University Relations and Communications

College of Business seniors offer help in doing business plans

August 22, 2012



Dr. Jennifer Leonard, College of Business, 657-1689
Brenda Dockery, College of Business, 657-2212
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Project gives students valuable experience; businesses get added value


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Seniors at the Montana State University Billings College of Business are looking for owners of small businesses or directors of non-profit entities who need help with their business plans, a project that will provide valuable educational experience for college students and add value to local businesses.


Dr. Jennie Leonard

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 499: Business Strategy” class use the experience to put classroom theory into practice and showcase student talents. In the past several years, the class has worked with clients such as ZooMontana, the City of Billings, North Park Children’s Center, Soaps by Rusty B and Billings Educational Academy.


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, noting 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 better understand the feasibility and development of a business plan for ZooMontana.  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, 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% ?, etc.).


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 charges $250 for a non-profit or startup business and $500 for an existing business. 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.  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.


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 or contact Brenda Dockery at 657-2212 or


The deadline to apply is Sept. 7.


PHOTO ABOVE: Dr. Jennie Leonard