In March this year, I had the honour of representing the John Molson School of Business at the second annual A4S International Case Competition held at the University of Toronto and I am proud to say that my team took the first prize in this global sustainability competition! Sustainability is a hot topic of debate among business leaders today and, in order to prepare future leaders to be part of the solution, this year’s competition asked how technological solutions can add value to business by addressing environmental or social sustainability concerns.
My excellent teammates were Akshay Joshi, Genevieve Roch and Eda Tuzunatac, and our winning proposal was based on methane mitigation in landfills. We proposed using biogas from landfills to power a rotary engine, completely eliminating methane emissions and converting it into usable electricity that could be used locally or sold directly to a power company.
Preparation and support
This achievement would not have been possible without the help and mentoring we received from John Molson’s alumni coaches. After initial tryouts in order for faculty members to put together a team of students with diverse backgrounds who would complement each other’s personalities and skill sets, the alumni coaches helped us in laying out our story, making it compelling and bringing some creativity to the PowerPoint slides. We were fortunate to have two patient and available coaches that saw us through the process, pushing us even more to ensure a quality and thought-out presentation.
Marc LeGuen, one of our coaches, explained to us the importance of going into minute detail – it’s the minor details that can make or break your case analysis! He also advised us to designate a team “captain” who can make the final rulings. The captain has the burden of leadership, which means that he/she must decide what is best for the group and not simply push their own position. The competition gave us the maturity to go along with a decision that we may not agree with. It was an excellent preparation for the real world of business, where we might get paid to support ideas we don’t necessarily believe in.
John Molson’s MBA Case Competition Committee also made sure that we were thoroughly trained for the competition by organizing an evening of case cracking in which different teams faced off against each other in a sort of mock case competition.. Through this experience, we learned how core competencies and market conditions dictate company strategies, as well as how to make a more engaging slide presentation by injecting a little of our personalities into them.
Cracking our case
The case presented at the competition asked for an innovative technological solution and we felt the need to develop something immediately implementable in order to set us apart from the other teams. We knew that we had a great idea, but did not know what to expect from the competition.
Initially, every week we put in a few hours and presented the business plan to our coaches, who then helped us formulate the right strategy. But we only understood how much time and diligence such a case required when we were midway through. Once we understood that we needed to pitch a more compelling business proposal, it took us a while to assign and align our parts. We finally understood that we needed to walk through every aspect of our plan more granularly to make sure each part flows into the other smoothly so that the idea remains consistent and coherent throughout. This diligence is partially what led to our win, combined with rehearsing and ensuring each slide was clear and concise.