University Relations and Communications

College of Business seniors offer help in doing business plans

August 27, 2010



Dr. Jennifer Leonard, College of Business, 657-1689,
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU Billings student teams use experience to put theory into practice


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Senior College of Business student at Montana State University Billings are looking for business owners who need help with their business plans, a project that will not only add value to area businesses, but will provide valuable educational experience for MSU Billings students.



The project is an ongoing effort by Dr. Jennifer Leonard, assistant professor of management at the MSU Billings College of Business, to help students and businesses in the Billings region. Leonard said that students in her Management 488: Business Strategy class use the experience to put classroom theory into practice and showcase student talents.


The work would be done this fall with reports and recommendations issued in December.


This is a great opportunity to help students show how they can become valued employees, said Leonard. Students have experienced success in the past on many levels. 


Student teams take ideas or challenges and report back to the businesses or non-profit groups, which can then use them. Last year, students used the class to understanding the feasibility and development of a business plan for a regional fire training facility in the Billings region. In previous years, students have entered business plans into competitions that have won regional and national awards.


Among other things, the business plans will provide:


  • A comprehensive review of the client’s marketing, management, and operations using proven business concepts.
  • The business receives an Excel financial model of the client’s business on a CD, including five‐year pro forma financial assumptions, income statements, balance sheets, and statements of cash flow and a free cash flow analyses using payback, net present value, and internal rate of return concepts.
  • The students will create the Excel worksheets, such that the client can do “what if” financial analyses (e.g., what if sales grew at 10% instead of 5%).

Teams of four to five senior students participate in developing the plans and work closely with the business owners. Each team will meet with its business owner to prepare a written client commitment promising specific accomplishments and full confidentiality.


The students will research best practices in the industry and include these in the business plan. In December, the students will invite representatives of the businesses to attend a presentation at the College of Business. The students will present their findings; the businesses will receive a full comprehensive business plan; and the College of Business will charge each business only $250. Half of the payment is made when the plan is accepted and half when completed.


The students will not incur costs on behalf of the business. If the students travel outside the Billings area at the request of the business, the business will be billed for the students’ travel expenses at state rates.


Businesses must be willing to spend time with the students and provide management, operations, marketing, and financial information to the teams.


For more information on how to request a business plan, please call Leonard at 657-1689; fax her at 657-2327; or e-mail her at


In addition, those interested in having a business plan developed should provide a brief history of the business and explain where you would like to see the business in 5-10 years.


PHOTO ABOVE: MSU Billings student Mike Walker makes a point during a business plan presentation last summer at MSU Billings.