Jan. 23, 2020Print | PDF
In December 2019, undergraduate business students from Wilfrid Laurier University's Lazaridis School of Business and Economics finished in third place at the Global Business Case Challenge (GBCC) hosted at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, in Beppu City, Oita, Japan.
“We have never attended this competition before and the cultural differences and language challenges required significant learning," said faculty advisor to the team, Sofy Carayannopoulos, associate professor of policy. "The students invested substantial time and effort through the fall to make it happen.”
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students on the team included Kathryn Porretta, Ruslan Nikolaev, Daniel Roytman and Alexandru Pantea. The team was accompanied by coach Srin Sridharan, BBA/BMath '14, partner at Waypoint Investment Partners.
"Our students received praise from all their competitor universities, professors and local judges for the quality and relevance of their solutions and for bringing great reputation and brand lift to the Lazaridis School,” said Sridharan.
GBCC is Japan’s first and only international undergraduate business case competition. GBCC differentiates itself by following core concepts of diversity, synergy, innovation, mentorship and the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie. The competition aimed to provide students, sponsors, APU and communities in Japan with long-term benefits designed to reward their hard work and participation.
Thanks to a connection made by Lazaridis marketing instructor Shirley Lichti, the students were also able to connect with and gain invaluable insights about Japanese business culture from industry mentor Narita-san, who said, “I worked for two companies in my 40-year career. I had opportunities to travel to North America and Europe as part of my work and was sometimes puzzled by their business communications. The message from my international peers always seemed to be now, not future; result, not process; me, not we, which is very different from Japanese ‘groupism’. Japanese workers usually stay for long periods of time with one employer, so we are more interested in long-term success over immediate results. This fosters a culture of helping others within the company because we are all in the same boat for a long time. Others looking for success in Japanese business, should understand the difference between ‘I’ and ‘we’.”
One of the students on the Lazaridis School team, Pantea, is a double degree student in BBA and BMath at the University of Waterloo. He is also a teaching assistant for first-year business courses and spends his weekends practicing with the case team.
“This was my second case competition with the team, but my first international case," said Pantea. "Let me tell you that culture shock is real. The first few days, I felt really unsure about Japan. It was so different. After the fourth day I liked it and by the end I loved it! I’m looking forward to going back. After being immersed in such a different culture, I felt like I had to reacclimatize to Canada when we got home.”
He continued: “It was interesting to reflect on the differences between the North American case structure and the Japanese model. In North America, we tend to be more ‘doom and gloom’ where companies must face the problem at hand or perish. The consultants are also more authoritative in addressing the solution. In Japan, the approach was quite different and included noting the past successes of the company in order to make informed recommendations that could improve their future success. It was also important to present it in a way that is indicative of respect for the work and history, and humility while suggesting improvements.”
The team participated in two cases. The first was a five-hour case that looked at marketing Japanese toilet paper. The second was a 24-hour case presented by a Japanese medical health consulting company looking to develop an international expansion strategy. The students were required to form a strong understanding of the company and the Japanese market as well as opportunities for expansion and the regulations around foreign investments in healthcare.
“For me, case competitions bring out creativity and solutions. I’ve developed a level of confidence in my own analytical rigor that I wouldn’t otherwise have, and the opportunity to explore and experience other countries and cultures, where I get to network and grow, is invaluable,” said Pantea, who will represent the Lazaridis School in March at the Belgrade Business International Case Competition in Serbia.
A team from Chinese University of Hong Kong earned first place and a team from the University of Sydney, Australia won second place. A team from the University of Toronto earned fourth place. Other participating schools included University of British Columbia, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and NEOMA Business School to name a few.
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