Today was a great day. It marked the end of our final integrative exercise. So as not to ruin any surprises for next year’s class, my following description will be deliberately vague.
Friday evening after class we received our first assignment, a case study of a company evaluating acquisition candidates. We were told that the exercise would last all weekend and that, at the end of the exercise on Monday, the two most successful teams would have an opportunity to present to the CFO of the company that was the subject of the case. Our first deliverable was due Saturday morning: a presentation on which target to acquire and why. My study group met immediately and set out our goals. We agreed on two: 1. to be selected to present to the CFO and 2. to achieve goal #1 without killing ourselves.
We got down to work, analyzed our options, made our choice, and built our story. Most of us headed home by midnight but a few troopers stayed behind to beautify the slides. Even they were happy and done by 1 AM, a major success considering most of us had pulled multiple 5AM nights (with 8 AM returns) during the last integrative exercise. There were many groups still working when we left, so we felt like we were on track to meet at least goal #2.
Four other groups were chosen to present their picks and, judging by their presentations, we felt pretty good about what we had submitted. We were then given much more detailed information about one of the companies (which happened to be our pick) and told to come back at the end of the day with a valuation for it. We worked hard all day but never seemed to get it together. By the time our deadline came around we were still feverishly plugging numbers into the spreadsheet.
Naturally this time we were chosen to present. My hat is off to my groupmate, Daniel, who presented for us, never having seen the slides before. It reminded me of my ad hoc presentation back in Februrary but he was a trooper and did as well as could have been expected–better even! Still, we clearly had a lot of room for improvement.
We were then given more information about the acquisition target and issued our final assignment: to present an investment recommendation to the protagonist company’s Board of Directors. Several groups took Saturday night off in order to recharge for a full day of work on Sunday. In line with goal #2 and our poor performance during the second phase, we went to work Saturday night to get a head start. When we returned on Sunday we were far enough along that we were one of the first groups to leave (~11 PM) even having taken a two-hour break to lunch, shop, or–in my case–lift.
As we neared completion I became more and more hopeful that I would be the one to present on behalf of my group. Fourth quarter with the game on the line has always been when I have been at my best and this was probably one of the best ways I could contribute to my group’s efforts. “Give me the ball, Coach; I won’t let you down!”
My group gave me the ball and I didn’t let them down. I felt very comfortable with the presentation but I stayed behind to run through it a few times just to make sure I would nail it when it counted. Come Monday morning we were ready for our presentation before faculty judges. Everyone in the group had contributed a great deal to the research, analysis, and format of the presentation. Furthermore, due to our accomplishment of goal #2, we were all well rested and in good spirits.
It would be presumptuous for me to declare that I nailed the presentation but, suffice to say, it went very well. My group performed excellently during the Q&A portion as well; as we left the lecture hall we all gave each other hugs for a team effort with which we were very satisfied. Now all that remained was accomplishment of goal #1, presentation to the CFO!
We heard rumors that we had been selected before lunch but it wasn’t until after lunch that we received the official news. The messenger was none other than Matt, another American classmate, who would be presenting to the CFO on behalf of his group as well. Matt and I interviewed for IMD together so I was thrilled that we would have the opportunity to present back-to-back again.
The presentations (which were in front of the rest of the class in addition to the CFO) went well. Matt’s group had produced results very similar to ours but they had come to the opposite conclusion, which made for interesting discussion. The piece de resistance of my group’s presentation was my flashing my Texas-sized belt buckle to prove credibility since the acquisition target was based in Houston. The CFO (and one of his colleagues) was a great addition, probing us about our analysis, assumptions, and conclusions. He then stuck around to share cocktails with us as we shook off the weariness of the exercise and embraced the glorious weather.
It was a great exercise and most of us agreed that we had learned a lot and really (in hindsight!) enjoyed the process. Amazingly many of us were almost sad that this was our last integrative exercise. Credit goes to Stewart Hamilton and Alicia Micklethwait (and the subject company’s Finance staff) for creating the case and organizing the exercise.
For our group it was more than just a great exercise; it was a great triumph in which we achieved our goals as a team. Each groupmate owned his/her role and made very valuable contributions. I am thankful to be in such a solid team and proud to have helped out.
Of course, before the wine bottles were even empty it was back to business as usual. It was time to plan out our assignments for the rest of the week. Still, I am high on the exercise and most of us will be in Paris in 72 hours for the MBAT so good luck dampening my spirits!