MBAs from across Missouri team up, devise strategy at inaugural competition

Shalini Banerjee had never participated in a case study competition before. As a first-year MBA student at the University of Missouri, she had taken case-based classes. But now she found herself working with a team to solve a business problem currently facing a multibillion dollar company.

Banerjee, along with other participants, would have to analyze all aspects of the business to come up with a plan that would satisfy high-profile executives and answer their questions. Prize money of $10,000 was on the line. And the clock was ticking.

Banerjee was taking part in the first Show-Me MBA Case Competition hosted by the University of Missouri’s Crosby MBA program Feb. 24 and 25. The competition, which was open to all MBA students from accredited universities across the state, was aimed at advancing students’ business skills and helping them build professional connections.

A total of 37 MBA students participated in eight teams, representing five universities — MU, Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Washington University. 

Participants worked as advisers for Lockton Companies, helping the Kansas City-based insurance brokerage address a strategic initiative.

As the competition began Friday evening, three Lockton executives gave a brief introduction to their company and presented the case to the teams. Aside from the case materials, participants relied on the internet and other publicly available resources to get the information needed to advise the company.

After a light dinner, participants headed off to their assigned work rooms, in which they were provided drinks and snacks to keep their energy levels up as they worked throughout the night. Some teams worked into the wee hours of the morning.

Shalini Banerjee (from left), Thanh Nguyen, Phu Le, Justin Plassmeyer and Megan Babyak discuss strategy for the case competition. | Siddharth Vodnala/Missouri Business Alert

Banerjee said her team first dedicated some time to hashing out the ideas of each member and taking notes before delving into actually crafting solutions and creating the presentation. She said team-building skills and the ability to perform in a high-stress environment were two of her big takeaways from the competition.

“We each brought different skill-sets to the table: one was good at finance, one at working on spreadsheets and one at making presentations,” Banerjee said. “We had to find a way to bring those skills together to make a cohesive whole.”

Banerjee said her previous case-style classes incorporated good interaction, albeit at an individual level. Competitions like the Show-Me Case Competition allowed people to acquire team skills, she said.

After initial presentations Saturday morning, three teams were selected to advance to the finals. The judges and the non-advancing teams gathered to listen to the finalists present their case solutions.

The first prize of $5,000 went to a team of four students from Southeast Missouri State — Brett Kazandjian, Harman Malhi, Bobbie Dampier and Kayla Ray. A team from Washington University claimed the second prize, worth $3,000. Banerjee’s team from MU won the $500 third prize. Individual participants took home additional cash prizes. 

“Case competitions are an integral part of an MBA student’s curriculum and career development,” said Tad Brinkerhoff, assistant dean and head of MBA programs at MU’s Trulaske College of Business. “Students use critical thinking skills while extensively analyzing real-world business problems in a limited amount of time.

“They also learn to work effectively in teams and learn how to receive constructive feedback from the judges.”

Ajay Vinzé, dean of the MU business school, gave away the prizes, while calling attention to the importance of case studies in a short speech. “Cases are the cornerstone of a business education,” Vinzé said. Learning the case study method, Vinzé said, was important not only in school but also in the real world of business.

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