This weekend I went to Winston-Salem with a group of six other second year MBA students to compete in the Wake Forest Marketing Summit Case Competition. It was an incredible experience, here’s a breakdown of the weekend’s events.
I woke up at 4:30am to meet up with the team at Fisher Commons at 5:00am. We had a 7:20 flight and we wanted to make sure that we had ample time to get to the airport just in case. We flew to Greensboro, NC and then rented a car to get to the hotel. Some of my teammates were dying to get some North Carolina BBQ, so we went to Little Richards Bar-B-Que for lunch (who’s website is eatmopig.com, not making this up). I’m still on my vegan, no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine diet for the month of February, so I just had some coleslaw and almonds (See: The Monastic Challenge).
We got back to the hotel and then relaxed for a little until 3:00pm, when we met with our student hosts for the weekend. Brian and John were assigned to take care of us throughout the weekend and they did a great job of making our stay comfortable.
Thursday night was the kickoff event at the football stadium. In the past, they had teams run out onto the field and break through a banner, but with a snow covered field, this wasn’t possible this year. They brought the introductions inside, which was done in a very nice suite. We came out dressed in full Ohio State gear, jerseys and hoodies. We actually brought eye black, but then we decided against wearing them since we weren’t running onto the field anymore. After our introductions and some mingling, we went back to campus to receive the case at 8:00pm.
Upon receiving the case, we all read it individually and then started to strategize as a group. We worked only four hours that night, calling it a night at midnight, but those four hours were intense! I’ve never worked with a group as efficient before, we didn’t waste a single second that night and filled up pages and pages of notes on the whiteboard and giant post-it notes.
One disadvantage to having seven people was the fact that we only had one full sized car. Our coach, Marc Ankerman, had the other car but we weren’t allowed to have any contact with him during the case. Needless to say, I did a lot of driving back and forth from the hotel and school.
We got back to the hotel around 12:30 and most of us went to bed around 1 or 2am.
I woke up at 5:45 to meet in the lobby at 6:00am. We drove down to school (in two trips) and got back to work. We put in some more amazing work and had most of our ideas done by 2pm. We then split the work up and started working on our individual parts. We were feeling pretty good about where we were at the moment, but I think we lost a little momentum in the mid afternoon. We worked through to 6pm, where we had to attend a mandatory program on diversity.
The speakers that they brought in were dynamic, high-ranking executives at major corporations, but I think all of us were so tired it was hard to get much out of it. I definitely saw many case competitors catching a nap during the program.
We finally got back to the school at around 8:30pm, and worked straight through until the wee hours of the morning. After working 20 hours straight, things started to get a little weird as our brains started to suffer from the sleep deprivation. Vandana definitely had a lot of patience putting up with six loopy boys in a 6 foot by 12 foot breakout room for two days straight.
By around 2am, we had most of the presentation done, so everyone went to the presentation room to practice while I finished the slides. As I was working on the slides, Microsoft PowerPoint crashed twice, which made me almost throw my laptop through the window. I met back with the group at around 3am and we worked on the deck together for another hour. I think sometime around 4am, I dropped off the four presenters (Chad, Jeremy, Vandana and Ryan) at the hotel to get a little bit of sleep. Seth, Ed and I stayed behind for another hour or so, and then I dropped them off at the hotel to get an hour or two of sleep. I then made a trip to Kinko’s to print out all of our color material for the judges. The drive there felt like a dream. I was blasting gangsta rap and driving with the windows open a little to stay awake. By the time everything was done and ready to be turned in, it was around 6:30am. I slept on the hardwood floor in our breakout room for 20 minutes and then turned in our presentation materials by the 7am deadline.
I went back to the hotel to shower and shave and then drove the presenters to campus to get a couple more practice rounds in. I went back to get Seth and Ed and then drove back to campus where we waited until our 9:40am time slot.
At 9:20 we went to the waiting room and gave each other some last minute words of encouragement. At 9:40 they came and got us, and we delivered our presentation. Seth, Ed and I waited in the back of the room until the question and answer session, at which we joined the group. Our presentation was good, but I think we won it when Ed “The Mighty Moldovan” Lapteanu absolutely crushed the Q&A session. After leaving the room, we met up with Professor Ankerman and went to Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits, which Ed had been craving all weekend. After a hearty meal, we went back to the hotel and took a much needed nap.
At 5:30pm my alarm went off and I felt like one of the guys in The Hangover. I had no idea where I was and I tripped and fell getting out of bed. I woke up Seth and we stumbled around the room like a couple of tranquilized bears. We got ready in our best cocktail attire and jumped on a bus to the gala.
We pulled up to a huge historical building. The venue was gorgeous and there were a couple hundred people there. After several rounds of speakers and a great dinner, it was time for the awards. They announced the undergraduate awards first and then the MBA awards. It’s a little fuzzy in my head still, but it went something like this:
Announcer: “And now for the MBA awards. Third Place goes to Dartmouth!”
(heart beating faster, on the edge of my seat literally, Ankerman tells me to relax and that I’m making him nervous)
“This second place team had a fantastic presentation. Their creative was so good, we thought they outsourced it to an ad agency.”
(My stomach sinks, I look at Vandana, in our heads we prepare for another second place trophy, flashback to the Big 10 Case Competition last year and Mathcounts Competition in middle school, I HATE second place…)
“Second Place goes to Wake Forest University!”
(The crowd goes wild, standing ovation for the home team, I almost cry a little, heart is now beating a couple hundred beats a minute, we all link arms, we know it’s us. All the hard work, the meetings early in the morning and on the weekends, the other three case competitions I’ve done, it all comes down to this single moment…)
“And the First place team and winner of $50,000 goes to The Ohio State University!!!”
(I let out a guttural yell of triumph, we jump out of our seats like kids on the last day of school)
We walk onto stage to accept our trophies, a giant $50,000 check and the Cheerwine Cup. Ed is presented the cup and he holds it over his head like the Stanley Cup.
From here it gets blurry, I give Ankerman a bear hug, there are some tears of joy, high fives are flying around, and we receive a flood of congratulations from judges, other teams, and the Wake Forest volunteers. We mingle for a couple hours, high off of adrenaline and sleep deprivation.
The adrenaline high lasts through the night, and after some celebrating with some new friends Seth and I make it to bed at around 4am.
And that’s the end of this story.
“Hopped up out tha bed, Turn ma swag on, Took a look in tha mirror said wassup, Yeeeeea im gettin money, ohh.” – Soulja Boy