Earlier this month, a group of Graduate MBA Students from the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB) participated in an interactive judging session to select the Top 10 entries in the United States for the 2009 global Dell Small Business Excellence Award.
Our twelve judges are students currently enrolled in Dr. Erik K. Winslow’s Strategic Entrepreneurship class at the GWSB. Dr. Winslow, with assistance from the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) and Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, has incorporated the Dell Award competition in his curriculum and has given his students the task of analyzing, judging and learning from today’s leading entrepreneurs. From case studies of last year’s winners to this year’s new submissions, students are given the unique opportunity to evaluate a wide range of data relevant to today’s growing small businesses environment. They are able to see first hand how businesses with less than 100 employees are using information technology (IT) in innovative ways to grow their business and improve the customer experience.
During the GW interactive session, the judges spent a lot of time discussing the term innovation and how it was applied to the applicants. The highest scoring entries used innovation as a success enabler and implemented technology to drive growth within their industry.
Another key factor that seemed to separate top entries from the group was the presence of an entrepreneurial spirit. This was most evident during group discussions when individuals began to weigh the pros and cons of each application.
Top entries catapulted to the top when students saw the current use of IT and then realized how innovative the business was within their industry. By becoming champions for these applicants, the judges started to persuade each other by describing how they viewed the IT innovation, and how it compared to their view of the industry’s general direction.
As you can imagine, this process of persuasion brought a vibrant atmosphere to the room. The group presented their thoughts, compared top entries to existing businesses, and used today’s business environment to gauge the industry-wide impact.
The event also drew the participation of additional GWSB faculty members Dr. Paul Swiercz and Dr. Jaclyn Jensen. By using today’s leading entrepreneurs as a learning tool for tomorrow’s business leaders, students gain an invaluable knowledge that will help them to recognize how small businesses can use IT to be innovative and grow their business exponentially.
For more on the Small Business Excellence Award program and the 10 finalists from the U.S., check out the press release from Dell.