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Free business consulting? Students are on the case

In short order, Huntington Management Consulting can analyze a company’s corporate structure and business plan, identifying problems and crafting strategies to help businesses and nonprofit organizations achieve success. It’s the kind of work for which a company might pay thousands upon thousands of dollars.

But HMC doesn’t charge a fee; in fact, it’s not even a business. Rather, it’s an undergraduate club comprising some of Northeastern’s top business students who gain real-world experience through intercollegiate case competitions. To practice for the competitions—in which they routinely place among the top business schools in the country—students work with alumni ventures, providing free analysis and consultation in exchange for the opportunity to hone their skills.

Bob Sansone, an alumnus in the insurance industry, has asked for feedback on his forthcoming nonprofit organization, Sneakers to Beakers, a Boston-based after-school program combining sports and STEM education. “As a Northeastern graduate, I was blown away,” he said. “I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and that’s definitely what I was able to do here. This world is still new to me, so I was glad to get this professional feedback.”

The consulting team practices under the same conditions of a formal competition. For example, Stackdriver, a cloud computing company cofounded by alumnus Dan Belcher, would present its case on Thursday evening. The team then works on the case until Sunday, when it reports its findings.

“The cases we work on are real,” said club adviser Raymond Kinnunen, an associate professor of international business and strategy in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business whom students call “Coach K.” “We dig deep into these companies, looking at what they seek to accomplish and how they operate, which is perhaps the best way to learn about business.”

Each club member has received a personal invitation to try out for the team, according to Kinnunen, and many go on to work for some of the world’s largest companies in business or finance.

Elliott Poppel, a senior business major, has been part of the consulting club for two years and has already accepted a position with a venture capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif.

“This has been huge for me,” said Poppel, who credits his experience in the club with providing him with the analysis tools to land his first professional job. “I’ve definitely learned a lot at Northeastern and in my other classes, but I don’t think I’ve learned nearly as much in everything else combined as I did here. It’s like being on co-op, but you have to do a different job every week.”