Graduation has just passed and the economy continues to be unsettled, but Goizueta graduates may have a leg up on the competition thanks to innovative courses that combine classroom knowledge with real-world experience.

MBA Students in a Financial Valuation course taught by J.B. Kurish, an associate professor in the practice of finance, learn a lot more than how to determine the worth of a company. Instead, they “peel apart the business” to gain an in-depth understanding about what makes a particular business tick, how it fares against competitors and how the enterprise fits into the wider ecosphere of the broad industry and the general economy.

“The students gain valuable, real-life consulting experience and a deep look into a business, where they are drawing on data analysis, marketing, accounting and other skills,” Kurish explains, noting a consulting team from the professional services firm PwC typically assists in the class. “The client company, meanwhile, gets a valuable benefit: a fresh-look review of the firm’s operations that may open the way to streamlined efficiencies, new markets and to greater profitability.”

In one recent assignment, Kurish’s Financial Valuation class worked with Osprey Corp., a third-generation, family-owned business that sells air filtration and recycling systems for plastics, tissue and other industries.

“We had never been valued before,” says Osprey CEO David Ankenbrandt 89G. “So I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to learn about business valuation.”

Ankenbrandt anticipated giving students some background about his company, and thought they would then do some research on it and get back to him with an estimate of what his business would fetch on the open market.

Instead, to his pleasurable surprise, the students peppered Ankenbrandt with penetrating questions during a series of periodic get-togethers where they dug deeply into the company’s operating structure and its strategy.

“The whole process was very enriching,” he recalls. “They wanted to know what we did, how we did it and why we did things a certain way.”

By the end of the semester, the company had gained “rich nuggets of information,” that helped to drive some internal changes.

“We revisited strategies like marketing and determined new areas we wanted to enter,” Ankenbrandt says. “The process itself forced me to articulate what our company is about, from our culture and the way we work to how customers perceive us. I’d have to say that it was a great experience.”

Kurish’s students just completed a second iteration of the course. This time they worked with a growing Norcross, Ga.-based company, Lifespan Healthcare LLC, which provides equipment and management systems used by medical facilities, including mobile monitoring and drug delivery systems.

“We’re a small but growing company that successfully competes with giants,” says John Kasten, Lifespan president and managing partner. “This was an opportunistic time to be selected for J.B.’s case study, since we’re considering some strategic moves, including whether to sell the rights one of our new product lines to a strategic partner as a way to raise capital and expand our distribution channels.”

Lifespan previously designed a device that makes it easier to keep critical care patients connected to infusion pumps and other lifesaving medical gear while they’re being transported to and from a medical facility or when they’re being moved to or from an intensive care unit or other location within the facility itself, says Kasten.

“It’s a high-growth segment, since data indicate that missing or disconnected equipment during a patient move is a leading cause of accidental death in hospitals,” he explains.

Kasten is quick to add that his company received additional long-term benefits from Kurish’s class.

“Besides the useful advice we got from the students, J.B. also put us in touch with other businesses that operate in complementary segments,” he says. “We hope to form strategic alliances with some of them that will add value to each of us.”

For Kurish, success stories like these illustrate the value of connecting his students with growing businesses.

“Business is an applied discipline and the better we are at making connections with practice the more our students internalize what we are teaching,” he says. “They become skilled thinkers and problem solvers who are prepared to do well not only at their first jobs, but throughout their careers.  Further, for firms such as Osprey and Lifespan to benefit so much from this educational partnership is a wonderful outcome.”

– Marty Daks