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Case competitions are the closest you get to the real thing

Michael V. Richardson, BComm 16, reflects on the benefits of getting involved in case competitions
February 26, 2021

There are two words that every student hears during their first year at John Molson: “Get involved.” I did everything I could to live this advice – from student government, to exchange, to CO-OP, to participating in case competitions.

It was the best decision I could have made.

The John Molson School of Business teaches you that there is so much to business than what can be taught in a textbook, and the practical approach that case competitions provide set the stage for as close to a real-life experience as a university student can get.

Michael V. Richardson Michael V. Richardson

I participated in 5 case competitions – as close as Toronto and as far as Singapore – and the lessons I learned speaking with C-suite judges in a classroom are the same lessons I apply today when I speak to C-suite clients in a boardroom. In doing so, there are three key lessons that I’ve learned that have translated well to the real consulting world:

1) Empathy matters – you need to be able to put yourself in your client’s shoes, in their employees’ shoes, and in your teammates’ shoes. You need to show your client that you care about their challenge, and that you want to work with them to overcome it. Likewise, you need to understand where your teammates are struggling, and how you can support them to move everyone forward. Remember – a high tide lifts all ships.

2) Simplicity matters – whether you are cracking a case in 3 hours or in 30, you will be getting into the details of your client’s business, paragraphs of industry data, and pages of financials. What are the most important points? If you only have 15 minutes of a CEO’s time, what are the top priorities you would want to share? In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

3) Preparation matters – just like in the real-world, most of the work required to do well at a case competition comes in the weeks and months before game day. Work with teammates that work as hard as you do but think differently. Challenge each other, respect each other, and train each other to expect the unexpected – that’s how you can be sure that no case at the competition will throw you off!

The John Molson community is filled with some incredible people – professors, mentors, friends – all of whom are there to support you throughout your journey. I would not be who I am today if it were not for the amazing support system at John Molson, which definitively played in my decision to get involved in my turn and coach the school's international case competition teams, as well as the Jeux du Commerce.

We are all there for you, and we are rooting for you every step of the way.

And remember, a podium-finish is great, but, at the end of the day, “It’s all about the process.”

Michael V. Richardson, BComm 16, is an engagement manager in Data Analytics at KPMG LLP, applying analytics techniques in management consulting and strategy projects, litigation and class-action lawsuits, and fraud investigations. He has also acted as an advisor to the CEO of KPMG in Canada, assisting in the development of national strategic initiatives.

Michael is a chartered professional accountant, receiving the Gold Medal for the highest score in Quebec on the national CPA qualification exam, and has been an invited speaker at Concordia University, McGill University, the University of Toronto and the Universidad del Istmo (Guatemala), as well as at several conferences.

He currently coaches JMSB’s international case competition teams, as well as the Jeux du Commerce.

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