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Strong Analytics Stand Out in Business Proposal for SweetWater Brewery

February 07, 2012

Booth team takes second place at Deloitte National Case Competition

Four Full-Time Program MBA Booth students mixed craft beer, consulting, and competition in early January in Dallas, soaring to number two in the Deloitte National Case Competition (NCC).

The bracket-style head-to-head competition, now in its second year, is an opportunity for top MBA students to showcase their problem-solving skills, marketplace knowledge, and analytic and strategic thinking abilities, while simultaneously competing for cash prizes and valuable face time with Deloitte and industry professionals. This year, the complex business problem the teams were asked to solve involved developing a growth strategy for a craft brewery, or microbrewery.

From January 5 to 8, 2012, Booth’s team of first-year students stayed at the 107-acre Deloitte University campus in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and competed against teams from other top business schools, including the University of Virginia, MIT, and the University of Michigan. Over the course of the competition, the students participated in quick-fire marketing competitions with top talent from other business schools, and met with Deloitte professionals, who continue to mentor the students as they work toward receiving their MBA degrees.

Dan DeRemigis, who initially organized the Booth team, brought together peers from a variety of backgrounds, including marketing and product development, finance and banking, and economic consulting. His teammate, Kristin Sun, says she “decided to enroll because I’d never been exposed to cases before, and I wanted to understand the consultant industry a little more.” Their team was rounded out by Jennifer Jazwinski and Mark Cohen.

The team advanced to the NCC after winning the Booth case competition, where they triumphed over 16 teams to solve a business problem for Two Brothers, a Chicago-based brewery.

At the NCC, all participating teams had 12 hours to research and develop a growth strategy for SweetWater, an Atlanta-based craft brewery, and then to present their cases the following day to industry professionals and Deloitte managers alike.

SweetWater wanted to see recommendations for how the company could grow its top line over the next three to five years. Deloitte provided each of the 16 teams with a data packet and framework to shape their proposals for the brewery. True to the Booth brand, the team members garnered praise for their strong analytic abilities.

With this growth comes both rapid urbanization and an unprecedented demand for energy and infrastructure. Mehta said, “Infrastructure drives prosperity. The primary effect of increased infrastructure is the rearrangement of the spatial distribution of jobs, industry, and residences within a local area.”

“We focused on using the framework they provided us, and we looked carefully both at the customers and the target products,” Jazwinski said. “We came up with a strategy and did the analytics behind it to come up with our financial projections.” Added Sun, “You really have to be able to identify the key pieces of information you need to solve the problem, and then be able to structure your recommendation so that it’s backed by data analysis and strong rationale.”

The Booth teammates agreed that their strong analytics and unusually cohesive teamwork helped them reach the top two. DeRemigis cited Booth’s Leadership Effectiveness and Development Program (LEAD) as a formative experience in terms of teamwork and presentation. As a participant in the LEAD Program, his student presentations were videotaped, and he was given extensive feedback. DeRemigis used the same practice tool to help his team prepare for the presentations for the NCC.

Once at the competition, all the team members were careful to stay close to the problem they were being asked to solve. “We were really good at staying true to the goal,” said Cohen. “We made sure we didn’t stray too far down another path. We asked ourselves, ‘what is the problem, and how can we solve it?’”

DeRemigis added, “Although the problem was somewhat ambiguous, there was certainly direction in specific things they wanted to see—like the implementation plan, the biggest driver, and specific numbers related to it. Tying everything together was one of the more challenging things, but it was one of the things that we did really well.”

For the NCC SweetWater case, the team made specific growth strategy suggestions to expand the product line and the distribution channels. “Initially, SweetWater was only selling in grocery stores, and we wanted to expand to convenience and big-box stores,” DeRemigis said.

Booth prides itself in helping to foster ideas that fundamentally shape business, and the NCC demonstrated the students’ ability to think of, and successfully implement, ideas, even in an extremely tight timeframe.

Sun said, “When I look back at my Booth education, this will probably be one of the most memorable experiences.”

—Laura M. Browning