GMSC SERIES: Laurie Manning – GMSC Process Pt. 2: The Research Project

The second part of the GMSC process contains the bulk of the work. This is where we had to buckle down and do the research to answer our key question and ultimately come up with a recommendation for our client. My team decided the best way to answer our question was through secondary research, focus groups, in depth interviews, and an online survey. One of the members of the team was lead of each of the types of research (Quantitative, Qualitative, and Secondary) and delegated tasks to group members in order to complete the work.

I am the Secondary Research Lead, so I have been working closely with our business librarian to come up with smart questions, divide the research into manageable chunks, and find the best resources for us to use to uncover the answers. If anyone gets stuck on their portion of the research, the business librarians serve as a resource to steer them in the right direction. I have had the opportunity to explore all types of library resources from pure google searches and library books to intricate professional business databases. As a result, we have a plethora of information compiled that we can reference when needed in the process.

We decided to conduct two focus groups on campus to understand customers’ views on coffee companies and the way that they purchase and use coffee products. Our focus groups consisted of both students and faculty from Emory as well as individuals from the community. We used personal connections to solicit participates from Emory. My team went to local grocery stores and businesses to ask various individual to donate their time and thoughts to an MBA project. We developed a script for the facilitator to ensure that the discussion moved smoothly. Our participants were extremely engaged and provided us with useful information and insights. It was interesting to see how people feed off of others ideas, but also felt comfortable enough to challenge and disagree with others. This created a dynamic discussion and I don’t think we wanted either of them to end when we hit our hour cut off.

We decided to perform most of our in depth interviews on site with our client. This made the most sense for our project because we really wanted to understand the operations of our client and how their employees viewed their brand and what they want to see from the company moving forward. We split into three groups and conducted ten in-depth interviews both in person and on the phone while we were visiting the client. During the process, we also arranged to have a few interviews with subject matter experts in the industry to gain other insights and best practices.

Developing the survey was an everyday project for weeks and required a large amount of “blood, sweat, and tears”. We had to ensure that we were asking the right questions, in the right way, and in the correct sequence. There were multiple iterations of our survey and we had the opportunity to have multiple reviews from our professor and teaching assistants. We participated in many weekend meetings that consisted of reading through each individual questions and adjusting phrasing and grammar. Our survey ended up being around 40 questions and 30 minutes in length. I will never look at a survey the same way again! I appreciate how much thought goes into development and analysis of each question.

At Goizueta, MBA students have the opportunity to participate in a two week Mid-Semester Module on a business topic either in Atlanta or abroad. This is right before spring break, so most students extend their stay into the following week to have more time. Between my seven team members, we traveled all over the world during those three weeks. We explored Nicaragua, Cambodia, Myanmar, Argentina, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Japan. Some of our trips gave us ideas for our project and better understanding of the coffee industry and the farming communities where coffee beans are sourced. Our survey was launched over this break through a broker and we came back from break with over 1,000 responses to sort through and analyze. The last phase of the GMSC process will be consolidating all of the information that we have gathered in this semester and creating one recommendation for our client. The culmination of the class will be at Presentation Day, which is attended by all of our clients and various business leaders in the marketing community.

My GMSC Team being welcomed by our client during our company visit.

My GMSC Team being welcomed by our client during our company visit.