Friday, November 14, 2008

Thoughts on the HBCU Conference

By: Elmer L Chisholm, Consultant, BWC Consulting

This past month I had the pleasure of attending a very informative conference on the future of HBCUs and how this new financial landscape will shape the very core of these institutions. This country is going through some very tough times and our institutions of higher learning will be subject to some of the same scrutiny and analysis that some of our financial institutions have been forced to undergo since the beginning of this economic crisis. In short, our beloved HBCUs are being forced to adjust to this changing environment like many other institutions and organizations both non-profit and for profit. These tough economic times require strong leadership, effective management and strategic planning. These elements are historically found in your premier business organizations but these elements are essential to maintaining any top tier organization. The conference did a wonderful job in addressing these elements in a way to provide some much needed light to the participants so many thanks to Andrea Harris, the wonderful staff of the NCIMED, and the collaborative array of organizations and associations that contributed to this very informative event. Critical to the future of our beloved HBCUs will be how well we position ourselves in this new financial environment and how well we effectively utilize our resources to make adjustments accordingly.

This notion of positioning has its roots in strategy and vision. In order to properly plan you must have a vision with a solid strategy in place. A clear vision without a solid strategy amounts to having mud on your windshield. A solid strategy without a clear vision amounts to having a full tank of gas without a car to drive. Proper positioning allows you to use your inherent strengths in order to gain a competitive advantage over your competition. This enables you to become more centrally focused on the elements that will help drive and sustain enrollment. Subsequently, this level of enhanced focus will also allow you the time to shore up areas of opportunity that can further enhance your definitive strengths as an organization. A good example of this would be an institution that is well-known for engineering. The strength would be attracting students that have an interest in engineering. Some opportunities here would be strengthening of the math department, offering a certificate in management science for those students willing to take a few core classes in business, developing a joint degree with the business school, and offering an accelerated masters program that would allow those engineering students to obtain their enhanced degree via a five year program. As you can see proper positioning can have substantial long-term benefits and it is important to note that positioning is an ongoing process that evolves over time. This evolution occurs as the organization becomes more complex and dynamic in nature.

Although positioning is extremely important, it may even be second to effective utilization of resources. Nothing may be more important to an organization than effective management of the available resources. Everything from the human capital to the fixed capital is extremely important to the success of an organization. At times it becomes extremely difficult for organizational leadership to analyze their respective positions and make appropriate recommendations. It is not problematic to know that you have a problem. However it is dangerous to know you have a problem and you do not engage your resources to assist you with making the necessary changes. It is here whereby I recommend engaging some professional consulting services to better assist your organization with effective utilization of resources. This ‘second set of eyes’ can reinforce what you already know to be true, provide invaluable insight that could prove to be extremely beneficial, and make change recommendations to better prepare your organization for what the future may bring. This value proposition ties directly into the core principals of BWC Consulting: Empower. Elevate. Enlarge. We feel that it is our responsibility to be active change elements and use our knowledge and expertise to assist those that desire and dare to excel. The HBCU community should take comfort in knowing that they have a partner and trusted financial advisor in BWC Consulting.

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