By Alan Kline – The winner of the fall 2014 business plan competition in BUS 406: Business Problems and Policy was the “Dorm S.O.S.” team of students Hunter Bingham, Preston Felgate, Michael Hon, Brittany Madsen, Ben Plank, and Josh Sawers. The “Dorm S.O.S.” plan was for a business envisioned to provide dorm-cleaning services for college students.
This capstone business course, led by Professor Elizabeth Hoyt, focuses on two major projects during the semester requiring students to draw from all they have learned in previous courses in order to solve actual business problems.
The first project is a case study in which students study multiple businesses (Facebook, for example), comprehensively analyze the business along with its industry and competitive situation, identify the company’s strengths and weaknesses, and then offer recommendations for improvement.
The second project, being the more long-term and challenging of the two, is a business plan competition. Students are organized into teams, and each team is challenged to create and develop a comprehensive and realistic new business concept and plan capable of actual launch if the students elect to do so.
When the business plans are completed at the end of the semester, the teams present their business ideas to a group of judges that includes Professor Hoyt, business executives, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs. Each team is allocated 20 minutes to present their business plan, and after all teams have completed their presentation, the floor is opened to the judges for questions and clarifications. The business plans are judged as though they were being presented to a group of potential investors, resulting in a winner – the concept deemed most worth of funding.
Over the years, many business ideas produced from this course competition have gone on to implementation. Professor Hoyt has recognized 3 common trends among the more successful businesses of the competition. First, not only are the groups completely passionate about their business plans, but the ideas are also realistic and appear to be profitable. Second, she has found that the more successful groups often find ways to maximize their own strengths. In other words, the successful groups find ways to uniquely engage their sets of talents, abilities, and life experiences in order to create a masterpiece of their own. Finally, the group that has the least number of unanswered questions typically has the most successful business plan. The groups are expected to cover every single detail of their business concepts, regardless of how insignificant the detail might seem.
The skills acquired and implemented in this course are used in many aspects of business. The course fosters comprehensive, analytical, and creative thinking, all of which are vital to be successful in the business world. In the end, when the class is completed, Professor Hoyt really wants the students to leave with “the power of harnessing both analytical and creative thought to strategically solve business problems and capitalize on opportunities.” She wants the students to leave William Jewell College feeling excited and equipped for what lies ahead.