During my downtime I try to read all the new case prep books that come out on the market. While I don’t like pumping my own tires or throwing shade on my competitors, most of the recent books don’t offer anything new, they repackage what has been written before. That doesn’t bother me, but I get upset when I read or hear about bad advice. I’m not going to name the books, but I will point out a few things that I disagree with and let you be the judge. Just because the authors are former consultants and interviewed a bunch of candidates it doesn’t automatically mean they know what they are doing concerning case interviews. They know what they looked for, and maybe what their firm looked for, but not all firms are alike.
Market entry case. Look at the new market first to see how attractive it is. I think that is a mistake. I think you should look at your client first. Ask why it wants to enter the market. Next, gain an understanding of its size and how well it’s been doing (profits and revenues for the last three years), capabilities, product mix, distribution channels, brand strength, customer segmentation, and what constitutes success to the client? How can you determine how attractive the new market is to the client if you don’t know anything about the client? You should be looking at the new market from the clients point-of-view, not just your POV.
Profit and loss case. One book suggests that you look at profit drivers first. Have sales gone down? Have prices gone down? Both very important points. And it would be a good place to start if you live in a vacuum. I like to look at external factors first and see if our competitor’s profits are down as well. Is this our problem or an industry problem? External factors like the economy, the environment or a health scare – think Coronavirus, play a huge role in the understanding of falling profits. How many times have you heard companies say that it missed its profit goals because of a cold, snowy winter where consumers didn’t go out and spend. Or because consumers have less disposable income. Break out of your vacuum and join the real world. You’ll look less the fool.
A private equity case. Look at the market attractiveness of the targeted company first. Yikes! While that’s very important, I’d prefer if you get an understanding of the private equity firm first. Why do they want to buy the targeted company? What do they plan to do with it? And what else does the PE firm own? Get to know your client. The client is the most important thing. And don’t assume that the PE firm mostly looks at attractive, successful companies to acquire. Ever hear of Leon Black and Apollo Global Management? It’s the most successful PE firm on the street. Businessweek tells us the Black made his fortune by “buying struggling businesses with huge piles of debt at bargain-basement prices…”
Pricing cases. One book suggests that the three things you look at are the three pricing strategies, price by margin, price by comparing competitor prices, and price by the customer’s willingness to pay. This former consultant forgot the most important one. Client strategy/objective. Is the client going for market share? Is it going for big margins? Or does it want to get the product out on the market at a low price because it will make more money on the ancillary products? Understand the client’s objective first.
Your final recommendation really doesn’t matter because the interviewer has already made up her mind at that point. If that is true, shame on the interviewer. While it is true that interviewers form an opinion from the moment they meet you, you have 45-60 minutes to either substantiate the good or change the bad. I can’t tell you the number of rote, pedestrian recommendations I hear. A great recommendation can be a game changer. The recommendation allows you to standout, to be creative, to differentiate yourself from the rest, and to close the deal.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of good information in these books, 99% of it you’ll find in Case in Point. Which is probably the book they read when preparing for their case interviews years ago. There is a reason Case in Point has been the best-selling case interview prep book on the market for the last 15 years and why all the top firms recommend it during their case interview workshops.
About the Author
Marc, the world’s foremost authority on case interviewing has twenty seven years of experience with case questions. He has written well over a hundred cases, while coaching, preparing and training more than a hundred and fifty thousand students and alumni. He has written three books involving cases and consulting. Cosentino has given workshops to students at colleges and MBA programs for the last twenty seven years and has held training sessions for career services professionals on how to give cases and how to analyze a student’s performance.