Case Competitions: An Integral Part of the Fisher MBA

Stepping Outside The Comfort Zone

Coming from an engineering background to business school had me feeling like a fish out of water.  Maybe more than I should have, but the unknown can feel intimidating. That is not the point of this blog post but know you are not alone if you have similar apprehension (whatever your background).  One of the things I understood least coming into business school was the infamous case competition.

What I quickly realized is that case competitions are a chance to practice developing solutions.  Everyone can ask questions and poke holes in solutions.  The hard part is creating solutions and then pressure testing them so you can stand confidently when being challenged by judges.  Equally important to crafting a solution is the storytelling aspect of a case competition.  In competitions, as is true in life, information alone is rarely sufficient.  What separates two solutions & case teams apart is the ability to tell a compelling story.  At Fisher, you will develop these crucial skills throughout the program.  Beyond the internal case competition, there is a wealth of other opportunities at your fingertips if you are willing to challenge yourself.

A Menagerie of Options at Fisher

The next thought you might have is that case competitions seem exclusive in utility to someone interested in consulting.  While it is true that a consulting track should participate in competitions, I believe every MBA student benefits from case competitions.  They are so varied in focus that you can find a case competition for almost any area of interest.  I will give you a few examples from my own experience to underscore this point.

  1. Are you interested in pursuing a marketing brand manager position?  Each year P&G hosts a marketing focused case competition at Fisher.  You will get to work on a real challenge that a real brand is facing and then present a solution to elite brand managers.   
  2. Interested in a career in Venture Capital?  Refinery Ventures in Cincinnati has an annual case competition where you get to analyze 3 pitch decks, interview 3 founders, and then build a case for who to invest in (and what the terms should be!). 
  3. Trying to develop some technical finance chops for Investment Banking?  Each year we send teams to compete in the regional ACG cup in Cleveland.  The focus here is on M&A.  Expect to build out a 3-statement model, conduct a DCF and comps analysis, and prepare a deck to advise a room of 12 investment professionals what is the appropriate acquisition price and strategy for the target.  It is an intense week.
  4. Maybe you want to explore the intersection of business and sustainability?  There is a case for that as well!  Last year, I participated in the Patagonia case competition focused on reducing waste throughout their product life cycle.  This competition added a unique aspect in that it requires interdisciplinary teams.  I got to work with two environmental scientists, a chemistry/applied statistics doctoral candidate, and an MFA from the design school.  Talk about a dynamic real-world experience! 

And those are just competitions I participated in!  There are competitions that focus on HR, general strategy, supply chain, and many other niches. 

Fisher is a Force

In case you are wondering how Fisher fares in competitions, I cannot claim any victories myself, but I will take every chance I can to brag on classmates.  Here are some of the recent victories of Fisher students:

  1. 2019 National Black MBA Champions
  2. 2019 Big Ten Case Competition Champions
  3. 2020 Illinois Geis Strategy Case Competition Champions

An Unparalleled Support Network

These are the type of opportunities you will get as a Fisher MBA.  And true to Fisher form, you will never go into a competition alone.  Faculty and students will help you prepare, offer advice, and challenge your team with an outside perspective.  The support you get is interwoven into the scarlet & gray fabric that makes the Fisher MBA experience unique.  The access you have to world-class experts does not stop when you walk out of the classroom.  It's easy to step beyond your comfort zone when you know you're not alone.

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