On Thursday March 10, a team of four from the Beedie Graduate School of Business headed to Calgary for the Haskayne 24 Hour Case Competition. It promised to be a great weekend and one we had been preparing for since returning to class after the winter break.
Connie, Kelvin, Tim and I applied to be members of the team representing Beedie in January. We each made a case for our specific skill sets in a short 250-word application. My ‘core competencies’ were in having subbed in on the MBA Games Case Competition Team and my ability to work fantastically on very little sleep (providing caffeinated beverages were readily available).
Before the competition we met up several times to develop a team dynamic, and to run practice simulations – including one 8-hour case practice session using the case from the 2010 Haskayne competition. However, without having completed a true 24-hour simulation we had no idea what we were truly facing when we arrived in Calgary.
Thursday, March 10
We arrived in Calgary on Thursday afternoon, and were picked up by a town car sent by Haskayne and headed to the Hyatt Regency to check in, meet with the organizers and get ready for the opening ceremonies that evening. We were instructed to maintain anonymity and were assigned the name Team Hyatt.
The opening ceremonies were hosted at the University of Calgary, with an opening keynote address by Clive Beddoe, CEO of WestJet. We mingled with some of the other teams – meeting fellow MBA candidates from schools including University of Saskatchewan, UBC, Dalhousie, McMaster and University of Calgary. The organizing committee drew for case briefing and presentation pools, and Team Hyatt was selected for the 8:30 AM briefing time at the University. With the time change from Vancouver to Calgary that meant a very early Friday morning departure from the hotel.
Friday March 11
On Friday morning, we peeled ourselves out of bed at 6:30 AM Calgary time to have breakfast at the hotel before we C-Trained to Haskayne. We received our case at exactly 8:30 AM and were assigned to a study room, which was to be our home base for the next 24 hours, minus the 6 we planned to sleep for.
The case was on Fotolia, “the first worldwide social marketplace for royalty free stock images.” Each team received a copy of the case per team member as well as a memory key with supplemental information about the company and its competitors. The competition required teams to propose the path forward for Fotolia to sustain growth.
Our team decided that the key issue was in expanding the customer base and increasing customer lifetime value. This decision was reached at 4:30 PM, after hours of reading, discussion, and coffee drinking. After identifying the key issue we decided on a strategy to address the three opportunity areas of customer attraction, retention and spend. This was generally framed just in time for our dinner break at Sunterra Market’s and Q&A session with Patrick Lor, President North America for Fotolia. During dinner, teams kept to themselves, everyone speaking in hushed tones about the case or alternately taking mental breaks and not speaking at all. The Q&A session allowed each team to ask one or more questions of Patrick in front of all the teams. On our way out, we were given midnight snacks and a surprise case twist – information on a potential investment that could change our strategy completely.
After dinner we decided to return to our study room at the university as we had a lot of work remaining on the case and our presentation, particularly with the potential investment. We worked on our case strategy, presentation deck and one-page write-up until 3:30 in the morning at Haskayne and then headed back to the hotel.
Saturday March 12
Saturday wake-up arrived too early, with Team Hyatt having between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours of sleep. We grabbed breakfast to go, cabbed over to the university and did a click-through of our presentation, finalizing who was speaking on each slide as we went. On our way in to the presentation we saw Patrick Lor who wished us luck.
Our presentation went remarkably smoothly, despite the PowerPoint jumping forward unexpectedly several times and having to be re-adjusted. The judges asked questions we were able to answer, and we left feeling we had done well, though not well enough to win our pool. We spent the rest of the morning at Haskayne checking e-mails, doing readings and Tim gave us a tour of the university, having completed his undergraduate degree there. At lunch, the teams continuing on to the final round of presentations were announced with rankings for each pool being given to individual teams, and commemorative belt buckles being presented to all participants. Our team was proud to come in 2nd overall in our pool of 4, particularly given that the first place team had significant case competition experience as a team.
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for much needed rest as we were all feeling less than great after our abbreviated sleep the night before. This unfortunately meant missing the final presentations, but we thought it would be preferable to return to the hotel rather than risk falling asleep in the audience for the finalist teams.
Saturday evening, Haskayne hosted the awards gala with Bob Sator, CEO of the Forzani group giving the closing remarks. This was followed by mixing between case teams – all of us having just shared an intense experience in competing to showcase our schools and abilities in a time-constrained context. It was a great evening, followed up by an after party at Flames Central with a Canucks win!
I would recommend a case competition to anyone who enjoys working with a team, solving problems, working under pressure, who can laugh through adversity, and who just likes pushing them self to the limits.
A huge thanks to the Haskayne School of Business for organizing, to Beedie School of Business for support and sending us, to Jeff Nehajowich for coordinating, and to my wonderful team mates: Connie, Kelvin and Tim.