MBA Case Competition organizers Claudia Perello, Christina Franco, Catherine Konidas and Marie-Louise Bloo.
Photo by Christian Fleury
by David Weatherall
In a cozy office on the second floor of the Guy Metro Building, four graduate students were putting the final touches on one of the most prestigious business case competitions for students in the world.
Marie-Louise Bloo, Cristina Franco, Catherine Konidas and Claudia Perello have raised over $160,000 and put together a line-up of high-profile judges to ensure that this years Masters of Business Administration International Case Competition lives up to its reputation.
During the five-day competition, in progress all this week at the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel, teams of four students from business schools around the world attempt to solve business cases problems taken from real life. The teams present their solutions to a panel of seasoned business people, who rate their ideas in terms of real-world feasibility.
Teams from Innsbruck in Austria, the University of Otago in New Zealand and others from the United States, Sweden and Germany, as well as a score of Canadian talent from some of the top business schools in the country, are vying for the first prize of $7,000.
For Bloo, Franco, Konidas and Perello, it all began last March, when the MBA advisory board selected them. This is the first time all the organizers have been women.
They have spent between 20 and 40 hours a week working on the project, though it is worth only three credits and they are all carrying a full course load.
To break down the logistical challenge, the team divided their tasks into four groups.
Bloo completed a masters degree in mechanical engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands, then joined Corus Research and Development as a project manager in the prototyping of steel. Her responsibility for the Case Competition was to contact the schools.
Last year, they had 24 teams, and they said it was real challenge to organize that many, so I think 22 is a good number, she said.
Franco, who holds a bachelors degree in architecture from her native Brazil, took on the public relations and publicity responsibilities, while Perello contacted and made travel arrangements for the judges and Konidas arranged all the sponsorships.
Perello, a BComm from Concordia, said few improvements were needed this is the 21st year of the event but the challenge lay in taking the prestige of the competition to the next level. She has recruited some of the highest-ranking CEOs and CFOs of such major Quebec businesses as Power Corporation and Bombardier as volunteer judges. The credibility of the judges is key, she said.
Corporate support vital
The Case Competition relies largely on corporate sponsorship and as such, is subject to the conditions of the economy. Konidas certainly felt the impact of this years economic nosedive; companies werent exactly lining up to throw cash at this student event.
Luckily enough, we started early enough in the year to reach our goal, although just after Sept. 11 we were at 80 per cent of our target. We had to push hard in November, said Konidas, a psychology graduate from McGill.
Although the five-day schedule calls for intense competition between the 30 teams, all work and no play could make for some disgruntled business students, so a lot of activities have been organized to give participants a taste of Montreal.
Events planned for every night, including an outing to a Canadiens game on Jan. 10 and a Hollywood theme night at the hotel the following night.
And there will be plenty of opportunities for the competitors to rub shoulders with some of the top professionals of the Quebec business world.