Nov. 16, 2022Print | PDF
On Oct. 2, a team of undergraduate students from the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University won second place in the 2022 University of Sydney Business School Case Competition (USCC). The international competition was held remotely and brought together 11 teams from leading universities around the world.
On the team were: Abigail Leu, third-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA); Allison Sutherland, fourth-year Double Degree BBA and Math from the University of Waterloo (BMath); Connor Sinclair, fourth-year BBA; and Imaad Mian, third-year Double Degree in BBA and BMath.
Since starting her studies at the Lazaridis School, Sutherland has wanted to compete in international competitions. She said she was excited about the opportunity to represent the Lazaridis School on the international stage.
“Training for the competition was a lot of work but it was also really fun. I was able to work alongside some really talented individuals who pushed me to be my best,” Sutherland said.
Leu learned about the opportunity through a coach on the Lazaridis Case Team. Like Sutherland, Leu was also excited when offered a spot on the team for the competition.
“The best part about the entire training process was getting to work with my team and learn from them. Everyone has unique experiences and insights, making for fun practices and a source of never-ending learning,” Leu said.
This year’s business challenge was to create and present a new business model for electrification and public transit. The pitches were presented to a team from JOLT, an electric vehicle charging company with operations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.
Sinclair said the team developed a solution to provide a way for municipal transit operators to make an economically feasible transition from gas-powered to electric buses. “By providing the charging infrastructure in the bus terminals and sharing revenues from public daytime operations, we provided a way for the bus operator to charge easily overnight, while reducing their costs.”
The team said their approach to the challenge was the same approach used in all of the cases by members of the Laurier Case Team. In every competition, Mian said they start by analyzing the issue, summarizing all the essential requirements, and only then do they start identifying potential solutions.
While the challenge for this competition seems simple—do you charge buses on-route or at the depot? —Mian said the team knew they needed to think differently to make an impression with the judges. The team researched the current electrification landscape to identify gaps in existing solutions and identified the needs of key stakeholders, including bus drivers and public transportation users.
Their solution presented JOLT with an opportunity to help ease the transition to electric transit while also helping to promote electrification as a whole.
“We knew that simply answering this question is not how you win a competition. Instead, we spent time brainstorming and trying to differentiate ourselves. This is what led to our ultimate solution of opening up bus depots for general public E.V. charging during the day,” Mian said.
Sofy Carayannopoulos, associate professor of Strategic Management and faculty advisor for case competition activities, said she was incredibly impressed with the team’s efforts.
“Their analysis, recommendation and presentation and visuals were exceptional. They were coached by one of our alumni, Matthew Donovan, who brought home several podiums himself and volunteers heavily to support the team,” Carayannopoulos said.
Mian was previously coached by Donovan on the Jeux De Commerce Central (JDCC) debate and International Business Strategy Teams and said having a coach like him is invaluable—both in the competitions and in his career after graduating.
“He brings his veteran knowledge as a former competitor to ensure that the feedback we take away is actionable,” Mian added.
Leu said that having weekly touchpoints with successful alumni is an excellent opportunity not offered by many other schools. One example Leu gave was the challenge of limiting their presentation time to 10 minutes. Donovan shared a framework with the team to decide what should be included in a pitch.
“He sent a recording of him doing the presentation in that timeframe to further help show to us what it would look like in practice. As a team, we were so thankful to have Matthew Donovan as our coach, and could not have grown and improved as a team without him,” Leu said.
For Sinclair, case competitions are another way that the Lazaridis School sets up students for success with diverse skill sets and a broad business mindset.
“You develop your confidence and comfort with thoughtful business analysis, which is helpful for school, co-op placements, and in our careers,” Sinclair said.