The University of Vermont recently held the 6th edition of their Global Family Enterprise Case Competition(FECC) in Burlington.
It was great to see this fantastic event back on the calendar after a one-year hiatus as they awaited completion of their brand new digs.
Truly Global Reach
I was scheduled to judge on Thursday and Friday, but because Burlington Vermont is only about an hour and a half from home, I decided to head down in time to catch the first round on Wednesday afternoon.
There were 13 teams in the undergraduate division and 12 graduate teams. They had been drawn into divisions Wednesday morning.
As it happened, the “FFI Division” consisted of four teams from outside North America: China, Guatemala, the Philippines and Spain.
I decided to spend the afternoon watching that division because of its diversity.
Let’s just say that I was quite impressed with the caliber of presentations, even before considering the fact that most of them were working in their second or third language.
Tell It To The Judge
On Thursday my work truly began. I was the lead judge of my panel, and as it turned out, I was also the oldest of the four judges, probably by at least a decade and a half.
We saw presentations by undergraduate teams from Canada, USA and Mexico.
Our task was to rank the four teams in order after we had seen them all present and survive our Q & A period.
As luck would have it, all four judges came up with the same rankings so our deliberations were quick. This allowed us plenty of time to provide what we hoped would be useful feedback for the teams.
We also spent some time on allocating our six stars (points) for best presenters from the teams that we saw. There were lots of worthy candidates to choose from.
Disagreements Happen Too
On Friday, the judging panels were mixed up again and I ended up with 3 new people on my panel, and I was no longer the lead judge.
We were in a graduate division, and the teams we saw were from Canada, USA, Germany and Sweden.
When it came time to determine our rankings, unlike the previous day, the four of us were all over the map. There were three teams who received a top rank, including one that had received a fourth-place vote as well.
This deliberation wasn’t as simple as the previous day’s.
Not Much Difference
Family business cases, whether in real life or as captured by those who write cases for University classes and case competitions, are always very subjective.
By “subjective” I mean that every person can interpret everything they read, see, and hear according to their own personal filters, experiences and understanding.
When the teams completed their 20-minute presentations, we had a 10-minute Q & A to probe for more depth and clarification.
We got to hear a lot in that half hour, but considering these cases were based on real-life situations that had decades of history behind them, we were really only scratching the surface.
In the end, the difference between first and fourth was not very large on either day that I judged.
Better Every Year
From the first time I attended FECC until this year’s edition, things have been getting better every year.
Likewise the field of family business as a subject that Universities teach is also advancing, and the profession of advising business families continues to move in positive directions.
If this blog post is starting to sound like it’s coming from a big fan, then you’re reading it correctly. If it also sounds like I am angling for an invitation to return as a judge next year, that’s also a strong possibility.
And the Winners Are
On Saturday night the winners were announced.
Congratulations to the undergraduate winners, from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
In the graduate category, the winning team was from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
And the whole University of Vermont crew deserves kudos once again for a fantastic job of creating and hosting this unique event.