the core mission. For Children’s Therapy Center, the students helped the center develop a sales and marketing plan for products that would provide additional revenue opportunities for the organization. The students helped the YMCA develop a new donor strategy to increase annual funding.

As Jun Kamata, director of strategy at Nordstrom noted, this collaboration is a win for the nonprofits, for the students, and for the consulting firms. Nonprofits get needed help in developing their strategy and effectiveness, students get hands-on experience with some of the leading consulting firms in the world, and McKinsey and Accenture get the opportunity to mentor and engage with Foster students

ServiceCorp11According to Jon Botten, executive director of the Children’s Therapy Center, “We have been blown away by the commitment of the students! They asked probing questions, listened to our needs, generated quality ideas and delivered beyond our expectations. I can honestly say that we will be implementing many of their suggestions, and as a result, the children we serve will be that much closer to reaching their full potential.”

Foster students benefit too. John Czerniak, a first-year MBA who accepted a McKinsey summer internship, stated, “As a part of Net Impact’s Service Corps program, I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people – including our client, Children’s Therapy Center, and Social Venture Partners, McKinsey, and of course, my Foster teammates. I have been able to use the skills and classroom experiences from my MBA to influence a real business decision for an organization making a big difference in peoples’ lives. In addition to the wonderful parts of the project, we have faced several challenges that only come with working on a real-world project. Working through these challenges with my team and client was one of the most valuable parts of my Foster experience thus far. As I go into consulting for my internship this summer, I’m confident that my Service Corps experience will serve me well in working with clients and solving complex business problems.”

Living your academia: marketing/management 445 class for undergraduates

Senior Ivette Aguilera reflects on her experience in the Marketing/Management 445 Class and Student Consulting Program.

Ivette Aguilera with Bill Low

Ivette Aguilera, BA 2014, with Bill Low, her Rotary Business Mentor at the Rotary Club of Seattle luncheon.

Throughout my time in Foster, I have lived through so many incredible experiences, including two study abroad opportunities to China and India, where I was able to see and experience major business practices that were very different when compared to the United States. I have also interned with PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big Four accounting firms worldwide, and this coming summer will be my third summer internship with them.

Growing up, I first wanted to be a doctor.  I pictured myself analyzing patients, checking their symptoms, figuring out the root of their problems, and of course finding their cure. After watching shows like Grey’s Anatomy, House, and other medical television shows I realized that the concept of helping others was fantastic, but the idea of having physical contact with my patients was not so much—yet I still wanted to become a doctor and that is when consulting became a true interest of mine. My patients would not be human beings, but companies; I would not be checking for common colds or flus but for holes in company’s’ operation systems and pitch marketing plans to execute. I would be the doctor for businesses, Dr. Aguilera; which I believe has a nice ring to it.

Unfortunately, after multiple conversations with consultants, I soon realized that in order to be a great consultant you really need experience. It isn’t something you can’t pick up from a book; it is a learning process.  The Consulting and Business Development Center offers students the Marketing/Management 445 class that is specifically designed to help students develop the essential business skills by having them be consultants for a real life company. It is an opportunity to get real hands-on exposure and live your academia, instead of just reading about it.

Through this process I have learned how to interact with my client, how to manage a successful meeting, and I have gotten to know the resources of the University of Washington both on and off campus. One of our most valued resources being the Rotary Mentor assigned to each group. My team has the privilege of having Bill Low as our mentor, and I actually would like to take this opportunity to thank Bill for his mentorship. Just last week we were preparing a survey for our client’s customers.  Our team thought our survey had well thought out questions, but when we showed it to Bill he opened our eyes to see that the questions were way too broad.  In order to understand the client’s problems we had to develop much more specific survey questions. Let’s just say that from now on our team is thinking a lot more about the specific details for EVERY assignment.

As I said before, this coming summer I’ll be an intern with PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Advisory Line of Service. At the end of the summer my performance review will determine if I get a full time offer starting January 2015. However, thanks to the Marketing/Management 445 class, I feel much more confident and prepared with what I am doing. What I’m learning this quarter will definitely give me a head start on my work this summer.

This class continues to challenge me in ways that significantly improve my consulting skills set. It has given me a chance to network with professionals who have passed down their wisdom, and more importantly it has allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them along the way. So thank you to the professors, the Consulting and Business Development Center, the mentors, and the Rotary Club of Seattle for allowing us, (the students) to make mistakes yet continue to learn from them.

MBA Strategic Consulting Program heads to Singapore

A team of Foster students recently traveled to Singapore for an MBA Strategic Consulting Project. The following is an account by Kyle Sullivan (MBA 2014) of his experiences there and observations of the city-state.

Foster MBA students in SingaporeIt’s cold and rainy in Seattle; typical winter conditions. It’s hard to imagine I was enjoying 85-degree weather just a few weeks ago in Singapore.

Despite having lived in Asia for an extended period, I had never visited Singapore before. My friends often described it as uneventful, that it had none of the dynamism of China or Hong Kong; “Asia lite,” they would call it. I could not disagree more.

From the moment we landed, I noticed a sense of significance about the place. Driving westward into town along Singapore’s East Coast Parkway (ECP), parallel to the waterfront, it is all but impossible to ignore the armada of container ships lingering in the Singapore Strait. A few miles down the road, the view of the ships becomes obscured by an army of quay cranes towering above the Port of Singapore, Asia’s second largest port. Adjacent to the port, gleaming skyscrapers bearing the names Standard Chartered, HSBC, and Microsoft press up against Singapore’s Marina Bay. Surrounded by so much commercial activity, it feels as if you are in the center of the world.

I traveled to Singapore with a team of three classmates—Noah, Shalini, and Lisa—to work on a project for a Washington-state manufacturing company. The company had been exploring the possibility of opening a warehouse in Singapore in order to be closer to its customers in Asia Pacific. Our task was three-fold: gather information about the local market for the company’s products, assess the local real estate market, and make connections with headhunters. The project’s intent was to inform the client company about the most appropriate way to set up an operation in Singapore.

SingaporeIt was a busy ten days for us, packed with meetings, dinners, and networking events. One of the key takeaways from our meetings with various business partners was that there are very clear trade-offs for conducting business in Singapore. For example, business registration is conducted online and takes a matter of hours (whereas in China it can take more than six months), laws and regulations are evenly enforced, and the corporate income tax rate is a flat 17 percent. The downside is that the average price for a warehouse is roughly triple the price in Seattle, and annual wage increases are some of the highest in Asia Pacific.

One of the most interesting meetings was with a company called Mapletree, which is one of Singapore’s largest industrial property management firms. We met with a man named James, who heads up marketing for Mapletree’s industrial property division, to hear his expertise on Singapore’s industrial property market and to understand his company’s portfolio of warehouse properties. As we were wrapping up the conversation, out of curiosity I asked James for his opinion about what country in Asia Pacific will be the next major driver of growth for industrial property sales. He paused for a moment, and grinned. Waiting in suspense, as if he was about to divulge a closely guarded secret, he simply replied, “Indonesia.”

Learn more about the MBA Strategic Consulting Program at the Foster School.

Rotary First Harvest: adapting to new bylaws

Guest post by Laura Peirano, 2012-2013 Board Fellow

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Board Fellows Program places Foster MBA and Evans MPA students as non-voting board members of local nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit agencies participating in the program reach diverse communities with different passions and interests.

At the annual Net Impact conference in Portland in fall of 2011, I met Benjamin Rasmus who works for the nonprofit Rotary First Harvest (RFH). RFH locates surplus produce, coordinates the harvesting, packaging, and distribution of it in order to solve two problems: leftover crops that go to waste and hungry Americans in need of nutrition. I’m very passionate about nutritious food and the food system in America, so I asked Benjamin if RFH would want to partner with the UW Board Fellows Program. We had a group meeting and decided it was a great fit and I became the Board Fellow.

As a Board Fellow for Rotary First Harvest, I attended RFH’s strategic planning meeting in September along with many RFH Board of Directors meetings from May 2012 to May 2013. As part of the UW Foster School of Business Board Fellows 2012-2013 Nonprofit Board Leadership Seminar, I also attended twelve hours of class sessions during which I learned about nonprofit strategic planning, structural analysis, effective Board governance, and changing Board structures.

In order to get to know the way RFH works first hand, I volunteered at several work parties to help pack produce at Northwest Harvest and volunteered at the local food bank. The Northwest Harvest facility is clean, with an abundance of volunteers wearing hairnets and gloves, working tirelessly while chatting, laughing and getting to know each other. I was impressed by how easy it seemed to package food for 100,000 meals in four hours.

The University Food Bank receives produce from Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline, so a portion of the fruits and vegetables there go through RFH on the way. When I volunteered at the University Food Bank, I was able to witness the supply chain in action, as well as the people who are benefitting from this nonprofit’s amazing work. After sorting donated produce and organizing it in the food bank store, I helped check out customers and bag their groceries. It was rewarding to see people who would not have access to this food without the Food Bank picking out their food for the week. Rotary First Harvest plays its part by making sure more of the food available comes from wholesome fruits and vegetables.

There are hundreds of nonprofits in Washington State, and only thirty-six of them were selected to participate in the UW Board Fellows Program. Of all of these strong nonprofits, Rotary First Harvest has one of the highest functioning and successful Boards in the program, which made it difficult to find a topic with problems to solve. Since RFH recently updated its bylaws, I decided to focus on the transition from the old bylaws to the new bylaws and on ways that the transition could be more successful. My recommendations include evaluating the level of Board involvement, using metrics to evaluate Board success, and engaging the Advisory Board.

Rotary First Harvest Board of Directors is a successful, strategic and nimble Board that has identified and taken steps to correct the problems that have arisen. The fact that the bylaws are frequently reviewed and updated shows that the Board is continually looking for ways to improve. I presented my findings and recommendations in May 2013 to the Board of Directors. My recommendations suggest ways that the Board can continue to be successful and even exceed expectations. It was a great experience working with the board, learning how a board functions and how their strategic objectives shape the success of the nonprofit.

Business classes help every dog have their day!

Guest post by Anna Ridle, graduate of the Consulting & Business Development Center’s Seattle Business Certificate Program

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Seattle Business Certificate Program (BCP) wrapped up after six weeks of educational coursework early this summer with over sixty graduates. We have invited graduates from the BCP to reflect on their experience of the Program; this is the second in the series written by Anna Ridle, Director of Camp Canine Doggy Daycare, Inc. in Mukilteo, WA.

Camp Canine Doggy Daycare, Inc. opened our doors during the summer of 2006. Our owner, Dr. Susan Torgerson, had an open lot on her land next to her veterinary clinic. She saw the market potential for a dog daycare and started business! At the time, Dr. Sue’s vision was to build a daycare that could service about fifteen dogs per day.

I began working at Camp Canine in January 2008 as a fun, part-time job while I completed my programming degree. In April 2009, I was promoted to a management position. I graduated in June 2010, and currently serve as the Director for Camp Canine. During the past two years, we’ve expanded the business to offer additional services, such as boarding, grooming, merchandise, and training classes. This year we are averaging 54 dogs per day, nearly 4 times greater than what Dr. Sue originally envisioned.

Because my educational background is not in business, I began searching for programs to help me navigate the increasing demands of a growing company. The UW Consulting & Business Development Center’s Business Certificate Program fit my needs perfectly. For six weeks, the Program offered a three-hour long crash course on different business related topics. We covered marketing, selling, common legal issues, leadership, financial health, and had a discussion panel composed of entrepreneur CEOs.

I have been able to directly apply concepts from each class to my job. I am especially thankful for Professor Leta Beard, who taught a workshop on how to market and brand your company. Not only did I gain valuable information from her marketing class, but she met with me after class and lent me resources to further my marketing education so that I could build a comprehensive marketing plan. Thanks to this Program I’ve been able to streamline processes and procedures, which has allowed me more interaction time with our staff, clients and the doggies!

Leadership Team: aiding students advance their professional careers

Guest post by Charissa Chin, Vice President of the Leadership Team

Each quarter, the Leadership Team (a student organization that partners with the Consulting & Business Development Center) offers a Flagship Consulting Program, where students provide consulting services to local businesses. During these seven-week projects, students work in teams and receive guidance from professional advisors from Ernst & Young.  This spring, our students gathered research and developed recommendations for The Seafair Foundation, Sealaska Corporation, and The Skin Firm.

The Seafair Foundation, which is part of the organization that hosts Seattle’s Seafair Festival, focuses on charitable services through its scholarship programs and community outreach. The student team’s goal was to expand brand recognition for the Foundation and other programs in their portfolio. Besides providing recommendations on how to increase membership for Seafair’s Ambassador Program, the student team also created an event, Inspire Seattle, which projects to attract more than 500 participating high-school students.

Sealaska Corporation, a $275 million dollar Alaska Native Corporation, with subsidiary operations in various industries, tasked their student team with researching potential markets where Sealaska could gain market share and increase profits, while still maintaining their company’s core organizational values. The team identified various industries such as athletic apparel, green retrofitting, deconstruction, and niche recycling as attractive markets where the company could potentially flourish.

The Skin Firm is a Seattle-based company that offers high-quality skin care products and services. The primary objective for their student team was to develop a marketing strategy to grow their customer base by 4% monthly. In order to reach this goal and increase overall revenue, the team recommended strategies to strengthen the firm’s local advertising, social media campaign, and service packaging.

Our consulting students came away feeling extremely accomplished as they learned how to apply their classroom knowledge in real-world business situations and helped small business owners become more successful.  Students gained insight into what consulting is and had the opportunity to expand their network with Ernst & Young professionals. Through the Flagship Consulting Program, students improved their analyzing, problem-solving, time-management, and teamwork skills.

Personally, I was most excited to see how this experience has helped our students grow and ultimately advance their professional careers.  In fact, this experience has already helped several Flagship members acquire various internships and job offers.  As Vice President of the Leadership Team, I’ve had the pleasure of managing these projects for three consecutive quarters.  It was not only rewarding, but allowed me to grow personally.  Learning how to manage 17 students this quarter has helped me develop my organizational, decision-making, and leadership skills.  It’s a wonderful program and I encourage every student at the UW Foster School of Business to join!

Collaborating for increased opportunities: A new BEDC partnership to further develop minority-owned businesses nationwide

Michael Verchot, Director of the UW BEDC (left), stands with NMSDC President Joset B. Wright (center) and Shelley Stewart, Jr., the Vice Chairman of the NMSDC Board of Directors.

Michael Verchot, Director of the UW BEDC (left), stands with NMSDC President Joset B. Wright (center) and Shelley Stewart, Jr., the Vice Chairman of the NMSDC Board of Directors.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc.® (NMSDC®) and the University of Washington’s Business and Economic Development Center (UW-BEDC) announced a partnership agreement to further the development of minority-owned businesses across the US on May 22nd at the NMSDC’s annual Minority Business Leadership Awards Dinner Dance in New York City.

This partnership joins together the nation’s premier organization committed to the growth and development of Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American-owned companies with the nation’s most comprehensive business school center dedicated to the growth of minority-owned firms and businesses in low- and moderate-income communities.

“This agreement will provide minority business enterprises a new opportunity at one of the country’s leading institutions that supports minority business development,” said NMSDC President Joset B. Wright. “It will allow us to enhance MBEs’ ability to meet the needs of their customers. We are delighted with our new relationship, and we look forward to many years of success for NMSDC, for the University of Washington, but most importantly, for our certified MBEs.”

Jim Jiambalvo, Dean of the UW Foster School of Business, expressed similar excitement about this partnership. “We recognize the NMSDC’s pioneering role in growing minority-owned firms across the US. The work of the council and its member corporations has done more to create opportunities for business growth and wealth creation in communities of color than just about any organization in the last 40 years. We’re proud to be partnering with them so that collectively we can do more than either of us could do independently.”

The partners will begin their collaboration by growing the Foster School’s six-year-old Minority Business Executive Program. This Program has a track record of success in growing minority-owned businesses from across the U.S. JBE Enterprises, an NMSDC-certified firm based in South Carolina, participated in the 2012 Minority Business Executive Program. Richard Ellison, the company’s Vice President and a graduate of the Program attributes its ability to cross the $40 million revenue threshold in part to what firm representatives learned in this Program.

NMSDC and the Foster School will launch a pilot program in June. NMSDC corporate members will select a few MBEs to participate in the program. Ms. Wright will be the commencement speaker at the University’s 2013 graduation ceremony on June 21 in Seattle.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council advances business opportunities for certified Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connects them to corporate members.  One of the country’s leading corporate membership organizations, NMSDC was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes. The NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 36 Regional Councils across the country. There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America’s largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned NMSDC companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The Regional Councils certify and match more than 16,000 minority-owned businesses with member corporations that want to purchase their products and services.

Seeking enlightenment: a Business Certificate Program graduate’s reflections

Guest post by Jeffrey Chon, graduate of BEDC’s Seattle Business Certificate Program

The Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC)’s Seattle Business Certificate Program (BCP) has recently wrapped up after six weeks of educational coursework and with over sixty graduates. We have invited graduates from the BCP to reflect on their experience of the Program; this is the first in the series written by Jeffrey Chon, Sole Proprietor of Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club in Seattle.

chonI’ve always been a passionate martial artist and my goal is to never work a day in my life. You see, I’m not “working” if I love what I do. Coming from a family of martial artists, deciding to open my own studio was a breeze. However, after four years of operation, I’m ready to grow my business so that I could focus on teaching instead of worrying about money.

I’ve been a student of kung fu since I was eight. I’m a secular disciple of the Shaolin Temple, and a gold medalist in three different countries. Now I’m able to teach the discipline and philosophies that I’ve learned through Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club. Through Jun Hong’s Kung Fu Club, students attain better health and fitness by learning the importance of both physical and mental strength through sports and meditation.

Auspiciously, a longtime friend directed me to the Foster School’s Business & Economic Development Center (BEDC), where I participated in their Business Certificate Program.  Held once a week for six weeks, professionals from all fields would come together to give lectures, covering everything from marketing to liability. My classmates, who are professionals themselves, were able to share their experiences, lead class discussions and propose insightful questions. Those questions and concerns were met with direct and in-depth answers. In short, all professionals who seek further knowledge and education can benefit from these seminars.

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”  ~Sun Tzu

As a small business owner, sometimes we do things for the business with the idea that it will be beneficial, but without the understanding of “why.” During every class I would say to myself, “That’s what I do!” and I began re-applying what I’ve been already doing, but with a deeper understanding of the fundamentals. Within two weeks, I was able to bring nine new students to my business.

To me, it was the missing piece to the puzzle. These classes take what we do as business owners and provide us with the skills to further expand our minds and better our businesses.  Simple questions such as, “Does it work? Why or why not? What are other people doing? What do customers respond to?” helped me understand what areas I need to improve on. Sometimes finding success can be as simple as asking the right questions.

As business owners and professionals, we are always keeping long-term and short-term goals in mind. These classes allow you to re-calibrate what’s important and focus on future goals; not only for your business, but for your life. The professors help you ask the right questions, fellow classmates provide you with networking opportunities, and the synergy created in the class paves the way to endless ideas. I know that the Business Certificate Program will be a priceless and lasting benefit to my business.

You have to prepare yourself for when you’re blessed with an opportunity. As Sun Tzu once said, “opportunities are multiplied as they are seized!”