Jan. 25, 2021Print | PDF
A team of undergraduate business students from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics took first place at the eighth annual Schlesinger Family Enterprise Case Competition (SG-FECC) hosted by the University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business from January 7-11, 2021.
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students Alex Clayton, Rona He, Grant Meaney and Sophie Ziomecki went up against a roster of Canadian, American, and international universities, including the University of Toronto, Esade Business School of Spain, and the University of Ottawa among others. In addition to the team’s outstanding success in the undergraduate category, Ziomecki was named best undergraduate speaker, once again bringing home the award Stephany Desroches won last year.
This is the only case competition in the world solely focused on the issues surrounding family run businesses, which represent the vast majority of businesses in North America. The Lazaridis School has sent a team each year since the competition began in 2013 and has won the undergraduate division three times and has reached the podium a total of five times since its inception.
“Our team continues to demonstrate their understanding of strategic problem solving at competitions around the world, says coach Sean Cameron, BBA ’15, product manager, Starbucks.
“The judges applauded this team’s ability to answer complex problems with innovative solutions and great presentation skills. We really appreciate the care the organizing committee took over the past few months to make us feel welcome in a virtual environment. I also want to thank our team for putting in almost six months of work into preparing for this competition; their hard work paid off and elevates the Lazaridis reputation internationally.”
Competing in their longest competition yet, the team came together under the unique and challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic to practice and prepare over the last six months. Success in the competition relied on the team’s ability to develop their skills relating to not only family businesses, “but strategic thinking, clear communication, and executional excellence required to be a great business leader,” explains Cameron.
Reflecting on the progress the team was able to make over the last six months, Ziomecki credits Coach Cameron and Sofy Carayannopoulos, Associate Professor of Policy in the Lazaridis School, for “continuously supporting our development both as individuals and as a team; the support and feedback from coaches and alumni was really the driving force behind our success. It’s a remarkable feeling to look back on our first case practice as a team and reflect on the progress that we’ve made.”
Meaney adds that his experience, like that of many case competition participants, was accumulative over several years of experience-building. “My interest started in my first year at Laurier with the Live Case Competition as well as the BDO New Venture project. Having this ‘first taste’ and hearing about the JDCC team from Sofy in lecture inspired me to try out in third year. I was lucky enough to make the team and loved it so much that I came back the year after to join the Laurier case team.”
Laurier’s growing dominance on the international case competition landscape isn’t taken for granted by the team members, who approach each case with the same mix of trepidation and excitement for new challenges and formats provided by competitions such as the SG-FECC.
“The University of Vermont competition was unique,” explains Clayton. “There were three different rounds, each focused on solving a different problem related to family businesses, including conflict management, succession planning, business expansion strategy, and more.”
Clayton attributes their success to their approach of incorporating a mix of business and family solutions to navigate the choppy waters of family business mergers, conflicts, and succession planning.
Beyond winning the competition itself, the culture of university case competitions is what keeps some students coming back for more. This is especially true for He, who says working and learning alongside brilliant teammates makes the Sunday practices more than worth it.
“That goes for everyone in the Laurier case-competition community – from competitors, coaches, and alumni – everyone is so knowledgeable, well-spoken, and driven,” says He. “There is also a huge pay-it-forward culture, and our incredible alumni always come back to support their legacy. I hope to be able to do the same!”