Masters in Business students at Concordia got to the final round in the annual John Molson School of Business case competition, but came up short for the grand prize that could have crowned their comeback from last year’s elimination in the semi-final. They came away with third place and $5,000 as a cash prize for the team of four presenters.
Thirty-six schools from around the world took part in the 27th edition of the John Molson MBA Case Competition held from Jan. 7 to Jan 12. School teams from the United States, Germany, England, France, Sweden, India and China, as well as business schools from Canada took part in the round-robin tournament which is claimed by JMSB as “the largest, oldest and most respected MBA case competition in the world.”
The final round, held last Saturday in downtown’s Bonaventure Hilton hotel, turned into a provincial face-off. HEC Montreal won the bout and a $10,000 prize, prevailing over Laval University and Concordia University.
Concordia had a rough start as their performance on the first case left them at the bottom of the standings. However, they came out strong for the rest of the week pulling out a come-from-behind progression that led them to win their division and make it all the way to the last case.
The winning case in the preceding writing competition was selected for the finals. Sula Vineyard is the case of a young and bold Indian entrepreneur who studied and worked in Silicon Valley, California. Upon seeing a business opportunity in the wine market in India, the entrepreneur decides to look for the best growth strategy for his small vineyard.
Contestants had to take into account parameters such as the potential market expansion, the limited capital and sources of financing, the vineyard’s competitive advantage, the risk and the entrepreneur’s high expectations for a maximized return on investment.
According to Caroline Lavergne, spokesperson for the event, the case was specifically chosen because it had a lot of information and financial analyses to compare.
The John Molson team proposed an aggressive expansion plan based on the window of opportunity opened by the predicted market expansion.
Following the competition, John Kuczer of the Concordia team spoke of overcoming the initial setback, “After losing our first case, we were disappointed, but made a point to be resilient about it. Then we won two of our more decisive wins on the second day and that momentum lead us all the way to the finals,” he said.
The John Molson students also took time to praise their coaches and training. Peter Vogopoulos believed “the coaching that we receive was critical and it was an incredible preparation.”
To prepare for the competition, graduate students at Concordia enrolled in a semester-long course for credit. Ten hopefuls were trained and taught, but only four were chosen to represent Concordia at the competition: Jonathan Kuczer, Peter Vogopoulos, Audrey Davis and Sebastien Garnier.
Clash of cultures
Only one European team was able to crack the top 10, Bordeaux Management School. Sophia Lindelow, from Lund university in Sweden offered some insight on the different approach Europeans take in case competitions.
“It’s been quite a few adjustments that we’ve had to make,” said Lindelow. According to her, the dynamic of the presentation is not the same as North Americans and Europeans put emphasis on different parts. “Where we come from we focus more on the implementation plan. Whereas here, analysis is the main focus. People want to do a lot of company analyses and history analyses.”
Then, there’s the confidence level. “European people, in general, want to be more timid. When asked a question, they’ll say things such as ‘I’m not sure about this . . . maybe we could do it like that.’ The North Americans want you to be more assured.” When they say something, they make it sound like it’s the only truth, she explained.
But otherwise, to Lindelow’s admission, a case competition whether it’s in Europe or in North America, remains a case competition.