A Corporate State of Mind

by Public Relations

If there’s one thing they took away from the experience, it’s this:

Starting a company is a lot of work.

But that’s the point. The business world is big and complex, so what better way to teach business students about it than by throwing them into it headfirst?

The Integrated Business Core (IBC), a 12-credit experience offered by Cedarville University every fall, gives students the information they need to succeed in business. Armed with that, they then start real companies of their own, on their own, from start to finish.

This means organizing leadership positions, creating jobs within the company, writing and proposing a loan application to a finance committee, picking a product to sell, marketing that product, paying off the loan, and shutting down the company.

IBC, started in 2002, was modeled after a similar program at The University of Oklahoma and then tailored for Cedarville’s size and needs.

“IBC gets rid of isolated learning,” says Jeff Fawcett, D.B.A., professor of marketing at Cedarville. “Students don’t focus on just marketing, accounting, finance or management. In this program, they work together in a cross-discipline setting and learn how important it is to know about all aspects of business.”

As time goes on, the program evolves, and as each year passes, IBC teams develop more innovations and more drive to one-up previous companies. And they do. Sidewinds, one of the two IBC companies formed this year, is the first in IBC history to produce its own product, “neck jackets,” designed as a collar to keep the neck warm. In addition, Sidewinds is the first company to use barcode scanners to track sales. The scanners are linked to an Excel spreadsheet that accounts for the sale in the inventory. They’re also printing receipts complete with the company’s logo.

“We have better control over our inventory this way,” says Jordan Doyle, a junior marketing major who serves as vice president of marketing for Sidewinds. “Utilizing technology that we have available to us makes the process easier for everyone.”

The administrative side of the business takes up most of their time, but in addition to holding meetings and selling, each IBC student is required to complete a minimum of 10 service hours in the community.

“This teaches students that there is a service side to business that’s part of a company’s social responsibility,” says John LeBlanc, M.B.A., associate professor of management and acting chair of the department of business administration.

Fawcett agrees. “I honestly believe the business world is one of the biggest untapped mission fields on the planet. God wired some of us to be able to create wealth, and I want to teach students to think about what to do with that wealth. It’s neat to see them grow not only as business students but also as people looking at the needs of others.”

This year, Sidewinds is working locally with Family Violence Prevention Center, and donating its profits to Opportunity International, one of the largest Christian microfinancing organizations in the world. This year’s other IBC company, So Cedarville, is serving with and donating its profits to the Safe Harbor House, part of Sanctifying Influence and Future Investment (SiFi), a ministry in Springfield, Ohio, that serves women in need.

Creating a company, selling a product, and doing community service all takes time — lots of time. Unfortunately, time is something these students don’t have a lot of. IBC only lasts for one semester, so it forces students to work hard and work efficiently. But they succeed every year: None of the previous 14 companies has ever failed to make a profit.

Though it may be a big commitment, college students are accustomed to mandatory classes with heavy workloads. But surprisingly, IBC isn’t even required to graduate.

So if it’s not required, why do students volunteer for so much work?

“The benefits of IBC really come down to what each individual wants to make of the experience,” says Brigham Michaud, a junior international studies and global economics and international business major who serves as CEO of So Cedarville. “If you want to truly learn and take advantage of what IBC has to offer, then you can put in a lot of effort and reap the rewards, or you can take a back seat role and just float along under the radar.”

“It’s a huge commitment,” Doyle says. “As part of a company, everyone’s vital to the process, and everyone’s liable if something goes wrong. It helps you to learn to communicate and work with people because you're essentially stuck together for the semester. So you have to make it work.

“But it’s worth it,” he adds. “It’s definitely worth it.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,200 undergraduate, graduate, and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.