Four MBA students in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business competed in the finals of the Big Ten MBA Case Competition hosted at Ohio State University in March.
Vyom Joshi of Hillsboro, Oregon, captured the title of Big Ten Best Presenter. He and Tiffany Huffmann of Fort Myers, Florida; Andrew Payne of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota; and Kelli O’Neil of Omaha, Nebraska; worked together to create actionable business solutions for Bath & Body Works after meeting in person at the competition.
“We prepared ahead of time but remained flexible once we got there. Everyone on the team works full-time and is a student in the MBA program. We’re used to real-world business situations where it’s required to be open, flexible and confident in our final presentation,” said O’Neil, senior consultant of client experience at Lincoln Financial Network. “We do a lot of group work throughout the semester, but I was so excited to work with my fellow online MBA students in person.”
The four students prepared via Zoom for a month before the competition. Though they didn’t find out the specific business problem until the team arrived in Ohio for the competition, they researched Bath & Body Works through an industry and SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) analysis and quarterly earnings.
“We also reviewed important concepts from past classes, especially marketing, but also finance, supply chain management and more. Each of us visited our local Bath & Body Works stores to analyze the products, placement, marketing, and employee and customer interaction,” said Joshi, who started the top-ranked Nebraska program in 2021 so he could specialize in finance while taking the online courses in any order when they fit in his schedule.
Once learning the Bath & Body Works problem while in Ohio, the team worked for 24 hours to find actionable solutions. Joshi shared that the most difficult part “was figuring out how to provide the customers with a better omni-channel experience” while remaining focused on employees.
“Once we determined the solution, we each focused on our parts and were able to bring the whole presentation together. We truly worked great as a team,” Joshi said. “Andrew (economics and planning manager at Flint Hills Resources) was the team leader and had experience with various root cause analyses. He helped narrow down the origin of Bath & Body Work’s challenges. Kelli and Tiffany were industry experts.”
Huffman added that she and O’Neil came from a project management and consulting backgrounds with experience in storytelling.
“Vyom and Andrew come from more technical and analytics backgrounds. They were the experts with analyzing the case financials,” Huffman said. “The best part of the experience was collaborating with a team from all different backgrounds — two engineers, a financial services consultant, and me - a project manager. It was cool to see how each person approached the problem using their unique skill sets.”
Tammy Beck, associate professor of management, served as the team’s advisor. At the first Zoom meeting, she provided guidance and insight, and the team asked her to come back and review their research halfway through it.
“Dr. Beck brought examples of marketing-related cases and other research materials which were helpful. She also pointed out areas we needed to explore further,” Joshi said. “We used her feedback to improve our final presentation.”
Beck also shared the Good Enough Push Onward mantra shared by colleague Sam Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management, to help keep the team on schedule. Nelson helps students in all majors across the university through his work at the center.
After watching a financial YouTube video created by Joshi, Beck noted his financial analysis skills. She also knew his strong presentation skills would be an asset to the team.
Joshi said his goal to become a better value investor provided the motivation for creating his financial YouTube channel. Having set up a Superior North LLC after earning his undergraduate degree, he started writing blogs about various macro and micro topics and then moved to videos.
“Each of our MBA students brought a strong business background to the team but each also added unique skill sets that when combined made the team stronger,” Beck said. “Joshi was able to showcase his talents at the competition by presenting the financial analysis.”
“I am a disciple of Warren Buffett, Ben Graham and Charlie Munger. The motivation to create the YouTube video was not only to get better at fundamental analysis but also understand the sector and company dynamic. By going through annual reports, financial statements, key ratios and intrinsic values, I was both teaching and learning while becoming a better value investor,” he said.
Joshi shared how the fully online MBA program helped provide him with a better understanding of various financial instruments such as derivatives, hedges and options. He also better appreciates the complex nature of multinational companies and has a firm understanding of the macro reasons why capital flows in and out of countries.
“On a micro level, I received formal education in the MBA program on how to find the intrinsic value of stocks. I appreciated the fact that the coursework introduced the core Buffett tenants as part of the valuation class. Additionally, accounting is the language of business, and financial accounting has helped me better understand the process of creating financial statements and accrual accounting,” Joshi said. “The courses have prepared me to take management level decisions ranging from allocating capital to raising funds to organizational behavior to marketing and helped me better understand businesses and economies around the world.”
Joshi noted the strong return on investment as a top benefit. The program boasts a 99% career placement rate for graduates.
“A recent survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions CouncilTM (GMAC) showed that our graduates earned approximately $26,000 more as an annual salary after earning their degree — that’s nearly the full cost of the MBA@Nebraska program,” said Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean and professor of finance. “Our award-winning Business Career Center also assists students in their job search while our curriculum prepares them for career advancement.”
Students can take multiple courses a semester or focus on one and do the work when it fits in their schedule. For those who want to further build relationships, there are optional in-person opportunities — such as a course with a one-week residency, career expeditions and national case competitions.
“The Big Ten Case Competition allowed all of us on the team to tap into the knowledge we gained from our finance, marketing, supply chain, organizational behavior and strategy classes to provide an actionable recommendation to Bath & Body Works.” said Joshi. “It also provided a great way to meet classmates in the online program and work as a team in person.”