MBA Students Partner with American Woodmark

As part of the William & Mary MBA program, second-year students are invited to participate in a Field Consultancy Program, which centers around working with a local client to give business recommendations. Many of the organizations chosen are specifically designed to center around a niche or unique business venture. In this way, when this past year’s Field Consultancy Project was given American Woodmark as a client for the intense seven-week project, there were initially some reservations.

“We were tasked with conducting a comprehensive investigation on several big competitors in the cabinet industry, as well as conducting analysis on tariff impact to get an industry outlook under the global context” project lead Jing Jin describes. “Our team was not widely familiar with the cabinet industry, so we spent at least one-third of our time understanding the industry by visiting competitors and really trying to understand the difference between cabinets and the value they promised. After this initial research, we felt much more prepared to provide consultation to our company, but more importantly, we understood why this insight was so important to our client.”

For team member Qianli Wang, this initial research led to a much broader understanding of the business as a whole. “When I touched the real products and looked into details, I realized that business is more than numbers. If you want to know an industry well, you have to see what the industry is really doing rather than just read annual reports,” Wang explains.

It was this insight and this commitment to recognizing the relevance and complexity of an industry that led the team as they worked to create a deliverable over the seven weeks of the project. “It was the first time to condense the CFC project to only seven weeks under the new curriculum last year. Because of the time constraints, the project actually started on the first day we got the face-to-face brief from the client,” Jing explains. Because of the time restraint, teams had to work every day to deliver the final product.

That final product, according to both Jing and Wang, was a resounding success. “The final presentation was more than a student’s presentation, but like a close team discussion. Actually, that was the impression I got from our client throughout the whole project. Thanks to American Woodmark’s guide, patience, and respect, we learned from each other and doing the project like a real team. From this perspective, I would confidently say that we achieved our project goals,” Jin explains. Wang agrees and describes how “the final presentation was a resounding success. We are all very satisfied with it.”

One particularly noteworthy part of the experience was being able to work with Executive Partners, who act as mentors for the MBA students and work with them to complete the project. “The EPs won’t tell you the answer but will give you 100 percent support. It was the executives who showed us how to push ourselves to success.”

Both team members had profound experiences with the project. Wang explains how “It’s kind of like trying to finish a puzzle with no indication. When you finish each small part, you know the big picture.”

Jin agrees, and claims that “The Field Consultancy Program was one of my favorite experiences at Mason because it was so close to reality.” He goes on to give specific advice for younger students, saying to “take advantage of the resources at Mason, and you will grow to the one you want to be.”