Four students representing four different universities and three continents made up the ‘Global Team’ that took home the trophy in the 16th annual Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) on Saturday, April 12th.
Each of the twelve student teams that competed in GBCC spent 48 hours analyzing a business case on Nike’s sustainability and labor practices. The students were asked to identify three countries where Nike should shift its production. Teams had to justify their choices by explaining the advantages and tradeoffs of candidate countries in terms of sustainability and labor practices, as well as costs and other competitive factors. They also had to address ways in which Nike could implement traceability of its supply chain for collegiate apparel.
Of the four teams selected to move on to the final round, the judges chose the ‘Global Team’ as this year’s Champion. Unlike the other competing teams who came from just one university, the ‘Global Team’ was made up of one student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Florida State University, NHH Norwegian School of Economics, and the University of Washington. They met for the first time just days before their final presentation.
Multicultural teams are now a reality of both the classroom and the professional environment. The Global Business Center began the ‘Global Team’ tradition eight years ago to bring students from around the world together to work as a team. The judges said that the team’s final presentation clearly benefitted from their diverse backgrounds and experiences. In eight years, the Global Team has placed in the finals four times, and now they are GBCC Champions!
The Global Business Center would like to acknowledge the hard work of our GBCC Student Leadership Team who spent countless hours organizing this event. Co-chairs Lisa Dang and Connor Harle were exceptional leaders for over 100 students that were involved this year.
Finally, GBCC would not be possible without our major corporate sponsors: The Boeing Company, Costco Wholesale, F5 Networks, Fluke Danaher Corporation, Russell Investments, Starbucks Coffee International, and Wells Fargo.
Seattle City Light has been trying to shine a light on the issue of how to derive 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. This deadline based on state legislation presents a clear goal, but not a clear solution. The utility is actively debating how to most effectively balance between hydro-power, wind and solar energies while being mindful of the interests of their various stakeholders. The Foster School of Business partnered with City Light to put teams of students to work on innovative solutions to this issue through the strategic management course.
This required capstone course for all graduating seniors features a customized case competition. Instructors and case writer Alex Murray, a Foster PhD student, worked closely with senior leaders at Seattle City Light to understand this strategic question. Using publicly available research, the case was created and then analyzed by nearly 250 students in 46 competing teams.
The teams were charged with providing recommendations as to what Seattle City Light’s strategic position(s) should be regarding solar energy, including whether the utility should actively promote and develop its use or invest in other renewable energy sources; and how to most effectively market and price various solar projects, including a viability analysis of an existing Community Solar program.
The case study focused on short-term and long-term strategies to satisfy key stakeholders, encourage supporters and overcome detractors. As a publicly owned utility, Seattle City Light operates as a non-profit organization that must balance environmental, financial and social considerations in its decisions. The complexities of the case required a great deal of research and a thoughtful approach.
“The most challenging aspect (of the case) was hashing out with my team what view we were going to take,” case competition participant Cara Haas said. “(Many) of our meetings were solely focused on researching and discussing alternatives before we decided on our approach.”
Her team’s solution: a marketing program, Solar|Sea, to build awareness and support amongst the community and important constituents. The YDC Consulting team members Ken Luginbuhl, Ryker Young, Erin Hoffinger, Julia Kuhn, and Cara Haas attribute their success to the synergies they found in their ideas and team dynamics.
Hoffinger found the most valuable takeaways from the case competition experience centered on knowing “how to speak and pitch ideas to members of the executive board… and being able to think on your feet about (responses) with concrete numbers and analysis in order to answer questions.” These skills she and her peers will surely be able to put to good use as they enter the workforce in just a few short months.
The case competition proved to be another win-win for Foster School of Business students and a local organization. “Seattle City Light was pleased to partner with the Foster School of Business to examine one of the most complex and important issues the utility faces in the medium to long-term,” general manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said. “It’s also an issue that confronts the industry as a whole. We were excited by the fresh ideas and perspectives the students brought to the table.”
An Alaska Airlines jet soared overhead as a group of four Foster School seniors emerged from the Customer Services and Innovation team headquarters last Friday. Spirits were soaring too as Jordan Barr, Mackenzie Meier, Kenny Thompson and Tyler Waterer had just presented their recommendations on how to make Alaska Airlines the “easiest airline to fly” to a senior leadership team. The students landed the opportunity to present their ideas to the Customer Innovation team because they outperformed 33 teams of their peers (161 participants) in the fall 2013 Foster Strategy Development case competition.
The competition has been described as the capstone experience to a capstone course. All graduating seniors are required to take strategic management, a course designed to assimilate and apply academic theory to real business issues. The goal is to provide students with practical experience prior to launching into their careers. Offered in the fall, winter and spring and summer, the course draws between 150-300 students per quarter.
Beginning in the fall of 2012, undergraduate program faculty, staff and administrators had the vision of bringing valuable case competition experiences to all Foster School of Business students. Initially, the case competition was optional, done in lieu of a final exam. During the first fall quarter, about 100 students in 25 teams (80% of total class population) participated. Quickly, the value of this experience was recognized by all stakeholders.
According to Clay Schwenn, case competition coordinator and assistant director of student leadership and development, a key learning for students is to be “able to take the theoretical knowledge they have acquired over the years and create something concrete. They generate a set of recommendations to people who could actually implement them.” This is powerful for the students and for the client companies.
Course coordinator Rick McPherson, a veteran of the telecom business for over 25 years, knows the importance of how to “sell” ideas to executives. He sees incredible benefit not only to the students in terms of richness of learning, but also for the companies. McPherson noted “particularly with the presentation to Alaska Airlines you saw how a well thought-out analysis and recommendations were really attractive to a company. Our students demonstrated that they can come up to speed to understand an industry and a business opportunity and create realistic ideas that a business can pursue.”
At Alaska Airlines Customer Innovation headquarters, the moment the students began their pitch, the dozen company leaders in attendance began taking notes, and then asking questions and soliciting the student’s perspective on wide raging issues from the usability of their web interface to competitive market analysis. Student team members Mackenzie, Kenny, Jordan and Tyler’s polished presentation skills left a strong impression on the leadership team. Their confidence, depth of knowledge and ability to respond quickly and thoughtfully to challenging questions will translate well to job interviews and future executive level presentations. From Jordan Barr’s perspective, “the most rewarding aspect of making our pitch to the Customer Innovations team at Alaska Airlines is the thought that our solution could be implemented in the company. It clearly shows that Alaska Airlines didn’t just do this to say they were involved—they did this because they truly want to innovate and do something different. It is an incredible feeling to know that they will be using our advice moving forward in their solutions—and it doesn’t hurt that they want to hire us.” Tyler Waterer commented, “Without Foster’s partnership with Alaska Airlines, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have this kind of learning experience (while) still in college.”
The success of the case competitions has focused on sourcing local businesses (past case companies have included: Microsoft, Amazon and Seattle City Light) and creating forward-looking cases on current issues the company is tackling. This approach of what should a company DO, not what they should have done creates urgency for the issue and maximizing the impact the students can make. Stay tuned to see student ideas take flight in other businesses.
This November, the Foster School of Business sent a team of students to compete in the Brigham Young University (BYU) Business Language Case Competition. What is unique about the competition is that it is conducted entirely in a foreign language. Student teams, consisting of non-native speakers, read and analyze a business case written in Spanish, and then present their solutions and answer questions in Spanish.
The Foster School team won third place this year and five hundred dollars. Team members Amanda Baker, Josh Twaddle, and Brandon Upton all studied or interned abroad in Spain, which greatly improved their language skills and gave them the confidence to tackle this case challenge.
The business case they worked on focused on the current market for organic foods. The team was to determine if there is a role for Walmart in this market segment. Brandon shared that their analysis “noted two main problems facing Walmart – first, Walmart has weak brand equity, and second, Walmart lacks an urban presence, which is where most consumption of organic food occurs. However, Walmart had strengths in its supply chain.”
Based on their analysis, the team recommended that “Walmart should launch an entire new line of organic stores that are stocked with products from local farms. By leveraging its supply chain, it could centralize foodstuffs from those farms in a distribution center, and then redistribute to city stores. These new stores would only be in leading urban areas in the U.S., including San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C. This ties Corporate Social Responsibility (empowering local farmers with urban demand) to generating new revenue streams from a premium market for Walmart.”
The BYU judges said that the Foster School team took a very innovative approach, and they really appreciated that the team even produced some of their own market research.
Photo: Foster School Faculty Coach, Bob Dawson, with student team members Brandon Upton, Amanda Baker, and Josh Twaddle.
The Global Business Center is proud to announce that the 2013 Holland America Line Global Case Competition was a great success! The 24 teams made up of over 95 Foster School undergraduates presented in a preliminary round to corporate, alumni, and faculty judges on Saturday, November 16th. The top four teams were selected to move on to the final round of competition.
The judges all agreed that the case this year was particularly challenging as it dealt with global human resource management issues for Maersk. Headquartered in Copenhagen, Maersk is a global conglomerate with large shipping and oil and gas businesses. As Maersk’s businesses become ever more international, the company wants to increase the geographic diversity of its work force. Our competing student teams played the role of Maersk managers who were tasked with the following:
• Setting geographic diversity goals
• Recommending recruitment and retention strategies designed to achieve the goals
• Developing measures of progress towards these goals (key performance indicators)
• Estimating the costs of the recommended strategies
Of the four outstanding finalist presentations, Team 3 made up of Tara Ghassemikia, Sam Tanner, and Demetra Xenos took home the gold, winning the Holland America Line Global Case Competition and $1000. The winning team’s solution recommended that Maersk recruit in strategic growth markets for shipping and trade including Brazil, Russia, India, and other Latin American countries. Their three-tiered strategy was to “recruit, recognize, and retain.” They also recommended an annual international event to develop and recognize leaders called the “Maersk Reunion.”
For the second time this year, we also had teams of Foster School Freshmen Direct students compete in their own track to win the Freshman Direct Champion title and $500. Seven freshman teams competed, and the winning Freshman Direct Track team was Jessica Gilmore, Adam Kinkley, Ashley Kuhn, and Joseph Rebagliati. We are excited to see these students getting involved so early in their Foster careers!
Visit our website to find out more and learn how to get involved next year.
The Global Business Center would like to thank Holland America Line for their generous support of this unique educational event for Foster School of Business students. Holland America Line is a leader in the cruising industry and a longtime supporter of the Foster School of Business.
Guest post by Ashley Bozeman, Senior, studying International Business & Marketing
Last week Holland America Line Global Case Competition competitors had the opportunity to attend a pre-competition workshop with Leta Beard, Lecturer of Marketing and International Business. Professor Beard has had years of experience coaching and guiding numerous case competition teams to victory all over the world. She had great insight for our brand-new freshmen competitors and senior veterans alike! Here are our “Top Ten Tips” we took away from the workshop—enjoy!
Don’t panic when you get the case, you don’t need to know EVERYTHING, just focus on what’s important.
Set a timeline for your 48-hour preparation. What do you want to have accomplished by what hour?
Run through your presentation BEFORE submitting your slide deck. You will probably catch some things you want to change while you practice.
Don’t memorize. It’s important to be comfortable with your talking points, but if you memorize you could get tripped up if something unexpected happens.
Watch your pace: if it feels like you’re talking too slow, it’s probably just right.
Leave 30 seconds at the end of your presentation when you practice. You don’t want to go over the time limit, and never know when those extra seconds might come in handy.
“Tell us” three times. “Tell us what you’re going to tell us, then tell us, then tell us what you told us.” It’s important to have a clear direction and it never hurts to repeat key points.
Stay “in character”. The team and the judges will each have a role—know these roles and address the judges and your teammates as their respective characters.
Avoid jargon. The judges may not be familiar with acronyms and terms that you’ve learned in class so be sure to explain things like “SWOT” “NPV” and the “4 P’s”.
Have fun and Smile!!
Competitors have been working hard preparing for the competition this week. Teams will receive their case on Wednesday, November 13th and present their ideas to judges on Saturday, November 16th. The top four teams will advance to the final round to compete for a chance at the championship title and $1000 cash prize. The top scoring “Freshman Direct Track” team will also be revealed at the reception following the final round. Best of luck to all of our competitors this week! Curious about the competition? Volunteer on Saturday to help make sure it runs smoothly! Email if you’re interested.
The final round presentations are open to the public so come by and watch their creative minds at work Saturday, November 16th at 2 pm in Anthony’s Forum, Dempsey Hall!
The Evening MBA Program recently hosted its first ever case competition for the second-year Evening MBA students. The competition served as an opportunity for students to apply what they learned in their first-year core classes toward a simulated business case. This year’s case was developed by Sadie Raney, a third-year Evening MBA student. The winning team, comprised of Garin Wedeking, Abhi Thinesh Rathinavelu, Michael Pamphlet, Brad Waidelich and Derek Zahajko, has shared what helped them succeed.
What did you learn from the competition?
This felt like a round of “speed-dating” with our new group. It gave us an opportunity in a week’s time to identify team members’ strengths and quickly discover how to best work together. The best trait we share is that none of us needs to be in charge for any reason other than to get the project done. We have quickly learned how to let each other take the reins, as well as to give each other space and time at one’s discretion with the understanding that everyone is overbooked. It’s a fact of grad school.
What made your team successful?
We set early expectations of what we were going to do, and then each executed on our commitments. Those expectations were not equal in work load, but that didn’t matter. When you start keeping score you make room for excuses. To quote a teammate “All (five) of us should be pulling 25%.” The trick is actually doing that.
How could you apply what you learned in the competition to your job?
Since the case intentionally provided little detail, it forced our team to quickly and rationally make assumptions and move forward. We could have chosen to jump down rabbit holes in order to make real-world parallels, but we didn’t think that would create a better product in the end. This parallels the real-world in that sometimes time-sensitive situations or opportunities arise where rapid action is required and time is not available to acquire more data or more data may simply not exist.
Did it teach you to think about business issues in a different way?
Often times we have the inclination to think there is only one right answer. In this case, all three options could have been viable options for the company. It came down to the rationality behind the option and ultimately the ability to execute on the idea within the time frame. Parfait est l’ennemi du bon.
The University of Washington Foster School of Business’ flagship international event, the Global Business Case Competition (GBCC), brings together undergraduate university students from the United States and 12 – 14 other countries to compete in a fast-paced and challenging business case study. While GBCC week culminates with team presentations to corporate and community judges, it also serves as a forum for cross-cultural learning, and engages the student competitors as mentors for local high school students.
In 2008, we launched a partnership with the national Academy of Finance (AOF) program, which offers high school students an opportunity to study business topics to prepare them for college and their future careers. Since then, over 500 high school students have come to campus to learn about global business strategy, presentation skills, study abroad, and international business and finance degree options and career opportunities.
This year’s AOF event brought students from three local high schools, Ballard High School, Chief Sealth High School, and Franklin High School, to the University of Washington campus for a full day workshop during GBCC week. During the workshop the AOF high school students were paired with undergraduate business students from around the world, and together they worked through several exercises focused on cultural understanding and developing global business strategy.
The university student participants mentored AOF students on how they approach difficult business cases, and what frameworks and tools they might use to breakdown an international business problem. The students spent part of the day working together on analyzing a case focused on The Boeing Company’s foreign market strategy, completing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analyses of Boeing’s opportunities in both Latin America and Africa. The students were tasked with determining which market Boeing should spend more resources trying to cultivate business.
In years past, the AOF and GBCC students have studied cases ranging from how Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group should handle piracy issues to examining the competitive landscape of Coca-cola and Pepsi over 100 years of rivalry to determining a marketing plan for a Mattel toy brand.
This partnership has resulted in a unique event each year that brings together a diverse group of high school students with university students from all over the world. The AOF students have the opportunity to learn about different culture and what it might be like to study international business in college. An AOF Board member shared that “getting this opportunity … broadens their experiences and offers insight into higher education opportunities.”
Saturday April 13th was an eventful day. The Global Business Center hosted its 15th annual undergraduate Global Business Case Competition – where twelve teams representing ten different countries competed for the title of Champion.
Each of the GBCC teams spent 48 hours analyzing a business case on Frog’s Leap Winery, which is known for its commitment to sustainability. The winery produces high quality wines using organically-grown grapes and was a leader in adopting an environmental management system for production. The teams, who are outside consultants, were asked to make recommendations in three areas: (1) the next sustainability initiative that Frog’s Leap should undertake, (2) identification of two potential markets outside the US, and (3) marketing plans for those new markets.
After a competitive preliminary round, four teams were selected to move on to the final round: Concordia University, National University of Singapore, University of Arizona, and University of Hong Kong. With over 100 people in attendance, the final round presentations were exciting to watch. In the end, the judges chose Concordia University (Montreal, Canada) as this year’s Champion.
Concordia University students had a four pronged strategy for Frog’s Leap Winery. They recommended that for Frog’s Leap to increase sales but remain small and committed to sustainability initiatives, they should take the following actions:
Increase presence in Japanese market following a product development strategy
Enter the Chinese market following a market penetration strategy
Use recycled bottles
Plan the succession process
We would like to acknowledge the hard work of our GBCC Student Leadership Team who spent countless hours organizing this big event. Nicole Winjum and Brandon Upton led their group of six student managers and over 30 volunteers to a successful 15th annual GBCC.
And finally, GBCC would not be possible without our major sponsors: The Boeing Company, Costco Wholesale, F5 Networks, Russell Investments, Starbucks Coffee International, T-Mobile and Wells Fargo.
It’s finally here! The 15th annual Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) started this week. Our GBCC
student management team has been preparing for this competition since the fall; recruiting ambassadors, training volunteers, planning events, and preparing the teams. Our team is made up of eight Foster School students, and we are very excited for the final round presentations to take place this Saturday, April 13, at 2:00 pm in the Shansby Auditorium (Paccar Hall 192). Last Friday, I wrote about the history of the competition after interviewing some past competitors; today I’d like to share what is happening this year.
Monday night, students from around the world arrived in Seattle. Teams flew in from the Philippines, Singapore, Belgium, Spain, Mexico, Egypt, New Zealand, China, Canada, and Arizona. The GBCC Management Team has been keeping our visitors entertained – we toured the UW campus and visited Pike’s Place Market, worked with three local high schools on a short business case, and met with five companies: Amazon, Port of Seattle, Russell Investments, Tableau Software, and Zulily.
Lots of Foster School students also got a chance to talk with these talented international students last night at our Global Networking Night. There is still a great opportunity to meet these students – come watch the final round on Saturday! We want to make our visitors feel welcome, so come support them.
The business cases and student charge were passed out on Thursday, and presentations will take place after exactly 48 hours of analysis. Each school has its own team, but GBCC offers a unique twist: the 12th team, called the Global Team, is composed of four members from four different schools. These students have only one week to get to know each other, and they are up against teams whose members have been working together for months. Against all odds, the Global Team has found success in the past by drawing on their diverse backgrounds. We wish all of this year’s teams the best of luck.
Every year, GBCC brings students from all types of cultures and backgrounds together for an incredibly rewarding experience. The GBCC management team has worked hard to make sure that this is a week that everyone – from the volunteers to the competitors to those who just want to stop in and take a peek – will not soon forget. We are excited to bring the world to UW for the 15th year in a row!
- Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.