“Cracking Coke” in Galway

Last Saturday morning (29 June), while many of you were catching up on the conversations between the buccaneers at Anglo exposed in the “Anglo Tapes”, I was advising the board of Directors at Coca-Cola on what they should do with their recent acquisition of Coca-Cola Enterprises!

NUI Galway was the generous host of this year’s annual MBA Association of Ireland (MBAAI) Inter-Business School MBA Strategy challenge. The challenge is open to all MBA students from business schools across Ireland.

Four teams competed, with representation from MBA programmes at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), Griffith College Dublin (GCD), Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School (UCD).

At 10:15am, all teams were presented with a contemporary Harvard Business School case study on Coca-Cola.

At 10:30am, just as the Lions rugby team were getting ready  to roar, each team was directed to a separate meeting room where we were caged for four hours to ‘crack the case’ and prepare a presentation before returning to present to the judging panel.

During these four hours my team -Richie Somerville, Benjamin Bechtolsteim, Neil Krige, Robert Farrell and I- used the analytical tools discussed during the MBA modules at UCD to analyse the information we were given, identify the problem to be solved and propose a recommendation for implementation within Coca-Cola’s business.

Those four hours felt like minutes. The environment emulated that of everyday businesses, where leaders are challenged to identify, comprehend and solve complex business issues under intense pressure.

The presentations were very diverse, with each time taking a very different perspective on the case. I’m sure the variety was appreciated by the judges!

In the evening, we all convened at the Westwood Hotel in Galway where the MBAAI had arranged a drinks reception followed by a beautiful dinner. It provided an excellent opportunity to enjoy a well-deserved drink whilst getting to know the teams from DIT, WIT and GCD. The sunshine was an added bonus!

Just before dinner, my team were announced All-Ireland Strategy Champions 2013, reclaiming the title for UCD! The road to Galway involved two-rounds of internal competition, testament to the high calibre of students in both the full-time and executive MBA programmes at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business. After months of preparation with Richie, Robert, Neil and Benjamin, it was a real honour to win. We were presented with a glistening Waterford crystal trophy – a new companion for the MBA World Cup trophy in the MBA Trophy Cabinet!

The event showcased the ingenuity, strategic thinking and diverse perspectives of the participants and provided an endorsement of the quality of MBA programmes in Ireland’s business schools. Amidst the widespread media coverage of bad leadership in Ireland, it is encouraging to see a fresh wave of leaders equipped to make a difference and contribute to rebuilding Ireland’s reputation.

Thank you to Professor Pat Gibbons and Michael McDonnell at UCD for helping my team along the way. Thank you to MBAAI and NUI Galway, particularly James and Christine, for arranging a super event and for making us feel so welcome.  We look forward to returning the favour by welcoming teams to Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock for next year’s competition!

– Therese O’Rourke, FT MBA 2012-13

Therese and her new "hat"

Testing Our Mettle in Galway

Have you ever pondered the value chain of Coca-Cola – the world’s most recognised brand?

For six hours last Saturday, this question captured our full attention. Team Smurfit analysed the case, presented our proposal to a panel of judges, and then awaited the result of their deliberations. We were in good company. The MBA programs from Waterford Institute of Technology, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Griffith Collage fielded teams that presented their own version of what Coca-Cola should do, given a critical decision facing the CEO. Our strategy toolkit was put to the test.

The occasion was the annual MBA Association of Ireland Strategy Case Competition. Like the Eurovision, last year’s winner becomes next year’s host. Following their success in 2012, NUI Galway provided all of the competitors with warm hospitality.

A cardiac stress test is used in hospitals to measure the heart’s ability to respond to external stress in a controlled environment. The MBA stress test must be the case competition. With just four hours to read a case, analyse the data, and prepare a series of recommendations, you feel the pressure. Cooked up in a classroom for four hours provides the ideal controlled environment for the Storming Stage of team development.

When it counted this past weekend, our team passed the stress test. We are delighted to bring the winner’s trophy back to Smurfit.

Special thanks to Pat Gibbons, our strategy guru, Michael McDonnell, our coordinator (& travel budget finder), and the extended MBAAI organising team, who organized a fantastic occasion.

On a personal note, my best fortune of the MBA experience was getting to befriend and team up with Benjamin Bechtolsheim, Therese O’Rourke, Robert Farrell and Neil Krige. We had a great time working together, and we share the victory with each other and our school.

To the 2014 Smurfit MBA cohort we pass on the baton!

– Richie Somerville, FT MBA 2012/13

The winning team (L-R): Robert, Therese, Richie, Maeve O Connell (incoming President Elect MBAAI), Neil and Benjamin

The time has come

(Day 1)

After many months of fundraising, training, organising and a day of flight delays we have finallyarrived at the annual MBA Rugby World Cup tournament in Danville, North Carolina, USA to defendour title as Rugby World Cup Champions for a record 11th time!

This year we have brought 48 people consisting of 47 players and 1 coach. This is the largest numberof players who have ever represented the school at the tournament! This is testament to the hardwork of the leadership team and the players themselves in raising sufficient funds to make thishappen.
On the 2 hour bus transfer from the airport to the hotel everyone was in very high spirits with plentyof singing to keep us entertained. While I listened, I was thinking that if some of the player’s rugbyskills were as poor as their singing, we were going to be in trouble!

I was proved wrong yesterday.

The men’s team ended day one undefeated after 3 matches.

  • Game 1 Smurfit vs. London Business School (B team). Score 57 – 0
  • Game 2 Smurfit vs. Harvard Business School (B team). Score 35 – 5
  • Game 3 Smurfit vs. London Business School (B team). Score 60 – 0

The ladies team also put in a fantastic performance against some very tough opposition and are nowplaced 7th in the tournament!

The weather is extremely hot so we have had to make many trips to Walmart to stock up on water,Gatorade and fruit to keep our troops hydrated and nourished!

We are getting ready for day two and hopefully we will be booking an extra seat on the plane to bring home the silverware!

– Therese O’Rourke, FT MBA 2012-13

Get out of your comfort zone and let’s play some rugby!

When I joined the Full-time MBA programme at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in August of last year I never envisioned myself running around a pitch on a Friday evening in the torrential rain – let alone playing rugby. Well that’s exactly where I found myself three weeks ago when the MBA Rugby Club held its first training session! Although in a way I wasn’t complaining – at least I had something to blame for my lack of rugby skills!

The typical Irish weather did not deter the enthusiasm and dedication of some 40 club members, each one as determined as the next to travel to the MBA Rugby World Cup Championship in Danville VA, USA in April to defend our position as World Cup Champions for the 11th time!  We are delighted to have Steve McIvor on board again this year as team coach to help us in our endeavour. The picture below was taken after training. Aren’t we a handsome bunch!

Off the pitch (and back in my comfort zone!) I am busy working with the Club’s leadership team seeking sponsorship, fundraising and arranging the itinerary for the trip. This year Smurfit Kappa have agreed to partner with us and we are very grateful for their continued support. As part of our fundraising activities we are hosting a raffle on 1st March. Morgan Stanley have kindly sponsored the prizes which include tickets for the Heineken Cup Final and Ireland v France Six Nations game.

I attended a ‘Sport for Business’ networking event last week. It was a very enjoyable night with some really simple ideas generated as to how small businesses can activate their brand through collaboration with rugby clubs. It’s amazing what can be achieved when a few people with a shared passion for rugby and business get together in one room!

My involvement in the MBA rugby club is proving to be one of the highlights of my MBA journey. It is allowing me the opportunity to do things that I would never have otherwise done and at the same time brush up on my rugby skills of a Friday evening!

Therese O'Rourke

– Therese O’ Rourke, FT MBA 12/13