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High Stakes, Real Results

Three recent OnSite Global Consulting projects illustrate the real-world business challenges that Tuck MBAs solve for clients.

Every year, Tuck students put their MBA education and expertise to work and jet off to far-flung parts of the world to help companies work out some of their biggest business challenges. Whether that means investing in an overseas market or bringing a product to market, the value provided to clients is significant.

“The stakes are high with OnSite,” says OnSite director Kerry Laufer. “Our clients make a significant investment of time and resources in a project, and they expect results. This keeps teams accountable and is what makes it such a rich and authentic learning experience for Tuck students.”

Since kicking off in 1997, OnSite Global Consulting has taken more than 1,200 students to over 60 countries around the world. We explore a few recent examples of how Tuck teams have made a difference for clients.  

Brooks Sports

As a Seattle-based retailer that makes running shoes and apparel, Brooks wanted to expand in China but wanted to know more about the market and shopping patterns among Chinese consumers who were avid runners.

The Tuck team comprised of six T’19s, flew to China. For three weeks, the team conducted extensive, in-depth research that provided Brooks with an assessment of the market.

They created a survey to assess important factors, such as where and why Chinese consumers run, as well as where they buy running gear. They distributed their survey to 1,000 people in China to assess their buying and running habits, then conducted 60 interviews with consumers in Shanghai and in Chengdu, across parks, tracks and running stores.

Expansion in China was an important business decision for Brooks, which is led by Jim Weber T’86 and the research the Tuck team did focused on providing them with the information they needed to help them solidify their strategy.

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“When we made our final recommendations to Brooks, we had great data points that we could point to,” recalled Christina Louis, T’19, a runner who knew the industry. “We were able to tell them specific information about consumers’ running behavior in China and where they liked to do their shopping.”

Brooks also benefited from the array of hard and soft skills that the Tuck team brought to the table. Team members Tong Guo and Jewel Lai worked in China and brought a crucial cultural know-how to the team, which positively impacted their ability to conduct research effectively.

The impact was equally important for students. Marcus Morgan was a sports enthusiast who minored in Chinese as an undergrad and had always wanted to go China.

“One of the priorities for me in business school was to do international travel—for work and for fun,” Morgan says. “I’m not fluent, but I’m familiar with the language and have always been interested in Chinese culture. The OnSite program was a great way for me to fulfill this professional goal.”

Oceana Energy

During the course of three weeks, another Tuck team flew to the UK to give Oceana Energy an in-depth look at the tidal energy market in England and Scotland. While there, the team helped Oceana determine its strategy for testing and collecting data on a full-scale model of the company’s tidal turbine, attracting outside investment, and lowering the company’s projected levelized cost of energy (LCOE). Developed in collaboration with the Naval Surface Warfare Research Center in West Bethesda, Maryland, this turbine has been successfully tested in rugged river conditions in the Tanana River of Alaska by the University of Alaska.

While there, the Tuck team conducted more than 50 interviews with industry participants across London, Edinburgh and Orkney to get a lay of the land. Given that tidal energy is a relatively nascent industry that has experienced costly failures, it wasn’t easy to acquire funding from investors. The company therefore needed guidance in developing strategic and cost-efficient routes to market.

“We concluded that Oceana should secure grants from a list of recommended funds that we compiled, begin testing their turbine in the UK, and eventually partner with a test-site developer to bring their product to market,” says Martha Mesna T’19. “We also advised the company to focus on testing and gathering additional data to gain credibility with investors. Our recommendation was a tough one but was valuable for the client to hear. The overall feedback was eye-opening for them, and they were grateful for our work and for us going to the UK to get Oceana’s name out there.”

Nick Teo, a T’19, had deep expertise in the energy industry, which was especially helpful as the OnSite team provided Oceana executives, including John Topping D’64, with two deliverables: a comprehensive pitch deck that the Oceana team could use with investors, as well as a commercialization roadmap that included crucial information, such as a detailed analysis of the industry, cost analysis and strategic partnership opportunities.

“The investors we’ve shown this roadmap to thus far have been wowed by it,” says Dan Power, Oceana’s president and CEO. “We were really impressed with the work the students did. They hit the ground running and developed an understanding of our business, our mission, our goal to understand the state of the industry and where we might fit into it.”

Desert Angel

When Barak Bar-Cohen T’00 was considering an investment in the date industry in Israel, Tuck’s OnSite team was able to help him evaluate its attractiveness and identify other interesting opportunities while in the country, such as developing a date brand for the U.S. market. Bar-Cohen, an entrepreneur and senior executive with over 20 years experience building and operating both domestic and international businesses, had grown up in Israel and for the last five years was looking for investments in the southern part of the country.

We were his eyes and ears on the ground when we went out to talk to business owners. We were able to come in and ask hard-hitting questions. 

Before the students arrived in Israel, they did plenty of legwork from Hanover, calling the U.S. Commerce Department for specific data, as well as wholesalers and Whole Foods locations in the U.S. to understand the supply chain dynamics of U.S. and European date markets. This helped them better understand the demand for dates as well as the competitive landscape.

“The students I worked with were amazing,” Bar-Cohen says. “They were highly motivated. They worked hard before even coming onsite, and by the time they got to Israel, they completely understood the market dynamics.”

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The team spent their first two weeks in the Arava region of southern Israel, talking to date farmers and producers as well as owners of date processing plants to gain a deeper understanding of the date market. They spent their third week in Tel Aviv wrapping up interviews and finalizing their analysis. They provided Bar-Cohen with valuable data that ended up supporting his instinct.

“We were his eyes and ears on the ground when we went out to talk to business owners,” says Mike Bennett T’19. “We were able to come in and ask hard-hitting questions. In Israel, business can be highly relationship-based, so if you have a strong relationship with someone in the business, it’s a lot harder to be objective.”

In the end, Bar-Cohen decided to not make the investment he had been considering but says this was still valuable information. “Sometimes figuring out what not to do is as important as figuring out what to do,” Bar-Cohen says. “The outcome was still positive for me.”

OnSite Global Consulting teams from Tuck work closely with partners around the world. Does your organization have a global strategy challenge that could use MBA insights? TuckGO staff are now planning projects to launch this September! Learn more or contact Kerry Laufer, director of OnSite, for more information on how to become a client.