As an Olin Business School student, I have been exposed to an exciting curriculum for learning business. A common aspect of classroom learning is the case study, where we learn about the problems a real company faces and ultimately present recommendations to our TAs and professors. Whether reading about potential airport expansion for Southwest Airlines or how Disney should respond to the recent surge in subscriptions to video on-demand services, each case is exciting and makes us think about business from a different perspective.
Yet all of these cases are missing an essential aspect of consulting: interaction with the client. They are interesting to read, but our team could not directly interact with the client and learn even more about the business from personnel.
During one of my business school courses, I was on a team tasked with helping a company improve its client communication outreach. Working directly with a client of the company, we spent a whole semester communicating and developing recommendations. However, instead of a final presentation to the professor, teaching assistants, and fellow classmates, we sat around a table with the actual client and presented our solutions.
These experiences taught me how fulfilling it was to develop client relationships, learn about their business from employees, and then present the recommendations directly back to the client. Seeing the client be genuinely interested in our recommendations, engaged during the presentation, and curious about our ideas allowed me to recognize the value in developing a relationship with the client when providing recommendations. I quickly realized that I wanted to continue interacting with clients and helping them improve their businesses.
As a sophomore, I heard of a company called Bear Studios through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Bear Studios is a student-founded and run business development firm offering consulting, design, accounting, and technology services to WashU and area businesses. Bear Studios provides services to companies that are small and large, young and old—to improve their models, change their strategies, or create whole new perspectives of their operations.
After my initial meeting with the directors, I was captivated by Bear Studios’ direct involvement with the client and knew this organization would present me with chances to interact with clients and help them develop their businesses.
Throughout the semester, I helped with smaller projects—learning the processes, seeing the operations behind the organization, and sitting in on client meetings. Over the summer, I was given my first major project. The night before my first phone call with the client, I read the executive summary, as I’d done so many times before during my business classes, and prepared questions. I was slightly nervous, but excited to be leading my own project.
Over the course of the next month, with the help of Bear Studios fellows, I communicated with the client and turned an executive summary into a fully-developed presentation. Being able to build a relationship with the client and talk through ideas, refine others, and produce a finished product they were excited about, was incredibly rewarding. Seeing the development of skills and interests I’d picked up in the classroom and applying them directly to my extracurricular involvement excites me for future projects with Bear Studios.
Guest Blogger: Tommy Elzinga, BSBA’19, is majoring in Finance, Film and Media Studies