Business Case Example: The 10 Best Free Examples in 2020 (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte etc.)
The Consulting Offer within our Premium membership is, by far, the best way to prepare for case interviews. However, you may be just starting your case interview preparation and not ready yet to commit the resources, time, the effort that is required for serious preparation. So you may be looking online for a business case example to practice with and dip your toe, so to speak, to see if pursuing consulting is even of interest to you.
Or it may be the case that you, lust like a large number of FIRMSconsulting members, are an executive or a manager outside of consulting, interested in developing problem-solving skills. If so, you may be searching for a business case example/business case analysis example to start honing your skills. If so, this article will also be helpful to you.
DO ALL CONSULTING FIRMS USE THE SAME CASE INTERVIEW STYLE?
Before we dive into any particular business case example, you may be asking yourself do all consulting firms use similar interview style?
Well, yes … but…
McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, Roland Berger etc. use similar but not exactly the same case interview styles. Even within the same firm, and even within the same office, styles may differ. A lot depends on the person interviewing you, e.g. how many years were they with the firm. For example, did a partner interviewing you “grow up” at McKinsey or did she join recently as hire from a competing firm?
So what are some differences you may anticipate between consulting firms when it comes to the way they conduct case interviews?
- Cases can be interviewer led or interviewee led/candidate led.
- Cases can be answer-first or not answer first.
- Cases can have the objective function to solve or lack an objective function.
- Cases may require a framework or not require a framework.
- Different firms or interviewers can pull cases together with different components above since these are all mutually exclusive.
WHAT ARE FOUR MAIN WAYS IN WHICH A CASE INTERVIEW IS CONDUCTED?
There are four main ways in which consulting firms conduct case interviews.
Interviewer-Led: In this scenario, the case is usually structured into a few sections. The first section usually includes the interviewer describing the case and asking an interviewee such questions as “What are the important questions?” or “How would you structure your analysis?” At this stage, they will be looking to see a candidate develop a structure / framework to solve the case but not to go deep into solving the case. If the interviewer is happy with your initial structure/framework they will likely point you in the direction they want you to analyze the case. Once you master interviewee-led cases, interviewer-led cases become much easier to manage.
Interviewee-Led/Candidate-Led case interview: In this type of scenario the interviewer presents a short problem, often a business problem, and then expects an interviewee to lead the case to get to an answer, sparingly giving up any additional information. An example of a business problem can be, “Our client is a multinational electronics manufacturer. They have seen a decrease in profits of 10% over the last year and the CEO wants to know how to proceed.” Interviewee-led cases are generally much harder than interviewer-led cases because the interviewer is offering far fewer prompts.
Group Interview: You probably heard that some consulting firms conduct a group case interview. The way it usually works is a few candidates are selected from the first round and moved to the final or next round which includes a combination of interviews, including a group case interview.
Before I took my corporate banking job during my MBA, I went through a case interview process with Monitor (that was before they became Monitor Deloitte). Once I passed the first round all final-round candidates had a combination of interviews in the firm’s offices in Toronto, which included a group case interview, one-on-one interview with an associate and a partner interview. Interestingly, after going through the process through the grapevine we found out they have not hired anyone during that recruitment period, probably because the acquisition was in the cards already.
But, anyway, the most important thing you need to remember about group case interviews is that small groups of candidates are given a case. They must solve the case together while the interviewer silently observes.
Written/Presentation Interview: In this scenario, you are given all the data upfront. The challenging part is to work through the unimportant data and get to the core of the issue. You usually have very little time to analyze the problem and develop a recommendation. At the end of the written / presentation interview you are expected to present your analyses and recommendation.
Remember to always expect variations of the above.
IS THERE A FREELY ACCESSIBLE BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE I COULD USE TO PRACTICE?
Yes, there are a few good business case examples you can use. Here is a summary list:
Now let’s dive deeper.
INTERVIEWEE LED / CANDIDATE LED BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLES
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #1: MCKINSEY, BAIN, BCG ACQUISITION CASE
This case is a McKinsey style case, of medium level difficulty. It should take you 15-20 minutes to solve this case.
The question is given upfront, at 2:02. The part in black is the part the interviewer would share with you and a part in grey is the part interviewer may share as the case progresses. The interviewer wants to see if the interviewee understands the case and asks the right questions.
The case question is quite explicit but even so we will show you how you can adjust the case and make the case more explicit.
Everything rests on the key question. If anything is not part of the key question, ignore it. Even though lots of information is provided, take time to understand and set up the case.
Always show why information is needed, and show progress so the interviewer is they are willing to provide more information. It is a barter. And always use the case information provided and the appropriate language to push the case forward.
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #2: COMPREHENSIVE MARKET ENTRY CASE
We did this recording a few months after we completed the training with Rafik (TCO I). This is one of the most complex market entry cases we had to put together. It has elements of operations, elements of pricing, elements of costing and, obviously, elements of market entry. And it is probably the most difficult market entry case we can do because most market entry cases that most interviewers focus on have a strong market attractiveness element, market profitability element. But very few people actually look at the operational issues of entering the market. And it does not matter who you are interviewing with: Bain, BCG or McKinsey. The bulk of the focus usually goes towards analyzing the market worthiness but not a lot on the operational issues. So we decided, in this case, to flip it around and give this case a strong operational theme.
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #3: PEPSI’S LOS ANGELES BOTTLING PLANT
Operations cases can be tackled in two ways: strategy and operations and within operations from productivity and the supply chain side. This case uses the supply chain side.
This case is candidate-led. As we mentioned above, candidate-led cases are much harder than interviewer-led cases. That is why we at FIRMSconsutling place so much more emphasis on teaching you how to lead cases vs. relying on the interviewer to lead. This will be considered an operations case. Pay attention to a very insightful brainstorming at 14:50 which includes at least one idea you most likely would not come up with if you were solving this case before watching this video.
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #4: A+ AIRLINES CASE
Here is a good video from the Yale SOM Consulting Club. This case is realistic in terms of the difficulty you will see in real case interviews with McKinsey, BCG and Bain.
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #5: AUTO MANUFACTURER PROFITABILITY DECREASE
This is an average difficulty profitability case which the author mentioned is basically taken from his final interview with Bain.
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #6: SWIFT FOX POPULATION DECREASE
The difficulty level is quite high and it is a great opportunity to practice with public sector cases. A big downside of this case is that the exhibit shown at 8:40 is not shared, which makes it impossible to fully practice this case. This is a candidate-led case.
INTERVIEWER LED BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLES
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #7: PROFITABILITY CASE IN PHARMA
In this complex case we examine declining profits at a Pharma company and explain the importance of portfolios and R&D probability calculations. It is a complex case to master.
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #8: METRO CITY WASTE MANAGEMENT
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #9: PLAY WORKS MARKET ENTRY
This is another good case from the Yale SOM consulting club. A market entry case which is good for beginners. It is an interviewer-led case.
This is an easy case to start with. You can find the exhibit here, go to page 9.
BUSINESS CASE EXAMPLE #10: RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA MARKET ENTRY
This question is most useful because it is an easy question to practice. Think of it as a possible first-round case. The candidate’s performance could be a little better. But it is a good question to practice with on your own.
We hope you found at least one business case example above that helped you strengthen your problem-solving skills. If you know of any other “best business case examples” that should be included in this list let us know in the comments.
WHAT IS NEXT? If you have any questions about our membership training programs (StrategyTV.com/Apps & StrategyTraining.com/Apps) do not hesitate to reach out to us at support @ firmsconsulting.com. You can also get access to selected episodes when you sign-up for our newsletter above. Continue developing your strategy skills.
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Thank you for taking the time to discuss my career. I thought your stories were a little funny but really insightful, especially the Paris Hilton analyses. I never looked at it like that before.
You were right, Joe Davis is a great guy to work with, and he likes constant contact.
If you recall, I mentioned I would be going onto my first BCG business case engagement and wanted to know if you had any specific guidance on what I need to know to support my manager. I do not have a quantitative background and read history at Oxford. Any tips or guidance will be greatly appreciated.
I would prefer printing the advice, so if you could kindly respond as an article that would be great.
It was a pleasure meeting you as well. It was a pity we did not have more time to speak. I am going to elaborate based my own experiences from three perspectives: when I was a consultant, manager and then principal.
While you need to support your manager, you also need to know what your peers and engagement partner are thinking. I was also a corporate strategy specialist and developed more than my fair share of business cases, as well as oversaw many teams as a manager and principal.
In thinking through your positioning, don’t ever lose sight of these three groups of consultants you will need to engage.
All of our Succeeding as a Management Consultant books cover business case development in extensive detail. I notice you are not a subscriber to them so I will capture just the salient points here.
Here are some general tips, followed by my experience of working with each level.
1 – Be accountable and assume nothing. When you join, you will be surprised how intense things can be and how quickly you need to deliver very high quality slides. You will get guidance from peers and your manager, and partner. Yet, do not rely on this. You need to own the problem and it is your responsibility to raise obstacles before the engagement manager or partner identifies them.
So, make sure you completely understand all the analyses to be done, make sure you can complete it on time, and make sure you are not making assumptions that something will be done on time if you are not the person doing it – if you are not doing it simply assume no one is doing it.
As a principal, I was not at all pleased when consultants raised delays which were driven by things they could have easily checked. The most annoying such incident was a young associate who did not check if the printers would be open at 7am to color copy our presentation. In another case, a young manager did not check the vacation times of a very important financial analyst at an insurance client. Two days before a vital board meeting, we were unable to verify crucial assumptions in our analyses.
2 – Do not over promise, no matter how easy something may look. In one striking example, I was leading an extremely complex analyses for a client. We were trying to simplify a complicated actuarial calculation given the data constraints we had.
It was a crown jewel client and on a sensitive issue which was generating lots of negative media attention. Our analyses would directly inform the capital allocation decisions of the CFO, and form the bulk of the press release to be issued by the CEO.
My manager on the project was very hard-working and capable. However, the type of analyses we were using on the project was a little too much for him – he was a smart engineer with an MBA, but this was some scary math! So, he relied on me to guide the business case team, and relied heavily on the business case consultants to make sure they would inform him of problems.
The consultant leading the business case team was very arrogant, and once told me that the analytical work was beneath his skills – he wanted more difficult work and I explained he would get them if he could prove himself on this engagement.
That same consultant failed to build the analytical model, and completely failed to understand the business case we were trying to develop. Moreover, he only told us about the problem, 16 hours before he was about to leave on a 2 week vacation. I let the consultant go on vacation, but managed him out 2 months later. You never ever, ever let your team down.
My team worked over 6 intense days to complete the model and that was the only time I stepped in as a principal to lead the model building directly. I had no choice. It was not fun, and was a problem created due to hubris on the side of the consultant.
It should never have happened, and even if there were problems, we should not be finding out about it 16 hours before he was leaving for an island with no internet access. He lost my respect.
3 – Build the overall work plan early in the engagement. You need to do this and it requires you to understand the overall problem, outline how you will design the solution, list your data requirements and understand all the questions which need to be answered. Where there is an overlap of activity with your peers, you will need to agree on roles and responsibilities.
This will be a steep learning curve for you since this is your first business case engagement. To overcome the problem of building a plan which cannot be adjusted, make sure you set weekly milestones to make sure you can track progress and see if you are falling behind.
At the end of the first two weeks, in your head, you should be able to see how all the analyses will come together and the data you will use. If you cannot logically explain this to the partner, you can just assume you do not have a handle on things.
So, those first 2 weeks are very important. I would go as far as to say they are the most important weeks on the project.
4 – Make sure you are not assuming perfect information from the clients. Clients usually do not have the data you want, almost certainly not in the format you need it, and rarely accessible in the time you need it. Check that the data available will work for the analyses you will want to run. If it does not meet your needs, you likely have to change your hypotheses or take time consuming steps to change things.
5 – Have a flexible process so you can incorporate likely changes in findings. While you need to design the overall work plan soon, you also need to have a process which is flexible enough to incorporate likely changes in findings from the rest of the team.
For example, what if the partner decides a new area must be analyzed? You need to make sure your analyses can cater for such changes, or at least be able to explain why such an analysis could not be incorporated.
It did not please me when my managers would agree to do something they had not thought through. They are closer to the work and are best placed to understand what level of analyses is and is not possible. Blindly following a suggestion from the partner is dangerous. You must be accountable and vet each step and action. It is expected of you.
I, for example, would routinely throw out hypotheses of what I thought was happening. It was, however, very important for the team to screen these and see what and what would not work, and keep me informed on the way forward.
6 – Give direction and request inputs. You must give direction to the rest of the team but also require in-puts from everyone else to complete your work. You must design your approach to cater for this: providing direction while also collecting information.
7 – You cannot work in isolation. You need to present meaningful updates of sufficient depth and at regular intervals. These updates are critical input for the rest of the team and must be carefully planned.
Remember, you must conduct the financial assessment of options to solve the problem. That is the role of the business case team. The result of your analysis provides enormous insight to the engagement team. It directs the teams to possible areas of improvement or point out areas likely to generate little opportunity for improvement.
So, you cannot hole yourself away for the duration of the study and present your findings at the end. That would be a disaster. The team needs to see your thinking at various stages and the same numbers in various stages of granularity. They need this information to guide them.
8 – Find allies in the client’s finance department. You must find allies in the client’s finance department who can share data, work with you to test hypotheses/answer questions and validate your approach. This can only be done if you can clearly explain your approach and rationale, and instil confidence amongst the finance department employees.
You need to build these relationships at several levels of the finance department. Do not be shy doing this at the mid-level, where you will work with the finance team on a day-to-day basis and at the CFO level where you need to build rapport and trust to ensure she/he accepts the recommendations and owns the findings once you leave.
Building these relationships is difficult to do if you are unable to explain your objectives and approach articulately. In other words, communication matters enormously.
Some advice for working with peers:
1 – Do not work in isolation. You need to share your work since it impacts everyone else’s work. I insisted my teams meet regularly and use large charts in the engagement room to ensure visual understanding of what was required. This was far from common across the firm, but I insisted on it.
2 – Share your work and help your colleagues. I sometimes get emails from clients we placed asking if they should share their work. You should liberally share your slides, thinking and analyses. Also never ever leave early unless you have first checked with colleagues to see if they need additional help.
3 – Don’t be arrogant. I see this often where new hires try to show off their skills by being arrogant. You are only measured on demonstrated competency, not your ego. Eventually, you will be placed in a position where you need to prove yourself by relying on others, and arrogance does not build friendships.
Some advice for working with managers:
1 – Managers are under intense pressure. I recall really pushing my engagement managers to deliver the very best in each engagement. We just had to beat our previous best. Knowing that, help them help you by being specific about the advice/guidance you need. Managers are busy, so go to them when you need help. Do not expect them to “do the rounds” daily with each and every team member. That is an inefficient use of time.
2 – The manager is not the expert of your work. You should always know more about your analyses and it is your job to bring insights/challenges to the attention of your manager.
3 – Make your manager look good. Make your manager look good by at least trying to understand what the principal/partner/director is looking for from him/her, and provide this information. Only you can know this, and only if you take time to get to know the partner.
Some advice for working with partners:
1 – Partners are usually very friendly and willing to help. I spent a lot of time simply coaching and teaching consultants how to engage clients, think through issues or even complete analyses. That said, I expected them to be ready, communicate clearly and build on my work. Someone merely recycling my ideas is not showing where they added any value to the process.
If I found a consultant was not working with my guidance, or ignoring it without reason, that consultant would not get much of my time in the future.
I recall one consultant for whom I gave 30 minutes of detailed feedback on just 2 slides. She did not take notes, despite my suggestions to do so, and came back the next day with about 80% of the suggestions missing. That did not please me and such repeated behaviour led to her being managed out within 3 months of this incident.
2 – Every partner is unique, wants feedback in different ways and has lots of advice. Take the time to understand the partner on the project and help them succeed. When I was asked to pick up a partner from the airport, I would take 5 note cards containing all the information the partner would need to know so he could sound as if he had never been away. Partners loved this. When I was promoted to principal, I had trained my teams to manage me in this same way.
3 – Don’t be perfect, no partner expects that, but don’t make the same mistake twice. That is not forgivable. I once had a consultant make a major mistake on a slide I asked her to prepare. She included the benefits without discounting them. I was not happy, but the consultant learned her mistake quickly. I took her under my guidance and mentored her heavily. She eventually rose to associate principal before leaving for a corporate role.
The flip side of this – find a partner to mentor you. No matter how smart you are, it is not enough. The consultants who rise to the top the fastest are always mentored by very capable partners. My progression was no different.
Scot, I hope this guidance helps you. If you are still struggling, feel free to call me at any time for further guidance.
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