The Journal

Road to 2018 SAM Case Competition

From left to right: Professor Sudeep Sharma, Michael Kirchgesner, Adella Nguyen, Apoorva Kantwal, Prashant Biduhri and Professor David Larson

From left to right: Professor Sudeep Sharma, Michael Kirchgesner, Adella Nguyen, Apoorva Kantwal, Prashant Biduhri and Professor David Larson

Pushpita Choudhury

Pushpita Choudhury

From left to right: Professor Sudeep Sharma, Michael Kirchgesner, Adella Nguyen, Apoorva Kantwal, Prashant Biduhri and Professor David Larson


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Editors Note:
The UIS team won first place in the Thomas Greensmith Open Division Collegiate Management Case Competition organized by the Society for Advancement of Management. The competition is an annual SAM international business conference held in Arlington, Virginia from March 22nd—24th. Students representing UIS at the competition were: Prashant Bidhuri, Apoorva Kanthwal, Michael Kirchgesner, and Adella Nguyen. In the below article, Michael Kirchgesner shares his experiences with the Journal at UIS.

The road began in February 2018, when we formed the Society for Advancement of Management case competition team. Our first few meetings were spent brainstorming and analyzing the case. We each had a different take on the case and were tackling it from every angle. My initial impression was that we were getting nowhere. However, as the days went by, we started to narrow our ideas into what would turn out to be the best idea the judges were looking for.

The week of the event, all the pieces of the puzzle were coming together. We had a fantastic PowerPoint presentation constructed, each of us had our talking points, and we even coordinated our suits and ties together. Prashant Bidhuri discovered a strategic way to fold his suit to pack for the airplane while I decided to wear my suit on the plane. After all, if I am going to spend a lot of money on a suit, I may as well wear it, right?

We arrived at the airport well in advance to ensure we would not increase our professor’s anxiety by running late for our flight. We had planned on going through the presentation at the airport, but our excitement levels were definitely too high to put forth a meaningful practice presentation. We landed in DC just before noon and checked into the Marriott Hotel. With our stomachs growling, we decided to eat at a familiar place and gobbled up some delicious Chipotle. When we returned to the hotel, we decided it was time to make sure we had our ducks in a row and that the presentation was precisely how we wanted it. Prashant, Apoorva Kanthwal, Adella Nguyen, and I made our final touches to our parts of the presentation to make sure we were each giving it our best effort. We knew that each of us were going to do a stellar presentation. We find out at dinner that we would be participating in a random lottery drawing to select our time slot.

We met and discussed the pros and cons of going first and getting it out of the way or going later so we could run through our presentation one last time. We definitely did not want to be first, right after breakfast, because we thought we might feel rushed to eat to make it to the presentation early. We most certainly did not want to present after lunch as we feared we would be tired from eating. The decision was unanimous to present between 11:00am and noon. Sure enough, fate was with us when our team was drawn to pick our time slot second in the open category. When University of Illinois at Springfield was announced, I am pretty sure Apoorva made our selection before the word “Springfield” was even finished! So there we had it, our 11:20am time slot was in place.

The morning of the competition we had plenty of time, so we did not feel rushed. We were one of the few teams who were present at some of the opening presentations Friday morning. At 10:00, our team met to confirm we were ready for the presentation. Our previous times were well over the 15 minutes allotted and we wanted to make sure we talked about the most important points during our presentation. Both run-throughs on Friday morning, we were able to get under 15 minutes. At this point, we knew that we had a high probability of winning this competition.

Then, it was presentation time. We made sure everybody’s suits, dresses, and smiles were “on point,” as they say these days. We were happy to hear that one of Ryder’s very own managers would be one of the judges for our division. Prashant gave a warm welcome followed by me presenting our first recommendation. Naturally, I gave an exhilarating presentation on implementing a driver switch program for Ryder. Adella followed with a heart-felt second recommendation on building company culture. Prashant nailed his part, giving an electrifying explanation on how electric trucks would add a competitive advantage for Ryder and make them early adopters in the competitive adoption life cycle. Apoorva wrapped it up with an invigorating presentation on taking Ryder to the sky!

Our practicing finally paid off. We gave a great presentation, and now it was up to the judges to decide which college brought the best teams to the 2018 SAM case conference. We each took a well-deserved nap to re-energize before heading out to explore Washington DC. That night, we took a 2-hour tour of DC and visited Jefferson Memorial, Korean Memorial, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Capitol building. This was icing on the cake to add to our excitement of the day.

If that was not enough, we made time Saturday for some site-seeing at the Smithsonian. Apoorva used to want to be an astronaut, which made the Air and Space Museum a must-see while in DC. We may have even walked 10 miles just inside the one museum. Afterwards, we made our way back to the metro to head back towards the hotel to get ready for the dinner and award ceremony.

Dinner was great. Dessert was even better. But what would follow would make this meal the most memorable of our college careers. It felt like it took an eternity for them to present awards in other categories. They saved the open division for last. I cannot explain how the other members of our team felt, but at this point, I just knew we would walk away with a trophy. They announced 3rd place open division. Not us. 2nd place… some other college was announced. At this point, I will admit, I was nervous and started to prepare myself for what may have been a very hard-to-swallow loss. Did we do all this work and go so far to not earn a top three spot in the case competition? Would we be returning to UIS empty-handed, with nothing to show for all our hard work? Seconds seemed like minutes. I took a sip of water and made sure to wipe any desert I may have had left on my face. “What is taking so long?” I asked myself. “There’s one award left on the table. Who is going to win first?” “And first place goes to…” the speaker announced, “University of Illinois at Springfield!” Prashant, Apoorva and I each looked up and noticed the mile-wide smiles on each other’s faces. No one spoke, but we each could tell by our non-verbal communication that we were all saying, “Good job! You have each done well and we could not have been more proud to have each other as teammates!” I immediately called Adella, who was visiting with relatives, to tell her the good news. Although I could not see her, I could tell she was just as ecstatic as the rest of us to earn first place in open division at the SAM case competition!

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Road to 2018 SAM Case Competition