On April 7-10, a team of five students from the College of Business travelled to Arlington, Virginia to compete in the Society for the Advancement of Management Case Study Competition. The team presented on April 8, and were awarded third place in the Bush Undergraduate Division. This was the first time since 2009 that a Harding team has placed in the competition.
The team, made up of seniors Phoebe Cunningham, Stephen Hedlund, Cinthia Andrade, Corey Bassett and junior Fanny Bonilla, was tasked with developing strategies to solve current problems with Target stores nationwide. According to Hedlund, the two major issues the team found were inventory management and website traffic.
“Almost half of Americans first go to Amazon for their online shopping needs,” Hedlund said. “So, Target is really competing with some pretty big competitors. Our solution was a total redesign of Target’s website. We actually went through and compared Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart’s websites and found almost 40 features that Amazon and Wal-Mart have that Target doesn’t.”
Andrade, who participated in last year’s competition, consulted with faculty advisors to handpick a team of diverse, hardworking students to take on the challenge. Mike Oliver, associate professor of management and the team’s faculty advisor, said he began working through a practice case study with them in the fall semester to prepare them for when the actual competition began in January.
“When the official case is received, I cannot help them in any way with the preparation,” Oliver said. “I don’t know what they’ve done until I hear them present it in front of the judges. So in that sense, my hands are kind of tied. About all I can do is ask ‘How’s it going?’ I am not able to discuss the case with them or give them suggestions. So in the fall, I need to give them as much information as I possibly can.”
Andrade said the team set guidelines for how often they wanted to meet and goals for when they wanted to have certain elements of the presentation completed. At the beginning of the spring semester, they met twice every week, but as the competition approached, they found themselves meeting daily. Andrade said she is thankful for how well the team members worked together.
“It’s a great team – the dynamic and everything just really worked out,” Andrade said.
Hedlund agreed with Andrade and said the relationships he formed challenged him to think outside of the box when solving problems.
“I learned a lot about team development,” Hedlund said. “When we were practicing first semester we were just some students working together. But by the second semester, we were friends doing this together. The team dynamics along with the presentation dynamics were a lot cleaner and smoother because we had spent so much time together. It made the presentation much easier to do and gave it a united feel because we were a team, not just students who happened to be on a project together.”
Oliver also said he noticed how well the team interacted with each other, even though they were stressed and nervous.
“That was one of the best presentations of any Harding team that I’ve been associated with,” Oliver said. “They did a great job with it. In my experience, it was the best all across the board. They were a joy to travel with, and I would love to take that team and go again. They were a class act.”