Student group learns business
What was immediately striking about the
Chicago students and alumni gathered on the B-school side of Harper Library one
rainy Saturday morning this spring was their professionalism. Shortly before the
Eckhart Consulting (EC) student group convened for its first working meeting,
Kevin Kimmerling, AB'01, and fellow Deloitte Consulting analyst Brian Karlsson,
AB'01, chatted briefly about the brain flash that launched EC.
volunteering as an alumni adviser to the College's Mock Trial team, Kimmerling
was frustrated by how much time the group wasted with its disorganized approach
to logistics. Buying office supplies, for example, or arranging travel for out-of-town
tournaments was always left to the last minute. "One day it hit me: this
is a clear opportunity to get other students involved," Kimmerling explains.
"We could have a student group come in and fix our problems."
Mock Trial participants desperately needed, Kimmerling realized, were outside
consultants to streamline their logistical processes, "so they could concentrate
on what they do best: competing."
Mock Trial could use these services, Kimmerling suspected, other student groups
could too. He called his brother, Kurt Kimmerling, SB'02, then a fourth-year,
and suggested forming a consulting group; Kurt pitched the idea to several friends.
The chance to add practical experience to their résumés was a strong
draw for students facing the worst job market in years. About ten students signed
For Kevin and Karlsson, the group was a way
to mentor students aspiring to go into business. "We're still in touch with
the problems student groups are dealing with," Karlsson says, "but we
also know what it's like to be thrown into a consulting experience, because it
just happened to us."
Kevin agrees: "We
can teach them it's a confidence issue, that you don't have to know everything
about a client's problem; what you need most to succeed is common sense."
group met in Eckhart Hall (hence its name) to decide which services were in demand
among student organizations, settling on four "product groups": marketing,
budgetary, membership, and strategic and organizational consulting. They established
a corporate-like structure, with Kevin and Karlsson as "partners," providing
big-picture counsel, and Kurt and Michael Tyree, '03, as "directors,"
managing projects and running the group. Other students became consultants, with
positions open for two assistant directors and two "professional development
planners," who help consultants chart their personal career paths with Eckhart.
Positions are filled via an application-and-interview process. Consultants' work
is evaluated on their strategy, project-management, and sales skills.
Eckhart spread the word about its services, three clients stepped forward: a fraternity
seeking to spruce up its campus image, an elected body needing budget assistance,
and Mock Trial. (Clients are promised confidentiality; Mock Trial agreed to be
in the Magazine's report.)
At the April
meeting ten consultants were assigned to projects, and the groups broke up to
strategize. "At the end of the day you should meet three goals," Kurt
instructed his cohorts: "understand your clients' problems, when you'll be
ready to sit down with your client, and what solutions you'll provide. Your consultations
will be in the seventh or eighth week. Between now and then you'll do your research
and gather materials."
Kevin, on the Mock
Trial project, reeled off the group's needs: in addition to travel and office-supply
purchasing processes, the group wanted help managing its budget, creating the
perception that it's "the" academic team on campus, and instituting
a more communicative team environment. He looked around the table. "Maybe
someone should write this stuff down!" The students scrambled for pen and
paper. "Now. What can we tackle?"
the confidentiality agreements prevent revealing more specific details, Eckhart's
inaugural members hope students returning to campus this autumn notice a fraternity
that's slightly more polished, an elected body with a better handle on its funds,
and a Mock Trial team that's not only successful but also efficient.
year, under Tyree as managing director, Eckhart intends to work with the Office
of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities on a leadership seminar. It has also
agreed to help Career and Placement Services run informational sessions on management
consulting. "The group's purpose is still the same, but its scope is much
wider," Tyree says. "EC is going to do some great things this year."
Sharla A. Stewart