Universities – How They Can Help Your Small Business


Professors at schools prefer to assign real life problems to their students. At most graduate business schools, they assign students singly or in teams to analyze a real company in their city. The other subject areas like engineering, graphic design, advertising, etc., are also looking for real life assignments for their students.

If you have a product that needs to be engineered, you can approach the professor teaching that subject to ask if students can be assigned to your project. They’re usually happy to comply. Most often there is no charge to you. Increasingly, more schools will charge a royalty if it’s a product you plan to commercialize. That is still a good deal as there should be no guarantees or up front royalty payment. (A Variable Expense)

We would go to the local design school to get a package for a new product developed. We might give a modest monetary prize to the student with the best design. More importantly, we would put their name on the package…great resume builder for the student. You might go to the local college or graduate business school and ask the Entrepreneurship professor if one of their student groups can come up with a business plan for your fledgling company. If you have a legal problem, approach the law school.

One year, we approached the engineering school at a major university to develop a savings bank with all kinds of bells and whistles. We wanted it to keep track of all the money in the bank at any moment, to play a song when money was deposited, to have a tabletop look, etc. For us this was a high tech project. For them it was a piece of cake. They were happy to take on the project as it was a real life situation.

In a recent survey I did with professors of Entrepreneurship, I discovered that a high percentage of them already have programs where teams of students are assigned to assist an existing company in solving its problems. The professors go into the community to find companies who want this help and who will cooperate with the students. They more than welcome companies coming to them to participate in this program. There are some smart young people involved who have a very open minded approach to solving problems and developing ideas. They are not constrained by the past. This is another cost free opportunity for assistance in developing your company.

Whatever your project, you should give serious thought to exploring the schools in your area for help. It can be an excellent cost-free solution. I believe your chances would be higher in schools that have a dominant position in the community. Helping the small guy while offering a good learning experience is a compelling proposition for a teacher.

A bonus for you is that you can find some great interns for your company during the summer months or school year. Some may turn out to be excellent hires.

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