Winning the 2013 MBA Games national competition was just the start for 40 students from the Schulich School of Business in Toronto. The York University-based business school team will have a busy competitive season, nationally and internationally.
The team beat 21 rivals from other graduate business schools to win its fourth MBA Games at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton, earning it the Queen’s Cup. Schulich, which had previously won in 2003, 2004 and 2010, will be the host next January.
It was a comeback year for Schulich, which had placed second to DeGroote in 2012. Schulich team captain Beth Nuniam, who expects to graduate with her master of business administration this year, says winning requires business analysis, enthusiasm and team smarts in all aspects of the competition, including walkie-talkies for event captains, a Twitter expert to tweet results to followers, neon green hoodies to differentiate team members from the rest of the crowd, and a catchy name for the team, the Schuligans.
“I knew spirit is a key component to win this competition,” Ms. Nuniam said. “It is not only about cheering on your team, but it’s also about having an enthusiastic presence at the events.”
There were four academic events (case competitions in finance, crisis management, strategy and marketing), four athletics events (dodgeball, floor hockey, basketball and volleyball) and spirit events (opening ceremony dance competition, leadership video, Canada’s next top advertising executive, a scavenger hunt, arts and crafts, and an innovation factory). Schulich team members also contributed 120 volunteer hours to charity organizations in an activity organized by DeGroote.
One example of a case study the team presented is from a finance angle: The case was written from the perspective of an investment management firm that was being asked to advise its largest client about its stock position in a specific company, Ms. Nuniam said. The client needed to decide whether to buy, sell or hold this position, and the Schulich team was asked to conduct an analysis and make a recommendation.
Another case study was under the banner of crisis management, and was taken from a real scenario faced by a company in the 1990s, Ms. Nuniam said. The team was asked to respond to public protests outside a vinyl manufacturing plant after an unsubstantiated report about health risks was released.
Coach Joe Fayt, a Schulich marketing instructor, selected members of the winning team in October and staged coaching sessions every Friday to prepare them.
“Each [four-member] case team had one practice session, which was a closed-door mock case competition session, meant to mimic the time and performance pressures during actual competition. At the competition, the case teams once again convened as a group. They compiled a huge master deck that all four event teams could reference,” Ms. Nuniam said, referring to storyboard reviews of how earlier teams presented cases as way for them all to prepare mentally for competition.
In the finance case, the team analyzed the company for its client, to determine whether the purchase price paid was in line with the company’s valuation, Ms. Nuniam said. The team created a discounted cash flow model and also conducted a precedent transaction analysis, including critical assumptions about the discount rate, calculating the weighted average cost of capital, as well as valuing the synergies of the acquisition. Based on this analysis, the team concluded that the range of the implied share price of the company was higher than the bid price by its client. As a result of this analysis, the team recommended a “buy/hold” position to its client.
In the crisis management case, she said, the team recommended that the manufacturer close all plants for a one-week period to evaluate the situation and ensure that their operations were safe. The team presented an integrated public relations strategy to ensure that all stakeholders would be engaged and included in the resolution of the crisis.
Schulich placed first over all in the three-category contest. The team from the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto placed second over all.
The MBA Games, founded in 1988 by Queen’s University, had a record number of students – about 700 – compete in this year’s event.
Schulich MBA students will next compete in the Jan. 26 Rotman Corporate Social Responsibility competition and have at least four more national and international case competitions this term, Mr. Fayt said.
“I’m still floating on a cloud,” said Mr. Fayt, who has been polishing Schulich teams’ presentation skills for four years. During that time, Schulich teams have won national and international competitions and the school has sent case competition teams to Shanghai, London, Paris, Boston and San Francisco.
Mr. Fayt said Schulich dean Deszo Horvath believes that these competitions represent a great learning opportunity for students and encourage students to participate in the top-rated national and global competitions.
Students compete for a number of reasons, Mr. Fayt said, including developing skills in problem solving, teamwork, selling ideas and getting useful feedback from faculty and industry experts.
“Students regularly say that these competitions are the best learning experiences of the whole MBA program,” Mr. Fayt said.
“Not everyone knew each other before, since Schulich has many different streams,” Ms. Nuniam said, referring to full-time, part-time, international MBA and accelerated programs. “Some participants came to the MBA Games on Friday not knowing anyone, and left on Sunday with lifelong friends.”
Schulich team member Johanna Robinson cited the camaraderie and respect among competitors, even cheering for other teams. “Ultimately it’s about teamwork. Yes, we are all there to compete, but we are also there to meet new people and build our network. MBA students rarely have the chance to meet fellow students from other schools and the games provide a unique opportunity.”