Program offers business instruction to minorities

by Marina Shkuratov | 11/17/11 11:00pm

Calculating financial costs can be dry stuff, but as Tuck School of Business professor Phillip Stocken explained the material in a lecture Tuesday, he was greeted with enthusiastic exclamations of "oh, wow!"

The 53 students sitting in were not your average Tuckies, but participants in "Building a High-Performing Minority Business," an annual five-day program that targets minority businesspeople from across the country. The symposium is the world's largest minority business program and has operated through Tuck for 32 years, according to Paula Graves, the program development manager for the Tuck Minority Business Executive Program.

Several Tuck professors facilitate symposium discussions, which do not resemble typical lectures but are instead "incredibly interactive" and "fun," Greenhalgh said. During their five days on campus, students also meet with professors on a one-on-one basis and speak about the financial aspects of their businesses with advanced MBA students. All of the participants meet as a group every day of the program, fostering a very cooperative community, Greenhalgh said.

The purpose of the program which occurred from Nov. 13 to Nov. 18 is to provide opportunities tailored to people of different backgrounds and business models, according to Graves.

"They come here and we give them the tools to study their own businesses and come up with a revised business plan and go away with a to-do list," Leonard Greenhalgh, a Tuck professor and the program's faculty director, said.

The key topics covered during the program are strategy, finance, marketing, operations and management. In learning about these business concepts, the participants focus on improving such aspects of their own businesses, according to Greenhalgh.

"[The program gives] people an opportunity to access the highest quality executive programs that are designed with them in mind, which will help them grow and expand their companies and create jobs in their communities," Graves said.

The program targets people who have had experience with business in the past and wish to become successful on a grander scale, according to Graves. Individuals who sign up for the program should want to make a profound impact through their businesses, Greenhalgh said.

"We're looking for people who will create jobs, who will create role models in their community, who will create real wealth," he said.

Helping participants expand their businesses and hire many new employees is particularly important to the program's goals and premise because many participants in the program hail from minority communities where unemployment rates are exceptionally high, Greenhalgh said.

The program has been incredibly successful in the past, according to Graves, who has worked with Building a High-Performing Minority Business since its inception 32 years ago.

"We've heard a lot of stories from our alums about their success," Graves said. "We have a long list of folks who've won honors and awards."

The Tuck program is different than any symposiums offered at comparable institutions because it is much larger than similar workshops, according to Greenhalgh.

"There's nobody else who works with this population group with the intensity and perseverance we do," Greenhalgh said. "The only other programs in the country are very small ones."

While it may seem "weird" that Dartmouth's program is so highly-regarded even though the College is not located in a large city with a large minority population, Dartmouth's history of fostering diversity explains the program's success and positive reputation, Greenhalgh said.

"Dartmouth is committed to diversity, so it's part of our diversity mission to serve people of color," he said.

To make the program as accessible as possible, each participant receives a scholarship of approximately $4,000 from Tuck, so that participants pay $4,800 in total to attend the $8,800 program, Greenhalgh said. Although the program is run by Tuck, "a number of corporations and non-profit organizations" also support the conference, according to Grave.

Jaa St. Julien, a participant in this year's program and owner of the Houston-based St. Julien Communications Group, said the program has been tremendously helpful and has allowed him to learn skills he otherwise would not have had as a serial entrepreneur with a "lack of corporate experience."

St. Julien, who was highly interested in the program for two years before winning a scholarship that allowed him to participate, said the program helps participants structure their businesses, understand operational problems and review financial statements.