Detecting a Winner

Graduate Team Takes Top Honors in National Case Study Contest

What was the ‘best case’ for five enterprising business students soon to be out in the workforce? For five 2010 MBA graduates, it was one they wrote last spring. Their effort won this year’s first-place honors in the Small Business Institute Project of the Year.

“This project helped me get my position,” said John Bautista, who now works in USC’s Department of Health Plans. “I work in a small department and its very similar to the team situation we had for the case study. And because of that project, I realize how crucial every person’s contributions are to the success of the whole, as well as a better understanding of my role.” 

Bautista and his fellow team members, under the direction of Peng S. Chan, professor of management, took the top award in the category graduate comprehensive for their case study for Redline Detection of Placentia, which specializes in creating products that help detect leaks in various automobile systems. Most recently, the company has developed a product called ‘Green Machine’ that detects leaks in residential and commercial buildings. 

The winning case study looked at the current economic situation and how the company could continue to expand the market for its automotive product line and break into a new market for its building product. The team researched the company, its objectives, strategic direction, vision and mission, then developed a market analysis and marketing strategy.

“Student consulting teams bring value to their clients by doing the things that don’t normally get done,” said John B. Jackson, director of the university's Center for Entrepreneurship.“Many executives are just too busy to take the time to research and analyze their own firms. Additionally, the students can find opportunities that the client can overlook.” 

“We were not too surprised about the current economic situation — we had taken finance courses and discussed the status of the economy in many of our classes but when we applied our knowledge to this project, we really got a feel for how the economy does effect a company and its market,” said Bautista of Buena Park. “We needed to come up with a plan to present the ‘Green Machine’ product as something that was needed despite the current economic situation.” 

“This was an exciting experience to work with the ambitious team from Redline Detection,” said teammate Prabhu Palanisamy of Corona, who now works for Southern California Edison. “We learned how to analyze a company based on its current and past financial performance and preparation/planning for a new product launch. Various criteria for launching and study of each criteria helped us to apply what we have learned throughout the course of our MBA studies. And the process of applying structured analysis helps us every day, as well as preparing for a major initiative at our current work.” 

“Redline Detection had only a few basic requirements, but we provided many different strategies, avenues of advancement and ideas to help launch their new product,” said Matthew Clemens of Valparaiso, Ind., another member of the award-winning team. “The single hardest and most surprising part of the process is the time commitment. I see now what project managers do on a daily basis with companies trying to constantly improve their operations.” 

“We were only trying to do the best to satisfy our client’s needs at that time, not focusing on winning this competition,” said Ernest Ng of Fullerton. “For us, satisfying our client’s needs was the most important thing. I think our team was lucky to work with Redline. They have great products and were willing to provide us with all the information we needed.

“A project ultimately turns out the way it does based on how much effort you put into it,” said Palanisamy. “I know our group compiled a great deal of research and all members took ownership of their part and did the best they could.” 

“The students bring a fresh set of eyes and a diverse mix of skills to the client,” Jackson added. “Questions get answered. Problems get solved. Costs get reduced. And profits get increased.” 

“I would certainly do this again,” Palanisamy added. “Different tasks performed during this project — such as team work, collaboration, planning, understanding the business challenges, brainstorming for possible solutions, information gathering and process, deriving strategy, etc., are certainly a value add to a professional career.” 

Clemens agreed. “This case study project helped me become more adept at my new position moving from a non-managerial to a managerial position. I have to try to see every option available in order to make the best possible decision for the company and my staff.” 

“The experience gained by performing qualitative and quantitative analysis at Redline allowed me to better execute operational and strategic goals at my work place,” said Abhijit Joshi of Lake Forest. “The experience touch based on some of the aspects of my MBA curriculum, which helped me to better appreciate some of the concepts learned in school. Our team’s work ethics and positive attitude facilitated us to navigate through the project seamlessly.” 

Cal State Fullerton teams have won nine national championships and been among the top 10 in the federal contest 19 times over the last 20 years.

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