University of Southern California

Up for the Challenge
USC Marshall Advances to Finals, UBC Sauder takes Marshall Cup in Marshall International Case Competition (MICC)
February 21, 2013 • by News at Marshall

The 2013 Marshall International Case Competition (MICC) convened students from 30 top business schools, 19 of them outside the United States, for an intense problem-solving challenge at the USC Marshall School of Business on Feb. 12-16.

The MICC was sponsored by Owens & Minor Inc., a Fortune 500 company whose recent Movianto Group acquisition served as the foundation of the case. President and CEO Craig Smith, Vice President of Marketing Paul Higday and Southern California Vice President Ken Miranda served as judges. Additional sponsors included Altria, Warner Bros. and Boeing, which also sent executives to judge the event.

The world’s largest undergraduate invitational case competition, the MICC demands that students tackle a real-world business problem under time pressure. On Friday morning, all 30 teams received a 38-page case about health care logistics company Owens & Minor. Students had 24 hours to analyze the case, devise strategies and action-oriented recommendations for the company, and prepare a presentation, which they gave before a panel of judges on Saturday morning.

"It’s really exciting because you have a lot to do in 24 hours," said Shil Mukherjee ’13, who along with Meghan Ammon ’13, Steven Talafous ’14 and Claire Staggs ’14 composed the Marshall case team. "It’s like a rush of adrenalin. We couldn’t sleep even at 2 o’clock when we were almost done with everything — we were so excited to present."

The six finalists, including USC Marshall, gave their final presentations in the afternoon. The University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business won first place and the Marshall Cup. Second place was awarded to Singapore Management University and third place went to Pennsylvania State University Smeal College of Business.

The case, written for the 10th year by Associate Professor of Clinical Management and Organization Michael Coombs, required strategic analysis of global supply chains. Owens & Minor is the leading distributor of medical and surgical supplies to the acute-care market in the United States and a leading provider of healthcare supply chain management solutions. In September 2012, Owens & Minor completed the acquisition of the Movianto Group, which specializes in third-party logistics for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in Europe. The case asked students to consider what actions Owens & Minor should take in integrating Movianto into its organization and how it should change its distribution model.

"The acquisition raises a lot of issues," Coombs said. "The two geographic areas are different, the cultures and the countries are different and the EU is different because they don’t have the same regulations in every country. So it’s very complex."

The presentations had to consider such things as industry trends and competitors and provide financial forecasts. Given the short timeframe to prepare, the students were remarkably thorough, fluent and poised. That comes as no surprise considering the preparation leading up to these competitions. For instance, Marshall Case Team members devote as many as 20 hours per week to practice sessions. Each Friday, students are given a case and must present it the next Friday, when they receive the next case.

"We work a lot together throughout the year," said Talafous. "All that prep work really helped us to work together on a deadline."

The Marshall Case Team is a student club composed of about 40 students, mostly seniors, who compete in four-person teams in five official case competitions each year. Many of the students also sign up for the sophomore elective, BUCO/MOR 452: Art of Case Analysis and Presentation, co-taught by Coombs associate clinical professor of management & organization and Yolanda Kirk, assistant professor of clinical management communication.

The team for each competition consists of four students, usually with strengths in a variety of disciplines such as finance, marketing, economics, accounting and management, and coached by different faculty advisers. The MICC team coaches were Julia Plotts, assistant professor of clinical finance and business economics, and Naomi Warren, associate professor of clinical management communication, who could not have contact with the students during the competition.

The MICC is not all rigor and work. Two-and-a-half days of social events precede the two-day competition, giving students the chance to network and engage with their international colleagues — as well as adapt to the time zone. Among the activities leading up to the actual case preparation are a scavenger hunt in Santa Monica, a visit to Universal CityWalk and a sightseeing tour of Los Angeles.

"The special activities are really well organized," said Ulrike Thurheimer from Maastricht University in The Netherlands. "I’ve been to other competitions and we didn’t really have the chance to meet people and socialize."

The Marshall team found the opportunities equally valuable. "You learn a lot about different cultures," said Ammon, "and it’s just fun to meet people who have similar interests. It makes it a little more relaxed once you actually start doing the case, rather than being competitive the whole time."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.