Five Haskayne MBA students started the year off right, placing second in the 36th annual John Molson International MBA Case Competition at Concordia University in Montreal.
The team — consisting of Abeer Habibullah, Allison Lennox, Jeff Hall, Kenny Laurin, and Lasha Hache — were coached by Larry A. Wood, Cameron Welsh, and Haskayne alumna Kendra Scurfield, with assistance by Leo and Therese Donlevy.
The competition has come a long way from its beginnings as a primarily North American event. This year, it hosted 36 teams from 18 countries.
Wood, a professor in finance/risk management and insurance, has been teaching at Haskayne since 1983 and taking Haskayne students to the competition on and off since 1994.
“We call it the Olympics of case competitions, and it is,” he says. “It’s extremely well organized, and many teams have been there even longer than we have. And it’s truly international now, so when our students do well, we enhance the reputation of Haskayne around the world.”
Since Haskayne students began attending the Molson Competition 23 years ago, they’ve had four first-place finishes (1994, 1995, 2005, 2010) and five third-place finishes (1996, 2001, 2004, 2012, 2016). This year was the first a Haskayne team has come in second.
With over 30 years of coaching experience, Wood knows how to maximize the potential of each team.
“Every case is unique, and every team is unique,” he says. “The challenge as a coach is if they lose, how to motivate them to pick up and win their next case, and if they win, how to stop them from getting too arrogant and slipping. This year’s team lost their first case, but their motto became, ‘Every case we do, we’re going to do better,’ and they did.”
Abeer Habibullah, a second-year MBA student, appreciates how his coaches’ experience helped his team place so high. “Larry and Leo have been coaching students in this competition for a long time,” he says. “They picked each of us for our skillsets and then showed us how to capitalize on our strengths.”
To win, teams must analyse and present on seven cases over five days, going head to head with rival teams in front of a panel of judges including senior business executives.
They’re presented with a case written specifically for the competition based on real world business challenges, given three hours to devise a solution and prepare a presentation, and then have 25 minutes to present, followed by a 15-minute Q&A. Their solutions must be feasible, realistic, and implementable, and teams have to think quickly to answer questions from judges who often have vastly different perspectives on cases.
Sending a team to the competition has become a mainstay of the Haskayne MBA program. Leo Donlevy, a senior instructor in entrepreneurship, went with his wife to help the team, paying their own way to stay in the hotel with the coaches and MBA students to advise and mentor them.
For the students, the competition provides a much greater reward than accolades and the $7,000 second-place prize.
“Developing an understanding of how organizations tackle strategic issues was one thing, but the social aspect of interacting with and competing against 35 other schools from 18 countries was invaluable,” Habibullah says. “All of us have formed connections across the globe that we hope to keep for the rest of our lives.”
To learn more about the John Molson International MBA Case Competition, click here.