Client Consulting Presentation

It has been a week since we had our client presentation in regards to the research we have done all semester. It has also been a week of reflecting about how the presentation went and editing our final report. This was the first time I have presented my findings and recommendations to an external client before, and I know not only me, but the whole business team was quite nervous and anxious to present. Now that I’ve reflected, there are some challenges as well as lessons learned from doing a consulting presentation.

Challenges & Lessons

  1. ‘How do you know what is the most important parts of your research to present to the client’ is probably the biggest question my team and I encountered. It’s not like we showcase the whole report or just a specific section, the flow of the presentation needs to make sense and lead to feasible recommended action. What we learned was to work backwards, and this can actually help in overall benefiting the format of the report itself. The first thing we thought of is what is the main recommended action we want to set as a direction for the client and then think backwards to what parts of our research will flow to reach to that recommendation. With our presentation though, it was a little more difficult as we were split to three different parts, the primary and secondary market research, marketing plan, and materials and price analysis.
  2. One of our biggest challenges is coordinating with the other teams, law and engineering, so that we can deliver a presentation that integrated all of our research findings in one powerpoint. We needed to figure out the flow, in which Dr. Schlosser contributed to finalize and understand who presents when. From here, Jasmine went ahead and coordinated each team regarding their part and to send them to the business team to put the whole presentation together. One last teamwork effort for us this semester.
  3. In terms of lessons learned, I learned that the most important parts to showcase are graphs and charts, they display the most impact in terms of content and they are visually appealing. Also, minimal words are ideal and only single points to help flow each of your slides and purpose.

Overall, having to present in front of a client for the first time was a great experience and I am glad I completed this before I graduated as I know this is something I will be doing more often when I start working, especially since I am looking for opportunities in sales and marketing, with presentations being a huge factor to my job responsibilities.

 

-Mark Jason Aguilar, 4th Year Business Student

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Marketing Plan

My main role throughout the semester was to oversee the marketing for the product and to eventually create a final marketing plan. After finding out the marketing research and what the need was, I thought that developing a marketing plan would be very simple and easy. I was incorrect thinking this because I had many obstacles when making this part of the report. A major obstacle I encountered was simply how to market the product. Initially I thought of social media and the impact this would make due to the rising technology. Social media will only create a major impact to the end customers and skip the retailers in between. If our client wanted to be a merchandiser, then this technique would not create an impact. At this point I realized that I would have to create two different marketing plans, one for retailers and one for the end customers. This was a huge learning moment because I realized that sometimes you have to sit and think about the situation before acting upon it. I also recognized that sometimes, good ideas take time to discover. After this was established, it was easier to develop a marketing plan that could enhance both potential buyers.

Retailers and customers will be targeted in different ways. Customers will mainly be focused on social media and giveaways. This will allow the product to reach a mass market fairly quickly. The giveaways will allow customers to try the product and receive one for free. For example, like, share and follow our Instagram page to be entered into a draw to win something. Hopefully after this, word of mouth will spread around fast to their friends and family members to reach an even larger audience. Therefore, social media and word of mouth will be key to reach the end consumer.

On the other hand, retailers will be targeted differently. Expo shows and visual merchandising are extremely important to reach these potential buyers. Expo shows will include high-end events, charity events and fashion shows. In each occasion, potential retailers will be exposed to this product and receive the information needed in order to make a purchase. Visual merchandising will also be used, which will allow the product to be seen through store windows when walking down the street. Therefore, expo shows and visual merchandising will be very important in order to reach retailers.

In conclusion, I learned a lot about creating a marketing plan for a potential start-up company. Formulating two separate plans allowed me to understand how to separate and target each consumer. This allowed me to come up with new and creative ideas for the different targeted customers.

– Tina Benotto, Fourth Year Business Student

 

 

 

 

 

Multi-Disciplinary Teams: An Asset to Everyone

This is my second experience working on a multi-disciplinary team during my four-year academic career. I had the opportunity to work with engineers in a Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship course last year. It was a great experience filled with learning and new experiences. I assumed this previous experience would be very similar to this new project but it has varied drastically. This project was much more in depth and thorough which allowed me to work individually with the team members at critical stages of the project.

This project has allowed me to understand what our real lives will be like once we graduate and start our careers. In any job you work in teams of different disciplines and departments. It brings together different people with varying knowledge, skills, backgrounds, cultures and experiences. Working in any multi-disciplinary team brings a competitive advantage that a team of all business, all engineering or all law doesn’t have. It has diversity. This project has prepared me for a career, which I cannot say about most of the courses I have taken in my academic career. This course is an amazing opportunity for any student to consider to grow as a leader, a team member and a person.

Not only does working in a multi-disciplinary team build leadership skills and teamwork abilities, it allows us to learn about other disciplines. When working in a team setting with open discussion, ideas or concepts would be brought up that one person may not have even thought of or considered. I simply is a learning experience. Working in a team like this broadens every team member’s horizons and allows them to gain knowledge in specific disciplines that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so. I personally learned so much about design and manufacturing from the engineering team. I also learned a lot about patents, copyrights and intellectual property from the law team. Law has so much in common with business, I wish I had more opportunities to learn more about it. So much depends on the law aspect of the project, everything from design, logos, and the name of the product. The law team ensured we were not infringing on any other products on the market or patents.

Working on multi-disciplinary teams is a new concept that universities are attempting to integrate into their curriculums. I feel every faculty should have at least one multi-disciplinary team experience for one of their classes during a student’s academic career. It’s a fundamental skill to be able to work in diverse groups, and the reality is, this is what a career will be like once you graduate. Universities should be able to show the assets that this type of team experience offers, to in turn creating a more diverse and accepting work force in careers and in schools.

Jasmine Drouillard

Team Coordinator

Learning About Entrepreneurship

One of the things I am enjoying the most about this project is getting to see and understand more about the realities of the entrepreneurship and start-up experience. Firstly, we were introduced to the lean start-up process through our “Test Your Business Idea” textbook. This introduced me to the importance of avoiding confirmation bias, building a Business Model Canvas, and carefully investigating the actual needs of the market to ensure that your product will be successful and desired by consumers.

In addition, I recently attended the Georgie-Odette Leadership Symposium, and one of the speakers at this leadership conference spoke about the importance of the “first joiners”. While a leader does take the initial risk of coming up with an idea and putting up time and money to start it up, we should not underestimate the power of the first people to join with them. The first joiners are the ones that help build the idea and help support and encourage the leader. This is something that I am getting to see and experience first hand through this project. For example, although they didn’t come up with the product idea, all of my team mates saw the potential of this project from the very beginning and they were willing to put themselves out there to begin developing it. This is something that I realize now is extremely important, and it is this enthusiasm and belief in the potential of the project that has helped us to get through the obstacles it has faced.

Another thing I have noticed that is unique to start-ups is that, at least during this project, they bring people together. As mentioned, I think it is this potential of being part of something bigger and greater that really attracts people to start-ups. However, joining a start-up is a very different experience, or at least it was for me, from joining an already well-established business. In an established firm, you are entering a workplace where all your co-workers already know each other, there is an established culture, and a relatively routine work flow. Meanwhile, when I joined this project, many of my teammates did not know each other and we had to discover and create our own team culture and work flow. While each experience had its own pros and cons, I am extremely glad I got to experience the working environment at a start-up.

Lastly, by working with EPICentre on this project, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many students are working on their own start-up projects here at the University of Windsor. It has been amazing to see just how much creativity there is here on our campus and how much support there is for students who want to get involved in entrepreneurial projects. Moving forward, I would definitely recommend that other students to try to get involved in entrepreneurial projects on campus as it is a great environment to experiment, try new things, and meet like-minded people!

 

Emily Poli

Research Assistant

The Power of Product Markups

Over the last month, I have been focusing on trying to find out a way to bring my research on analyzing materials for the product and what is required in regards to the production costs to bring the product to market. Through my research, I found that there is a consistent multiplier for designers and manufacturers in the industry, that from their wholesale price, the standard industry markup ranges from 2-3 times the cost, averaging at 2.4 times the wholesale price. By finding out this data, it now allows me to implement something called backwards planning.

Backwards planning is knowing what the end goal is, in this case we know what the retailers cost are just by looking at competitors prices, and then going backwards trying to understand how they got to that price point. With the knowledge of knowing the product markup amount that is added on by retailers when buying at wholesale either from the factory or a distributor, a price point can be determined. However, the challenge lies in figuring out what the actual cost of the product is. There is no industry standard to how much to add on to a product as a profit, it completely comes down to the business on what is sustainable, but an important aspect to consider is if the products retail price will compete with its market, being on the low, mid, or high-end price range.

When it comes down to figuring out the cost per product, there are two main factors, one is the material being used if it is material heavy, for the instance of our project, this product we are working with has a substantial material cost in the sense that it heavily affects production and the overall pricing. The second factor is more related to manufacturing and production with the cost of labor to make the product. Striking a balance between the two and drawing a recommendation to match our client desire is the final step for me with this project and my main contribution for the business side of the research. From my findings and analysis, I believe I will be able to make a feasible recommendation, but the question is, would it be sustainable to produce and with the current progress of the engineering team in terms of design and prototype, my recommendation is purely from a business perspective.

I know I will be able to draw conclusions on the ideal price range in terms of producing each product, but I question if the engineers will be able to actually make the product with my recommendation of materials. I think this is a great point to leave it at for the next semester and the next group of business students to take over what we have done so far and to validate my findings. With this report, I am leaving templates and guidelines to the costing and production in which I hope that the next team uses to realistically figure the actual cost of a prototype and if it matches to the client ideal retail price range with the knowledge of the industry markup.

 

-Mark Jason Aguilar, 4th Year Business Student

Communication Channels

In any business company communication is always key in order to be successful. Communication can be verbal, non-verbal and written. All three ways of communicating are very important to have a profitable business team.

Throughout the semester, my communication has improved significantly. I have gained experience communicating to other faculties as well as individuals outside of our team. Conducting surveys and having discussions with other individuals allowed me to understand how important it is to be clear and concise. I have learned that simple questions are better then complex questions. This is very important in face-to-face communication as well as in surveys. If survey questions are confusing and it is an online pool then the results will not be accurate. If these results are inaccurate then the market research will have to be re-conducted to find precise results. Having false results about the market creates a huge mess for a company. Everything would be different such as the target audience and key information that is needed about the market. Therefore, the marketing would be incorrect along with the entire business model.

Our business team has been mainly communicating through Facebook, Email and our Blackboard site. Facebook has been a very effective communication tool because it is something that all of us use frequently. Email has been our second best option and is mainly used for sending files. We haven’t used the Blackboard site that often for this course. Our site is set up as an organization instead of a course, which is a different set-up, then what we are used to. A recommendation that I would have for next semester is to set-up the site as a course. The students will be more aware of how the site operates and the functions on it.

In conclusion, our team has been communicating extremely well and continues to operate this way. Having a business team comprised of four individuals is the perfect amount. Our group of four have worked together extremely well and have each developed our business skills.

 

– Tina Benotto, Fourth Year Business Student

Behind the Scenes: Business Name

I’ve never thought that there was so much thinking, process, and validation required in coming up with a business name. Throughout this semester and trying to put this project together, one of our biggest roadblocks is securing a possible product name for our client. When we first met our client back in the beginning of the semester, our client already had a name chosen, in which was great. However, within the next couple weeks, the law team discovered that the name was not possible to be trademarked as it was already taken, although the original name was already unique itself.

Think outside of the box, this is the first hurdle that we encountered in trying to help our client choose a new business name. Also, our client is very open to ideas and suggestions, in which my opinion made it a little more difficult for us to narrow down options. We did have a direction as the product was to be named in relation to a “real persons” name like how designers name their brands with their personal names. This was a great start for us, however there a millions of names out there, how can we decide and recommend a name or names to use. As we started to think and bring up ideas, we realized that we should use two different names but it will have some form of relevance in the name to match the product. Also we have considered a name in which can match to both male and females. Over the last week, the business team has solidified our choice for recommendation in a name, so time to move on to the next hurdle.

Research is the next hurdle faced by our team and there are many aspects to research such as the amount of time required to check on any trademarks or other established businesses that use the name or have similar product and name style. In the world of fashion and accessories, the name of the products is everything, as that name would someday hopefully represent a brand, a perception, and an image.

Creativity is the last hurdle in getting a name down. This from the way the name sounds and looks when written down. Also a huge aspect to creativity is the logo design, the color scheme to the name and the brand, as well as the font to be used to represent the name on the product, marketing material, and everything to externalize the business. This is something our team is currently still working on and hopes to complete a branding kit of some sort to our client as we near the end of our project date.

Will keep you updated on the process of how the project comes to a close, the final recommendation to the name and if the client approves it or not.

 

-Mark Jason Aguilar, 4th year Business Student

Gantt Chart

Below is a Gantt Chart outlining our progress throughout the semester on the Nimble Innovation project. Being the Team Coordinator I have spent a great deal of time creating  this Gantt chart. It is a necessary project management tool in order for organization and time management in any team project.

The solid purple sections represents finished tasks, including the preparation of the team contract, Business Model Canvas, primary and secondary market research and more.

The faded sections represent tasks either partially completed or awaiting to be completed in the coming weeks. Some of these tasks include logo design, product design, marketing plan and pro forma financials.

This Gantt chart allows us to track our progress and accomplishments to date. It also allows us to predict finishing dates for future tasks. It shows if we’re ahead of schedule or falling behind, and allows us to be dynamic and adjust accordingly.

We are progressing as planned, and a large majority of tasks to be completed are planned to be accomplished in the next coming weeks.

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Jasmine Drouillard

Team Coordinator

Reaching The Norming Stage

Bruce Tuckman originally identified 5 main stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning, and it has been interesting to see how our multi-disciplinary team has progressed through the stages so far. We began with the forming stage, where we were all introduced to one another. Initially, we were all very excited to begin working on the project and wanted to see where it would take us. During this stage, we developed some goals and directions for the project as well as outlined clear roles for each person, and I think that this definitely helped us work successfully through the next stage: storming.

During the storming stage, teams may face conflict, and they may realize that they won’t be able to achieve some of their initial goals. Our team faced some of these realizations, too. While we had an initial name picked out, it was later discovered that it was already being used by someone else. In addition, I know that many of us thought we were entering a market with an extremely unique idea, only to discover that there were more competitors and patents already existing in the space than we had anticipated. This has limited our options for product development. However, it was during this stage that our initial planning process really began to show its worth. Since our initial plans had to be modified to accommodate these obstacles, we worked together to re-evaluate and change our tasks. Since each member had their own defined role, it was easy to separate and update the tasks as needed.

Another thing that I found to be extremely important during this stage was communication. Despite everyone having different backgrounds, we were able to explain things clearly to each other by avoiding technical language. If a technical term did come up, it was immediately explained. Since everyone had different experiences, this made brainstorming ideas much more successful than usual because each person could contribute different knowledge. I think one of the main reasons why we were so successful at communicating was simply because we were aware of our differences. Since we knew it would be a multi-disciplinary team, I think that everyone on the team approached it with an open mind and prepared to learn from each other, and this contributed to the culture we currently have. By being aware that we were different people with different frames of reference, we were able to create team culture that was open to questions and that helped us to understand each others’ positions and successfully work together.

These experiences have led us to what I believe our current team development stage to be: norming. In this stage, team members become more comfortable sharing ideas and asking for help, and members begin to truly feel part of the team. I feel we have reached this stage because team members seem to have fully accepted their roles, the team has overcome some conflicts, communication has become easier, and I’ve noticed that the team members have begun to support each other with things even outside the group project. I believe part of this is due to the successful planning and management throughout the project as well as the enthusiasm and collaborative, multi-disciplinary nature of the group.

The next stages right now for our team are performing and adjourning. Performing includes the achievement of the team’s goals, and, unfortunately, our group will eventually reach the adjourning stage, where our project and our team will end. However, thanks to the great team dynamic we’ve managed to create, I believe that we will make it successfully through these next two stages and come through them very happy with what we’ve experienced and learned from each other.

 

Emily Poli

Research Assistant

 

References:

Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing: Understanding the Stages of Team Formation. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2016, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_86.htm

 

Stein, J. (n.d.). Using The Stages of Team Development. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from http://hrweb.mit.edu/learning-development/learning-topics/teams/articles/stages-development

Designing Our Project Roadmap

As the research phase began for each of the engineering team members, we took on the initiative of creating our Project Roadmap that we would be using while trying to figure out our possible final design. From the engineering perspective, we had to think in a way about our problem-statement that I will be answered with a pain-gain relationship, where we would try to improvise on a already problematic market, and hence while improvisation is taking place what gains/ solutions are being created to resolve them, hence the pain-gain scenario. Our industrial design roadmap is made based off of the ideologies presented by Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford in their book “An Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide”.

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Five phases to Design Thinking

Our Project Roadmap consists on the five main phases as follows:

Empathize: In the empathize phase we will be observing, watching, listening, having Q&A sessions, carrying out surveys, engaging with customers to get a better picture of what field of interest to focus on for our product.

Define: In the define phase we will be trying to define our product, the one we will be focusing on, to our whole team so that they get a better point of view of which direction we will be taking. A good point of view is one that inspires the team. Empowers the team to make decisions independently if they are willing to add any feature to our product, in terms of upgrading or editing the chosen design. The define mode also helps to capture the hearts and minds of people who we will be trying to get a feedback from in regards of our product. It also saves time as it will help us figure out a discrete problem statement, rather then aiming at a broad market. More importantly it helps to inspire the team.

Ideate: This will be the idea generation phase. In this phase we will be carrying out multiple brainstorming sessions both with the group members as well as our fellow Capstone class mates. This will help us harness collective perspectives and strengths of all the engineering minds. We will hopefully be able to uncover unexpected areas from innovation as well getting a feedback from different engineering classmates will create volume and variety to the design for our innovative product. As different options and ideas arise we will be sketching them out on papers. The sketches and the brainstorming sessions will help us get the obvious solution out of our heads, and help us increase the innovation potential of our product. As well as help us not waste time on products ideas which already exist, this is were cooperation with the law team with crucial.

Prototype: A prototype can be anything the user or customer can interact with. Sometime explaining designs and sketches can be helpful, but having the team and feedback users role-play through a physical environment with a prototype will help us get more specific responses. For the prototyping phase we will be trying to make our concept sketches come to life. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be spending too much time on one prototype, but we will be trying to make a couple different prototype concept with different features, and try to identify what attributes are those individual prototypes being tested on.The two main focuses for this phase are to build the prototype with the user in mind, and that it should be able to tackle and answer a particular question when being tested.

Test: The test phase will be used to test out our prototypes for the getting a feedback from our test users. In this way we will have the opportunity to gain empathy for the people we are trying to design this for. Test phase is done as it helps to improve prototypes, learn more about our target market and also helps clearly define to us our problem statement. The test phase will be carried out by letting our test user experience the product, as they’ll be able to interact with it. In this particular phase their experience with the product will help us evaluate the test results, as we will ask the user to relate and compare it with existing products and our different prototypes.

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Project Roadmap (made via Roadmap Planner by Keepsolid Inc.)

 

Saqeb Newaz

Designer, 4th Year Engineering

 

Reference:

Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. (n.d.). An Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide. Retrieved from https://dschool.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf?sessionID=bef23daa7cc7c1d9e7f454f972105619a28d08ba