On one of my first days as a newly admitted student, I had the opportunity to speak with a second year Brand student about the most memorable parts of their first semester. After mentioning TAPS and the Applied Learning, they paused and said: “Whatever you do, definitely participate in the case competition. It was the highlight of my semester!” And with that, I was in!
The GMN Case Competition started with a frenzy of nervous excitement. Teams comprised of first-year MBA students (including my own!) settled into the executive dining room on a cold January afternoon to receive our case: Kone, a Finnish elevator company had developed a revolutionary new elevator technology that was set to the hit the market. Our teams needed to analyze this new-to-the-world product and develop a pricing and promotional strategy that would make this new product launch successful. The case was both broad and dense and required a strong command of both qualitative analysis, marketing, and strategy. After jockeying to find a work area in Grainger, our team locked in for a long night.
In many ways, the case competition was a truncated version of our ICA: it required communicating a fairly complex, multi-dimensional strategy in a very concise and coherent way. Given the team only had 18 hours to analyze the case and develop and present their strategy, expediency was key. We relied heavily on the frameworks and strategies we were exposed to in during our first semester (Curled Metal!) and also leveraged our individual specializations and work experiences insofar that they were relevant. The nature of the product (residential elevators) presented both a challenge and an opportunity: it was my sense that very few (if any) of the GMN participants had any experience with the European residential elevator industry. Due to this lack of information, we realized early on that we needed to rely on fundamental analysis to guide our recommendations. We also needed to closely read the case literature to make sure we didn’t miss important details. My team also decided to list our assumptions in writing so we could continually challenge them and improve on our recommendation.
Teams worked through the night to meet their 8:00 am presentation deadlines. Coffee cups and pizza boxes could be seen in virtually every breakout room on the third floor. With the sun coming up, many of us rushed home to change and finalize our presentations. When the clock struck 8, we were ready to go.
The first round of presentations was nerve racking. Executive level judges from Target, SC Johnson, and Intuit (to name a few) listened to our pitches and peppered us with tough, thoughtful questions. I can say honestly that the question and answer period following our presentations was among the most insightful experiences of the GMN Case Competition.
Although my team did not advance to the second round of deliberation, it was really amazing to hear fellow students’ ideas and pitches. I was really proud of all of the teams that did advance, as I thought that they did an incredible job of developing their strategies and communicating them rationally and enthusiastically. They answered questions with poise and backed up their claims with assumptions and the necessary data. It was really great to see the winning team comprised of our very own Eric Janssen (CBPM) as well as Rishi Shah (CFIB), James Bukacek (OTM), and Joren Thompson (Supply Chain) take home the title. They did a great job!
In all, the GMN Case Competition was more fun than I anticipated. And although it threw off my sleep schedule for a few days, it was definitely worth it. A big thank you to the GMN Board and the judges for making the competition possible and creating an incredible learning experience. And a final thank you to that special second year who allowed me to make a phenomenal memory.