School of Management Student Team Presents Winning Strategy for Toys “R” Us

Posted: December 3, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Mitchell

Calling themselves SMC—Strategic Management Consultants—a group of five students placed first in the School of Management’s Case Competition. The competition is part of the school’s capstone course, SOM 498, which examines business strategy and allows students to use the principles they have been learning at Mason.

The winning students, Rian Duncan, Yoo-Seung Kim, Tom Maddern, Bruce Miller, and Vernon Payne, gave a detailed analysis of this semester’s chosen business, Toys “R” Us, and recommendations for the company on improving performance. “We were able to win the competition because everybody worked well together,” says Maddern. “We all feel that this is the best team we have ever participated in.”

After a preliminary round of 12 teams (narrowed down from 48 in the previous week) three teams were selected by a panel of judges of local professionals. In the final round, SMC, Team Synergy, and Team X all gave 20-minute oral and PowerPoint presentations. Each team presented the background of the company and gave analysis of its strengths and weaknesses, then presented recommendations for keeping the company competitive. After each presentation, the judges posed questions—a nerve-wracking, but important, part of the competition.

Joe Zell, general partner for Grotech Capital Group and one of the final-round judges, asked the teams pointed questions regarding his specialty, financial analysis. He and the other judges focused on particular aspects of each presentation when deciding on a winner. “It is important for the students to present thoroughly processed material and for their recommendations to be well supported. We really looked for a good balance of these two things for our decision.”

Other judges in the final round were Mary Davis Holt, a member of Krispy Kreme’s board of directors; Harold Rauner, president of The Business Bank; and Jim Harvey, associate dean for the School of Management.

SMC focused on marketing strategies and long-term plans for Toys “R” Us, including moving stores to the inside of malls for greater visibility. The team also focused on customer service, which all three teams noted the company as lacking, and on creating a “Toys ‘R’ Us Experience” for shoppers. Plans included changes in store layout, as well as increased specialty services, such as phoned-in purchases being gift-wrapped and left at the counter for customers.

Presentations were judged using criteria formulated by SOM faculty, including the quantitative, financial, and qualitative assessments of industry; the creativity and viability of the team’s recommendations; and the team members’ ability to answer questions that supported their presentations. The judges’ score sheets also included the question, Would I want to hire this group of students to work for my company? For the students in team SMC (who also received certificates, plaques, and $20 gift cards for Jazzman’s Café), the answer to this question was, most surely, yes.

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