MB 107 meets Best Buy
MB 107 meets Best Buy
May 8, 2013
In early February, 85 students from Skidmore’s introductory business course, MB 107, gathered in an auditorium to find out their job for the next three months—to create a three-year strategic plan for adding 10 percent to the bottom line of consumer electronics giant Best Buy, and to present their recommendations to real-life executives (CEOs, VPs, managing directors) whose judgments would shape their course grade.
Divided into 17 teams and supported by 34 upperclass student coaches, they marked April 26 on their calendars—the date they would pitch their plans to 24 executives from as far away as California and Florida. They also got some prodding from their professors. “How do you differentiate a product at Best Buy from one on Amazon or at Walmart?” asked Catherine Hamilton. “That’s your challenge, and it’s a big one. Best Buy reminds me of Borders, and as you know, it closed a lot of its stores recently.”
After extensive research, Katherine Glowatsky ’16 says, her team decided to penetrate a new market by partnering with the online, home-automation company Control4. Their plan, the likely theater major explains, called for Best Buy to mimic Samsung’s store-within-a-store model by renting floor space to Control4, an exclusively online business with no physical stores. Customers could test out Control4's home-automation system in a “demo room” and also take advantage of Best Buy’s Geek Squad for an installation fee. New market, more foot traffic.
Some other memorable team strategies, according to Caroline D’Abate ’93, MB 107’s faculty coordinator:
• providing an economical television and refrigerator leasing program aimed primarily at college students
• acquiring Presto, a kitchen technology company, to broaden Best Buy's product line
• partnering with a tech firm to sell a suite of Best Buy home products, including a tool to control a home’s appliances, electronics, heat, and lights.
“Teams that did well as far as the executives were concerned didn’t abandon the core idea of Best Buy—addressing the company’s big US stores, which produce 80 percent of its revenues,” says business professor Mark Youndt. “It was vital that the strategy both add value and drive store traffic.”
Jeff Smolens ’16, a likely business major and a member of the Control4-centered team, felt well prepared thanks to the breadth of the MB 107 classes. He says, “The professors did a fantastic job of giving us the tools to start understanding what it takes to thrive in a business atmosphere. I can’t stress enough how important each class was, and I guess that’s my biggest takeaway.”
“Tools like the strategy diamond (markets, customers, and geography) and the four Ps (product, price, place, promotion) are important to know,” agrees Glowatsky. “But what the presentation gave me was a way to apply these concepts to something current. It was an entirely new way for me to learn, and it was extremely valuable.” She adds, “The experience also teaches you how to dress professionally, work well in teams, and develop confidence as a public speaker—all useful life skills.”
Eric Miller, a State Farm claims manager who volunteered as an executive judge, says it was “energizing to see so much creative thinking and application of business principles. It was clear that the students put a lot time and effort into their presentations. They were poised and did a good job of managing a very stressful situation.”
Executive Stu Danforth ’89, director of Positive Leadership Dynamics, was the lunchtime speaker. He helps business leaders unlock their personal potential as they grapple with strategic planning, organizational dynamics, career advancement, and other challenges.
(Cover image--top: Allison Keller ’15, Angela Botiba ’15 (coach), Katherine Glowatsky ’16, Fred Tetteh ’13 (coach), and Jeffrey Smolens ’16; seated: Henry Fabre ’16 and Ashley Narvaez ’16)