How to develop a student-led consulting organization

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William Papper is a student at Stanford University, having transferred from Washington University in St. Louis. He is double majoring in computer science and a multidisciplinary program involving Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology. During his interview, Papper spoke about his experience as co-director of a student-led consulting organization for local startups and businesses: Bear Studios provides solutions in technology, business operations, and venture strategy for clients. Will went into detail about how to start and grow a consulting businesses using students at his university. He provided professional experience to the students he worked with, transforming how businesses connect with university students. Will also discussed in detail just how he formed the right team of student consultants, acquired clients domestic and abroad, and grew his organization to what it is now. 

Student-led consulting organization

The student-led organization that Will started is a firm in which students give ideas and advice to clients who approach them for a fee. These clients may be individual clients or organizational clients. For example when we travel to places we are not aware of, we hire a guide to us about the places and we need to pay him. If some of such guides form a group and take turns to guide people it is a small Consulting Organization. In the same way if it is led by students, It is called a Student-led Consulting Organization.

Grouping may be done according to the strengths of individuals or else asking them to join the group of interests . An organisation will be more successful only when the employees work according to their passion. Make sure that you recruit only people that are passionate to work.Do not take any chance in recruiting because it would be only a project for you but it may be life for somebody else.

Generally students will be much eager in starting such organisations and may not look at all the difficulties they may come across.The major Difficulties they may come across are:

1. They may not get sufficient capital. Also if they get enough , they may not expend in the right way.

2. They may also get the problem while working in team , certainly no one would compromise on their ideas.

3. Also if they overcome every difficulty , promoting their organisation plays a very important role.

4. Retaining their position in market for a long period also another difficult task for them.

Starting the consulting organization

First of all the students who look forward to start a Consulting Organisation should look at the basic needs that the people want. Then they need to think up to what extent they can contribute to meet the needs of people.

We know that students are busy and might be wary of the time commitment needed to complete short deadlines and big projects. Provide students support by giving them all the resources and tools they need. In this way students can be nudged past their comfort zone and realize their capability to work on a good team even while they are in school. Continue to reaffirm the value of the team members and that they see the product of their work. This could mean paying them or rewarding them in some other way.

Starting a client list can be intimidating at first and one of the toughest things in starting a consulting organization, but a good strategy in growing that list is good marketing. Clients will usually approach you if they know you have technical skills they need, but you need to be out there talking to people. A good way source of clients is the engineering department at your school; companies often reach out to different departments asking for students to work on projects and they can refer them to you. Business plan competitions or community plan competitions are another good option as they usually have start ups looking for people to satisfy certain needs. Another less thought of option is proactively emailing local companies letting them know you exist and are happy to work with them if they ever need your assistance.

In terms of negotiating the price rates, due to the fact that they are a student-led organizations, they charge less than the standard rates. However, they value the opportunity for learning more than profit. According to Will, he determines his pricing based on not only market rates but also the rates high-end companies are currently charging their clients, a normal mobile app development case usually costs from $500 to $2000. The payment method they adopted are two time payments including the one upfront and the one upon the completion of the project. A lawyer is needed for contract negotiations and processing legal documents.

Growing a sustainable organization

Attaining consistency is not small thing to achieve. because it does depend on many internal and external factors of the organization. The organisation should Improve their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.Other than these the organisation should look at the opportunities that are available to them in market. It should also look at the threats such as competition etc. Besides these, the organisation improve its Research and Development ( R&D ) unit. Because once a problem is solved , certainly another problem will be arised. So the organisation should keep them updated according to the needs.

When it comes to corporate structure, Will shared his experience with us about his mistake on not forming an LLC when he first started. Forming an LLC is not only the best way to protect personal asset from the business debts and liabilities of the LLC, but also the LLCs to do not have to pay taxes at the business level.

There are many ways to leverage the benefits in being a student led consulting organization. Being students gives the advantage of being able to charge less; many students don’t have many living expenses outside of tuition and room and board; recourses are also provided on campuses, such as meeting rooms and office supplies. Another benefit in being student led is the education mission, where clients feel good they are helping students learn and giving them a chance to work on real world projects.

Student contributors

Camille Eddy

Christian Rice

Murad Abduselam

Siddhartha Mondreti

Oluwakayode Jasanya

Mike Huang