Two NIU students have created a business plan that has been selected to advance to the final round of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology Student Business Plan Competition.
Rachel Magann Faivre and Liz Tusler will represent the university and compete against four other student teams at the ADA convention in November.
“Our task was to write-up a full business plan that could be submitted to a bank in order to apply for a loan,” Tusler said.
The competition is designed to provide students with an opportunity to gain meaningful hands-on business experience along with showcasing their knowledge and creativity.
For the two doctoral students, the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Liz and I were always interested in private practice, and one of our professional goals was to write a business plan,” Magann Faivre said.
The topic for the business plan was left completely to the discretion of the student teams. Magann Faivre and Tusler decided to create a three-year business plan for a private practice audiology facility. The office would be located in Joliet, Ill., and the staff would consist of two audiologists, a front desk staff person and an additional certified public accountant who would take care of many business matters.
The practice would provide a variety of services including hearing diagnostic testing, hearing aids for management of hearing loss, tinnitus diagnostic testing and management, and studies about hearing standards where work is noisy (such as construction sites).
In their plan, the students also focused on marketing to the Joliet location. Their target market is adults older than 50. They chose to place their facility near a large hospital and senior residences.
Magann Faivre is grateful for the flexibility and preparation that her program at NIU provided her with for this opportunity.
“The NIU audiology program has always been supportive of students seeking out education in various ways,” Magann Faivre said. “As a student, it’s good to get the big picture and obtain a well-rounded view of your field.”
Magann Faivre and Tusler expressed gratitude for this opportunity and a new-found self-reliance in the new business skills they developed.
“Overall I became more confident with the idea of opening my own practice through this experience,” Magann Faivre said. “We got to make our own plan and have professionals look it over. What better foundation to lay.”
Magann Faivre and Tusler took a practice management course last fall with adjunct faculty member Danica Billingsly that discussed different elements of a business plan and the ethical standards of being a private practitioner. The course offered a strong foundation for the competition, Magann Faivre said, and provided great insight about how to set up the financial information for their plan.
During the competition, the students split up the workload and developed new strengths and areas of expertise during the competition.
Magann Faivre was primarily in charge of the financial aspects while Tusler was in charge of execution marketing.
“I definitely learned more than I ever wanted to know about accounting,” Magann Faivre said. “I enjoyed working with numbers and getting a firm grasp of all the financial terms, but getting all the numbers to add up and come out even was challenging.”
“I feel like I have a much better understanding of how billing and insurance works, the cost of running a practice and a better understanding of the field of audiology,” Tusler said. “I think it was a great learning experience for Rachel and me because we learned the importance of setting deadlines and making goals for our project.”
Magann Faivre and Tusler are excited for the final competition in November, where they must put a poster together that will showcase their business plan and present it to a panel of judges. The winner will receive $5,000 for starting a business or professional development.
“Of course we wanted to win the competition, but we were happy to have made it to the round where the judges would be able to give us feedback on our project,” Tusler said. “We are so thrilled to present the business plan, get more feedback and improve our presenting skills.”
Because the students made it to the finals, many audiologists from around the world began congratulating them and recognizing their success. They feel the competition has given them a leg up on job offers because many people in the industry know about the competition and respect it.
Aside from the competition, the two students are working on their capstone research project and finishing up their doctoral degrees. Magann Faivre is currently in Minnesota at Mayo Clinic and Tusler is at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital near Chicago.
NIU’s audiology program is housed in the School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders, part of the College of Health and Human Sciences.
by Chonce Maddox