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Local Universities Have Much to Offer

Courses are available to entrepreneurs and executives. Some focus on specific industries.

September 13, 2006|Cyndia Zwahlen | Special to The Times

Entrepreneurs are heading back to the classroom this fall to polish management expertise and fill in missing skills they need to run effective organizations.

Suzanne Rampe, a former stuntwoman who started Vacation Corporate Rentals five years ago, made the trek back to school last year.

She spent almost $2,000 on USC's two-day course on how to negotiate, called "Effective Negotiations and the Power of Persuasion."

"It's absolutely paid off," said Rampe, who had been nervous about discussing prices with customers of her Hermosa Beach business, which rents beachfront apartments to vacationers and visiting corporate executives.

She learned to talk with customers over the phone and in person and to rely less on e-mail when discussing the terms of a deal. She also learned the importance of asking about customers' needs before jumping into what her small company has to offer.

Rampe credits the class with helping her to close more deals and to improve relationships with customers. She also used her negotiation skills this summer to knock $3,000 off the price of a $13,000 camper for her truck.

That's just the kind of practical outcome the burgeoning executive education community is hoping for.

" 'What is the person taking back on Monday morning?' I ask that question religiously, and if we can't answer it, it's back to the drawing board," said Mark Wilbur, associate dean of executive education at the Marshall School of Business at USC.

Wilbur and his colleagues at other Southland business schools are gearing up for a busy fall. Here is a sample of the public offerings from some of the area's largest business schools, including courses of particular interest to small-business owners. All of the schools also create programs for individual companies.

* Anderson School of Management, UCLA

About 2,000 small-business owners, entrepreneurs and executives from companies and nonprofits participate each year in Anderson's executive education programs. Custom programs for companies such as A&M Records and Xerox Corp. account for about half of the school's offerings.

Public programs geared to small-business owners include a 10-week "Management Development for Entrepreneurs" course. The $4,225 tuition for the program, which is held Fridays, is offset by several major companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Chevron Corp. and Bank of America Corp. that have an interest in keeping the entrepreneurial business sector healthy. The program is offered through Anderson's Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The Executive Program, offered since 1954 for business owners and managers, meets weekly for 21 weeks and covers the core topics of a master's degree in business administration. The program, which costs $15,500, starts in September and January each year.

An example of a more focused offering meant to serve Southern California's thriving small-business community is the school's new management program for salon owners. The $4,500 program runs five consecutive days beginning Nov. 5. Another session is scheduled for February.

What's new? Anderson is adding a leadership program for people with disabilities that will launch next year. The program will join the Leadership Suite collection that includes programs for women, African Americans, Latinos, lesbians, gays and transgender individuals. Each weeklong program costs $5,250. This fall the school will offer two of the programs. The Women's Leadership Institute starts Oct. 16. The Latino Leadership Institute begins Nov. 13.

For more information, call Laurie Dowling, executive director of the office of executive education programs, at (310) 825-2001, or visit

* Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University, Malibu

Custom programs account for about 75% of Pepperdine's executive education efforts, including multiyear projects for Southern California Edison Co. and Boeing Co., said John Mooney, associate dean of academic programs and executive education.

Most of the custom programs, including the IT Essentials for Business Leaders program designed for Edison, will be offered to other companies and to individual students on an open-enrollment basis when completed.

Pepperdine also runs a management development and introduction-to-business program for the Latin Business Assn. ( that is geared to entrepreneurs. Cost of the eight-week course is about $800. It is held twice a year at one or more of Pepperdine's graduate campuses in Encino, Irvine, Long Beach, Pasadena, Westlake Village and West Los Angeles.

What's new? The school is in discussions with the Young Presidents' Organization ( to develop a management and leadership training program for members of the international group.

For more information, contact Mark Allen, director of executive education, at (310) 568-5593 or visit

* Marshall School of Business, USC

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