ACG Cup Round 1: Tales from a Finance Case Competition

The USD ACG Cup Teams

I am a first year full-time MBA. A little while back I was asked to join one of the ACG Cup teams. I casually replied, “sure.” In the same spirit as the semi-successful Jim Carey movie, Yes Man, my philosophy while in business school is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just volunteered every remaining free minute of my life for a week. First off, some background on the ACG Cup. According to the ACG website, “The ACG Cup is a case study competition where MBA students are given an opportunity to present valuation, capital markets and M&A strategic advice to a panel of seasoned professionals within the San Diego ACG community.” In other words, it’s a finance case competition. So how does it work? Teams of 4 receive a 20-page finance case exactly one week before they are to deliver a 20-minute presentation to a panel of 4 judges.

Simple enough. Thank goodness that my cohort mate that invited me onto his team is a finance/numbers virtuoso. One of the greatest skills that my fellow cohort members and I are developing during our MBA experience at USD is the ability to identify team member’s strengths and how to leverage those strengths.  Whether an individual is a finance guru or the Jimmy Page of Powerpoint, identifying the value that each team member can add to the group is a critical skill in grad school and in the working world.  This case competition called on all of our time-management, delegation, quantitative and soft skills that we have been developing so far in our MBA.

Presentation day arrived. That morning, a drawing determined the order of the presentations. The presentations were scheduled between 6-8pm. Most teams were back on campus at 8am after having left the library group-work rooms earlier that morning at 1am, others at 3am. As my team’s presentation time neared, I tried to keep convincing myself that I had ice-water running through my veins… how tough could the judges be anyway? I looked over the roster of the judges: judge 1 had 3 degrees from MIT, judge 2 was a current venture capitalist, judge 3 worked in the treasury department of WD-40 and judge 4 was one of the founders of Odyssey Golf, among other ventures. That didn’t exactly help the nerves. Once we began, my teammates were firing on all cylinders and the presentation went off without a hitch. I couldn’t have been more proud of my team.

Decision time. USD had 4 teams competing against each other in the first round of competition. And the Oscar goes to… not my team.  Bummer. The winning USD MBA team put together a great presentation and nailed the strategy of the case.  We are all excited for them to crush the next rounds of the competition as they face off against the likes of SDSU, UCLA and USC.

The Winning USD Team!

The competition between the USD MBAs was now over. It was time to reflect on the experience.  I did the math; I spent over 60 hours on campus that week. The winning team, along with the rest of us losers, all went to the local dive-bar together to discuss our previously secretive presentations over a couple of coldies. That’s when I realized how great of a place USD is for an MBA. Even after a hard-fought competition, we all came together and our friendships were cultivated by the shared challenge that we had all just experienced.

The bottom line: get involved and take some chances. Next time someone asks you to join him or her in a challenge, say “sure” or a maybe even a more emphatic “Yes!” You will learn a ton and probably find out that your capacity to get things done is far greater than you think. Not only did we all gain a much deeper understanding of the finance concepts we covered and gain exposure to some key players in the San Diego business community, but we also learned a lot about each other and strengthened our growing friendships. Keep an eye out for an update from the winning team as they continue on in the competition. Best of luck Team USD!

-Tom Bobo

Tom is a first year full-time MBA student. He graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder. His MBA area of emphasis is Marketing and New Venture Management.

Make sure to check out Dean Dave Pyke’s Blog.

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