Redefining entrepreneurship education: Deakin Business School’s consulting approach.

Entrepreneurship, Deakin Business School

Entrepreneurship transcends the initial stages of ideation and startup creation; it embodies a continuous cycle of opportunity assessment and strategic solution development. This cycle is crucial not only for startups but also for scaling up and fostering entrepreneurial growth within established businesses.

Recognising this broader scope of entrepreneurship, Work-integrated learning (WIL) at Deakin’s Faculty of Business and Law provides a range of programs which provide students the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial skills through consulting. Working in small teams, students consult with Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), directly applying their business skills in assessing and strategising growth opportunities for small businesses while building their entrepreneurial skills.

Consulting as a catalyst for entrepreneurial learning  

At the core of Deakin Business School’s approach is the innovative use of consulting as a “trojan horse” for entrepreneurship education. It provides a unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves directly in the operations of a live business. Through this lens, consulting serves not just as a skill set for external advisement but as a platform for students to engage in real-world entrepreneurship.

One example of our programmes is the Business Development Clinic. Working with an SME client, students engage in a hands-on process, beginning with a comprehensive assessment of a business’s current state (Health Check) through the lens of the 7 Levers Framework. 

Students pinpoint “growth gaps” within the business, and based on these gaps, students embark on the creative journey of ideating strategies and tactics aimed at achieving a “10% Win”, which is a targeted effort to enhance one area of the business’s profits.

The culmination of this process is the development of a detailed project brief and pitch, through which students refine their strategic and tactical plans, providing detailed recommendations to the client. This phase not only simulates the real-world process of business growth planning but also provides students with a tangible output that mirrors the entrepreneurial journey.

Navigating business growth with the 7 Levers Framework  

Central to the Deakin Business Development Clinic’s innovative pedagogy is the 7 Levers Framework, a strategic tool designed to systematically identify and exploit growth opportunities within a business. This entrepreneurial blueprint allows business owners, managers, or students, to identify and implement growth strategies in any business setting.

This framework is rooted in the principle that significant improvements in profitability can be achieved through incremental changes across seven key areas of business operation:

  • Suspects
  • Prospects
  • Conversions
  • Average Item Price
  • Items Per Sale
  • Transactions per customer; and
  • Margins (through the lens of Expenses)

The power of the 7 Levers Framework lies in its simplicity and its emphasis on achievable, incremental improvements. By aiming for just a 10% increase in each of the seven areas, businesses can see a compounded effect resulting in the doubling of their overall profitability. This concept of “10% Wins” transforms the daunting task of business growth into manageable, strategic steps.

Cultivating future entrepreneurs and managers 

While the BDC is positioned as a consulting experience, the essence of the program is deeply entrepreneurial in nature. Students are not merely learning about entrepreneurship in theory but are actively participating in the very processes that business owners, managers (intra-preneurs), founders and entrepreneurs engage in daily to identify opportunities, adapt, and drive growth.  

In one project, student consultants worked with a Software as a Service (SaaS) business known for its robust client acquisition and onboarding processes. Despite the client’s success in these areas, the students identified a challenge for the SaaS: they were not fully leveraging their suite of features and solutions post-onboarding.

Initially, customers were introduced to one or two key tools that addressed their immediate needs, leaving a wealth of additional features untapped and potential revenues unexplored.

In response to this opportunity, the student consultants devised a strategic initiative aimed at scaling up the business’ “Items Per Sale” metric. They developed a comprehensive plan to systematically introduce onboarded clients to additional tools and features, thereby not only increasing the utility delivered to each client but also significantly boosting the business’ Lifetime Value per client.

Reflecting on the impact of the collaboration, the client shared, “Working with the Deakin Business Clinic was a transformative experience for our business. It allowed us to shift our perspective and truly ‘see the forest for the trees’. Their strategic guidance was instrumental in uncovering significant untapped revenue streams, directly contributing to our business achieving a valuation above budget and expectations upon exit last year.”

Shaping tomorrow’s business leaders today  

Through this innovative approach, the Deakin Business Development Clinic students don the hats of entrepreneurs, driving scale and innovation within existing businesses, thus redefining the pathway to entrepreneurial education by bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical, hands-on business experience.

For additional insights, trends and perspectives about Entrepreneurship, please visit the conversation here.

Leave a Comment