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Win-Win! Students Gain International Experience Developing Export Plans for South Carolina Companies

The South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC) and Professor Wolfgang Messner of the Darla Moore School of Business recently collaborated to assist South Carolina companies while creating applied learning opportunities for students enrolled in the school’s Global Competitive Analysis course.

“The success of the program hinges on attracting South Carolina companies willing to participate,” said SC SBDC State Director Michele Abraham. “The SC SBDC is fundamental to the selection process. We identify clients who have expressed a strong interest in expanding their business footprint and pair them with a student team that will assess their capacity to compete globally.”

For 17 weeks, eight teams of undergraduate and postgraduate international business students work alongside SC SBDC business consultants to engage the client, analyze the company’s industry landscape, conduct a market analysis, develop an implementation plan and deliver recommendations via a formal presentation.

“This is as real as it gets,” said Professor Messner. “The curriculum transcends book learning and classroom lectures with practical, real-world experience. During these consulting projects, students gain first-hand experience in analyzing a bona fide business challenge and recommending innovative, value-added solutions to the client company.”

In addition to examining the global business environment, student teams spoke with U.S. and foreign regulatory agencies, developed market entry strategies and created international marketing plans.

Beth Smith, Area Manager of the Spartanburg SBDC, believes the Global Competitive Analysis program is valuable because of what it delivers to her clients. “I work with area companies on growth strategies such as exporting goods to foreign countries. We utilize the market research that the students provide to determine which markets are viable.”

Reflecting on her experience with the Core Technology Molding Corporation, a Spartanburg Area SBDC client and BMW supplier, Moore School international business graduate student Katie Barnicle said: “The CEO was so impressed by our presentation that he intends to actually implement some of our recommendations. It’s extremely gratifying to have our hard work recognized.”

Core Technology President/CEO Geoff Foster said the student consultants did an exceptional job addressing his company’s business challenges. “The team’s final analysis surpassed my expectations. As I read the proposal I had to keep reminding myself that this was prepared by novices and, notwithstanding, many of their suggestions were spot on.”

Foster is not alone in expressing his gratitude. “Clients are consistently impressed by the caliber of the final reports the consulting teams produce. In fact, companies usually implement at least some of the solutions proposed,” said Abraham. “With both the client companies and students benefiting, this course is the epitome of a win-win situation.”

“Intense. That’s how I’d describe this course to my peers. Without a doubt it was the most demanding undertaking of my academic career. The benefits I derived, however, are invaluable,” said Mark Kingsmore, a Moore School international business major.

“The Global Competitiveness course transforms lives by equipping students with the hands-on skills, leadership experience and confidence they need to succeed following graduation,” said Messner. “The close partnerships developed by the SC SBDC with the business community make these career-shaping opportunities possible. This certainly helps to keep the Moore School on the frontier of international business education and justifies our consistent No.1 ranking in international business by U.S. News and World Report.”

“This project pushed me beyond what I considered my capabilities,” said Kingsmore. “It became less about earning a good grade and more about delivering a quality product.”