ICC@M: students come up with creative solutions for local business owner

“I was very impressed with the level of the solutions. In fact, I was blown away by how in-depth the students were able to go after just three hours of work.” This from Marcello Pauw, general manager of the iconic Hotel de l’Empereur in Maastricht. Rather than hire an expensive marketing consultant, he submitted his case to the recent ICC @ M, the second international business case competition held from 8 to 13 May by the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). The result: 16 different proposals from student teams from around the world. “I’m now looking into which of their ideas I can implement, and how.”

The 2nd  ICC @ M
Case competitions bring together talented students to compete on actual business cases. Teams are secluded and not permitted to share their proposals with other students or staff until the grand unveiling – a 20-minute presentation before an expert judging panel. Having performed exceptionally well at case competitions in Bangkok, Montreal, Copenhagen and elsewhere in recent years, SBE decided to set up its own competition last year. The 2010 ICC @ M turned out to be a resounding success – one of the highlights of SBE’s year.

Little wonder, then, that the 2011 competition was so eagerly anticipated. According to SBE Dean Jos Lemmink, its aim was “to challenge the latest generation of students to create a sustainable business future inspired by responsible leadership and sustainability”. Teams descended on Maastricht from prestigious institutes such as the University of Florida, HEC Montreal, the National University of Singapore and elsewhere. They worked on three cases in total: two short cases of three hours each, and one long one lasting a full 24 hours.

Solving real problems
The Hotel de l’Empereur was one of this year’s short cases. Owned by the family-run Amrâth Hotel Group, it is presently facing some major challenges, but also opportunities. For example, the project to build the A2 motorway around Maastricht is set to cause chaos on the city’s roads. Given its prime location directly opposite the central station, how can the hotel capitalise on the likely increase in train travel? And how to attract contractors on the A2 project, who will be needing local accommodation? Secondly, how can the hotel reach a younger, trendier crowd? Dating from 1902, it is something of a nostalgic establishment in Maastricht – but its grandness tends to scare young people away.

Instead of a one-off solution from an expensive consultancy, Pauw has ended up with 16 wide-ranging proposals. “The students all come from different business schools in different countries, with different cultural backgrounds. That makes it all the more interesting for me.” To get a feel for the place, the teams stayed in his hotel throughout the competition. All of them proposed the use of Facebook as well as a loyalty system, both of which Pauw intends to implement: “It’s high time I got on Facebook”. But they also came up with some surprising solutions: “For the more out-of-the-box ideas, I’ll run some trials and see whether they can be further rolled out.”

Benefits for businesses
The ICC @ M – which was eventually won by the University of Porto – has other benefits for regional businesses, too. Alongside the obvious sponsorship opportunities, companies can organise corporate events as well. This year, Procter and Gamble held an interactive workshop on the use of multifunctional teams to create sustainable growth for its 300-plus brands, while ABN AMRO staged a ‘Dialogues Incubator Workshop’ on how to create value by bringing together parties with different areas of expertise.

In this way, the ICC @ M helps company representatives connect with business relations, SBE staff, and highly motivated local and international students. Whether the aim is to headhunt or gain exposure, it’s also a great way for regional and Euregional businesses to simply get involved.

More information about ICC @ M? Click here.

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