A Second-Year Consultant's Perspective on the BC MBA Consulting Project
May 15, 2012
By Erin Morley, JD/MBA '12
Serving as a Second-Year Consultant ("2YC") for the Boston College MBA Consulting Project has been one of my most rewarding experiences in business school. Last semester, along with the ten other 2YCs, I began marketing the BC MBA consulting service and promoting its benefits to potential business clients. Not surprisingly, all of the individuals I spoke to were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about working with a group of first-year business school students to address an internal business challenge, plan or execute a strategic initiative, or develop a new venture. After surveying interested clients, the 2YCs selected a robust group of companies ranging from giants like Mercedes Benz, New Balance, and Gulf/Cumberland Farms to smaller businesses like Sproxil, Boston Duck Tours, and Polar Beverages. We selected clients representing a variety of industries including Healthcare, High Tech, Finance, Consumer Retail, Education, and Nonprofit. Once teams were paired with their client, the 2YCs transitioned from a marketing role to a mentoring role. I supervised two teams throughout the course of their consulting service projects.
In retrospect, the most exciting and frightening part about this experience (both as a first-year and now as a 2YC) is the autonomy that students are given to design and implement a plan of action to tackle their client's issues. While Professor Vin O'Reilly and Professor Scott McDermott oversee the consulting service, they certainly do not direct students down a particular path. They expect the student teams to assess the client's needs, gather information to address these needs, and respond with appropriate recommendations. The variety of projects selected this year produced a wealth of real-world experience for everyone involved: some teams traveled to their client sites weekly to interview key stakeholders and gain a better understanding of the company's culture; other teams pounded the pavement to discern consumer taste preferences and brand perceptions; still others gathered secondary data to support their primary findings. These methods helped teams view the client's challenges from every possible angle.
Each consulting team faced their own unique obstacles. For instance, one of my teams worked with a company undergoing a major transition and thus they had to reorient and redefine the scope of the project over the semester to match the client's changing concerns. My other team worked with a closely held, family owned company that was evaluating whether or not to re-position its brand to capture a new market. This team had to be cognizant of providing recommendations to a management who was quite risk-averse and resistant to change. As a mentor, I attempted to provide a sounding board for my teams and offer a critical perspective when necessary. However, I was exceedingly impressed by my teams' ability to establish strong working relationships with their clients. Both my teams consistently "pushed the envelope" and made their clients think about their company or products in a novel way.
At the culmination of the BC MBA Consulting Project, each team presented their findings and recommendations to their clients and then again to a panel of faculty judges in the Diane Weiss Consulting Competition. I was particularly proud that one of my teams was selected as one of the three finalists to present to a panel of CEOs and senior managers in the final round of the competition. My team presented with clarity and handled the question and answer session from judges with grace. In fact, one of the judges commented that the client "should hire these guys." As a 2YC, it has been incredibly rewarding to assist in the development of the program and watch "my" first-year students blossom into competent, dynamic consultants. It is no wonder the Consulting Project and the Diane Weiss Competition are the capstone of the first-year business school experience.