Gaining a Fresh Perspective

Posted on July 15th, 2016 by Travis Dix

In the world of business, regardless of whether you’re a small organization or a large corporation, you’re either considering the “what ifs” that might arise — a contingency plan of sorts — or looking to the future — for ways to grow and be better at what you do. Some businesses even go so far as to call in outside help for new ideas and new ways of doing business.

SL_ODACThis spring, the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex (ODAC) in Chatham teamed up with Business Administration Instructor Meaghan Byrne’s service-learning class, Strategies for Equine Business Management. The ODAC’s mission “is to promote and support local agriculture while offering a community based facility to educate and entertain.”

Byrne divided her class up into groups and had them look at three different concepts for the complex. One group had to identify groups that could lease the arena/conference center and its facilities as is and then estimate what income could be generated. The other two groups were given two different amounts of profit to consider. Based on that they had to determine what expansion would be needed to generate that amount of profit. For example, they had to determine how many stalls would need to added, how many warm-up rings, etc. In addition, they had to determine what additional staff and overhead costs would be incurred.

“The main goals for the work with the ODAC were to identify new patrons who could use the facility as is, as well as different expansion options that could bring in new patrons in order to reach different revenue goals,” said junior Amanda Arnold, who is double majoring in business and equestrian studies.

“The real-life experience that is offered in a service-learning class is what makes it different from traditional classes,” Arnold said. “A traditional class could provide a student with financials, and all the means to do a feasibility analysis (or anything really), but it doesn’t mean much beyond numbers on paper. With a service-learning course, the work that is done can actually benefit someone, or some organization, so that makes it more than just numbers on paper.”

As part of their research and analysis, students had to include a specific list of potential patrons, potential advertising avenues, reasoning behind the chosen expansion, job titles and detailed job descriptions of additional staff positions, explanation of overhead costs that could be incurred, forecasted financial statements for 2017-19 that had to demonstrate how income was generated and the number of new patrons attracted by the expansion to support the increase in revenue.

At the end of the course, each group made a presentation to the Old Dominion Agricultural Foundation board, sharing their research and findings.

“The ODAF saw that this was an excellent opportunity for the Averett students to participate in a real-life business scenario with a hands-on approach, which would provide great experience for them as they move into their future careers,” said Stephanie Weiss, facility director for the complex. “The ODAF needed a fresh perspective on the possible future expansion plans.

“This partnership opened the minds of the directors to broader possibilities, additional leads for prospective shows and new thoughts on advertising. All businesses need to be open to new ideas and change to be successful and progressive. Working with Averett students gives a fresh perspective on your business that is very valuable.”

Arnold enjoyed the hands-on experience the course provided. While she doesn’t plan to work in a business office, she does plan to own her own small farm someday.

“This class was really good for preparing me to do just that,” said Arnold, who looks forward to taking another service-learning course in business or marketing.