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March 02, 2014 | Tom Ballard

This dynamic entrepreneurial duo is known as P&G

Pat Richardson(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series focused on “P&G,” the dynamic duo of Pat Richardson and Glenn Swift, colleagues at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

They are frequently referred to as “P&G,” but the reference is not to the international conglomerate more officially known as Procter & Gamble.

Instead, we are talking about the instructional team of Pat Richardson (P) and Glenn Swift (G), teaching partners and friends who are part of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) in the Department of Management of the College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK).

I first met Richardson when he was a senior executive with Motorola and served on the Board of Directors of Tech 20/20. We later became colleagues for several years in the then-named Technology Transfer and Economic Development Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Sometime during that period, I also met Swift who, like Richardson, was a retired corporate executive. In Swift’s case, he served in the AT&T organization for 35 years.

One could characterize one member of the duo as being the “yin,” while the other is the “yang.” Swift captures it in a very simple statement: “We are very different, just like our students.”

Richardson says Swift is a “words learner,” while “I’m a visual learner.” Swift describes the difference as “Pat is a reflector; I’m an engaged learner.”

Regardless of their differences, it is clear that they have a strong mutual respect for each other that mirrors itself in the passion they feel for the students they mentor each year.

Swift and Richardson began their formal collaboration in 2007, when the latter joined the Anderson Center as a Lecturer. Swift, who is a Stokely Faculty Scholar, joined the UTK faculty four years earlier. Together, they serve as instructors for the College’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E&I) concentration for full-time MBA students.

By the time Richardson arrived at UTK, Swift was already focused on enhancing the entrepreneurial learning that MBA students gained by creating curriculum to develop required skills. Again, he describes his goal by repeating a simple question that students regularly asked him.

“Are we learning anything we can do anything with,” he recalls them asking. His response was to launch a new experiential way to enhance the students’ understanding of entrepreneurship through applied service learning that would provide a skills set they could use later in life.

“We set out to give back to the community as a land-grant university,” Swift says of the course, Innovation in Practice, where student teams consult with nonprofit organizations across the state. “We are skilling the students as well as giving back.”

What has evolved is a class that Richardson describes as “doing critical thinking . . . taking data and applying it to a particular problem.”

The course is the capstone project for all full-time MBA students at the end of their first year. The students are divided into teams to work on one or more critical problems facing local nonprofit organizations.

“In the E&I concentration, we go out of the classroom to ‘learn by doing’ in applied environments to help individuals think critically about building a business,” the duo proclaims in a marketing brochure.

The seven-week experience starts with the development of a four-page statement of work. Every team works through four phases, regardless of the complexity of the project.

Richardson says the first two weeks involve baselining the project scope and understanding the reasons the client is in the situation that it finds itself. Over the next two to three weeks, each student team benchmarks other organizations to understand how the latter addressed similar problems. The final few weeks involve developing the recommendations and, more important, answering the question: “If the client pulls the lever on the recommendations, what is the likely result?”

“All of this work is out of the classroom,” Richardson says. As the number of students has grown and more teams are involved in the nonprofit work, the duo relies on adjunct faculty to help them. Six will be part of this spring’s activities.

We’ll cover more about the “P&G” philosophy and impact in the second article in this series.

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