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Business Students Create Risk Management Plan for Local Restaurant

Risk management is a principle that every organization must deal with, from emergency planners, to businesses in any marketplace.

Old Dominion University Strome College of Business students in Michael McShane's seminar in risk management and insurance spent the semester exploring a different facet of risk management, in an assignment that provided real-world assistance to a local business.

Students in the fourth-year undergraduate class spent the semester acting as a team, doing a risk management case study for Handsome Biscuit, a family restaurant based in Norfolk's Ghent neighborhood.

"This was the first time I had one of my classes do this for a local business, and it has been a good learning experience for us," said McShane, associate professor of finance and a faculty member in the University's Center for Insurance, Risk Management and Financial Planning.

Company owners spoke at Old Dominion's Strome Entrepreneurial Center last fall. McShane, approached them with the idea of a semester-long group project. "I found the owners and their business to be fascinating, a very creative start-up," McShane said.

Students in the risk management seminar spent the semester, in teams, analyzing the restaurant's business plan and identifying threats and opportunities.

"M.B.A. classes sometimes do this but is rare for an undergraduate class, so we had some learning pains. I think I will continue doing this for one class a semester so hope to improve the process each time we do it," McShane said.

About half an hour of each class featured a discussion and brainstorming about the company. "Our goal was to identify the main risks facing the company and come up with proposals on how to manage the risk," McShane said.

At the end of the semester, student teams presented their findings to the restaurant owners themselves, who were impressed with the work of the Old Dominion students.

"We enjoyed working with the class. It was great to have such astute observations turned into actionable and well organized guidance by Dr. McShane's ODU students," said John Porter, co-owner of Handsome Biscuit.

The restaurant owners say they will incorporate different risk mitigation protocols to help streamline operations for their three unique Norfolk restaurants that have opened in the past few years - Handsome Biscuit, Field Guide and Toast.

McShane said the entire process went so well that he plans to apply risk management knowledge to another Norfolk business with his students this fall, classic car restoration company FantomWorks.

"I think this really fits in well with Old Dominion's goal of interacting with the community more, in an entrepreneurial fashion. We're excited to do more of this," McShane said.

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