A team of MBA students travelled to Toronto to represent the Beedie School of Business and the Financial Executives International (FEI) Vancouver in the Best in Class Invitational Case Competition, presented by the Toronto chapter of FEI Canada. Teams of four competed in a real time environment where they were given business situations and crises based on an existing public company. The teams then presented solutions and recommendations to a panel of judges.
The members of the Beedie MBA team—Rachelle, Matt, Tim, and Rob—recount their experience in the competition.
Bright and early flight at 0700, we were all a bit bleary, but after a few cat naps the fog cleared and we had arrived in the bigger “Big Smoke”. After a relatively short cab ride and check in at the hotel, we had about 45 minutes to get ready for the site orientation at Ryerson. We arrived at The Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson and were amused but amazed to find it above a Canadian Tire and Best Buy in the heart of downtown T.O. After a brief facilities orientation and a review of the FEI rules and introductions from the Ryerson coach and Dean, we were released for the evening. Following a brief reception at Ryerson, we found a little pub called the Fox and Firkin across the street from the hotel and began to formulate a strategy.
Bright and early, 0400 Pacific Time, we were back at Ryerson for the case presentation from the company executives. This year’s case was Cineplex, a Canadian entertainment giant. The presentation consisted of an investor-focused discussion of the performance of the firm over the past few years. One of the rules of the competition is team anonymity, which we nearly violated by bringing Beedie bags to the presentation. A quick solution by our resident engineer Matt and some electrical tape solved the problem before the executives arrived.
Probably the most interesting component of this case was the lack of a clearly identifiable problem. The firm had been performing well over the last several years, despite the global recession, and had generated $1 billion in revenues in the last fiscal year.
After some questions, we were led to the academic quarantine to discuss the case to decide the primary challenge and how to manage Cineplex’s growth strategies. We worked late into the evening, fueled by cold Pizza Pizza (similar to Little Caesars), Tim Hortons (gallons and gallons of Timmys), and pop. Once we had thoroughly and completely burned our brains and were satisfied with our presentation, we called it a night.
Back at Ryerson bright and early (and really missing our beautifully pristine campus), we had some time to review our slides and print copies out before the presentations began. We were called back to the main auditorium for the presentation draw. It was a highly technical process, whereby FEI Toronto Chapter Chair drew team names from a hat. We were selected to present at approximately 1100 and had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Brad Bardua, Vancouver FEI Chapter President, who had flown to Toronto to offer support to our team.
We returned to our meeting room to practice before our presentation. Before long, it was our turn and we presented our case analysis to a panel of judges. Despite some minor hiccups, the presentation went relatively smoothly. The question and answer period was definitely intense and we were met with some very challenging questions including some we had not considered during our discussion.
After the Q&A, Brad took us out to lunch and gave us some great feedback on what we had done and what we needed to focus our attention on. It was great to have a friendly face in the audience and even better to get immediate feedback on our delivery!
Once all of the teams presented their cases, the competition committee called us back and delivered the crisis: Netflix was in a position to offer same-day release for new movies (simultaneously with the box office). It was our task to determine a strategy to mitigate the threat.
We were allotted approximately 1.5 hours to complete an analysis and presentation of our crisis recommendations. A frenzy of discussions and PowerPoint generation ensued. We completed the deck, but much to our frustration and the frustration of a few other teams, one of the teams had decided to double-side print their deck. This tied up the only printer on the floor, producing one page every 4 minutes. We were not able to produce our deck, but as it turns out, we were not selected to present in the final.
The eight teams that did not present in the final were given a glass plaque in recognition of their participation and hard work. We were then able to relax a little, watch the final presentations, and learn from the strategies presented by some of the other teams. It is always interesting to watch others present the same materials and see what does and does not work in presentations.
After the completion of the presentations, we headed back to the hotel to drop off our gear and head out to the banquet at the Hart House at the University of Toronto, where we were able to meet and chat with some of the other teams before heading for dinner. There, we met some distinguished alumni including Brian Haines, Steve Wade, Rob, and Matt Yelavich. Following some great conversation, food and some drinks, we went to another pub near the hotel with the team from the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary.
Before we knew it, the time had come for us to catch our flight home to Vancouver.
The Best in Class Case Competition was an amazing learning opportunity to apply our academic knowledge to real-world problems and it was great to meet with other MBA Candidates from other institutions, compare notes, and develop some good connections.
We want to extend our thanks again to FEI Vancouver for the opportunity to represent the Chapter at the national level, and especially to Brad Bardua for coming to Toronto to offer his support and feedback. We also want to gratefully thank the Beedie School of Business for its support in this competition!
Rachelle, Matt, Tim, and Rob