Albers School of Business and Economics
Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center

Small Business Institute

  • Overview
    What's Involved
    Description of SBI Program at SU - For Client


    A team of undergraduate or graduate business students consult with the owner of the business to do an overall analysis to develop a business plan. Students need access to prior financials such as the P&L statements and balance sheets. The analysis includes:

    1. defining the business and its mission 
    2. establishing goals or where you want the business to be a year and five years from now including revenue and profit goals
    3. assessing where the business is now--strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats; which usually includes marketing research to help identify target market(s), develop an appropriate Internet strategy, and construct a rudimentary marketing plan
    4. performing cash flow projections and a pro forma P&L and balance sheet for one year
    5. recommendations for action to help achieve those projections and goals

    This is a ten-week project which coincides with the academic quarter.

    What’s Involved

    For an overall assessment of a firm, with recommendations, a team of undergraduates or graduates works with the owner or executive director during one academic quarter. The teams have access to local business mentors in a related industry. Organizations with one to fifty employees within the Seattle-Bellevue, King County area are eligible. Access to financial and marketing information is required. Students invest 70-120 hours each. The owner or executive director invests an average of 20 hours during the quarter. Over 2,000 small businesses and nonprofits have participated in the Small Business Institute™ program since its inception in 1976.

    Startup, feasibility, and special focus studies are undertaken with the business owner or executive director as well, usually in January (winter quarter), March (spring quarter), and June (summer quarter).

    Special focus is handled on a case-by-case basis and according to availability of students and needs of courses and programs. It cannot be guaranteed that consulting will be placed any quarter or at all, in which case we will explore possible alternatives for the client. It may mean providing financial information to the students. Some projects are offered to be performed with negotiable fees or donations.

    Additional Information

    To learn more about the national Small Business Institute™ program, visit the web site of the Small Business Institute Directors' Association (SBIDA).

    Description of SBI Program at Seattle University--for Client

    (This program is for profits and nonprofits. In most cases, we work directly with the owner or executive director.)

    Thank you for requesting to be a participant in the Small Business Institute™ program. This letter is intended to clarify expectations. The owner or executive director fills out a confidential application describing the business. The application is submitted by the first day of the quarter in order to be considered for consulting.

    Overall analysis/plan

    Normally, students are teamed representing different majors (finance, accounting, marketing, e-commerce and information systems, general business, international business, management) into two- to five-person teams to work with the owner during a quarter. In teaming, we try to find a fit between the owner's needs and each student's interests. The students have confidential access to the applications to help decide which business to select.

    The students, under the direction of a faculty advisor, are expected to do an overall analysis of the business ending up with a written project for the owner. For an existing business, the students need access to prior financials such as the P&L statements and balance sheets. (If this is not acceptable, this case is not appropriate for this program.) The whole process usually takes each student between 60 and 130 hours. This project is done with the owner, which means from one to three hours a week of the owner’s time will probably be required to answer questions and give guidance.

    The students first contact the owner to set up a time when the team and the owner can meet, get acquainted, get a feel for the business. The owner/manager/director, when selected, is requested to fill out a Strategic Profile within the first week of the consulting. (A copy of the profile is available here.) In addition, the owner will sign two forms within the first two weeks of contact with the students: (1) The Request for Counseling form, which assures the client/owner that the students have no vested interest in the project, will not profit financially from recommendations, and understand the nature of their confidential relationship with the client and the project. The form also spells out that the owner will not hold SU or the students liable if the recommendations do not work. It is understood throughout that the students are working with the owner to reach an advisory outcome. (2) The second form, the contract, is an agreed upon statement of what the students plan to do for you.

    The students meet with the owner a minimum of six times throughout the quarter. There is a final project debriefing which may be on campus in the last week of the quarter. Twenty-four hours before the debriefing time, the final project will be delivered to the owner. The owner meets with the team to discuss informally what the students did, whether the owner agrees or disagrees with findings, what the owner can use or not, what might the students do differently next time, what does the owner plan to do with the recommendations, if anything. A third form is signed which acknowledges that the project has been received by the owner.

    A confidential questionnaire is completed, in which the owner assesses whether the students did what they said they would do. The owner is asked to "grade" the students and assign a hypothetical dollar value to the worth of the report. Also, a "testimonial" is solicited, which is given at the owner's option.

    There will be a confidential follow-up questionnaire from the SBI Director after completion of the written project, which will ask for revenue, profit, number of employees, and identification of which recommendations were carried out with what results.

    The program is normally offered every quarter. You should hear from us either in the form of the students contacting you directly or a letter from the director by the second or third week in the quarter. If we are unable to take your case (usually there is a waiting list of participants), we will refer you to other resources, including the possibility of being rescheduled for the following quarter.
    If you know of another business owner who might benefit from this program, please have him or her contact us at 206-296-5730.

    There is a nominal administrative fee of $500 for businesses or nonprofits with annual income/sales/revenue of $300,000 or more and for startups with projected first year sales of $300,000 or more. Any business whose revenue falls under $300,000 will not be charged. This enables us to continue offering this mutually beneficial service. During the past 25 years, over twenty-five hundred business owners and nonprofit directors have participated in this program. We are looking forward to your participation.

    Harriet B. Stephenson, Ph.D.
    Director, SBI Program


    Small Business Institute Directors' Association Field Case of the Year Competition

    • 2003-2004 -- Undergraduate First Place, District 5, National Third Place
    • 2002-2003 -- Undergraduate First Place, District 5, National Runners-Up
    • 2001-2002 -- Undergraduate First Runner-Up, District 5
    • 2000-2001 -- Undergraduate First Place in Region, National Runners-Up
    • 1999-2000 -- Undergraduate First Place in Region, National Runners-Up
    • 1997-1998 -- MBA First Place in Region
    • 1997-1998 -- Undergraduate First Place in Region
    • 1996-1997 -- Undergraduate First Place in Region
    • 1996 -- MBA Second Place Nationally
    • 1995 -- MBA Second Place Nationally
    • 1994 -- MBA First Place in District
    • 1993 -- MBA First Place Nationally
    • 1992 -- MBA First Place in District and Region, National Runners-Up
    • 1991 -- MBA First Place in District and Region, Fifth Nationally

    University of Oregon The Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship New Venture Competition

    • April 1993 -- MBA Wins Second Place


    Overall Analysis

    Please read the description of the Small Business Institute Program (SBI). If it looks like it meets your needs, please complete the SBI application.

    Special Focus online form

    Strategic Profile (Word document)