If you had a time machine and could relive a single day, do you know what you'd choose? I do. November 23rd, 2014. That's the day my team and I swept gold at the Ontario Colleges' Marketing Competition. At this point during my college career, I had grown into a case competition fiend, competing in dozens of high-pressure presentations including this annual four-day event. Every school in the province took part, and the winner got the fabled OCMC cup.
Before you have the privilege to compete, you need to make the team. With only twenty students picked to take part in OCMC each year, competition is stiff. To claim your spot on the team, you need to first win "The Cage Match". Ushered into a fluorescent-lit room and asked to prepare a presentation for a case you've never read before, you're quickly shuttled directly into our President's boardroom, presenting your case in front of a dozen professors and staff members, with only fifteen minutes of preparation time. They go out of their way to ask you questions that are designed to make you crumble. And most of the time, they do.
Once you've made it past that stage, the competition begins. Every week you spend a few hours with your case competition partner (a total stranger at the beginning of the semester), and your designated professor/coach. You work through case competition drills, absorb real world events that may benefit your specific topic, and meet the entire Pilon School of Business faculty along the way. In late November, you're driven up to the school hosting the event, ushered into a halogen-lit board room, and expected to come out fifteen minutes later with a presentation, a solution to the case, and a boatload of confidence.
The first year, my teammate Karla and I claimed silver in the entrepreneurship case. A classmate of ours (and fellow OCMC competitor) fell ill with the chickenpox a few nights prior to the competition, and I was asked to sub in for his case, in addition to my own. We managed to snag fifth, putting Sheridan College in second overall. I was happy. We spent the rest of the weekend at a hotel in Windsor, Ontario, and (me being eighteen at the time), consumed a few dozen apple juices in celebration.
By now it was senior year, and I had one last shot at winning this thing. The topic I was given was international business, and as a legacy member to OCMC, I was fortunate to skip the tryouts, with professors I now considered my friends. The event took place in the Blue Mountains, Ontario, and the twelve of us rented a cottage for the weekend.
I'll be honest. I don't remember much of that weekend, but there's one thing that'll remained seared into my long term memory for the foreseeable future. It was the final question one of the judges asked me, before we won the International Marketing case, my senior year of college.
He was the CEO of the company highlighted in this case, which added an unexpected element of realism to the whole thing. His family owned a struggling boutique furniture business, looking for a way to survive against budget-friendly giants like IKEA and Structube. He asked me if I had a single word to describe his company.
The answer was art.