As I entered the Crosby MBA program in the fall of 2016, I knew I wanted to be very involved. I wasn’t sure what I would take part in, but I knew I wanted to take advantage of as many opportunities as I could. Fairly quickly, I was asked to be part of a case competition team with three of my classmates. I had never been involved in case competitions before. But, I liked the thought of solving real-world problems and competing against other schools and, at the same time, learning incredibly valuable skills that will help me in my career.
Mizzou had never placed in the SEC Case Competition, so I knew the pressure would be on to show the rest of the SEC that we are a school that brings real competition. The SEC Case Competition is 24-hour format case competition, which means all competitors get the business problem and then are required to present the solution 24 hours later. The abbreviated time frame truly tests the abilities and bounds of the competitors. Each team has to analyze the problem, create multiple recommendations, find the research to prove the recommendation, create the presentation, and practice presenting all before the time limit is up.
Twenty-four hours may seem like plenty of time, but many teams often don’t even sleep during the competition.
Practice for the SEC Case Competition began early in the spring semester. Taking part in case competitions offers countless benefits, but it does require a significant time commitment. To prepare for the 2018 case competition, our team participated in three 24-hour format practice cases, three three-hour practice mini cases, as well as hours researching the fast food industry as well as Raising Cane’s (sponsor of the 2018 SEC Case Competition). Each team member has to put the team first during any practice or case competition. Stress runs high when everyone is placed in the same room together for 24 hours. If teams spend too long debating potential solutions, there won’t be enough time to make sure the reasoning behind the recommendation is airtight. In addition to the overall recommendation, the details have to be thought of since executives of the company will be judging the solutions.
The importance of preparation for the SEC Case Competition cannot be overstated.
Every team is given the industry and company ahead of time to afford time for research. It is imperative that everyone on the team is an expert on the industry and company before the team ever leaves for the competition. Once we received confirmation that the company would be Raising Cane’s for 2018, we did two 24-hour cases within the fast food industry. The knowledge we gained from those two cases was crucial in helping our team advance to the finals. We were able to answer every question with a direct response, even when we received questions about Raising Cane’s competitors. In our last practice case, we even presented to the owners of a local Taco Bell and Dairy Queen. The knowledge gained from the local franchise owners helped us to think deeply about every precise detail of our recommendation. Both guest judges brought up points that we would have never considered otherwise.
In addition to the hours of work we put in for practicing and at the actual competition, we had a lot of fun. We began the weekend with a welcome reception that included a tour of Louisiana State University’s (LSU) football stadium before we transitioned into the case work. We were fortunate that all of our hard work was able to take us to the final round for the first time in Mizzou’s history in the SEC. We ended up walking away with third place overall, but that was not the only benefit we took home. We all gained critical thinking, presentation, and teamwork skills. We all know now that we can think our way through real-world problems and come up with solid recommendations. We also have additional practice presenting in front of executives that we can take with us as we enter the workforce after graduation.
Overall, the 2018 SEC Case Competition at LSU is an experience that I will carry with me forever because of the people I was able to work with as well as the skills that will follow me to my career.