Business Essentials

Learn to run a business by doing it!
This experiential learning course puts you in the center of a challenging, real-world situation: As a business consultant, you will be advising your company's client on how to improve the performance of a smaller firm it acquired. The scope of the consulting engagement will encompass all aspects of the acquired firm's operations, from finances to marketing to staffing. 

Your project team for the course will meet weekly online with a faculty mentor.


  • Format: Online collaboration

    Hours: 84 hours / 8.4 hours

    When: Sept. 15 - Oct 31, 2014

    Cost: $2,100

Scenario overview
A year ago, First String Fine Instruments acquired a small manufacturer, Clayborn Cases, which manufactures high-end custom cases for musical instruments. Since the acquisition, the Clayborn division’s financial results have been disappointing.

First String has retained Austin Consulting for an extensive engagement.

The overall goal of the engagement is to help Clayborn make the transition from a small business to a leadership position in its niche market. In particular, Austin Consulting needs to map out a growth strategy positioning Clayborn’s custom cases as the most elite, coveted cases for music instruments.

Your job
You are on a team of professionals from Austin Consulting assigned to the Clayborn engagement. The boutique firm specializes in helping small, struggling businesses overcome poor practices that inhibit their growth and performance. Your team will produce the same deliverables a client would expect of a top-notch consultant — and you will be evaluated on the work you produce.

In this course, you and your team will:

  • Identify possible causes of Clayborn’s poor financial perform by analyzing its financial situation, pricing, customer base, and marketing efforts
  • Recommend changes in Clayborn’s operations, pricing, and marketing that will improve sales, profits and cash flow
  • Assist with hiring and project planning
  • Determine an optimal expansion strategy for Clayton,
  • Prepare a high-level presentation to win funding approval for expansion from First String’s Board of Directors

What you will learn

The skills you will develop and practice in this course are sought by any business seeking to improve its performance. The course is especially appropriate for professionals with limited business experience who want to learn what it takes to operate a business successfully and plan for its expansion.

You will learn job-ready principles and skills that apply to a wide range of business functions. You will gain inside perspectives of how a business hones its vision, plans promotions and marketing campaigns, manages its financial condition, and sets financial goals. You will even get involved in hiring new employees and developing presentations to board members.

By being involved directly in a myriad of issues impacting a company’s success or failure, you’ll gain a deep understanding of how business executives identify problems and find solutions.

What you will do

  • Assess a company’s financial condition and performance by analyzing financial statements and developing financial ratios, variances, and Key Performance Indicators
  • Identify problems that underlie a company’s subpar financial performance
  • Update an existing financial forecast in light of both price and non-price changes that will improve cash flow and increase production
  • Develop marketing goals and strategies in order to meet a sales target
  • Create a brand identity to use as a base for creating a marketing strategy that will move the company toward its sales goals
  • Outline a high-level marketing plan that encompasses the five main components of a solid marketing effort: online marketing, direct marketing, social-media marketing, publicity, and offline advertising
  • Update financial projections based on the new marketing strategy
  • Evaluate a logo, create a product fact sheet and a news release, and outline a social-media campaign
  • Create a project plan that includes a project charter, network diagram, resources forecast and allocation, schedule, budget, and risk assessment for exhibiting at the company’s first trade show
  • Prepare a job description and interview questions for a new hire, conduct mock interviews for the position using candidate profiles, and make a hiring recommendation
  • Analyze and define an expanded business vision and model and create a pitch to the Board of Directors to gain their approval
  • Perform a risk assessment of your recommended business expansion
  • Communicate findings and recommendations to management through brief executive presentations

Course Information

Course Number: 


Course Date: 
Monday, September 15, 2014 - Friday, October 31, 2014
Course Date Info: 

Experiential learning. Your team will meet weekly in an online environment with your faculty mentor. Mentors are seasoned professionals who facilitate group discussions and help you solve complex problems on your own. The mentors are available by phone, text and email to answer questions, point you in the right direction, and provide in-depth feedback on every deliverable you produce. Supporting materials and resources are provided online. 

Course Fee(s): 


Continuing Education Information: 

84 hours/8.4 CEU's
Visit the University of Georgia CEU policies for more details. 

John Poss.  Mr. Poss is the Chief Executive Officer at XTOL. He has over 30 years of experience working with companies facing major transitions and transformations.  Mr. Poss has served as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Technology Officer of both public and private companies in such diverse industries as homebuilding, mining, telecommunications, manufacturing, logistics, construction lending and mortgage banking.  He began his career in the Washington, D.C. office of Arthur Andersen & Co.

Mr. Poss has led strategic planning and corporate development.  He has also testified as an expert witness in cases involving technology and intellectual property valuations. In each of these roles, he helped companies successfully navigate major challenges and change. He has worked extensively internationally, successfully negotiating over $1B in commercial agreements and dispute resolutions in countries throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas. He is a proven innovator with three issued patents related to telecommunications.

Mr. Poss graduated from the University of Texas in 1974 with a degree in accounting. He is a director of The Life Raft Group, a non-profit organization that provides patient support and funds research to find a cure for GIST, a rare cancer.

Ray Bareiss holds a Ph.D. in Computer Sciences and a B.S. in Communication from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining XTOL, Bareiss was Director of Educational Programs and Professor of the Practice of Software Engineering and Software Management at Carnegie Mellon's Silicon Valley Campus, where he oversaw and taught in two unique, learning-by-doing, professional master's programs. He was a co-founder of Cognitive Arts Corporation and served as executive vice president for strategic projects, such as virtual university collaborations and large-scale corporate eLearning initiatives. Prior to joining Cognitive Arts, Bareiss was Assistant Director of the Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, as well as a Research Associate Professor of Computer Science and Education. Bareiss specializes in computer-based learning environments, organizational memory and computer-based performance support, human-computer interaction, and cased-based reasoning. He is also the author of a number of books and articles.

Recommended but not required:

Core Readings

  • Finance for Managers (Harvard Business Essentials)
    Harvard Business School Press
    January 2003
    ISBN-10: 1578518768
    ISBN-13: 978-1578518760

Additional Readings (optional)

  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers
    Alexander Osterwalder
    Wiley 2010
    ISBN-10: 0470876417
    ISBN-13: 978-0470876411