Students Learn Consulting by Helping Local Businesses Survive

(left to right) Liu, Ramani, Fromm and Kanegi

Organizers look for companies on the cusp of success, but struggling with operational issues that seem insurmountable to their owners.

I previously introduced you to Skyler Kanegi, a sharp young entrepreneur and student who powers his way through 18 hour days to earn his degree, launch businesses, and support the arts. Wait till you hear what Kanegi and three of his student colleagues have been up to lately. I’ll count this as my holiday feel-good story of the year.

Kanegi joined up with Chang Liu, another business student, and engineering students Sameer Ramani and Robert Fromm from the Cockrell School, to take first place in the Undergraduate Consulting Competition sponsored by the Student Consulting Initiative (SCI). SCI was formed by McCombs undergraduate students to provide opportunities to use their consulting expertise outside the classroom, and give back to the community.

Organizers look for companies on the cusp of success, but struggling with operational issues that seem insurmountable to their owners. These are small private companies and nonprofits, many of them started on a dream and a prayer; and held together with baling wire and cookie jar money.

Enter a team of students such as Liu, Ramani, Fromm and Kanegi, who took on a project with Super Saver Shuttle, a local small business providing shuttle services, mostly to military personnel, from Kileen to Austin.

Here is a description of their efforts by Rob Meyer on McCombs TODAY:

The winning team helped Super Saver Shuttle business owner, Renon Hartley, in several areas including branding, employee retention, accounting and process management. The team successfully created a new website and drove up website hits drastically. Additionally, the team developed employee wage strategies and shuttle timetables. The four also implemented security measures for the shuttles and taught Hartley how to electronically manage her accounts. Lastly, by introducing simple technological measures, the team was able to increase shuttle security and cut company costs. All of the solutions were implemented using the $300 that SCI gives each team to put toward their client businesses.

Competition judge, Hunter Follett, a McCombs alum and investment banker at Citi, was extremely impressed by the winning team. “It’s hard to imagine that a group of four students could do so much in just 10 weeks.”

Another judge, Paul Albrecht from McKinsey & Co., said, “This team completely turned this business around through their creative consulting.”

Most important of all, business owner Renon was extremely happy to have worked with the four students and SCI.  In a thank you letter, she wrote, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be involved in your program.  [The team] was innovative, hard working and very responsible.”

Read the full story, and tell me whether it doesn’t give you some hope about the future of our society, and the role of business people who actively look for opportunities to improve life within their communities. Yes, that does happen.

If your business or organization is interested in being a part of the Student Consulting Initiative, contact Jake Hughes at jakevhughes@gmail.com or Narayan Bhargava atnarayanbhargava@gmail.com. Visit the organization’s website atwww.mccombs.utexas.edu/students/sci.

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