MBA students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business want to help Triangle-area small businesses and not-for-profit organizations that are in need of consulting help but are unable to pay the typical fees of consulting agencies.

Through the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum, MBA students can take a for-credit course to help companies solve their business challenges and companies can benefit from the students’ assistance in developing business solutions. 

Over the past 30 years, Fuqua students have assisted more than 300 local companies, nonprofits, and municipal agencies through this consulting program. Past activities have included: improving accounting systems; financial analysis; diagnosing management problems; information technology and developing marketing strategies, among other topics. In addition, the students have helped some small firms expand their business overseas.

Last year, Fuqua teams worked with four not-for-profit and 12 for-profit organizations across diverse sectors of the economy: health care, education, information technology, professional services and retail. Their consulting work included specific recommendations and a detailed implementation plan, resulting in positive client feedback.

To be considered for the program, businesses must meet the following criteria:

– Be in business for at least one year;

– Have revenues exceeding $100,000 for the past business year (there may be some exceptions for nonprofits);

– Provide financial and operational data to the student consultants (the financial data enables the students to make recommendations to improve economic viability);

– Be available to meet with the student team a minimum of five times during the course of the consulting engagement (October 2012 through April 2013);

– Pay a $500 administrative fee if accepted into the consulting program (some grant funding is available to offset a portion of this cost; this funding is awarded based on organizational size and need).

Some organizations that have recently participated in the program are: Raw Choice (health foods); Two Men and a Truck (moving); DynPro, Inc. (contract research); Lulu Enterprises (publishing); Glasshalfull LLC (restaurant); PharmaDirections (drug development consulting) and Virtual Heroes (a recently acquired video game producer for Department of Defense training).

Nonprofit organizations are welcome in the program. Past participating nonprofits include: Bull City Forward (nonprofit entrepreneurial education organization); the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science; the Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuse (TROSA); Futures 4 Kids; Diabetes Management Solutions and the Methodist Home for Children.

In Fuqua’s Client Consulting Practicum, students learn about the applying organizations and the business problems for which they are seeking assistance. Teams are then formed based on students’ interests and business problems that best match their experience and abilities. Once selected, owners/managers of the organizations meet with a student team to further discuss the problems to be addressed. 

Student teams begin the consulting project in October and hold five or six meetings with the client through April. A faculty member is assigned to support each team and regularly meets with the students to review their progress until they successfully complete the project with a formal oral and written presentation for the client. Every student also signs a non-disclosure agreement before the consulting engagement begins.

Fuqua is now accepting applications for the fall 2012 consulting program. The application deadline is Aug. 31.

Interested parties can obtain a brochure and application by calling Jane Smith at (919) 660-1903 or via e-mail at jane.smith@duke.edu. If you have additional questions about the program, contact Dr. James Emery, faculty director of the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum, at james.emery@duke.edu.

The program application, brochure, and overview are also available here. The website also includes information about Fuqua consulting practicum projects for medium and large businesses.