Interns Recommend, but Business Owners Decide

25 years ago, fresh out of grad school, I thought I knew EVERYTHING. One of my first projects was evaluating the company’s pricing model. I very quickly decided it could be improved by converting the entire system to a series of spreadsheets.

Now before you laugh, remember that 25 years ago, desktop computers in offices were still pretty rare. Many of the people I was working with had never used programs like Excel or Lotus. So the whole thing sounded very cool, very cutting edge and very smart.

The problem? I had a less than comprehensive understanding of Excel and only a superficial understanding of how our pricing model worked. The combination of those two factors created a sub-optimal solution. The company limped along with it for a few years, but I am pretty sure they quickly abandoned it when I was no longer there to support it.

I was reminded of this experience recently when a client told me they were going to change one of their software tools based on the recommendation of their intern. I was uncomfortable with their planned path because the intern:

  • Didn’t really understand their business model
  • Didn’t understand the technology she was moving away from
  • Had only superficial understanding of the platform she was recommending they move to
  • Was going back to school in the fall and would leave my client which a tool they didn’t understand, and one we couldn’t support

I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, on more than one occasion I have seen companies bring in interns and young employees who are excited about a new tool and follow their lead too quickly. Much like my pricing model project, the suggestions are made without a clear understanding of the big picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I love interns. I think we have one of the best Indianapolis internship programs. Every summer I look forward to giving creative, interesting young professionals an opportunity to explore new tools and help us discover the benefits for Roundpeg and our clients. Having interns research new tools and new technology is a win/win.  They go back to school with some terrific tools in their portfolio and leave behind some terrific business improvements which would never have happened without them.

My advice to small business owners; before you dive headfirst into a new system, add new features to your website or sign up for new software tools, be sure you:

  • Examine the recommendation in detail or test the software extensively
  • Fully understand the impact of the change
  • Will be able to manage them after the intern is gone

Summer interns are a wonderful addition, just remember, when they go back to school, you still have to keep your business running.


  • Great points. It’s very impressive that your staff is made up of previous interns! It shows you really value them. I’ve heard of companies that had interns who tried to get individual departments a page on Facebook, like “The Accounting Department at…” because they thought EVERYBODY should be on Facebook. And your point about managing things after they are gone is crucial – when you don’t monitor your intern, you forget what they are doing, and when it’s time to find a new one you may realize that they did things you didn’t even know about. Like putting your accounting department on Facebook 🙂

  • Input and direction are two very different things. The key is to know where the line needs to fall to maintain control on your business and still learn a few new things along the way.

    And yes, I love internship as a way for prospective employees to get to know us as we get to know them.

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