PROBLEM STATEMENT: How do we get from Dublin to Montreal?

The Smurfit MBA Molson Team. L-R – James Owens, Cormac Kelleher, David Cashman & Conor Connolly

While the bags may have been packed, the airline certainly was not ready to let us go. The beep of a phone at 5.03am on January 2nd casually notified us that our flight was cancelled due to ‘aircraft maintenance’ – no other information provided! For the Smurfit Molson team, this was the first challenge – how do we get to the competition? A quick scan of the airline’s site indicated that all flights that day were full (…well of course they were, it was the 2nd of January after all!). Undeterred, data analysis revealed alternative routes via Heathrow / Paris / Schiphol / Madrid as potential alternatives. Two issues were apparent …time wise it would be tight, but more importantly, could we talk our way into getting those four seats? What ensued was a masterclass in strategy, supply chain management, and flattery (hello to Francine in United) …or at least that is what Cormac is contending. However, he must have done something right as we did manage to secure the seats andthe Smurfit Molson team were off!

How we traveled to Montreal in the end!
How we traveled to Montreal in the end!

The Molson MBA Case Competition is an international case competition organised by students, for students. It involves analysing cases in a time pressured environment, offering students an opportunity to put into practice newly acquired skills and competencies learned during the MBA curriculum. Students are further required to draft recommendations and implementation plans which are then challenged by senior panel of judges. A hectic week exposed us to real life and current business issues from various multinational companies. Our recommended strategies drew from our supply chain, HR, finance, strategy, marketing, and OB learnings. Indeed, the closing ceremony seemed the most apt when ‘learning by doing’ was referenced. The event is most certainly a great opportunity for students considering a career in consulting or anyone keen to get some Capstone practice in early!

The highlight of the week, without a doubt, was the live case study when students were presented with a board of directors of a new venture seeking a growth strategy. The board was comprised of the owners of a large well known luxury cosmetics brand, one of the largest fruit producers in Spain and a tech company who had been instrumental in launching the internet in Holland. These directors had recently launched the next generation in cosmetics – functional beauty products in a drinkable form. Packed with macro-antioxidants, BEAUTY & GO’s products are positioned as having a positive effect on your body via a selection of ingredients extracted from fruit skins. The company were looking to the Molson participants to advise them on their expansion strategy and how they should go-to-market with their products. Clearly the live case presented something of a conundrum for the Smurfit team … four Irish fellas advising on a beauty care strategy! Despite our initial apprehension, the team drew from ‘surprising’ hidden depths of SME knowledge with Conor’s slogan ‘From Skin to Skin’ getting a special mention from the judges.

The week was far from all work, as we also enjoyed an equally active social diary. Strong networking opportunities were afforded during the week with a particular emphasis on integration between the schools and meeting fellow participants. Throughout the week, we attended great events including an ice hockey game, a comedy gig, and a fancy dress party which were all equally excellent. We are happy to report that the Smurfit team’s creativity in the fancy dress party was widely acknowledged and appreciated! Also a special thanks to the UCD Alumni Association in Montreal who kindly hosted a reception for us in the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill.

After an uneventful return flight back to Dublin, there has been much reflection and discussion in relation to the trip. Are we glad we did it? Would we recommend it? The answer to these questions is a resounding yes. The competition itself provided immense practical experience and was a super opportunity to ground and pull together all our key learnings from the past three semesters. As a group we found the experience to be invaluable, and one that really illustrates the values of hard-work, teamwork and the spirit of collaboration.

We would like to thank:

  • The John Molson School of Business for hosting such a fantastic event;
  • Pat Gibbons, our coach, for all his help and guidance over the week;
  • Paul Loftus who organised the UCD Alumni reception in Montreal;
  • The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School for offering us the wonderful opportunity to take part in such a prestigious event.

James Owens, Cormac Kelleher, David Cashman & Conor Connolly ~ Executive MBA