Graduate students from nine colleges solve ethical case for HomeAdvisor at Daniels’ 17th annual Race and Case competition
“Ya’ll have all four seasons in one day here.” Gesturing to the 60-degree weather with snow still on the ground, the University of South Carolina graduate student and his three peers were one of nine teams presenting solutions to an ethical business case at the 17th annual national Race and Case event, hosted by the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business Feb. 27–March 1.
Though comments about the weather are usually trite, when teams are tasked with addressing the shortage of skilled labor for home repair, construction and service trades, understanding Colorado’s climate demonstrates you’re attuned to your market—mission-critical to the case portion of the competition.
HomeAdvisor—presenting sponsor of the 2020 Race and Case competition and co-author of the case—welcomed the 36 competitors from American University, University of Florida, Auburn University, University of Pittsburgh, University of South Carolina, University of Alabama, University of Nebraska, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Denver with a reception at its headquarter office in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood Thursday evening.
Surrounded by a two-story twisty blue slide, pinball machines and foosball tables, HomeAdvisor Recruiter Catherine Naughton shared the company’s values of innovation, collaboration and empowerment.
“In this case, there are obvious solutions,” she said. “The teams that present innovative ideas that surpass the obvious will be the teams that do well.”
In the case, 26-year-old Army veteran Steve Hronas has an interest in construction, a network of family and friends in Denver, and a desire to start his own business without incurring student loan debt by attending college. Teams were tasked with creating a plan for Steve—his business niche, location, marketing plan, education, expenses, and a financial forecast projecting how soon he could reach $1 million in gross revenue.
On Friday, teams took to the stage, giving 12-minute presentations about their solutions to two sets of judges in Margery Reed Hall’s Reiman Theater and boardroom. Some brought Steve to life through a Bitmoji. Others honed in on the ethical implications of the case (leveraging his father’s insurance business for leads, for example). One team had Steve remodeling kitchens while another had him repairing roofs. Yet another made Steve a billionaire.
Executives from TTEC, Hitachi Vantara, Project C.U.R.E., Western Union, Zayo Group and HomeAdvisor scored teams on their knowledge of the facts of the case; prioritization of issues; consideration of alternative courses of action; decision-making rationale; commitment to ethics; and presentation effectiveness.
With case presentations (and 90% of their total scores) out of the way, participants ventured west to Winter Park Resort. On Saturday, they participated in the competition’s culminating event—an alpine ski or snowboard race down the timed run at the Winter Park Resort Competition Center. One after another, graduate business students from eight U.S. states slalomed halfway down the Cranmer ski run, cheering each other on. The fastest male and female times comprised the final 10% of each team’s overall score.
Once again, the weather was a topic of choice. With 207 inches of snowfall to date this season, the mountain’s fresh layer of powder was softened by a 40-degree, quintessentially sunny Colorado day. A competitor from the University of Alabama removed his coat.
“I took too sharp of a turn and wiped out on that last practice run. I’m hoping to do better on these next two. Our strategy was to knock it out of the park on the case and do just OK enough on the ski race. We don’t get a lot of chances to practice [skiing] down in Alabama,” he chuckled.
At 4 p.m., teams convened for the après ski awards ceremony at Winter Park’s Vintage Hotel.
“You can’t have a competition without competitors, judges or sponsors,” said Daniels Associate Dean and COO Yee-Ann Cho, thanking all of the stakeholders who organized and participated in the event.
Sharfi Farhana, senior VP, talent acquisition and management for HomeAdvisor, said, “Our angle here was to mine some of the best brains in the country to solve this case. I am extremely impressed by the rigor and the amount of polish you all demonstrated in focusing on the underserved population of home-related service providers. Bring that spirit of entrepreneurship to the next thing you do. We know you’re going to do amazing things in this world, and we hope you put all those powers toward something good.”
With the closest results in many years, the Georgia Institute of Technology took first place, bringing home gold medals, a traveling trophy, new ski goggles and $5,000. The University of Florida came in second place, and the University of Pittsburgh took third place.
Ryan Coulter, a Master of Science in Business Analytics student from DU’s team, was the fastest racer, with a time of 25 seconds, 13 milliseconds.
By the time teams boarded their flights back home, they indeed experienced all of Colorado’s seasons in one weekend. The clouds rolled in Sunday afternoon, and with them came rain, then snow, marking the end of Race and Case—until next year.
Race and Case is the signature event for the Daniels College of Business. HomeAdvisor, Alterra Mountain Company and Winter Park Resort were presenting sponsors of the 2020 Race and Case competition. For more information, visit daniels.du.edu/race-and-case/.