Adding Value beyond Our Area of Expertise

by Allison Flanders, MBA ’18 (9/5/17)

Allison Flanders, MBA ’18

Learning how to best add value as an MBA student to a business owner who knows the ins and outs of their business.  

Big Red Microenterprise (BRM) connects graduate student coaches with Ithaca entrepreneurs to help them address some of their business challenges. It serves as a great opportunity to connect to the community beyond Cornell, and is also a unique chance to dive deep into an unfamiliar subject area. In our case, this was autism. Our client provides lessons and services on how to heal symptoms of autism through diet and nutrition.

A very interesting learning aspect of the coach / client relationship is learning how to best add value as an MBA student to a business owner who knows the ins and outs of their business far beyond what we could learn in one semester. This was particularly salient with our client who has a Ph.D. in Chemistry – among various other Master’s degrees – so her knowledge about the science behind autism is astounding.

To effectively help our client, the first thing we did as a team was learn as much as we could about her business model, and recognize that while we would not become experts in the science behind her product, we could add value by evaluating her branding and marketing approach. This was particularly important because many of her clients are loved ones of people recently diagnosed with autism, who themselves are not well-versed in the science behind autism. Thus we sought to provide an objective evaluation of the branding, web presence, sales page, and consumer journey from a prospective client’s point of view.

In addition to providing an outsider’s point of view, we tried to utilize our personal and professional backgrounds as well as learnings from the MBA program, to provide our client with relevant recommendations about her marketing approach. Despite the content area being beyond our area of expertise, Big Red Microenterprise provided us with the tools and training to confidently tackle her business issues.