I am so excited and proud that a team of three Yale Consortium members (Tiffany Dockery, Myles Bradley and myself) placed 2nd at the Howard University MBA Exclusive Case Competition on Saturday, October 27, 2012. The case was an extremely challenging workforce reduction scenario and was based on strong quantitative analysis. I am very proud of our effort, especially taking into account the fact that the week that we received the case we were on Fall Break and all 3 team members were in different cities (in my case I was in a different country!). Having now taken part in several case competitions and having placed highly in one, I have had time to reflect on the importance of the case competition experience as well as some best practices (which I will share in a separate blog post). Great things about case competitions include:
1. They give you a chance to analyze a field about which you may have little knowledge. One of the greatest attributes of the case competition is that you are learning about a subject that otherwise you probably would not have time to learn about. From corporate support of nonprofits, to marketing and pricing an electric vehicle and workforce reduction strategies, I am more intelligent in a handful of fields that otherwise I would not know the first thing about. The time that you spend researching, brainstorming and organizing the presentation really allows you to form in depth conclusions about a market and who knows down the road where that information could become valuable.
2. Time spent working on a case competition helps to build relationships at school. As I mentioned above, in this most recent case competition my team only had about 6 days to work on a case that was slated to take about 2 weeks. Thus, we spent A LOT of time together. In this particular group I knew Tiffany well, but I did not know Myles well although I thought very highly of him from our limited interactions. During the week, Myles “drove” our financial model (and did an excellent job) and I worked with him every step of the way. Needless to say, we spent a number of hours together many times late into the night. After going through this experience I have developed a much stronger relationship with Myles. When spending time together like this you can’t talk about the case 100% of the time, so it was nice to get to know more about his background and what is important to him. He is an outstanding young man and I am glad to call him a friend. You have to be ready to really get to know someone in prepping for a case competition because there will be some stressful times, and people’s true colors come out in those times. For instance, Tiffany Dockery does not get stressed under time constraints; she is always even keel (like Tim Duncan in the 4th quarter). This is a great attribute to have on your team when many times things are a “photo finish.”
3. They allow you to work on your presentation skills and force you to think on your feet. After working and analyzing a case, the product is generally a PowerPoint deck that you must present to judges. In the MBA Exclusive final round, we had to present not only to judges from the sponsoring company but also to the general public. If you are not comfortable with your public speaking, this is a great place to work on that skill. The presentation must be smooth, have a nice flow and most importantly highlight the substance of your recommendations while not getting lost in the details. Just as important, during the Q&A portion of the competition you have to be prepared to field questions and face the assumptions that you have made and maybe the items that you have not addressed in your analysis.
4. They pay and allow you to network. Last but not least, case competition pay. Competitions range from $100 to $25K for first place winners (and second and third place winners win money as well in most competitions). Companies are picking your brain for ideas as you are solving real world problems many times, thus they provide an incentive for you to offer such ideas. Further, case competitions are a great way to network with other business students and with companies. Many companies sponsor case competitions because they are looking to recruit talent, thus if you distinguish yourself in this setting it can provide you with some new corporate contacts.