Role of Company Sponsors and Primary Contacts
Company Sponsor: Defines the project and clearly articulates what they want the student team to deliver.
Primary Contact: Works with the students throughout the semester to ensure that they stay on track with the needs of the company and have the resources necessary to succeed in the project.
The Company Sponsor and Primary Company Contact are critical to the success of the team and their project. The Company Sponsor and Primary Contact may be the same person, but please ensure the Primary Contact has the time needed for this project.
Critical Tasks and Responsibilities of the Primary Company Contact
- Contact your team before or during the first week of school and set up a formal kickoff meeting for introductions, review the desired project outcome(s), and explain the decisions the company will make based on the deliverables.
- Schedule weekly meeting times throughout the project (15 minutes to one hour is normal). Some weeks the meeting may not be needed; other weeks may require more time.
- Establish a process for how you will communicate between meetings.
- Do not ask students to sell products or qualify leads. As unpaid interns, students are NOT allowed to do those tasks.
- In the first three weeks of the semester, negotiate and agree with the student team on what the final deliverables/outcomes will be and when they will be achieved, recognizing that deliverables may evolve over the course of the semester. These will be included in the engagement letter.
- Schedule time with the student team for a mid-semester and end-of-semester presentation, presented by the student team.
- Do not assign specific tasks to specific team members. Give assignments to the team as a whole and they will work jointly to achieve the deliverables defined in the engagement letter.
- Give regular feedback to the team to let them know how they are doing. Be honest and forthright about concerns. Waiting and hoping they get better often leads to confusion, frustration and disappointment for you and the students. Be kind, but direct and specific with your feedback.
- Approve any team expenses necessary for the completion of project deliverables (approved expenses will be invoiced at the conclusion of the project).
- Complete the two 5-minute surveys sent to you at mid-semester and after the final presentation to get your feedback on how the team has performed. It is critical that you complete these short surveys in a timely manner for student feedback and grading purposes.
Additional Factors for Success
- It is most common that the company will have weekly meetings with the student team, but when that does not happen, please never go longer than 2 weeks between updates with the team. These meetings may be in person, by phone, or by web conference. Maintaining regular contact with the students to ensure that they are on the right track, answer questions, and assist with resources is necessary to achieve the desired project outcome.
- While the students will benefit greatly from the company contact’s experience and expertise, it is important not to try to steer them too much from the perspective of one’s personal experience. One of the benefits of the student team is that they bring a fresh perspective and mindset to the issues. Share your experience and perspective with them, but encourage them to seek fresh outlooks throughout the project.
- It would be beneficial to introduce the students to subject-matter experts within the sponsor’s company that the students can talk with to gain insights on the topics they are researching. Please make available to the students applicable information sources within your company. If you have promised internal data to the students please provide it promptly so as not to delay the project timeline.
- Where possible, it is helpful when you can provide contacts from your industry that are knowledgeable on the project topics. If the students are benchmarking or doing industry analysis, your personal or corporate network could provide valuable contacts the students could meet with or interview for insight and understanding.
- We need you to approve and cover expenses for the team that are relevant to the project. This includes travel costs if you ask the team to travel (we have BYU cars the students can rent), costs of printing reports and presentations you request, and costs of materials needed to complete the project. You can arrange with the students to have your company pay for the expenses directly, or BYU can reimburse the students and invoice you for the costs at the end of the semester.
- We have access to survey panels where you can designate specific demographics, shopping preferences, job titles and responsibilities, etc. at a significantly discounted academic rate. Ask your teams for more information if you have a target audience you would like them to survey.
- Great projects have a plan. We set up a Tom’s Planner (Gantt chart) account for each student team to plan the details of how they will achieve their project deliverables and milestones over the course of the semester. Using a plan increases management direction and visibility while it reduces ad hoc task assignment and micromanagement. This plan should be a living document updated by the team as tasks are completed or changed. We can give you access to this planner if desired.
- We need you to provide the time needed for mid-semester and final presentations. We know in many cases that you will be following your project’s journey closely; however, we want to give the students opportunities to experience providing executive-level presentations.