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Sunday 17 February: Interesting draw for Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences

13 March 2019

In the past week, the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada still had to close their doors because of a snow storm, but today it’s the scene of the draw for the NIBS Worldwide Business Case Competition.

Somewhat impressed the students Guus van Haastregt (Finance and Control), Nathan van den Dool (International Business and Management Studies), Wesley Kruythof (Marketing Management) and Daniël Baak (International Business and Management Studies IBMS) walk in. The competition for which they have trained for months is starting. Another HR Business School team has just won bronze at a case competition in Vermont. How will this team do? The next few days will tell.

The draw

After a speech from the premier of Prince Edward Island, a Canadian province, it is time for the draw. It starts off nicely. Because Rotterdam did really well in qualifications in November, RUAS is one of the four group leaders. Hopefully we can avoid the strongest teams in the very beginning. The draw continues. A bit later, we find out that we will compete against London South-Bank University, University College Leuven-Limburg and University of South-East Missouri. Difficult, but opportunities abound.

This evening we have our last training session at the hotel; The coaches this year are Daan Gijsbertse and Ron Bormans. Together with Daniël, Wesley, Nathan and Guus we go over the implementation and hold a last practice presentation. Tomorrow is the day, competing against the Belgians…

Monday 18 February: Rotterdam wins from our southern neighbours

Around nine in the morning the magic envelope with our first case in the NIBS Worldwide Business Case Competition 2019. Daan and Ron leave the preparation room and from this moment it is up to Wesley, Nathan, Guus and Daniël. They have four hours to solve a complex strategic problem of Frederico Marchetti, Yoox Net-a-Porter CEO (YNAP). Not an easy task.

This ‘largest luxury online retailer in the world’ is the result of a merger two years ago. However, the ‘1,8 billion euros company wasn’t growing as fast as expected’. The expected synergy effects were not realised. And in addition, a considerable competitor joins the stage that does show sizeable growth and is doing well on the attractive Chinese market. And what about Walmart and Amazon who may just get in on the luxury market action? Plenty to worry about for Marchetti.

Fine effort for students from Leuven

Our competitor today, UCLL from Leuven, gives a solid presentation, but their plans are quite modest, so the question is whether or not they will really solve the problems. Then it is the turn for Guus, Daniël, Wesley and Nathan. This is the moment. And … it is right. They look confident, and deliver a proper and solid presentation. They opt for a brick & click strategy, so for real stores in combination with a good online presence. The shops will be located first in Europe with a focus on the Chinese tourists. It is a convincing scenario, but the jury does pose critical questions. Is this approach sufficient to realise growth? And is the available room for investment as much as the guys will have us believe?

Nerves

It is exciting before we get to walk in for the score. Despite a few notes from the jury they are complimentary about the Rotterdam approach. It is a clear win: 7 – 4! Wow, a great start of the
competition. This evening we will work on the details some more, and then it’s time for the next match against South-East Missouri.

Tuesday 19 February: Tough going for Rotterdam

Today Wesley, Nathan, Guus and Daniël Nadine Weber must advise the president of the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA). The question: ‘whether to hire an executive director’ does not seem too difficult, but the real question is much more complex. The trail is a means to help local communities with their development; that’s the LMTA mission. It is going well, but there’s concern: ‘securing the association’s financial sustainability and attracting constant funding to cover operational expenses’. Which strategy must LMTA choose and is the hiring of an executive director the best step right now? Nadine Weber does not know. Time for solid advice from our ‘the Rotterdam boys’.

Flair and feeling for societal problems

Just like yesterday they start with flair. The analysis runs smoothly and the key issues are covered. They opt for a fairly drastic approach, starting with a restructuring of LMTA, before working on the appointment of an executive director. They design a whole plan including how the local communities will be helped, how to add extra trails, and how to realise extra income; the issue of safety is taken into consideration. Ad far as we are concerned a creative and well thought out plan.

But, we lose this round

Then it’s the turn of South-East Missouri. That team has a different approach and does choose to appoint an executive director right away. This presentation is sound as well, but fairly conservative. What does the jury think? The general vibe in the hall is: for Rotterdam. But… the jury decides differently: 6,5 – 4,5 for the Americans. It’s tough to swallow, but the jury is always right. No video jury here. There’s only one thing to do tomorrow: we must beat the British to get to the quarterfinals…

Wednesday morning 20 February: does Rotterdam go home, or to the quarterfinals?

It is 6.30, still dark out and minus 16 degrees. Together with other students from all over the world, Wesley, Guus, Daniël and Nathan run to the bus to escape the ice cold wind. A warm cup of coffee in hand. They will need it, because today they will only get three hours to crack a case’. It is do or die today.

The Romanian furniture factory

Once the teams have started, the coaches also get the case. Daan and Ron start to read. Marita Petrescu, the chief marketing officer for Forta Furniture, a Romanian furniture manufacturer must take an important decision: must Forta try to also conquer markets abroad? Ever since IKEA and other furniture giants have entered the Romanian market, it has not been the same, or sufficient. ‘But where should Forta expand to? How quickly? How much money and how many resources should it invest? Should it do so as a private label or as a customer-facing brand?’ Petrescu has an eye on two countries already: Poland and Bulgaria. Is that the right choice? Also, Forta owns another two brands: Forta en Abilit. ‘Which of the two brands is better suited for international expansion?’

Sound, tight presentation of the opponent, a challenge for Rotterdam

The London-South Bank University must present first. They choose Poland. A sound presentation, but a bit flat; and they get into trouble during the Q&A. Then it’s time for the
’boys from Rotterdam’. They also choose for Poland, but have different approach. They choose Abilit and that brand must, after thorough research be, branded well in Poland. Their performance has been better, but seems sufficient … until at the end. No more time for financial projections. And even worse, the accountant in the jury wants to know everything about the financial analysis of our boys. According to him it contains an error, but our team is of the opinion that the numbers are correct. The discussion lasts many minutes and Wesley, Guus, Nathan and Daniël start to feel the pressure. Thankfully the time alarm sound.

We win and must press on…

What will the jury decide? During the Q&A the questions were difficult and critical. Are we out of the competition? We think so. Daniël, Wesley, Guus and Nathan are nervously walking around in the hallway. Ron and Daan even more than the others. Finally we are called in. The feedback is one of critique, but thankfully the members of the jury have considered the presentation as a whole as well as the overall strategy. We squeeze through with a score of: 6 – 5. Rotterdam wins!! Yes, we are through.
After a quick team meeting and even quicker lunch, the guys return to the prep room. It’s the afternoon of the quarterfinals. The competition is the University of Concordia in Montreal, one of the favorites. But anything is possible. A last pat on the back and the door closes. We will see them in three hours…

Wednesday afternoon 20 February: A deleted presentation, a dashing performance, and semi-finals for Rotterdam!

Daniël, Wesley, Nathan and Guus know that they have to exceed their ability if they are going to beat the Concordia team from Montreal. Last year this university won our own Rotterdam International Case Competition (RICC). But the sky is the limit. The teams are taking on the responsibilities of Shane Thatcher, co-founder of Australian social enterprise Illumination Solar. ‘His main goal is to provide good quality solar lights to impoverished people in developing countries’. However, the Give Power campaign is not progressing as expected. With every purchase of a solar energy lamp by an Australian client, Illumination donates one lamp to a Third World community. A noble goal, but the concept is not working. Now what? Continue on this path but try and improve it? or back to the original idea of aid and development through partnerships with NGOs, or chose a totally new approach? 

Favourite Concordia does really well, the Rotterdam presentation is deleted

Concordia performs well. They introduce the campaign ‘Light-Up a Smile’, focus on branding and forming partnerships. It’s a good presentation. Mmm, how are we going to beat that? The wait is for team Rotterdam, but our team does not show up. What is going on? Technical problems is the reason communicated by the NIBS organisation. Two minutes before the end of prep time the guys have accidentally deleted the complete presentation when copying to a USB stick. Whatever the technical crew does, the presentation cannot be retrieved. There’s only one thing to do: present without slides. This has not happened in 24 years of NIBS Worldwide Business Case Competitions.

The audience holds their breath and is witness to a unique event

They regroup and start to present, without slides for 20 minutes. Daan, Ron and a hall full of people are amazed. Smoothly, to-the-point, clear and convincing. Guus, Nathan, Wesley and Daniël aim to connect with the NGOs in order to distribute the lamps on solar panels in Africa, while trying to generate income from sales in Australian supermarkets and petrol stations. Clear and financially well substantiated. It is a presentation from the heart. Rarely have I been so proud of our students. Exactly 20 minutes later, they are done. During the Questions & Answers, they continue to come up with the right answers. The audience claps hard.

Team and coaches rejoice

The jury takes a long time for deliberation. Tensions mount and the adrenaline is palpable. Finally Concordia and Rotterdam find out. And… it is 6,5 to 4,5 points for Rotterdam. A unique event, never before been pulled off. Release. Team and coaches dance around, the high-fives are full of energy and there is much joy. Party time tonight, tomorrow is a day of rest and then on Friday morning early, St Mary’s from Texas. Tentatively Ron and Daan are dreaming of making the finale…

Friday morning 22 February: can team Rotterdam write history?

It is still dark out and it has just stopped snowing. In a white world, we drive to the University of Prince Edward Island. Three years ago Rotterdam made it to the semi-finals of the NIBS Worldwide Case Competition; they ended with bronze. Is gold a possibility this time? According to Wesley, Daniël, Nathan and Guus it is surely a possibility. They feel strong. With plates full of energy snacks and full cups of coffee Ron and Daan leave our ‘Business School boys’ in the prep room. They are on their own from this moment.

Are Citroën and partners targeting China, USA or the Middle East? And what to do with Vauxhall?

Four hours later, they walk into the presentation room. The University of St Mary’s in Texas has just given a fine presentation. Can Rotterdam top the performance? Today they need to give advice to the Groupe PSA, The French automobile manufacturer of Peugeot, Citroën and DS. In March 2017, they acquired Opel and Vauxhall from General Motors (GM) for $ 2.3 billion. In one swoop PSA became the largest auto manufacturer in Europa following Volkswagen. GM has suffered losses the last 20 years due to Opel and Vauxhall; the Brexit has only worsened the situation. What should PSA do? Thanks to their own ‘Push to Pass’ plan (considerable cost reduction) the French brands are doing well again, but Opel and Vauxhall must still start to turn profits. ‘How to achieve sustainable and profitable growth?’ That is the core question for PSA. ‘PSA would expand globally, increase profit margins and overall revenues, become involved in mobility provisions and expand into more connected services’. But, the Opel and Vauxhall losses continue. In addition there’s the Brexit coming up, a disappointing Chinese market, the complete switch to electric autos to deal with… what is the right decision?

Electric autos and pursuing China

Guus, Wesley, Daniël and Nathan opt for a growth strategy with a few very clear choices. Decreasing the size of Vauxhall in England (Brexit), increasing the existing production (manufacture) in China, generate more sales in the Middle East and Africa where cars will continue to operate on fossil fuels for a long time. At the same time invest fully in the development of electric autos and try to promote electric autos quickly in China. A lot of
information; the last slide is being covered as time runs out. It is unbelievable how many good analyses and implementations the guys have been able to generate in only four hours. A few critical jury questions, and it is waiting time. The adrenaline is visible. Ron, Daan and I feel that Rotterdam should win. Of course!

Creativity rules over soundness: the finale!

The jury is critical and complimentary at the same time. Wesley, Daniël, Nathan and Guus have understood the big picture much better than the American team. So… Rotterdam make it to the finals!! We are writing history. After a few hugs and a few sandwiches the guys quickly start prepping for a three-hour case. The opponent this time is the business school Guelph-Humber in Toronto, Canada. One more hurdle on the way to gold, a large hurdle. Tonight is the night.

Friday afternoon 22 February: Gold or silver?

Things are going well for the Mexican Kidzania, the fastest growing chain of indoor family entertainment parks in the world. The founder, Xavier López Ancona, can be satisfied. But he is also worried. The competition is fierce and nothing is as fickle as the interest of children. “My biggest concern is keeping our business concept fresh”, says the commercial director. No other
edu-entertainment concept is copied as much as theirs. The pressure to come up with new things is immense. What is the best strategy right now? ‘Opening more parks, developing a different type of indoor park, expanding into the digital world or developing media content?’ Only one thing counts for the Board of Directors: real growth, a strong bottom line and promising long-term returns. Which strategy will satisfy the Board? López Ancona realises that he has little margin for error: ‘lead a company that has a social mission and makes a profit. Do good and do well.’

In front a full auditorium

How will Daniël, Guus, Nathan and Wesley fare? That’s the big question now. The auditorium is packed when the Boys from Rotterdam enter. They are in concentration. The jury largely consists of CEOs and CFOs of large companies. Daniël starts the presentation. He speaks with confidence. The team choses a type of online multimedia platform on which content can be interactively shared. Educationally sound programs so that parents do not need to worry. It is possible to earn points with which you get a discount visiting Kidzania parks. It seems as if the ‘boys’ have got a good grasp of the bigger picture and their recommendations make sense. Even the risks of the fluctuating ‘peso’ are mitigated by means of options. The Guelph-Humber team also choses for a digital strategy, but suggest to collaborate with YouTube; their focus is on Britain. Personally I find them weaker on content, but their presentation is polished and professional.

It’s buzzing in the auditorium: Rotterdam must win, but ….

The audience, most coaches and students are of the opinion that Rotterdam must win. But how far does that get you? What does the jury think? Only after dinner, around 10 p.m, the score is announced. Both teams are lined up. And the winner is... Guelph-Humber. With only a small difference 6 – 5. The jury really could not pin point a winner. I think that the polished presentation probably got them the extra point. On content I think our team was slightly better. But I’m probably partial. Daan and Ron have to readjust. We were so close. Luckily Guus, Daniël, Wesley and Nathan are still in good spirits. Laughter follows. And rightfully so. We can be really proud. This is a first for RUAS, our business school, our team at NIBS finals. Next year we will go for gold again!

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