Concordia reaches semis in MBA Case Competition

by Jim Flynn

The team from the Haskayne School of Business, at the University of Calgary, won the John Molson School Business’s 24th International MBA Case Competition.

The challenge was to come up with creative solutions to cases, i.e. real-life business problems. It was intense, and the final presentation was made in front of a full-house audience and a high-powered board of judges from as far away as Europe.

Concordia, whose team won last year’s event, made it to the semi-finals. Mischa Loeffler, Benoit Breault, Egan Cheung, Chris Tomiuk and Farah Ahmad made up the home team, who placed seventh.

Participants included 30 teams of Master’s of Business Administration students from across Canada, the United States, Europe, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Pierre Brunet, chairman of Peak Financial Group, sits on the competition’s advisory board. “There are no losers in this competition, in a broad sense,” he said. “Each team receives feedback from the judges in writing to give the participants something to walk away with and think about as they prepare for the next round.”

Brunet, who has been associated with the case competition since its inception 24 years ago, points to the caliber of judges as a key factor in the competition’s high standards of performance. “These judges are not academics; they are from the business community, the real world. They are looking for broad-based workable solutions with a good action plan, ideas they can sell to their employees and their customers. Presentation is important, but it is content that matters most to these judges.”

This year, for the first time, the competition was preceded by a case-writing invitational that attracted entrants from all over the world — Asia, India, Britain, the U.S. and Canada. Mathieu Lay, one of four student organizers, was responsible for finding and maintain the confidentiality of the cases until they were unveiled in the competition.

“Its important that each team receives the same amount of time studying the case,” he said. “They have three hours to prepare their 25-minute presentation. Then they have a 15-minute Q&A with the judges. There’s a lot of secrecy involved in rolling out the cases to ensure no team has an unfair advantage.”

Student organizers of the Case Competition, from the left and going clockwise, Joshua Byers, Mathieu Lay, Kyle Deguire and Isabelle Smith.The team who planned and directed this year’s successful case competition, held Jan. 3 to Jan. 8 at the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel, comprised Lay, Joshua Byers, Kyle Deguire and Isabelle Smith. All are final-year MBA students who gained practical experience at last year’s competition by serving as executive assistants. The event proceeded smoothly from Day One to the final banquet, sponsored by Scotiabank.

Joshua Byers, who worked with the judges, said, “There’s always a couple of fires every day. It helps to have a short memory and tough skin. We have good people around us who have a lot of experience ‚Äî that’s a big help.” Kyle Deguire added, “Every year there are unforeseen challenges in staging this competition. This year we had a few but we dealt with them. You have to work together to manage an event like this.”

Isabelle Smith, who was responsible for budget and sponsorship, remembers some sage advice the organizing team received from their corporate benefactors: “There’s no rehearsal for this event. You only get one shot. Everything has to be planned in advance down to the last detail.”

Second place was taken by the Sobey School of Business, St. Mary’s University (Halifax), and third by Wilfrid Laurier University (Kitchen-Waterloo). Prizes of $5,000 to $10,000 were awarded to the top three teams. The Richard Outcault Spirit Award went to Memorial University of Newfoundland.