Fisher MBA A-Team Brings Home the ‘Gold’
MBA Marketing Summit

Fisher MBA students received a $50,000 check for winning Wake Forest’s School of Business 2010 MBA Competition

At Fisher, case competitions are a core focus of the MBA program. The school hosts internal case competitions for incoming freshmen. The best are then selected for the International Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) Case Competition, and Fisher’s own Big 10 MBA Case Competition, both held in April 2010. Fisher case competition veterans Ryan Kilpatrick, Vandana Agrawal and Chad Stutz have competed in at least two such competitions before they were selected to go after the gold medal: Wake Forest’s School of Business 2010 MBA Competition.

For 36 hours in early February, they and four fellow students developed and presented a strategic marketing plan for case sponsor IBM. They captured first place, winning a $50,000 cash award, and defeating some of the world’s top MBA teams from Wharton, London School of Business and Barcelona’s IESE Business School.

A Team Is Born

“We actually created an all-star team, where every member had won a competition,” says Marc Ankerman, Fisher faculty advisor who first was introduced to the case competition as an industry judge.

The students’ challenge was daunting—to develop a marketing plan for IBM’s Smarter Cities campaign for Dubai (IBM believes by improving infrastructure, you can create better urban centers).

“We came up with a fully integrated marketing communications plan for IBM—we did mock ads, a demonstration of an online city, and created an innovation platform for them to help generate ideas to take advantage of all the knowledge out there,” says Kilpatrick, a corporate finance major who starts a financial analyst rotational program at Ford Motor Company in September 2010.

Teamwork Triumphs

“We took a divide-and-conquer approach,” explains Agrawal, a marketer now employed in Nationwide Insurance’s Marketing Rotational Leadership Program. “We had people in very different majors and because we wanted to provide a holistic solution for IBM, we realized having those people work on their strengths was going to suit us best.”

The team’s main presenter, Agrawal, contends the competitions have made her a more critical thinker, especially since she constantly had to defend or explain her position.

Fisher was among eight schools out of 80 that won a slot to compete. The team earned a coveted slot through personal essays and a creative, engaging video application.

Stutz, a corporate finance and strategy graduate and the team’s “video whiz,” believes what differentiated Fisher from the other schools was having a broader view. “The other teams took a marketing approach to this problem…whereas we looked at it from various perspectives, including operations, strategy, innovation and finance.” He says no other school did a financial analysis showing the impact of the proposal to IBM’s bottom line.

Stutz came to appreciate how to accomplish things in a team environment. “One person can get a lot accomplished, but there are definitely times when a lot of people can get a lot accomplished,” he says.

Ankerman notes that sponsoring companies reap benefits, too. At Wake Forest, IBM got to see the best and brightest MBA students in action, while tapping into the collective brain power of eight top MBA teams—all focused on addressing a real business challenge they defined.

“You can say you know how to (business problem solve), but these companies want to see students in action (solving) a real problem. You have 24 or 36 hours, go fix it, and these students did.”

Student generated video for Wake Forest Marketing Summit

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Ryan Kilpatrick Interview

Ryan Kilpatrick, MBA 2010, talks about how Fisher’s winning team approached the Wake Forest’s School of Business 2010 MBA Competition.

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Marc Ankerman Interview

Marc Ankerman, faculty advisor for Fisher’s team in Wake Forest’s School of Business 2010 MBA Competition, discusses he approaches case competitions.

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