My Summer Internship Experience, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction

The below report is created to evaluate the work and internship experience of the author in the management field. The business, professional and personal development of the author have been recorded and documented in the form of weekly and midterm reports. The findings, observations and personal reflections are summarized and the learning objectives are re-assessed in the light of the development plan followed in the summer term. The internship experience is unique on its own, as I attempted to apply the skills learned in my course to my own business, started 13 years ago. Therefore, I had to take on the role of a supervisor and apprentice at the same time. This created a challenge of reflecting on my own development, skills and management approach with a critical eye of an outsider. Still, I believe that making an attempt of applying management skills based on the theories I learned within my own company has been beneficial and successful.

Background and History

The company, A+ Professional Painting has been on the market for several years. It started off as a corporation 13 years ago, and has not achieved its true potential since. This is one of the main reasons I have decided to go back to college and improve my business management skills. The company offers residential interior and exterior painting services. While the first five years in business it became profitable, the following years were a constant struggle, due to the high level of competition, lack of marketing and planning. I believe that with the knowledge gained during the business course, I have developed skills that will help getting the company off the ground again. The company is currently managed by myself and I have received plenty of help from an acquaintance I met during my business studies: Ryan Ksiazek. There is a plenty of demand for the service the company offers, therefore, the main challenge in front of the management was to find the market and successfully promote the services to target customers. Gaining a greater market share was the only way to achieve the company’s long term objectives: expansion, improvement and efficiency. During my studies I discovered that the size of the project influenced the cost and effectiveness of the operation, therefore, a shift of profile was necessary. Moving towards the commercial industry with larger projects was the solution that provided sustainability and cost-effectiveness for the company. Starting with a self-assessed Level 1 competency of skills needed to manage the painting and decorating business, I have moved into Level 3 on a scale of 4 in just nine weeks. This is not only shown in the reports, but the financial reports and balance sheet of the company as well. The business highly depends on the management and the owner, and the variety of tasks I had to perform created a challenge and called for advanced time management skills. Negotiating with clients, bidding, completing administration and planning marketing, supplies also had to be efficient. Utilizing computer technology and software applications, bidding and quote templates enabled the company to reduce time spent on each task, while monitoring bid conversion and performance.

Learning Objectives

There were several learning objectives I set for myself during business training and the work experience. Creating a competitive advantage would make bidding more successful and the conversion rate higher. According to Emkhe (2005), finding the strengths and development areas within the business would help locating the niche and define potential customers. The learning objectives are detailed below:

a, Understanding the process, importance and tools to use in estimating projects

In order to increase customer base, revenue and cost-effectiveness of the company, there was a need for reviewing the process of locating jobs, creating estimates, submitting bids and managing funding, finances, resources. As this was not one of the main focuses of the management before, revenues struggled to increase, and no new customers entered the company. This meant that the management had to rely on word-of-mouth advertising and returning customers, which restricted growth. By understanding how projects, tenders, proposals and bidding work in the industry, the company is able to create a competitive advantage, increase revenues, reputation and customers base.

b, Finding a niche within the company’s industry

While previously the management focused on easy to complete, small residential projects, it did not provide enough orders to keep the revenue above costs. Therefore, finding a more profitable niche within the industry was a challenge. In order to locate the new niches, the management had to get out of the company’s comfort zone and investigate what types of certificates and qualifications are needed to win bidding on higher volume commercial internal and external painting jobs, Market research was previously neglected by the company, therefore, building relationships with professional bodies and organizations, seeking advice and help was necessary. The question was: “How can I establish myself to become well known and recognized for what I do?”

c, Improving communication skills

According to Sheikh (2009), one of the main focuses of business training should be improving communication skills: both written and writing. Advanced communication within the company, as well as the interaction between the corporation and its potential or existing customers is essential to effective operation. Bass (1989) states that “Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.” One of the extracurricular activities examined from the point of efficiency. By Bass (2009) was internships. Internships were regarded as one of the most effective skill-building extracurricular activities MBA students could be involved in. Alongside with all skills, they improved the survey respondents’ interpersonal skills, knowledge of media communication, delivery of messages, as well as the knowledge of human behavior: all needed for communicating the business’ special goals, strengths and advantages for customers.

d, Mastering the process of estimating and bidding

Along with being able to locate customers, the management had to familiarize itself with the process of bidding, proposals, competition evaluation and the benefits of creating a competitive advantage, while communicating this advantage successfully with potential customers. Understanding the motivations of customers when making a decision about assigning a painting project for a company has helped proposals and estimates become more successful in the local market.

e, Understanding contract documents

A major part of the manager’s job is to locate projects and submit estimates, bids and proposals. In the building and decorating industry, there is a great competition at the moment, and it is essential that the A+ Professional Painting Corporation does comply with all the regulations, health and safety, insurance and liability requirements. Many customers make a selection of contractors based on their reputation and compliance report, therefore, developing a professional template for bidding and following up proposals, using the most suitable and legal contract documents, providing protection for both the company and the customer was essential.

f, Making use of computer technology

As many projects are advertised on the Internet and companies move towards electronic communication more and more, it is important that the company’s employees are familiar with data management, project and proposal follow up, contact and administration software, as well as the platforms used to seek open projects, submit quotes and follow up contacts. This, indeed was one of the main challenges of the management of  A+ Professional Painting Corporation’s management team. Since the beginning of its operation, many new systems and platforms have developed, and in order to be able to compete with the large number of companies, this skill had to be improved to increase efficiency in bidding. Further, in order to save time and money, electronic invoicing systems were introduced.

g, Integrating knowledge gained in every area of the business

The understanding of business processes within the industry and taking responsibility for planning, communication, execution and monitoring of the changes in the process has enabled the company to make its operations management more effective, easier to see through and monitor. Performance monitoring started from the bidding process: conversion was checked on a weekly basis after implementing process improvement changes. Quality management and monitoring, as well as benchmarking were introduced in order to increase customer satisfaction, the number of returning clients and long term business relationships.

h, Problem solving skills improvement to overcome obstacles

The “growing pains” of the corporation soon appeared and created a great challenge for the management to solve different problems on a daily basis. This also meant that problem solving skills had to be improved rapidly. By simplifying processes and dealing with issues immediately, spotting the problems in time, the effectiveness of the management in dealing with upcoming obstacles and difficulties was more successful than before. Before the changes were implemented, as a result of implementing gained knowledge in practice, the company often faced liquidity and supply problems that reduced the volume of work the corporation was able to take on at a time. By successfully planning finances and requesting a contract deposit, supplies were purchased in time, reducing the risk of missing a project deadline and therefore more projects could be managed at a time, resulting in more revenue.

Learning Experience

As mentioned above, the main aim of the internship period was to successfully implement management practices into the company, manage change and simplify the corporation’s operations management by implementing computer systems and speeding up the process of locating potential customers, submitting bids. Communication skills had to be improved in writing and during personal presentations, negotiations. One of the main challenges of the internship was multi-tasking and time management. By prioritizing tasks by urgency and potential benefits for the company, this got easier week by week, and commitment to tasks, learning computer skills and new processes became automatic.

While previously the company did not “go out” to seek new customers and contracts, developing skills to effectively communicate with external organizations have helped gain a competitive advantage. I have learned that managing processes and growth effectively needs commitment and determination. Without communicating goals and marketing the services, it is not possible to gain new customers. Developing new professional relationships with associations, suppliers and customers have made the company access resources previously not available.

In the reengineering process, the first and most challenging task was to determine critical success factors.(Gee et al, 2001) There was a need for analyzing current processes in order to determine the development areas. Next, the development of new concepts (improving productivity, reliability, communication and increasing customer base) was needed. In the final step, these concepts would be introduced to the organization and tested for being effective and safe. Maintaining the concept of continuous improvement is currently the long term goal of the corporation.

Methods and Approaches Learned

Reengineering was one of the main concerns to improve the performance of the company and increase efficiency. Determining critical issues and factors, reengineering the organization, operation processes and developing new concepts while integrating effective communication was the main approach learned in the course and applied within the company. (Gee et al, 2001) Looking at projects as processes built upon each other, as learned in the business management course has helped getting jobs finished faster and at a lower cost. Becoming a more effective and professional business person even when dealing with customers I have known for a long time (a friend of mine whose house needed painting) has had a positive impact. Gaining free word-of-mouth advertisement from satisfied customers has helped building up the company’s industry portfolio. The software applications introduced to the corporation have made bidding and project management simpler and easier to manage. This decision was a result of the knowledge gained in the business management course, when I learned how the cost and time management aspect of operations influenced the performance of the organization.

Knowledge building exercises

They helped the management gain a better understanding of the industry, bidding process, project management and customers’ preferences, motivations when selecting a contractor for painting jobs. I consulted with industry organizations and professional bodies in order to understand terms and conditions to be included in contract documents, gain an understanding of regulatory requirements and insurance covers needed. Invoicing was also improved and made faster, more reliable and efficient, improving customer satisfaction. Monitoring the competency of staff in equipment use and licenses, MBE and DBE certificates and communicating the company’s full compliance in the proposal and bidding process has helped gaining more customers. Also, signing up with the union as a 100% minority owned union company has helped the company access industry resources and training available online necessary for improving practices.

Collaborative problem solving

It has become one of the greatest assets of the corporation. In painting projects, there are certain testing and preventive measures companies can use in order to deal with obstacles, difficulties. When planning the execution of the painting job, all possible difficulties were taken into consideration, therefore, the occurrence of problems was automatically reduced. However, by using collaborative problem solving skills learned during the program, alongside with open communication has helped identifying risks and dealing with them on a timely manner.

Accountability

One of the main approaches learned during the course was taking accountability for the performance of the company and my own tasks. These currently consist of locating projects, bid submission, communication with potential customers, managing projects and supervising the execution alongside with quality management.

Development support

With the help of my acquaintance and mentor: Ryan Ksiazek, skill building has been a great adventure. Learning about the requirements of bidding for state government projects, understanding the different types of bidding have made me more aware of the challenges. Managing time and work-flow was one of the main challenges, as multi-tasking was often required as well as dealing with changes.

Competitive benchmarking

This was an approach that proved itself being extremely profitable and effective on the competitive marketplace in Minneapolis. Comparing proposals, prices and deadlines of competing companies with the pricing and bid details of the company have managed understanding the market better. The management had to consider the adaptability of new pricing systems, as well as software operations, regulations and legal requirements.

Process mapping was one of the most effective tools used in the change management process. The process map was created on an A2 paper and put on the wall display of the office, reminding me of the input needed and the immediate or long term steps to take. Identifying the output and desired outcomes (Gee et al. 2001, p. 35.) gave me motivation to complete each task.

Positive and Negative Aspects of the Internship

One of the positive aspects of the internship was that the effectiveness of approaches and business management principles learned were tested. Indeed, it was a positive experience to simplify processes, learn new skills and improve communication skills, essential in any type of business. I have also discovered that there are many organizations and professional bodies offering training, help and advice for companies like A+ Professional Painting. The support provided by two organizations in particular: Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE), was extremely valuable, and my acquaintance, Ryan has motivated me to succeed as well. I have also improved my professional confidence and called Stefanie from McGough Construction to set up a meeting with her to gain help with my MBE, DBE apps

One of the negative aspects of the project was the challenges of managing costs and work-flow. Obtaining deposits from customers for materials, while investing profit into process improvement tools: such as the purchase of the Priosoft Software for creating bids, quotes and managing projects, as well as financial planning. While I have not fully managed to master the software yet, I can see the benefits of using a comprehensive management system, and once I have improved my computer skills, I believe that using it will make project management easier, while planning simpler. It was hard to keep on going after having difficulties with getting bonded.

Supervision and Development Support

While during the weeks of internship I had to become my own supervisor and reflect on my performance, development, I have also received a lot of help from my acquaintance, Ryan, who completed the same business course as me and was aware of the aim of the program. We also discussed my personal leadership strengths and development areas before the start of the internship, therefore, he was able to revise the answers given to each section in the weekly internship reports.

Conclusion

Overall, the internship has helped me realize that I had to take full responsibility for my business actions as a manager. The knowledge gained in business management has made me learn new skills and improve my communication skills. I now regularly submit bids, estimates and take offs at the Minneapolis Builders Exchange. I have managed to improve business processes, reduce workload and focus on immediate tasks, as well as long term goals of the business. I have achieved Level 4 in accountability, performance, planning and scheduling: the main tasks associated with my role.

References

Bass, B. (1989). Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: A survey of theory and research. New York: Free Press

Bidding Procedures for Projects Funded by the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Program and Housing Revenue Bonds (Effective: May 1, 2013). Online.

Emkhe, C. (2005) Strategies for Competitive Advantage. Western Center for Risk Management Education. Online.

Gee, D., Jones, K., Kreity, D., Nevell, S., O’Connor, B., Van Ness, B. (2001)  The Performance-Based Management Handbook. Online.

Sheikh, S. (2009) Improving Communication and Leadership Skills: The Impact of Extracurricular Activities on MBA Students. GMAC  Research Reports • RR-09-06 • January 28, 2009

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