A couple of weeks ago in the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider weekly update we mentioned the experience of past CSUF Consulting client Hilton Hotels and how one of our teams helped them save a lot of money by going green. I recently had the chance to get some more insight on this project and how CSUF Consulting teams go about helping businesses of all kinds with Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson.
Travis Lindsay: The Waterfront Hilton Hotel project was an interesting project. Can you tell me what they were looking for from one of our CSUF Consulting teams?
John Bradley Jackson: The client wanted to become more sustainable but was not sure what to do [and wanted one of our teams to develop some solutions].
TL: How did the team tackle this challenge?
JBL: [Each CSUF Consulting team has a mentor from the private sector] and our mentor, Tom Faust, directed the team to focus on a green solution that was also economically sound. This triggered the students to look into the cost of energy and lighting. The ultimate solution was the introduction of LED lighting, which was a long term fix. The Waterfront Hilton is a large hotel that used conventional lighting prior to the students’ recommendation. The ROI over a ten year period was projected to be very substantial.
TL: In general, why should a business consider becoming a CSUF Consulting client?
JBL: A CSUF Consulting team often puts in 300 to 400 hours of work collectively, which can be a very cost effective solution. They do the things that our clients want to do but don’t have the time to do. Our students are millennials and they are tech savvy and bring great creativity to the consulting assignment. Often business owners and executives are too close to the problem or situation to visualize solutions; student teams offer a high octane third part perspective.
Director Jackson also shared with me the CSUF Consulting Problem Solving Methodology; which is an 11 step guide that his CSUF Consulting teams use when working with clients.
- Define the client’s current state – This is the current condition of a process, entity, or situation. A present-state captures all of the details of a process, entity, or situation just as it is; this includes the positive traits or features along with flaws or errors.
- Define the client’s desired state – This is the improved condition for a process, entity, or situation. A desired state describes the process, entity, or situation as it should be, with all possible flaws and errors eliminated.
- Identify the problem or opportunity (often called the “gap”) – It is very important to accurately define a problem as an initial step. Be careful to identify the problem itself and not a symptom/s of a problem. Write out a problem statement as a question (“How do we train our staff in customer service skills?”) or as an infinitive (“To determine the best method for training the staff in customer service skills.”).
- Analyze the situation and gather information – Once the problem is identified and the general scope of the problem is defined, then information is gathered which will support choosing a solution later. Separate information into two categories: facts and assumptions. Facts are information that is known and verifiable. Opinions can be handled as facts but their source must be carefully weighed as to its credibility. Assumptions are used for those areas of information that we need but have no facts. The assumptions should be necessary and valid in that they are likely to be true based on our list of facts. Assumptions need to be clarified and validated as part of the process since assumptions will often drive our selection of a solution.
- Identify possible recommendations – When working in a group, brainstorming usually works best. Use the synergy created by several people developing ideas to derive potential solutions. One caveat is to not allow for the judgment of the ideas at this point. If you have the criteria you need in place, they will screen out any nonviable solutions.
- Analyze and compare possible recommendations – Apply the screening and evaluation criteria to your potential solutions beginning with the screening criteria first. Any proposed solutions that are screened out by any one or more of the screening criteria are not considered further. Apply the evaluation criteria to those solutions that survived the screening process. Objectively evaluate each option with the pluses and minuses of each.
- Final recommendations – After a period of time, the best solution to solve the problem should be apparent. Be sure to ask yourself, but did it solve the problem? Will there be any other issues created by its implementation? Analyzing the potential effectiveness of solutions will increase the efficacy of the solution. It is always best to pre-sell your ideas to the client along the way, rather than surprising the client at the final presentation.
- Implementation plan for the recommendations – Describe the solution/s in detail. It is frequent that we offer many ideas that might help the client, which is a great thing. But, be sure to rank those ideas by priority.
- Describe the costs involved – To best of your ability estimate the cost of the solutions. Be advised that many of our clients will appreciate solutions that are low cost or no cost. Beware of presenting any solution that is cost prohibitive.
- Establish a timeline for implementation with the action steps required – Some recommendations may be easily implemented right away while others may require preparation and lead time. A possible presentation of the timeline could include items to implement immediately, while other recommendations might be implemented in 90 days, 180 days, or even in a year. Be specific about the action steps required. Often, the costs and staffing requirements associated with implementation will determine the clients’ ability to implement, so be sensitive to client’s ability to absorb and fun changes.
- Return on investment – Suggest a process to measure the effectiveness of the implemented solution. Most business executives will want to know what is to be expected after implementation of the recommendations. This might be cost savings, increased sales, improved productivity, etc. While this ROI is an estimate, it may be the evidence needed for the client to go forward. Quantify these anticipated results whenever possible; benchmarks may be helpful.
As you can tell, the CSUF Consulting program produces creative and comprehensive projects. We are always looking for ambitious businesses who are looking for innovative ways to improve and if you think your business or another business you know of would be a good fit please get in touch with Client Project Specialist Charlesetta Medina now! She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (657) 278-8243.
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