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Otago student represents NZ at international business competition

Thursday 8 March 2018 12:16pm

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The New Zealand Universities team, from left: Daniel Chan (University of Canterbury), Sarah Postlethwaite (University of Victoria, Wellington), Claudia Grave (University of Otago), and Conner Smith-Traill (Auckland University of Technology).

The University of Florida Heavener Business Case Competition attracts the smartest business students from around the world. The University of Otago sent double-degree finalist Claudia Grave to compete as a member of the New Zealand Universities' Team, and she relished the challenge.

The Heavener Business Case Competition gives chosen students a week of business experience with fellow competitors from across the world. They are given cases of real-life businesses and challenged to use problem-solving, teamwork and good communication skills to provide solutions for their clients. The competition exposes students to the strategic challenges and decisions encountered by global business leaders.

Claudia is due to graduate this year with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Marketing with a minor in Accounting, and a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Sport and Exercise Nutrition.

In 2017, Claudia was the top student in MART 301, Otago’s strategic marketing management course.

“Dr John Guthrie teaches that paper and is also the Chairman of New Zealand’s Student Development Society (NZSDS), and he suggested that I apply for a place on the New Zealand team.”

She believes taking Dr Guthrie’s course is what helped her to be successful in the business case competition.

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The NZ team before a presentation at the University of Florida.

“Our assignments and exams last year were all based on real-life cases which gave me diverse exposure, and simulated real world work environments. Additionally, my strategic marketing paper taught a really solid process to apply to any strategic problem, which formed the basis of how we worked through all of our cases in Florida.”

This is the first year that New Zealand has been able to participate after the University of Florida approached the NZSDS, which runs the New Zealand Case Competition League, and invited them to send a team of university students.

Claudia’s team-mates were Sarah Postlethwaite from Victoria University of Wellington, Daniel Chan from the University of Canterbury, and Conner Smith-Traill from Auckland University of Technology.

Having the team members in different locations for the weeks leading up to the competition was a disadvantage, Claudia says, but they finally had the chance to meet at training camps in Auckland and Wellington right before they left for Florida.

“It was hard to establish team dynamics when we were doing a lot of our preparation from different locations, and once we got to Florida we had to spend a lot of time preparing for the cases.”

However, Claudia felt that working with a geographically dispersed team probably simulated a situation she might face one day in the workforce.

The New Zealand team worked on two business cases, one for a Florida-based tutoring company wanting advice to achieve expansion and scale, and the other for a global consulting firm who wanted strategic recommendation on how to improve its 'onboarding' process for new staff.

The second case had a 30-hour preparation time, which meant the team had to establish a solid time-management plan to keep them on track during the case.

“I was so proud of the way my team members worked together, the ideas we developed and how we presented as a whole.”

As well as working on the business cases, the team’s schedule involved networking events with members of the other 19 universities taking part, as well as staff from the companies on which the cases were based.

Claudia called it an “incredible chance to build my global network.”

They also enjoyed trips to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the University of Florida football stadium, and a spot of shopping.

“There were a few social events for all of the teams that we attended, and meeting the like-minded participants from other universities was definitely a highlight for myself and my team.”