Jason Entezari did not always want to be a small business consultant—four years ago, when he entered the Fox School’s part-time MBA program, he wanted to run a charter school.
“I was working as an accounting clerk at a local charter school,” he recounts, “and I started realizing that to manage a school I was going to need an MBA.” After looking around at various schools, he chose Temple University because it was “nitty gritty,” involving students from diverse backgrounds with robust experience, and focusing on real world application of the MBA. “I still tell friends that,” he says with a smile, “if they’re considering an MBA, I say ‘Go to Temple. It’s nitty gritty.’”
It was while working on his MBA that Entezari ran smack dab into experiential education, a movement across universities to get students out of the classroom and working on live projects. Fox Management Consulting is the cornerstone of experiential education at the Fox School, pairing teams of students with professional coaches to complete strategy and marketing consulting projects for organizations across the region and around the globe. For actionable, research-based solutions to meet your company’s needs, reach out to our team today.
For students, the capstone is an opportunity to blend theory and practice. Entezari compares it to a sports tournament. “When you’re actually working on a live project, it’s different. You have to manage expectations from the client, and you take things a lot more seriously. When you practice on the field, you might horse around, but when you step into the game, things change.”
For clients, the consulting engagements provide a unique value too. “The students you work with are super motivated,” says Entezari. “They’ve already chosen to invest in an MBA. Plus, you have five people on a team with experience in accounting, media, logistics—they’re all coming with their own sets of stories.” That diversity of perspectives gives the teams access to solutions from multiple industries.
Entezari first encountered Fox MC while in the Fox Board Fellows program, a partner program to Fox MC that pairs students with non-profit boards. As they complete coursework in board governance, students work with the non-profit to complete a project of their choice.
During his fellowship, Entezari partnered with Gearing Up, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that leverages cycling to help women move through histories of abuse, addiction and incarceration. With his years of experience in accounting and finance, and his education at Fox, Entezari had a rich knowledge-base to offer the organization. “I realized that what I was doing for them-helping them improve their finances and financial stability-was something I could do in the marketplace.”
Entezari’s experience serving as a Fox Board Fellow led him to create Ocean Mint Consulting, a small business consulting service, in 2013. He took on his first clients while studying at Fox, and has since completed multiple projects across a variety of industries, including education, healthcare, and caretaker services.
Shortly after completing his fellowship, Entezari entered his MBA capstone with Fox MC. It was here that he learned several valuable lessons that he still applies across his consulting engagements.
1) Stay open minded
“The ability to imagine is really the starting point for any project,” Entezari says. “You can regurgitate accounting or economics, but to take that and apply it requires an open mind.”
In his project with Fox MC, Entezari’s team worked with the Willistown Conservation Trust, a non-profit land trust located outside of Willistown, PA. The team was engaged to develop a strategy for offering trainings on the trust’s unique sustainable growing method.
Entezari’s project executive, Marilyn Anthony, pushed the team to keep turning over rocks, even when they thought they were done searching. “It was uncomfortable,” Entezari recalls, “but she steered us in directions we never knew existed.”
In his consulting practice now, Entezari sees this drive for better ideas as critical for success. “Sometimes the best solution for a client might be something that they don’t even know-maybe it’s something that no one has tried yet. As a consultant, your job is to help the client learn what they don’t already know.”
2) Use your data to understand new sectors
When Entezari started the Willistown project, neither he nor his teammates were familiar with urban agriculture. In the absence of experience, the team looked to data. Though Entezari has always been a numbers guy, this project was the first time he saw data serving as a universal language.
“We had to immerse ourselves in the data,” he recalls. “It forced my brain to look at things I wasn’t familiar with, and that process in itself has paid dividends.” Now, when Entezari finds himself working in foreign industries, he can use the data to start mapping out the landscape.
Entezari recalls a recent consulting engagement that highlighted the importance of data. By examining when customers used one of his client’s services, and the time they spent in each engagement, Entezari helped the client understand their significant cost drivers.
“Sometimes, the data that seems unimportant may actually be the ‘golden nugget,’” Entezari says. He compares this approach with data to Moneyball- sometimes using data in unconventional ways can help businesses discover hidden value.
3) Packaging matters
The bulk of the course work for the Fox consulting project is creating the client deliverables: a research report and presentation at the midpoint, and a final strategic report and accompanying presentation at the end. The quality and professionalism demanded by professors, project executives and clients is high.
“This project set a bar for expectations of how a project should look from start to finish.” Entezari explains that he was recently asked to help craft a report as part of a team working with a charter school in Detroit. Some of his teammates were blown away by the professionalism and detail of the report. “After going through the consulting capstone,” he says, “that level of quality felt basic to me.”
When Entezari graduated, all of his experience with Fox MC, his coursework and starting his own business did help him land a job as Director of Operations and Finance for a local charter school. He isn’t one to stay still, and after eight years working in various charter schools, just this month he accepted a position as the Controller of Indego, Philadelphia’s bike sharing program.
Though this new role will keep him busy, Entezari says there’s no question that he will keep consulting. “It provides a way for me to get outside my comfort zone.” For Entezari, experiential learning will go on with the classroom or without it.
If you are looking for a diverse team of professionals to offer data-driven solutions for your business, reach out to the Fox MC team now.