Case Competition Success

By Yakubu Agbese, 1st-Year Finance Academy Student

Tippie case competition teams have racked up wins across this nation, and students recently placed second at the Big 10 MBA Case Competition.

Yakubu AgbeseHere’s the scenario: It’s 1:30 in the morning. You’re a competitor in a case competition. You have a presentation on corporate strategy due in eight hours that was supposed to have been finished hours ago. You and your colleagues have just spent the last 30 minutes arguing over which font best matches the powerpoint color scheme and you still haven’t decided whether the projections your team has come up with are anywhere near justifiable. On the line: a little bit of extra spending cash and a whole lot of school pride.

A lot of people would snap under such pressure, but not the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Management case competition teams. Over the past year, Tippie’s case competition teams have enjoyed great success, placing and winning several high profile case competitions including the ACG Cup, the CFA Global Investment Research Challenge, the Baylor Case Competition in Ethical Leadership, and the University of Illinois Strategy Case Competition. So what accounts for the success of these teams?

Baylor Case Competition teamJustin Lawrence, a first year MBA candidate and one of the winners of the Baylor Case Competition in ethical leadership, had this to say, “A big part of our success was preparation. We had a lot of good mentors, had gone through several practice cases, developed a good work ethic, and knew what to expect from each other.” Songxian Tan, a member of the team that placed second in the ACG cup, really enjoyed the teamwork aspect of the competition and thought that good team dynamics were a major part of the team’s ability to quickly gain a measure of familiarity with the case. “The team started without any knowledge of mergers and acquisitions, but we succeeded by encouraging each other and contributing to each other’s understanding of the topic. And it’s important to understand that even if your team doesn’t win, the knowledge that you gain is the most important prize in the tournament.”

Illinois Case Competition teamLu Gao, a first year MBA candidate and another winner of the Baylor Case Competition in Ethical Leadership, also emphasized the extent to which gaining knowledge contributed to her enjoyment of the tournament. “I gained insight into how big of an issue ethics is in the business world. I learned how ethics applies to leadership, shareholder value, sustainability and technological challenges.”

Having participated in three case competition teams, I would definitely agree that preparation and good teamwork are big parts of any team’s success. And by success, I don’t just mean winning the competition, but having fun at the competition itself. The pressure of assembling information and presenting a proposal in a very limited time frame—less than 24 hours—makes case competitions very stressful even under the best conditions. Preparation and good social dynamics help tamp down stress and ensure that the team enters the competition with confidence. In turn, confidence makes it much easier to enjoy the banquets, and network with people from other schools as well as keynote speakers.

I would also echo the importance of learning in case competitions. During practice and during the tournament itself, I learned about such esoteric subjects as Johnson & Johnson’s South American strategy, Korean online role playing games, the logistics of coffee distribution and the numerous services that weight loss websites provide to their customers.

Yakubu Agbese, Cory Lasker, Mike Judd, and David McAllister participated in the 2011 Big Ten MBA Case Competition and placed second among the eleven teams present. This case was a "live case," meaning the company who created the case presented the problem to the teams and representatives were available to answer questions regarding the case. Yakubu Agbese also won "Best Presenter" in the first round of the competition.

The CFA Global Investment Research Challenge starts on April 7. Given Tippie’s past success, expectations are very high. It goes without saying that, regardless of the outcome, Tippie’s case competition teams will make the school very proud. Go Hawks!