This article was originally published on LinkedIn as “Finding a client for Schulich’s Strategy Study (a.k.a. 601)” and is being shared here by Rafay Jamil (MBA 2017), Associate Manager, Engineering at SC Johnson
I often come across LinkedIn posts from Schulich MBA students where they are looking for companies to support the 601 consulting project. I understand that finding a site can be one of the toughest parts of 601 and having gone through that experience myself recently, I thought that I should share a few insights that helped our group.
When I did my 601, there were five things that really helped our team secure a few clients who were interested in pursing the 601 project with us. I have summarized them below:
1. Start Early
Schulich organizes an information session about 2 months prior to when you officially start the 601 (e.g. if you are starting 601 in Winter 2017 then look out for an info session in November 2016). The school maintains their grad blog really well where the timing and location for the session is shared. The school also sends an email to inform students about the session in advance.
During the session, Schulich’s 601 office staff will go through the study in detail. They make considerable effort to answer questions related to client eligibility, group dynamics etc. In my opinion, this is the best time to start looking for a site. Coming out of the session, you’ll have a clear understanding on what type of sites will qualify as well as how can they benefit from the project. My strong advice is to start immediately after the orientation (you are welcome to start early but you may have a lot of unanswered questions!)
2. Create a Team Profile Deck
The 601 office already touches upon this and I’ll re-emphasize, you need to have a deck (1 – 2 slides maximum) outlining your team’s experiences/academic background as well as anything else that might be relevant to the client. You should tweak this deck based on the company you approach (in case if the client will want to have someone with a certain skill set or industry knowledge)
3. Leverage LinkedIn in an Active Manner
This was the most important part for our group. We leveraged LinkedIn quite a bit while looking for sites. We started by preparing a small blurb on what we are looking for and how the company would benefit from the project. We spent countless hours on LinkedIn looking for Senior Executives who have graduated from Schulich. LinkedIn will try to follow your search pattern and show you relevant profiles under “People also Viewed” section on the right side of the screen. I recommend starting with the industry you are familiar with; as an example, I took Pharmaceuticals and CPG. We prepared a customized email for each executive and elaborated upon how we can be of benefit to their company. We received a pretty good response primarily because our target audience had been in this situation few years ago (while they attended school) so they were more understanding.
Do not use a generic email for all clients but rather customize the tone (e.g. address them by their name and mention how you found their company or their contact information). For the introductory email, our team primarily touched upon the fact that the client will get a fresh perspective of their business from MBA students at no cost and they’ll be supporting academic learning. You’ll be surprised on how many recipients respond to a personalized/tailored message.
4. Leverage the Schulich Alumni Network
I had heard a lot about Schulich’s Alumni network, however, I always thought that you can only sign up to the network when you graduate! I tried to register and was surprised to see that the Alumni portal helps current students connect with Alumni. There is a long list of Schulich Alumni on the portal and they have shared their professional profiles. I sifted through the Alumni profiles to see if any particular profiles would be a good fit. The portal allows you to private message any member so I prepared a small blurb and sent out a few messages. You cannot post a public message on the portal if you are a student. I did get some responses where a few alumni were willing to help out by seeing if their company would be interested. Try the site and see if you can find someone to help you (Here’s the link)
5. Reach out to the 601 Office Early
The 601 office has a limited set of companies that approach them every term. You may get a site through the school which is great because the office does a great job in screening companies to see which ones would be a good fit for the school’s 601 project.
Another important consideration: I’m certain that you’ll be very excited upon getting a response from the client. However, my strong advice is that you go through the NDA posted on Schulich’s 601 website before committing to any client. The NDA also has a contract attached to it and the most important part of the contract is to ensure that the client is willing to share certain information with your team. I highly recommend that you set-up a face to face meeting with the client and review the list of information you’ll need in order to complete the Strategy Field Study (e.g. Access to clients, Financials etc.). Make sure that the company is clear on what they are signing up for and I would recommend asking your site contact to verify with the Senior Leadership team (especially with the company’s CEO or President) that they are okay to share such information with you under a signed NDA. In case if they are hesitant then you may want to move on to finding another site.
Feel free to comment and add anything else that has worked for your group.