Missouri State Students Present SMART Ideas to Mid America Specialty Services

Missouri State students share insights with Mid America Specialty Services leadership for small business development center’s SMART program.


Student friends studying at cafe

Students from the Missouri State University College of Business worked side-by-side with executives from Mid America Specialty Services on a recent project that benefitted students and company alike. Throughout the Spring 2016 semester, 25 graduate and undergraduate students taking Professor Corey Fox’s management class worked in teams, conducting in-depth interviews with CEO Dale Donat. Students then advised the company on opportunities for the future as well as potential areas for improvement. Mr. Donat calls the project “a great opportunity for our company to give back to the community and for us to gain feedback from an outside perspective.” 

The assignment was completed as part of the SMART program, which stands for Strategic Management Assessment Review Tool. Developed by the Missouri State Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), the SMART program helps firms chart a course to long-term performance excellence and identify innovative ways to achieve success. 

Each year MSU selects one company to participate in this semester-long intensive program. Mr. Donat began working with SBTDC in the Fall of 2014, which eventually led to an invitation from SBTDC Assistant Director Isabel Eisenhauer, who suggested that Mid America Specialty Services would be a great candidate for this year’s project. Students visited Mid America Specialty Services every two weeks to interview Mr. Donat, and gained unprecedented access to company facilities. Research covered a wide range of important topic areas:

  • Business
  • Operations
  • Marketing
  • HR
  • Safety
  • Hiring
  • Competitors
  • Policies and procedures

The program culminated in five 20-minute presentations to Mr. Donat and other company executives — complete with Power Point slides and binders — on May 10, in Glass Hall on the Missouri State campus.

The entire Mid America Specialty Services executive team was thoroughly impressed with the effort and research that were put forth by each of the five groups presenting. According to Director of Training and Communications Jeff Wilhoit, it was clear that the students had put a “ton of work” into the project. They “came up with a lot of great ideas, some of which we had not thought about.”

The comments Mr. Donat heard from many of the students reminded him of the book What They Didn’t Teach at Harvard Business School: “The students really came away with a better understanding of being in business, from a Founder, Owner, and CEO perspective, which better prepares them for the business world they are about to enter.”

Students also benefitted from the chance to gain real-world experience as a component of their coursework. “All of the students I talked to were blown away with our company and Dale’s leadership and how much of a sophisticated and interesting company we are,” Wilhoit said.

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