The winning team of Alex Robb, Emily Masters, Brad Schlafer and Sarah Reidy present their recommendations to a panel of judges at the 2018 internal Race & Case competition.

On Jan. 2, a day before the start of Winter Quarter 2018, 40 graduate students from the Daniels College of Business were faced with a challenge. The students—divided into 10 teams of four— were participating in Race & Case, the nation’s only business ethics case competition and ski challenge. Their task? To offer recommendations to increase net margins at the Little Pub Company—an organization that owns and operates 23 pubs in the Denver metro area.

But there was a catch: The students had just 72 hours to complete the challenge.

After reviewing the case, conducting research and presenting their recommendations to a panel of judges on Jan. 5 in Margery Reed Hall, the students hit the slopes in Breckenridge on Jan. 6 for the second part of the competition—a downhill ski race.

“The 72-hour time limit was challenging and we had to prioritize quite a bit,” said Alex Robb, a second-year Denver MBA student. “We met the first day to review the case, come up with a framework for our argument, and go out to do some research to support it. We ended up pivoting the second day based on what we had found, which added another wrinkle to the challenge. We were able to put everything together the night before the presentation and refined our deck right up to the competition.”

Race & Case, developed at Daniels 15 year ago, is undoubtedly one of the nation’s most unique graduate case competitions. It is often cited by students as one of their favorite graduate school experiences.

Robb and three of his Denver MBA classmates—Emily Masters, Sarah Reidy and Brad Schlafer—won this year’s internal Race & Case competition. Robb noted, “Brad Schlafer and I had participated last year and finished in second place. We enjoyed the competition and wanted another shot at winning. The four of us all felt that with another year of the MBA curriculum under our belt, we were well prepared for Race & Case.”

Masters echoed Robb’s sentiment. “Everything I’ve done in the Denver MBA program prepared me for the Race & Case experience. From the group challenge work, to giving presentations on a regular basis, our team knew how to put our heads together, divide and conquer, and execute. We felt confident in our recommendations and presented a solution we felt would be meaningful and actionable to the featured company. Plus, we got to spend a day skiing together in the beautiful Rocky Mountains!”

This year’s case, co-authored by Assistant Professor of Management Paul Seaborn and Adjunct Professor of Management Bud Bilanich, provided the students with enough information to get them started but the teams had to rely on their own research, and the business knowledge they’ve acquired during their time at Daniels, to address the challenge and present their recommendations to the panel of judges.

The 2018 judges included high-ranking, Denver-area business professionals from Accenture, Deloitte & Touche, DISH Network and Sling TV, HSS, Inc., Newmont Mining Corporation, Statera, TIAA and Zimmer Biomet Spine. Mark Berzins, Little Pub Company’s “Lead Dog,” and CEO KC Gallagher, also sat on the panel.

The winning team from Daniels now has the opportunity to compete for $20,000 against teams from the following 12 universities at the international Race & Case competition Feb. 23-24:

  • University of California, Berkeley
  • London Business School
  • American University
  • University of Southern California
  • Georgia Tech University
  • Purdue University
  • Baylor University
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Florida
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Arizona

In looking ahead to the international competition, Robb made some predictions regarding his team’s strategy. “We’ll probably use a similar approach, using as much collaboration and creativity as we can to develop our argument, conduct necessary research, and a lot of practice to make sure that our deck and presentation is as clean as possible,” he said. “We also spent a bit of time preparing for anticipated questions from the judges the morning of the competition and we’ll certainly do that for the international competition as well.”

Ultimately though, Robb is looking forward to having a bit more time to prepare for the international competition in February. “Having three weeks instead of three days to prepare will definitely be helpful!”

Learn more about Race & Case at daniels.du.edu/race-case.