Reality Check

Business students to analyze
Madison’s festival operations

Tourism officials hope to get
fresh cost saving ideas, strategies

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(December 2010) – In Madison, Ind., festivals are not just fun and games – they’re big business.
With the help of Hanover College’s business scholars, four of Madison’s biggest festivals are getting a top-to-bottom business analysis that could mean better business practices and cost-savings for the Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau.
At the suggestion of the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, CVB Executive Director Linda Lytle invited Hanover’s Center for Business Preparation to analyze the four festivals under the CVB umbrella: Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art, Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes, Ohio River Valley Folk Festival and Madison Ribberfest.

Hanover Center for Business Preparation class

Photo provided

Students at Hanover’s Center
for Business Preparation will
analyze the four festivals under
the CVB umbrella: Madison
Chautauqua Festival of Art,
Nights Before Christmas Candlelight
Tour of Homes, Ohio River Valley
Folk Festival and Madison Ribberfest.

“We wondered if they are being run as effectively as possible,” said Lytle. “We felt that it was a great opportunity for young, fresh minds to look at that.”
The project is a big one, says Hanover College Assistant Professor John Riddick. For that reason, he is splitting it between two of his business strategy classes. The fall class is analyzing Chautauqua and the Christmas tour, while the winter term class will tackle the two music festivals.
Students in the business strategy class are upperclassmen who have already completed core courses and electives in Hanover’s Business Scholars program. The business analysis is their “senior capstone project,” meaning that it ties all their textbook and experiential learning together into one real-world problem-solving exercise.
Typically, the capstone project is a strategic audit of a small business, but Riddick was intrigued by the challenge of analyzing what amounts to four small businesses, all supervised by the CVB. Each festival has its own coordinator and structure, yet there is the possibility that efficiencies can be found by looking at the four festivals together.
“These festivals have significant economic impact in the community,” said Riddick. “My overall take on it is that they have some great festivals going on here, and we hope we can help them continue with a few suggestions.”
The business strategy class has divided into two teams with student coordinators to spearhead their efforts. Toni Baysinger heads the external team, which has been focusing on marketing, as well as gathering data on how festivals are operated in other cities. Jason Crawford coordinates the internal team, which is looking closely at finance and operations of the Chautauqua and Nights Before Christmas.
“Jason and Toni really have done the heavy lifting on this thing,” said Riddick. The students have contacted the festival coordinators, Chautauqua exhibitors, previous festival visitors and festival organizers from other cities in their search for relevant information.
“It’s pretty intense. It’s a lot of work for the students,” said Riddick.
So far the teams have made two status reports to Lytle. They will make their final recommendations to Lytle and her festival staff on Dec. 9. Riddick predicted that the students may have suggestions on ways to save money and project a more consistent message by combining the festivals’ marketing efforts.
Lytle is expecting good results from the study, based on the valuable help she’s received in the past from Hanover College students. The CVB has played host to several Hanover College interns over the years, “and I love it,” said Lytle. Every intern has been a hard worker who made significant contributions to the organization, she said.
Lytle sees the business analysis of her four festivals as a very valuable service.
“I’m fairly confident that what our committees are doing, they are doing well. But at the same time, someone else may see something we haven’t seen.”
Based on her past experience, she is sure the Hanover Business Scholars are up to the challenge.
The Business Scholars gain real-world experience that gives them something to talk about with future employers.
Riddick said Hanover College also benefits from the project. “It’s part of an ongoing effort to foster cooperation between the Center for Business Preparation and the community. This is an exciting project in that regard.”

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