A group of five graduate students from Cal State Fullerton’s Steven G. Mihaylo College of Business and Economics placed second in a national competition for student-organized, strategic business planning.
The group took second place at the Small Business Institute Consulting Project of the Year Competition for strategic business planning, the practice of analyzing a company’s internal and external factors and developing a plan to make that business more successful.
This is the fourth time graduate student-led teams from CSUF have placed in the top three in this competition. For the past 22 years CSUF’s teams have placed in the top 10.
Fernando Arevalo, Daniel Equina, Anita Kao, Ryan Laiola and Sumer Sharma, the group whose plan won the award, have since graduated, as it takes multiple years to analyze the impact of their work.
The students were part of a capstone course for a business master’s program in strategic management that required them to execute their own business planning.
The class, led by Peng Chan, Ph.D, a professor in the management program, is designed to give students experience in producing a real-world strategic business consultation.
The students organized themselves into a team called Enterprise Consulting Group and were assigned a small business, Reborn Cabinets Inc., a custom cabinet manufacturer, to work with.
The group was required to analyze the company both internally and as a competitor in the marketplace, and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, Chan said.
“Sometimes when we go in, the client has something specific in mind, saying ‘here’s our problems.’” Chan said, “As we start the consulting process, they’ll realize a lot of things that are very interesting that they haven’t even thought about,” Chan said
The students used focus groups to better understand Reborn Cabinet’s clientele. About 60 individual people were interviewed, Laiola, a member of the student team, said.
The comprehensive nature of the consulting gave Laiola a greater appreciation for the nuances of business operation, he said.
“You step back and write an entire recommendation to see how everything leads up to the big picture again,” Laiola said.
Reborn Cabinets noticed the work Enterprise Consulting Group did as well.
“The client wanted to hire me,” Laiola said, “I took their offer very seriously.”
Laiola is currently the vice president of the commercial banking arm of California Bank & Trust’s greater Southern California division.