“If you’ve ever seen that TV show ‘Cheers,’ it’s like the character Norm,” said Joshua Scott.
As owner of TransAtlantic Collections, Scott’s business is third-party collections. He settles unpaid bills, such as the unpaid tab accumulated by the amiable patron of the fictional Boston bar.
For Scott, however, the business relationship is not as friendly as a neighborhood watering hole. Court costs, increasing competition and Anderson’s economic woes make every day a challenge. That is where Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) enters the picture.
On Sept. 26, SIFE Consulting of Anderson University kicked off its 2007-2008 season with an open house at the Flagship Enterprise Center. For the next six months, 25 AU students will work with five local businesses: ID Graphics, Rubicon Foods, Vision Signs, Premium Crystal and TransAtlantic Collections. The students receive a nominal salary but will also gain real-world business experience.
“This is a great opportunity for the most enterprising of our students to step up for the benefit of all,” said Michael Wiese, professor of marketing at AU’s Falls School of Business. “SIFE consulting and Entrepreneurship is a way to get the best possible educational experience and to make a real difference in our local community.”
The open house provided an opportunity for Scott and other business owners to meet with their five-student team for the first time. Each team also includes a faculty advisor. Scott said he faces competition from two known competitors, but believes he has a solid business model.
“Anderson has more than enough bad debt to go around,” he said.
SIFE has contributed to improving the business climate in Anderson in recent years and is one reason the Indiana Chamber of Commerce named Anderson its Community of the Year in September. Students have been involved in SIFE at Anderson University for more than 16 years in three distinct areas: SIFE Education, SIFE Consulting and SIFE International.
Mark Motluck is a Sam Walton Professor at Anderson University and adviser for SIFE. He said the organization is found on nearly 2,000 college campuses.
“SIFE is involved with the promotion of free enterprise to assist individuals and businesses along the lines of free enterprise and how we all benefit from free enterprise,” Motluck said. “Students put together projects to educate small businesses and to educate the public.”
Motluck said the chapter includes 80 students. SIFE is not part of the curriculum for Falls School of Business and Motluck said SIFE members come from all academic programs.
“These students are really dedicated, they’re committed to the concept and to the ideals of free enterprise,” he said. “We encourage students from across campus to become involved. In our consulting work, we deal with graphic skills and computer skills so we can’t just rely on business-school students.”
As a freshman at Anderson University, Stacey Jaracz was looking for a way to get involved. She found SIFE.
“Anderson has been economically depressed, there has been a loss of jobs moving out because of (the closure of automotive factories),” said Jaracz, now a senior marketing major. “The reason we do what we do is to encourage the next generation of growth. The whole point is to create jobs in Anderson.”
Jaracz said SIFE Education makes a presentation to elementary school students called “Cheat your neighbor, cheat yourself,” in which students explain the perils of shoplifting.
“We explain why it’s wrong to steal and how it hurts the economy,” Jaracz said. “When a lot of people steal, prices go up in that store to make up for the lost profit. We try to educate them on why it is economically wrong and morally wrong.”
SIFE also uses “The Barter Game” to teach students about free trade and the scarcity of resources. Each student must construct a candy airplane, but the various components needed — LifeSavers, gum, Smarties and rubber bands — are distributed unevenly. Students must trade in order to acquire all the necessary items.
Ben Hayhurst is vice president of consulting and entrepreneurship for SIFE. He said SIFE consulting will expand its reach to freshmen. The group is preparing to undertake a freshman project running Brandon’s Coffeehouse, located just east of Anderson University.
In the meantime, teams of five students will work with each company, providing their unique services with the intent to improve the bottom line.
“The goals definitely vary from company to company and depending on student involvement, their majors and interests,” Hayhurst said. “We might create some branding strategies, a couple companies have asked us to develop a Web site for them. We will set out some preliminary objectives before we know who the students are, then the company will define their own objectives in as much detail as possible.”
SIFE Consulting also brings an element of competition. Next spring, SIFE will hold a program to identify and honor the most successful consulting team.
–Justin Schneider is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.