Our journey to winning the Deloitte National Case Competition
Matt Heintz, Andry Lesmana and Bora Sekeral represented Kellogg at the Deloitte National Case Competition in January. Here, the three reflect on how their team came to be, what the competition was like and what they learned from the experience.
Our original team was formed serendipitously and through a comedy of errors.
Matt showed up to the kick-off meeting thinking it was just an info session. He quickly realized the competition was kicking off immediately and that our team’s school-wide presentation was due in two days. Andry and Matt pulled a team together within the next 12 hours, and off we went to beat the clock.
We presented along with other Kellogg teams to a group of judges from the Deloitte Chicago office, where we were honored to take first place. Winning the school-level competition opened the door to compete with 14 other teams from top MBA programs across the nation.
We were welcomed by relatively warm weather as we stepped into Deloitte University in Dallas for the National Case Competition. After a night of networking, the competition started the next morning with the case distributed to all teams at 8:30 a.m. Each team was assigned its own private workroom and had 11 hours to finalize its slide deck for submission.
The case was a profitability/growth strategy for a startup called Quirky. Quirky is an innovative consumer goods company that aims to bring crowd-sourcing to product innovation. An inventor comes up with an idea, and a community of “influencers” helps evolve the idea into finished products. These inventors and influencers then keep a percent of the revenue when Quirky manufactures and sells the product.
There were three rounds in the competition that saw each team present – using the same set of slides – to a panel of five to eight judges. Four teams advanced to the final round, where each had 15 minutes to present to a panel of judges that consisted of Quirky senior management, industry professionals and Deloitte partners, plus all the teams that did not advance. Teams were evaluated on four different categories:
Growth and product strategy recommendations
There were two key ingredients to our success: story and data. We carved out some time in the beginning to independently explore the problem and brainstorm solutions. To avoid anchoring on others’ opinion, we wrote down our thoughts and discussed them as a team to come up with a hybrid solution.
Our solutions branched off the main theme of focusing on core business competencies and were supported by financial data that highlighted the top revenue contributors. An engaging storyline helps the audience understand why the problem occurs, how the solution plans to fix it and how the result ties back to stakeholder’s interest.
One thing we saw is that taking calculated risks were key to winning in a competitive business landscape. One of our proposed solutions was radical and broke through business orthodoxies, yet that differentiated our team from the rest. We learned that combining out-of-the-box ideas with objective data could turn into a powerful weapon for growth.
“For the final four presentations, that was the largest and most senior audience I had ever presented to,” Matt Heintz said. “I had always heard that business school changes you, but that was the moment I knew what that meant.
“I was able to seamlessly and confidently present to individuals, something I couldn’t imagine being capable of as little as six months ago. I know it sounds silly, but I truly understood what ‘inspire growth’ meant at that point.”