Call it a decade of dominance for the Small Business Institute (SBI) at Rider University. The SBI, a program through which teams of graduate students or senior Business majors provide confidential consulting to small businesses and organizations under faculty supervision, has once again seen a team from Rider recognized in national competition.

Lisa Teach ’02, M.B.A.’09, and current M.B.A. student Christian McCracken ’05, earned third place in the national Small Business Institute Consulting Project of the Year competition this winter.

“Rider students in our SBI program have had substantial success over the years in this competition,” said Dr. Ron Cook, professor and chair of the Department of Entrepreneurial Studies and director of the Rider Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Small Business Institute. “In the last 10 years, we have finished in the top 10 of this national competition 14 times, including our national titles.”

Cook said that the SBI competition, sponsored by the national Small Business Institute organization of Clinton, Miss., rewards the very best student consulting projects from schools around the country. Formed in 1976, the Small Business Institute is the premier organization dedicated to field-based student consulting and outreach to small businesses.

“The competition is intense, as Rider competes against some schools who require an SBI project in certain majors, and have 30-plus projects from which to select their best one to send to a competition,” said Cook of the award’s significance. “This is the third national award Rider has won in the graduate division. Lisa and Chris were excellent students and a wonderful example of the best that we offer. I could not be prouder of them.”

The team of Teach and McCracken earned their prize in the graduate specialized project division. They produced their report as part of a class Cook taught last spring, Consulting for New and Small Businesses. Their company client was Spruce Industries, a producer and distributor of sanitary cleaners, chemicals, and equipment in Rahway, N.J., owned by Rider alumnus Hank Josephs ’71. Teach and McCracken set out to identify potential new customers and develop an approach to reach them.

“From the first day, it became obvious how successful this joint venture was going to be,” said Dan Josephs, general manager of Spruce Industries and Hank’s son. “They were able to help us identify exactly what our business priorities should be. Together, we walked through all of the different problem areas in our business and we finally settled on targeting an underdeveloped segment of our customer base.”

While it didn’t take long for McCracken and Teach to earn Joseph’s confidence, by the end of the spring semester, the two had still managed to surprise him with their level of professionalism and expertise. “The level of work that Lisa and Chris produced was above and beyond our expectations,” he said. “They landed the foundation and set the bar high for all future student consultants.”

That Teach and McCracken produced an award-winning consultation project was welcome, and even mildly surprising to them, but the professional accomplishments of each had already shown sharp business acumen. McCracken works as an account manager for Air Liquide, a world leader in medical and industrial gases, in the specialty-gas division. 

“One of my more high-profile accounts is the company that provides the aerial coverage for golf events, baseball games, and NFL games,” he explained. “If you watched the World Series and saw the DirectTV blimp providing aerial coverage, that helium was provided by my company.”

Teach, who previously worked as a marketing assistant at Church and Dwight Co., Inc., has owned a Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchise since August 2007 and plans to and open another store by the end of 2010. Despite the success she has already experienced, she was justifiably proud to be recognized by SBI for her student work.

“I was very excited to hear that our project won third place, nationally,” Teach said. “The fact that our ideas and our approach garnered an award validates all of the hard work we put into the project.”

McCracken was similarly satisfied with the SBI award. “I was elated! I knew when we finished that we had presented a great project with many real-world suggestions and a comprehensive business analysis,” he explained. “But when we placed third nationally, it solidified that we also brought real value to Spruce Industries.”

Spruce, having formed a partnership with the SBI program and the College of Business Administration, is utilizing another SBI team this year as well. It was a relationship the Josephs always believed was the right choice.

“The idea of working with Rider and being able to help my father give back to the school that helped him start his career was definitely a bonus,” Dan Joseph said. “But to be honest, the reputation that Dr. Cook and his SBI Consulting Team have is really what intrigued us the most.”