Case Study Interview Examples: Questions and AnswersYou will need to prepare for an interview where case study questions will be asked. While preparation is required for every job interview, extra time is required to adequately prepare for case study interviews.
Providing an answer to a case study question involves much more than simply recounting the issues and problems set forth, it includes identifying the most important issues, employing sound and logical analysis, developing an action plan for addressing the problem(s) and making recommendations. Depending on the firms you're interviewing with, and the industry you work in, case study questions can be presented in verbal or written format, and address a number of topics.
In case interviews, it's not uncommon for interviewers to exclude important details when asking candidates to resolve hypothetical business problems presented. It's okay to ask interviewers for more information, and it's expected. They want to see if you can identify what information is important, and what is not.
Occasionally, interviewers provide no detail at all to test your analytical skills when adequate resources are unavailable. In these situations, it's okay to make assumptions, but they must be based on sound logic and analysis of information that is provided.
Interviewers asking case study questions are primarily concerned with how effectively you can analyze a problem, determine key factors, brainstorm ideas, and propose workable, pragmatic solutions that are supported by your analysis.
Answering Case Interview QuestionsIn the case interview, coming up with the "correct" answer isn't nearly as important as the process you use for getting there. When answering a case interview question, you want to showcase your ability to analyze a situation or business dilemma, identify the important issues, and develop sound conclusions that flow from your analysis. For this reason, it's important to use a logical framework for breaking down and analyzing the case. Some of the more common business analysis frameworks that can be employed include Porter's Five Forces, Value Chain Analysis, Four P's of Marketing, and SWOT Analysis. The framework you decide to use should be a function of the type of case you're presented.
Where a specific framework for analysis isn't readily available or applicable, a general framework or analytical approach can be applied. The most important thing is that your approach to answering the case interiew question is structured and logical.
Regardless of the type of case you're presented, there will likely be a few main parameters and several factors that influence those parameters. The first thing you want to do is identify the parameters and factors, the then determine which are key to the case output.
For example, assume the case involves a company's declining profitability. From your initial review of the case information you determine the main parameters to consider are total revenues and total costs.
After defining the two main parameters, you'd then drill down further to the factors influencing each of the parameters you've identified. You determine the factors influencing total revenues are average price of goods sold and volume of goods sold. And for total costs, fixed costs and variable costs.
With both the case parameters and factors clearly identified you give yourself the ability to steer the conversation and begin to identify possible solutions. To identify areas of concern, you'll want to explore the history of the four influencing factors. At the end of your discussion with the interviewer you may determine that it's rising variable costs that are having the biggest impact on profitability. You'll then drill down even further to determine what is causing variable costs to rise and come up with more specific recommendations.
Building a graphic representation (tree, decision diagram, etc.) of parameters, factors and other influencing elements will help you structure your thought process, keep from missing key aspects of the case, and make a strong argument for the recommendations you'll make.
Using a framework or structured approach to developing a recommendation for a case study interview question provides the added benefit of giving the interviewer something to take back and present to his or her superiors to make the case that you're the right person for the job.
Whatever you do, don't force-fit frameworks. If a particular framework doesn't apply to the case, don't use it. Most frameworks incorporate universal concepts that can be applied to various business issues. Use the concepts you've learned in school or through prior work experience to support your analysis of the case. Show your interviewer that you understand these business concepts well enough that you can apply them to the specifics fo the business issue being presented in the case.
Below we're going to present several case interview questions organized by question type. To perfect your ability to perform well in case interviews, we recommend reviewing each question and then developing a logical framework or approach for answering each one.
Standard Case Interview QuestionsAs is the case in real life, there is usually no single correct answer to standard case interview questions. As long as you're able to prove your case, using sound analysis and by demonstrating an understanding of the main case issues, you're likely to do well. Below are some common standard case interview questions that provide great practice for case interviews.
- What would be your approach for introducing a product into a foreign market? What are the risks and benefits to consider i.e. producing in your own country vs producing in the new country, etc?
- Company ABC is struggling, should it be restructured? Identify the three main problems it's facing. What is the most important problem the company is facing? How would you recommend the company address this problem? How would you turn this company around? Provide your reasoning for your recommendation(s).
- A toy company has been experiencing decline sales for the last two seasons. Research suggests that introducing several new product lines is the solution. Develop a marketing strategy for the company's largest product line, including pricing, product packing, etc.
- A large chain of retail clothing stores is struggling with profitability. Bases on your review fo the company's financial statements, what problems can you identify? Can this company be turned arounds? How would you go about deciding?
- A new Eddie Bauer Store is being opened up in London. Discuss all the marketing issues regarding the opening of this new location.
- Take in information quickly and remember what you hear.
- Identify key issues, prioritize and logically solve problems.
- Make quick, yet accurate, decisions.
- Manage time efficiently.
- Perform under pressure.
- Be aware of resource constraints.
- Identify customer needs.
- Be original and creative.
Market Sizing Case Interview QuestionsA market sizing case interview question is one where you're asked to determine the size of market for a particular product. These types of case interview questions are popular, and actually not difficult to answer if you practice. The following a few examples of market sizing case interview questions.
- Please provide the total weight of a fully loaded Jumbo Jet at the time of take off.
- How many light bulbs are there in the United States?
- How many photocopies are taken in the United Kingdom each year?
- How much beer is consumed in the city of New York on Fridays?
- How many people sell AMWAY products in the United States?
- If there are 7,492 people participating in a tournament, how many games must be played to find a winner?
- How many golf balls will fit in the Empire State Building?
- How many car tire are sold in Canada each year?
- Given thhe numbers 5 and 2000, what is the minimum number of guesses required to find a specific number if the only hint you're given is "higher" and "lower" for each guess made?
- How do you determine the weight of a blue whale without using a scale?
- Take time to think before you answer the question.
- If given a pen and paper, take notes and write down key information. Use the paper to make calculations, write down ideas and structure your answer.
- Ask additional questions if you feel you are missing information. The interviewer is often expecting you to ask to find missing information.
- Use lateral thinking and be creative. There isn't always just one right answer. Just make sure your answer is backed up by sound logic and numbers that make sense.
- Make sure you know your math. At minimum you'll need to perform some basic arithmetic or mathematical calculations.
- These quesitons are often used to test your ability to structure, as well as your ability to think laterallly, make logical links and communicate clearly.
- Make mental calculations quickly by making sensible estimates and rounding numbers up or down.
- Does your answer make sense? If you're answer doesn't make sense, chances are you've made a bad assumpation, estimate or calculation. Go back and carefully check your work and provide a new answer.
- You can use business frameworks (SWOT, Porter's Five forces, etc.) or mind mapping to support your analysis and answers, as long as it makes sense.
- Many market sizing questions revolve around issues being faced by an organization or industry. Commercial awareness can be very important to answering market sizing questions.
Logic ProblemsQuestions involving logic problems are designed to test your ability to think quickly and logically. These questions also require you to be able to perform numeracy quickly, while under pressure. The following are a few logic problems followed by their answers. Review the questions, develop your own answers, and then check your answers to see how well you did.
1. At 3:15, how many degrees there between the two hands of a clock? (J.P. Morgan interview question).
2. A fire fighter has to get to a burning building as quickly as he can. There are three paths that he can take. He can take his fire engine over a large hill (5 miles) at 10 miles per hour. He can take his fire engine through a windy road (7 miles) at 9 miles per hour. Or he can drive his fire engine along a dirt road which is 8 miles at 12 miles per hour. Which way should he choose?
3. You spend 21 dollars on vegetables at the store. You buy carrots, onions and celery. The celery cost half the cost of the onions. The onions cost have the cost of the carrots. How much did the onions cost?
4. You spend a third of all the money you have on a piano. Half of your remaining money you use to buy a piano chair. A quarter of the rest of your money you use to buy piano books. What porportion of you original money is remaining?
5. Why are manhole cover always round, instead of square?
6. In the Chicago subway system there are two escalators for going up but only one for going down to the subway. Why is that?
7. You find three boxes at the store. One contains onions. Another contains potatoes. The third contains both onions and potatoes. However, all three of the boxes are labeled incorrectly so it's impossible to tell which box contains what. By opening just one box (but without looking in) and removing either a potatoe or onion, how can you immediate label the contents of all the boxes?
8. There are 8 bags of wheat, 7 of which weigh the same amount. However, there is one that weighs less than the others. You are given a balance scale used for weighing. In less than three steps, figure out which bag weighs less than the rest.
9. There are 23 rugby teams playing in a tournament. What is the least number of games that must be played to find a tournament winner?
The following are the answers to the 9 logic problems above:
If you thought the answer was zero degrees, you'd be incorrect. At 3:15, the clock's minute hand will be pointing at 15 minutes, exactly 90 degrees clockwise from vertical. At 3:15, the clock's hour hand will exactly one quarter of the distance between 3 O'clock and 4 O'clock. Each of the 12 hours on the clock represents 30 degrees (360 degrees divided by the 12 hours on the clock). Consequently, one quarter of an hour is exactly 7.5 degrees, so at 3:15 the minute hand will be at 97.5 degrees. So there is a difference of 7.5 degrees between the hour hand and minute hand at 3:15.
Driving his fire engine 5 miles at 8 miles per hour takes 37.5 minutes. Driving his fire engine 7 miles at 9 miles per hour takes about 47 minutes. Driving his fire engine 8 milles at 12 miles per hour takes 40 minutes. So he should choose to drive his fire engine over the hill.
Answering this problem just requires some simple algebra. If we assume the cost of celery = x, then the cost of onions = 2x, and cost of the carrots is 4x, such that the total cost of all vegetables = x + 2x + 4x = 7x = 21 dollars. Consequently, x = 3 dollars. Hence, the onions cost 6 dollars.
You spend a third of all the money you have on a piano, so you're left with two thirds (2/3). You spend half (1/2) of the remaining two thirds on a piano chair, which leaves you with just one third of what you started with (1/2x2/3=1/3). You spend a quarter (1/4) of what you have remaining (1/3) on piano books, which leaves you with one twelth of the original (1/4x1/3=1/12).
A square manhole cover can be dropped down the hole if turned diagonally to the hole, where round covers can't be dropped down manholes.
People coming into the subway tend to arrive at different times, so the flow of people down the escalators is a more even stream. Conversely, when people get off the subway they typically all arrive at the escalators at about the same time. Consequently, two escalators are need to handle people leaving the subway, where only one is required for people arriving.
Just open the box that is labeled "Onions and Potatoes". Since none of the boxes are labeled correctly, this box must contain only onions, or only poatatoes. If you remove a potatoe from this box, the box must be the "Potatoes Only" box.
One of the remaining two box has to be the "Onions Only" box. However, the only you currently have it labeled "Potatoes Only", and the other is label "Onions Only". So the box labled "Potatoes Only" must be the box that contains only onions, and the box labeld "Onlions Only" must be the box that has both potatoes and onions.
Bags of Wheat
Immediately, take any 2 of the bags and place them to the side. Weigh 3 of the remaining six bags against the other 3 bags. If these bags weigh the same, that means the bag that weighs less must be one of the two that you immediately placed to one side. If this is the case, weigh the 2 bags you placed to one side against each other to find out which one weighs less. You've now found in your bag.
However, upon weighing the sets of 3 bags against one another you find that one set weighs more than the other set, place one of the bags from the set of heavier bags aside and weigh the remaining two bags to find out which one is heavier. If they are of equal weight, the you know that the bag you place to one side is the bag you're looking for.
In a tournament, every rugby team except the winner is eliminated from the tournament after being defeated just once. Hence, the number of games required to find a tournament winner is going to be one less than the number of teams, or 22 in this case.
Business Case Interview QuestionsThe following are examples of common business case interview questions:
- How would you work with a subordinate who is underperforming?
- You're consulting with a large pharmacy with stores in multiple states. This company has improved sales but experienced a decrease in revenue. As a result, it is contemplating store closings. Explain how you'd advise this client?
- You are working directly with a company's management team. It is organizing a project designed to significantly increase revenue. If you were provided with data and asked to supervise the project, what steps would you take to ensure it's successful?
- You have been assigned to work with a small company that manufactures a popular product. However, a competitor begins selling a very similar product which incorporates state of the art technology. What would you advise your client to do?
- You have been assigned to advise a company with a large Western European market. Company management wants to open the Chinese market. What advice do you have for this company?
- The firm has assigned you to consult a company intending to drop a product or expand into new markets in order to increase revenue. What steps would you take to help this company achieve its objective?
- You have been assigned to consult a shoe retailer with stores throughout the nation. Since its revenue is dropping, the company has proposed to sell food at its stores. How would you advise this client?
Case Interview ResourcesIn addition to the guides and articles presented on our website, there are several other good resources, including workshops, mock interviews, books and interactive online resources, that will prepare you for case interviews. Some of the resources we recommend are listed below.
- Vault Guide to the Case Interview
- Vault Career Guide to Consulting
- Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation
- Mastering the Case Interview
- Ace Your Case! Consulting Interviews (series 1-5)
Interactive Online Resources
SEE ALSO: McKinsey interview questions and answers, BCG interview questions and answers, Bain interview questions and answers
Interviewing at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, or other management consulting firms? Get ready with this list of 160 case interview questions.
Market Estimation Questions
Business Case Questions
Market Estimation Questions
Learn more about what is a market sizing question, along with techniques and two examples.
Business Case Questions
SEE ALSO: McKinsey interview questions and answers, BCG interview questions and answers, Bain interview questions and answers
- How many gas stations are there in the US?
- How many garden hoses were sold in the US last year?
- How many pairs of boxes are sold in the US each year?
- How much does a 747 weigh?
- How many NetFlix DVDs get lost in the mail each year?
- Estimate the size of the bubble gum market in the US.
- There were 165,000 American children born with autism last year. What % of the babies born that year are autistic?
- Estimate how many shoes are sold in the U.S. each year.
- Estimate the number of gallons of gasoline the typical gas station pumps in a given weekday.
- Estimate the total industry wide sales of lipstick in the U.S.
- Estimate how many tires are sold in the U.S. each year.
- Estimate how much time it would take a single average size dump truck to move an average size mountain from one location to another one located 1 mile away.
- How many hair salons are there in Japan?
- How many light bulbs are in this building?
- How many cars are in Los Angeles?
- How many airplanes takes off from JFK airport each day?
- Estimate the frozen banana market in NYC.
- What should it cost to rent Central Park for commercial purposes?
- How many cases of Red Bull are sold in San Francisco each day?
- What is the size of the market for disposable diapers in China?
- How many golf balls are sold in the U.S. in one year?
- How many hot dogs are sold on the corner of 76th and Lexington in NYC on a Wednesday in August?
- How many golf carts are in the US?
- How long does it take a Starbucks to serve enough coffee to fill the gas tank of a Hummer?
- Having fallen on hard times, your consulting firm has decided to serve a notorious bank robber. He has asked you to determine how many briefcases he must bring with him in order to steal $10MM in cash, all $100 bills, in bundles of 1,000 bills each.
- How many unique horse jockeys ride in races in the United States on an average Sunday?
- How many fire trucks are sold every year?
- How many personal computers are used in the U.S. today?
- An asteroid is going to hit the earth and destroy 100% of it. You have several options: create a missile to destroy it (blowing it into several particles which will still impact the earth but destroy only 50%), or create a missile to push it out of the way (this only has a 50% chance of working though). Which alternative do you pick?
- My grandfather had just died and left me an oil tanker. I need a valuation for tax purposes, and I have hired you to tell me what it’s worth.
- You have been retained joint by a disposable diaper company and a federal commission on waste management. Estimate the volume percentage of disposable diapers in the total U.S. household garbage.
- Your client, a U.S. firm, owns a meat packing plant in Spain. Over the last few periods profits have steadily declined, despite the fact that sales are growing. You have been hired to figure out why.
- A corn feed company has eight manufacturing plans located in the Midwest. These plants services the entire U.S. Their plant in Ohio is in need of refurbishing. The company has four possible options: refurbish the existing plant, build a larger plant at the current location, build a similar size plant at a new location, and build a larger plant at a new location.
- I was sitting in one of Chicago’s new specialty “Cigar Bars” around the end of August with a friend. It was a Saturday night and the weather was fair. While enjoying one of the bar’s finest stogies and sipping a cognac, I asked my friend how much he thought the bar was worth. On the back of the envelope, how would you go about determining the value of this bar?
- Supplies Mate, a distributor of office supplies in Central London, has experienced declining profitability over the past five years. How can the distributor address this profitability trend? (Accenture)
- The general manager of a popular ski resort has called on you to help her figure out why her resort has been experiencing declining profits over the past three years. How would you help her?
- Your client is a large agricultural equipment manufacturer. Their primary product line, farming tractors, is losing money. What questions would you ask of your client to help them solve their profitability problem?
- How would you determine a pricing strategy for a hotel chain?
- Should Great Burger acquire Heavenly Donuts as part of its growth strategy?
- How can Magna Health improve its financial situation?
- Your client is an energy company that has both an upstream and downstream business. Their upstream business consists of exploration and production while their downstream business includes refining and marketing & distribution. They receive 20% of their revenue and 90% of their profits from the upstream side, 80% of their revenue and 10% of their profits from the downstream side. This is the first meeting you’ve had with them and the focus is on getting the engagement. Keys – Why does upstream, with a small portion of revenues, generate nearly all the profits? Upstream and downstream business run as separate entities and enjoy no special advantages through their relationship. (AT Kearney)
- Your client is a financial services firm, specifically the Treasury services department. This division has its own software/IT group that created a breakthrough Web case management system that has netted awards and new clients. Your firm recently merged with larger firm that made this platform the enterprise standard. All current clients must migrate to this system while requirements from older clients form a serious backlog. Finally, the new firm is losing market share in its ForEx currency trading operations due to technology-based issues and has fallen from 1st place to 4th worldwide. How do you prioritize these demands and how do you restructure to successfully meet demand? What impact will your recommendations have on the Treasury Services department and on clients? (AT Kearney)
- Your client is a large electric utility that serves Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas. You have 2 large nuclear plants and are one of the nation’s largest natural gas buyers. The new Chief Procurement Officer. (your client) serves 4 divisions – his own (Procurement) and the Nuclear, Fossil Fuels, and Transmission/Distribution divisions. He wants to know how we can use IT to improve procurements and thus the overall competitive position of the enterprise. (AT Kearney)
- There is a steel industry and it was the dominant player till 10 years ago. Now market has opened up and competitors have entered. It has four plants each headed by a manager and two divisions of marketing and planning which are run by managers as well. All managers are independent decision makers. Marketing gets an order, gives it to planning and then planning decides which plant to give it to. The problem being faced is that inventory is going up and delivery time is going up thus causing customer dissatisfaction. What do we do? (BCG)
- Your client is one of the local telephone companies (Bells) and had a regional monopoly. They charged a rate that the government deemed fair. However, the technological boom of the mid-90’s showed that the Bells had become choke points and were inefficient. The government decided to open up the market to competition and tipped the scale in favor of new competitors in 3 ways. 1) They get to choose which segments to serve whereas the local Bell must serve everyone. 2) They can charge any price. 3) They can lease the local Bell’s lines at a price the government deems fair so they don’t have to invest in building infrastructure. The CEO of your client saw this as an opportunity to enter other local Bell’s markets and started a new division with this goal. The new division grew its customer base to 1 million over 2 years, but has lost money the whole time. The CEO now wants to shut down the division. Is this the right thing to do? (BCG)
- A new product that can be used by firms which lay fiber optic cable over both short and long distances to cut costs. Visual information was provided to show how the product works and also to show how existing methods (PVC pipe instead of the firms new product) work. What is the viability of this technology compared to other existing alternatives? What different markets should be entered? Should the product ultimately be pursued by our firm? (BCG)
- A steel company in another country was experiencing large amounts of inventory and customers which complained about long wait times for orders. Company used to have a monopoly however deregulation had allowed for competition starting 10 years ago and the firm now had 40% market share. Firm had four plants, two made mostly flat steel products and two made pipe like steel products. For all plants half the products were specialized and half were standard. What should be done to solve the problems? (BCG)
- Your client is a non-profit hospital. They serve both insured and uninsured patients but their revenue comes from insured patients only. They are concerned because the number of uninsured patients using their services has been increasing. They’ve hired 2 Patient Financial Advocates whose responsibility is to contact these patients to set up payment plans. They receive daily reports with data on uninsured patients treated in the last 7 days. However, they don’t have enough time to contact patients on this list because they are barely able to handle patients being referred to them each day. What should the hospital do?
- Soybeans are a commodity product. Your client is a soybean manufacturer, which processes soybeans for food and energy. 80% of production is for food, 20% is for energy. The soybeans your client processes are in North America, but majority of energy demand today is in Asia/Pacific. The CEO has hired you, the consultant, to understand what is the most efficient method of delivering the product to Asia. You need to decide whether to process all in North America and then ship to Asia/Pacific, or ship raw to Asia/Pacific and then process (McKinsey)
- Client, Private Equity Co. (PEC), is looking to acquire Personal Care Co. Personal Care Co. offers a diversified product line of health & beauty products into several market segments. PEC would like to sell the acquisition in 2-3 years for a profit. The new management team PEC would put in place is unsure where to focus Personal Care Co.’s growth efforts and, therefore, which segments to target with new product launches. PEC is asking Bain to provide guidance to help them decide to purchase this firm or not. They also expect Bain to tell them where to focus their efforts.
- Your client is going to build a skyscraper, but is not sure how many stories to build, how should he/she decide?
- The NBA is contemplating a bigger expansion into China, should it?
- A copper mining company is losing money. The CEO asks you to figure out why and what to do about it.
- A ski resort is having a poor revenue year due to light snowfall. Should it invest in snow making equipment? The CEO asks you to figure out why and what to do about it.
- For a gas station convenience store, what is the optimal layout for where different types of goods are arranged within the store?
- A steel manufacturer is contemplating buying one of its competitors. Should it?
- A bank is considering offer loans to sub-prime borrowers, should it? The CEO of a retail store client is losing money and asks you for help. What do you do?
- The year is 1980, your client has invented a new piece of office equipment called a fax machine. They are debating whether or not to invest in manufacturing and marketing this product. What factors should they consider and should the launch it or not launch it and why?
- Your nephew is running a lemonade stand during his spring break. The stand will only be open for the 5 days of his spring break. On Monday, he only sold 3 cups of lemonade. He asks you for help to increase sales, what do you do?
- A leverage buyout firm is considering buying a company that owns proprietary database of real time Federal Aviation Administration database on every commercial flight in America and its current flight status. Should they buy the company?
- Your client is a car manufacturer, and it’s revenues are declining. What is the problem, and how would increase revenues?
- An electronics store’s profits are declining. Determine what the problem is.
- A city mayor hires you as a consultant, his city population is declining. Describe your preparation for the analysis, the analysis, and approach.
- The total widget market is $170MM and our sales are $30MM. What % of the market share do we hold?
- Every three minutes an American woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. How many American women will be diagnosed this year?
- American Express is facing stiff competition from a host of new credit cards that have no annual fee and low interest rates. In response, American Express is considering dropping its $50 annual fee. What are the economics of dropping the $50 fee?
- Your client manufactures hair products. It’s thinking about entering the sunscreen market. Is this a good idea?
- Your client is a retail bank in the U.S. There has been no growth over the last couple of years in the domestic market so you are considering pursuing growth overseas in emerging markets. How would you evaluate whether or not you should enter a given country? What is the potential market in the US? How would you estimate the percent of market to install the device?
- Your client is an international manufacturer of electronic equipment for industrial customers. The R&D department has developed a new product — a device that could replace all energy costs (electric, gas, etc.) using solar technology. The estimated price to the customer would be $5,000/house, with a pay back in 2 to 3 years. The R & D department says the estimated investment is $100 million.
- A major furniture retailer has experienced declining profits for four quarters, yet that same time period, it has experienced a 25% growth in sales and has opened many stores. Why are profits declining?
- A fast food company is thinking about putting a franchise in an airport. They hire you to see if they should do so.
- A bread division of a large food company is facing increasing competition in its market and wants to know if it should exit the market.
- A car company is interested in developing a new car. What marketing related issues should it consider before doing so?
- What factors influence the revenue potential of a new pharmaceutical product?
- Citibank is considering purchasing another credit card company. If the acquisition is made Citibank will gain access to 100,000 new cardholders. What is the estimated value of this acquisition? A commercial bank is re-evaluating the number of branches it operates, and whether they should increase the number of branches or close some down. How would you suggest they go about it?
- A large conglomerate company is facing declining profits in its railroad company division and is considering shutting it down. You have been hired to determine if this is the right course of action and identify potential alternatives. New York City has hired you to determine what optimal route or what destination taxi drivers should go to when they do not have a customer.
- Our client is thinking of acquiring a diversified company that has holidays in three different industries. One of those industries is entertainment. Our client knows nothing about the entertainment industry and has asked us to do an analysis. What do we analyze?
- Ben & Jerry’s is buying a mid-size cream cheese manufacturer. Does this make sense? What should they be thinking about?
- Our client has developed a new biodegradable product, which is both a soft drink and a car wax. What should they be thinking about?
- Our client has developed a new Hollywood screenwriting software package. How are we going to price it? What’s our strategy and why?
- XYB has a high cash reserve (lots of cash on hand). How can we best use that money to grow the company?
- Two brothers from Ireland want to start a travel magazine. They’ve come to us for strategic advice and to develop a business plan for getting started. What do you tell them?
- Sperry Topsider has developed a new non-slip sailing shoe that has been eating into the sales of our bestseller, The Commodore 2000. How can we respond?
- BBB Electronics wants to increase its sales so it can claim that it is the largest distributor of the K6 double prong lightning rod. How can BBB Electronics reach its goal?
- A publishing company is having a cash flow problem and needs to reduce its costs, otherwise it will have to lay off staff. How should the company proceed?
- Our client manufactures high-end athletic footwear. Sales are up but profits are flat. What do we need to look at?
- AAS Company is in trouble and you’ve been brought in to save it. What do you do?
- Our client is a major commercial bank in Mexico. Despite the fact that the bank has experience increased revenue growth, for the past two years its profits have declined and even become negative. You have a meeting with the CEO of the bank in a week and you have to come up with answers to two questions: what is the main cause of this decline in profits, and what can we do to restore the bank’s profitability.
- Our client is a mid-size training company that serves New England and the Atlantic Seaboard regions. It offers a variety of computer training and consulting services. The company just found out that IBM is going to enter into its segment of the market. What does it do?
- Coca-Cola is trying to boost profitability domestically by raising its prices. It’s focusing on the grocery store market where the volume is high but the margin is low. What are the economics of raising the prices and is this a good idea?
- DuPont has just invented a lightweight, super-absorbent, biodegradable material that would be perfect for disposable diapers. What should they do with it?
- Our client is the New York City Opera. They want to develop a growth strategy for the next five years. What would you advise them to look at, and what are your recommendations for growth?
- Our client is a retailer of fine and expensive oriental rugs in Manhattan. They are experiencing declining profits. Why and what can they do about it?
- A ski resort profit is declining. They hired you to turn around the company.
- Should a spirits manufacturer enter a new geographic market?
- Company A is a luxury boat manufacturer and is debating offering a financing option to customers in order to stimulate sales. (From here he gave a brief overview and some financial data and then asked you to infer based on this data whether this would be a sound decision and what the returns expected might be given different scenarios.)
- A client company installed an ERP system 3 years ago, spending a cumulative $100M to do so. The CEO asks you, was this a financially sound investment?
- How would you fight malaria in an African country? Come up with a strategic framework for doing so.
- Why are XYZ Manufacturing Co.’s profits declining?
- Should ABC Drug Co. decide to build a remote call center?
- We are working with the Port Authority of a large city, who is trying to gain some information about the types and patterns of people entering and leaving the city. What should we look for, and what should we do?
- An elevator company wants to know why their sales have fallen and with it their profits. Quantify the loss they have made. Tell me how we need to get around it.
- The client is a paper manufacturer. We focus on the paper towel division. Their revenue has been flat. You are hired to help them grow their bottom line.
- A healthcare company trying to launch a new headache curing drug. Should or shouldn’t they invest when they already have a general painkiller in the market?
- A bank has a new credit card product. How would you price it?
- What sort of factors should you take into account when developing a customer segmentation for a retail banking business?
- You are a manager of a gym and recently found out that a neighboring office space has just become vacant. You are thinking of renting this as a day care center for gym members. Explain how you would make your decision.
- A major US university is experiencing declining profits. (1) Please discuss the drivers of profitability for the organization. (2) How might you improve the profitability of this university?
- Should a car auction company hold a special, one-day antique car auction event?
- What can a state university that is struggling because of the economic downturn do to increase its profits?
- Company is considering purchasing a smaller one. Estimate market attractiveness and then make a recommendation.
- Company is failing, you have been brought in to save it, what do you do?
- How would company x increase revenue without incurring a significant cost?
- You are a consultant working for a bubble gum manufacturer. The CEO of the gum manufacturing company is concerned because his company is experiencing declining margin. My questions to you are: (1) the reasons behind declining profitability (2) your suggestions for improving profitability.
- A widget manufacturer in Brazil has a 60% national market share and has a leadership position in South America. However, it only has a 5% international market share. The top 20 clients buy 80% of its products and the manufacturer is concerned with increasing margins and exploiting new sources of revenue. Their CEO has asked you to gather data and brainstorm potential ideas for increasing margins and market share.
- A bank based in a developing country in Southeast Asia has hired us to determine how it can grow in the local market, specifically in retail banking. What are the factors you would look at to assess the situation? What is your recommendation for our client? Our client is a company that owns and operates retirement homes in US. They just opened a new retirement home in Chicago about a year ago and they have concerns about its profitability. How do you fix it?
- You are part of our team working for a pharmaceutical manufacturer. We’ve been asked to look at their current R&D portfolio and assess whether they’re maximizing their potential with their current projects. My questions to you are: (1) How can you help them decide what information you would need and (2) What components do you think would round out a portfolio for this company?
- Office Vending Services Inc. is a global leader in vending machines services for small and large businesses. They provide a full service to their clients. This includes installing machines at client site, refills and repair. They collect revenues only from snack sales and choose the variety of products they sell in their vending machines themselves. Over the past few years, their profits have dropped significantly and the CEO is unable to figure out why. The CEO asks Bain to identify the root causes of the problem and propose actionable solutions.
- Your client is a U.S. defense contractor that manufactures the Mohawk Light Fighter Jet for the British Royal Air Force. The company has produced the $20 million fighter jet for the past 12 years. The British government has decided to put the contract out to bid, however, and to win the program, the client’s purchasing agents have estimated, the company will need to cut its costs by 5 percent. It has asked BCG to help it reduce costs.
- Your client is the sugar cereal division of Foods Inc., a U.S.-based distributor and manufacturer of packaged foods. According to the division president, Foods Inc.’s traditional strength has been with grocery stores, which still account for the majority of its $1.1 billion in sugar cereal sales. But Big M Mart, a discount chain, has been growing at a healthy rate of almost 15 percent per year and has now become Food Inc.’s largest customer. Your client is not sure how to react, and has asked BCG for assistance with its distribution strategy.
- Your client is the largest discount retailer in Canada, with 500 stores spread throughout the country. Let’s call it CanadaCo. For several years running, CanadaCo has surpassed the second-largest Canadian retailer (300 stores) in both relative market share and profitability. However, the largest discount retailer in the United States, USCo, has just bought out CanadaCo’s competition and is planning to convert all 300 stores to USCo stores. The CEO of CanadaCo is quite perturbed by this turn of events, and asks you the following questions: Should I be worried? How should I react? How would you advise the CEO?
- Duraflex is a German footwear company wiht annual men’s footwear sales of approximately 1.0 billion Euro. They have always relied on the boot market for the majority of their volume and in this market they compete with three other major competitors. How big is the work boot market (expressed in euros)? Does Duraflex get more of its revenue from work boots or casual boots? Explain why Badger is outperforming Duraflex in the work boot market. What changes would you recommend to Duraflex’s work boot strategy? Why? Would you recommend they introduce a sub-branded boot line?
- A major retailer of clothing and household products has been experiencing sluggish growth and less than expected profits in the last few years. The CEO has hired you to help her increase the company’s annual growth rate and ultimately its profitability. The retailer has 15 stores located in shopping malls in metropolitan and suburban areas. Total revenue from the 15 stores has declined, despite major back-end cost savings.
- A fast food chain recently bought a bovine meat-processing outlet to supply it with fresh hamburgers and other meets. The shop process is: cows enter from one end of the shop, meat gets processed in the middle, and then the meat gets packaged and delivered at the other end. The manager of the butcher shop however could not decide whether to have the cows walk or run into the meat processing room. Can you help him?
- A major producer of juice is in the business of processing and packaging fruit juice for retail outlets. Traditionally, the producer has packaged the juice in 18-ounce carton containers. Recently, in response to demand from the market, the producer purchased a machine that packages the juice in plastic gallons (36 ounces). Over the next couple of years, sales continued to grow on average of 20% per year. Yet, as sales continued to increase, profits steadily decreased. The owner cannot understand why. He hires you to help out.
- A major chemical manufacturer produces a chemical product used to preserve foods in containers. Despite an increase in market share, the manufacturer has experienced a decline in profits. The CEO of the company is worried about this trend and hires you to investigate.
- A tire manufacturer in Vietnam, VieTire, has been the only player in that market due to high tariffs on imports. They dominate the tire industry. As it stands, the tariff is 50% of the total cost to produce and ship a tire to Vietnam. Because of the forces of globalization and lower consumer prices, the Vietnamese government decided to lower the tariff by 5% a year for the next ten years. VieTire is very concerned about this change, as it will radically alter the landscape of the industry in Vietnam. They hire you to assess the situation and advise them on what steps to take.
- A cable TV company from Canada, World View, had recently entered the US market in the northeast to expand its market share. World View saw this move as an opportunity to capture a large part of the US market (4MM consumers) in a market with very little competition. However, in the last couple of years, much to the surprise of management, World View has been unable to make a profit. You have been hired to figure out why and advise them on their next move.
- A French soft drink company, Le Seine, is looking to diversify its holdings by investing in a new fast food chain in the US. You are hired to determine whether they should pursue this path and, if so, how they should go about execution.
- A major US beer company, Beer Brew, recently entered the UK market. Two years after entry, the company is still losing money. Despite a high per capita consumption of beer in the UK market, sales have been very disappointing. What explains this phenomenon?
- A major auto service chain, Wheeler Dealer, has enjoyed healthy returns on its 30-store operation for the past 10 years. However, management feels that the chain needs to expand, as the current geographical areas in which they are based have become saturated. For the past couple of years, they have aggressively pursued a growth strategy, opening an additional 15 stores. However, it seems that this approach has had negative returns. For the first time in over a decade, the chain’s profits dropped into the negative zone. You were hired to figure out why.
- A travel agency makes a 10% commission on all of its travel bookings. Their current profit before taxes is $1MM, while the industry average ranges from $2MM to $3.5MM. Why are they making less than the industry average?
- Our client is a 350-bed hospital in a mid-size city. The organization has historically exhibited strong financial performance, and had a 1-3% operating gain each year for the last five years. However, they are projecting a $12 million operating loss this year and expect this situation to worsen in the future. As a result, the CFO believes that they will be out of cash within five years. They have asked us to identify the source of this sudden downturn, and to come up with alternatives to restore them to a break-even position. They are one of the largest employers in the market, and will not consider layoffs as a possible solution.
- The client is a grocery store chain that is considering whether or not they should enter the emerging Internet-based grocery shopping/delivery market in the Boston area. This regional chain is currently one of the leaders in the traditional grocery store market in northern New England. In their core market, two competitors have emerged in the Internet/at-home grocery shopping business, and are rapidly gaining market share. One of the companies that has already entered this new marketplace is the client’s primary competitor in the traditional market. The second player is a chain that does not have grocery stores in the target region, but has entered the Boston area with Internet shopping delivery services. Should the client enter the market? If so, how, and what concerns should they have? If not, how do they protect market share from the emerging market that is threatening to steal business?
- The client is a manufacturer and distributor of infant formula. They sell their product nationwide, and are in the middle of the pack in terms of market share. They are currently trying to boost their market share while maintaining profitability.
- There is a government welfare program called WIC (Women, Infants, Children) that allows individuals living below the poverty level to receive vouchers for infant formula for their children. Unlike most welfare programs, this one is subsidized by the actual producers of infant formula. On a state-by-state basis, infant formula producers bid for the right to be the sole supplier of infant formula to welfare recipients in that state. In addition to paying the government for the WIC contract, the client also provides rebates to retailers for WIC sales. As a result, income received from WIC sales is substantially less than that received from normal formula sales. In fact, sales to mothers that remain in the WIC program for more than 12 months result in a net loss. In trying to determine how much to bid on a WIC contract for a given state, what factors should you consider?
- Our client is the U.S. pharmaceutical division of a multi-national corporation. In about six months the division will receive FDA approval to launch an anti-depressant drug. Despite this apparent good news from the FDA, the U.S. division is not elated. It has concerns over the market potential for this drug and its ability to reach the key prescribers in this therapeutic category. We have been asked to help determine whether they should 1) launch alone, 2) co-market with a partner, or 3) sell, license or swap the drug. The concerns over market potential center on whether the drug can gain adequate competitive advantage in a market segment having two dominant, patent-protected competitors and nearly 100 generic competitors. Additionally, a higher technology antidepressant, which appears to offer therapeutic advantages, was recently introduced by a competitor.Gaining the professional endorsement of psychiatrists is crucial to success in this therapeutic category since they write approximately half of the prescriptions for antidepressants. However, the division has no experience marketing drugs to this physician group. Consequently, it would have to hire a sales force and/or enter into a co-marketing agreement to gain access to psychiatrists through someone else’s force. The client would be able to leverage its existing sales force to reach the other half of the prescribers (Internal Medicine Specialist and Family and General Practitioners). How would you help them decide whether to 1) launch alone, 2) co-market with a partner, or 3) sell, license or swap the drug to a third party?
- Regional Jet Corporation is a U.S. manufacturer of regional airplanes-airplanes with 100 seats or less. Its business consists of two types of aircraft: (1) jet engine, 80 to100-seat aircraft and (2) propeller, 20 to 30-seat aircraft. In fiscal year 1999, Regional Jet delivered 100 jet engine aircraft and 150 props. This represented a unit volume increase year-over-year of 10% and 5%, respectively, and revenues of $730 million and $225, million, respectively. Although overall profitability for Regional Jet in 1999 was a competitive 5% economic profit margin, profitability varied significantly by business. The prop business generated a stellar 30% profit margin, while the jet engine business was unprofitable with a margin of 3%. Over the past several years, Regional Jet has experienced eroding profitability in its jet engine aircraft business. Its prop business, despite being profitable, has been flat in most recent years. At a January 5th analyst conference (a meeting with the investor community) Regional Jet’s senior management team announced that the company was committed to managing for value. To this end, Regional Jet has hired you and a team of consultants to help the company develop and implement the value-maximizing strategies for its businesses.
- You’re a new senior strategy associate and have just finished your orientation training. You are immediately assigned to our British Times team. The British Times is an upscale, highly respected newspaper. It is the most widely read newspaper in Great Britain, especially its very strong business and financial section. The paper is a cross between the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, both in content as well as in reputation. The team has already had one meeting with the newspaper’s online spin-off: BritishTimes.com. You are going to join the team for the second meeting, which will be held with only the CEO of the BritishTimes.com. Currently, their web site is nothing more than an online version of the newspaper, otherwise called brochureware. The newspaper’s and the web spin-off’s single biggest asset is the highly respected brand name: British Times. The purpose of this second meeting is for the consulting team to present its response to the CEO’s current predicament: how to realize greater revenues from their current online spin-off (BritishTimes.com).
- It’s a Friday afternoon. You’ve just accepted an offer to join our consulting company as a Senior Associate in the Business Strategy Competency. You’ve just called in to confirm your start time on your first day and find out you have an excellent opportunity to be the lead business strategist on a high profile project. We have partnered with a leading bricks-and-mortar children’s apparel retailer to help them analyze, design, and build their Internet strategy. There will be a kick-off meeting for the project with the client (including the client’s CEO) on Monday morning. The Principal/Engagement Leader on this project has asked you to lead a discussion about how the client should think about opportunities on the Internet. Right now, the client only has a marketing and informational presence on the web (a.k.a. “brochureware”). The Principal/ Engagement Leader wants the client to think about the range of opportunities and challenges the Internet presents and whether the client should invest aggressively in pursuing any initiatives.
- Two business school classmates laud their entrepreneurship intentions and mock your interest in entering the management consulting industry. They decide that despite trends that indicate otherwise, what is needed is a video rental store closer to the HBS campus. They try to convince you to join, but in your infinite wisdom you instead join a prominent strategy consulting firm in Boston. Their first two years meet unprecedented success. They buy matching Porsches and a townhouse in Beacon Hill. Needless to say, each time you meet up for social occasions, they share with you (mostly with tongue in cheek) their success and a “I told you so” attitude. You handle their jabs well, as you feel you have had a terrific experience at your consulting firm. The story, however, changes in about 12 months. Despite two and a half years of dramatic profit and revenue growth, profits have dramatically fallen. They call you (with a fair amount of egg on their face) and say “we don’t know what happened and our mortgage and car payments are getting tougher to meet. Can you help us? We know that you help CEO’s of large companies get to the bottom of their issues.” With more than a little satisfaction and justice in your voice you agree to help. What do you think the problem is?
- Assume you are the new pastor of a rural English church in the late nineteenth century. Over the last three years, attendance has been declining. Your boss has just come to town to tell you that she is considering shutting down the church. You have two weeks to diagnose the problem and come us with possible solutions. How would you think through what these problems might be and the possible solutions?
- You are HBS’ Dean. A wealthy benefactor has come to you with the news that she will give HBS $100 million. The grant is contingent, however, upon you using the money effectively. You have 1 week to propose to the benefactor where you would use the money before she will finalize the transfer. How would you, as the Dean, propose to use this money?
- Six months out of HBS, a frustrated classmate calls you to complain that the fast food burger joint that he bought has been steadily losing money for the last 3 months. He wants to know what you think he should do about it. Where do you start?
- The director of marketing at an automobile manufacturer suggests changing the current design, where two separate keys operate the ignition and the doors to a design where one key operates all lock mechanisms. How do you think about whether this a good idea or not?
- You are a new consultant and your managing partner has just given you the following task: The CEO of a hospital is concerned about: 1. declining profits, 2. falling revenues, and 3. rising costs at her hospital.
- The partner of your firm wants YOU to prepare the proposal that will convince the hospital to retain your firm’s consulting services. Your managing partner is the resident expert on healthcare issues and you have ten minutes to query him for information before he departs to London for another client engagement. How would you structure this problem and what questions you would ask of him?
- The client is a high tech company that manufactures crystal giftware. The market for crystal giftware is growing at 3% a year yet the client is experiencing declining sales and shrinking market share. Why is market share declining? What can we do about it?
- Your client is a publisher of romance novels that sells to retail bookstores. The standard arrangement in the industry is that publishers must reimburse their customers at the end of the year for any unsold inventory. In this case, you are to assume that any inventory that is sent back to the publisher must be destroyed, and has no resale value. One of your client’s customers has made a proposal: for a 10 percent discount on wholesale prices, they will no longer send back any books at the end of the year. Should the publisher do the deal?
- A non-profit in Baltimore runs two separate after-school clubs for children. Although the organization has been in existence for more than a decade and is considered to be an important part of its community, it is suffering financially in a struggling economy and fears that it will soon need to cut services and programs in order to continue operating. What steps should it should consider taking?
- An overseas construction firm wants to establish its presence in a growing regional US market. What advice would you give them?
- A medical equipment manufacturer in the southeastern US has called you in because it feels its working capital requirements are much higher than those of its competitors. How will you help it solve its problem?
- Your client is a telephone company trying to reduce the costs and improve performance in the repair service operation. How do you approach the problem? How would you go about implementing your solution?
- You have been called in by an accounting firm that is experiencing declining profitability in its auditing operation. What levers would you push to help improve profitability?
- The client is the largest package delivery service in Canada. Over the past 30 years, the firm built a network that allows it to deliver parcels to “every address in Canada.” Until last year, competition was non-existent and profits were very strong. Starting about 15 months ago, a new company began parcel pickup and delivery to three (and only three) Canadian cities—Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Although overall parcel traffic has declined by only 10% for our client, profits have declined by almost 30% from last year. Outline your hypothesis for the profitability decline. Explain what analytical measures you would use to diagnose the problem and what data you would gather to perform your analysis. What approach would you offer to our client for the restoration of reasonable profits and what strategy would you employ to prevent further deterioration of profits?
- Your client is in the trucking industry. Their profits are declining, and they have already determined that their cost structure is comparable to competitors. What is the problem?
- Over the past few years, our client, a retail bank, has gone from one bank in one state to eight banks in eight states. Although some of the banks are profitable, the company as a whole is losing money. Specifically, four individual banks are losing money. How would you analyze this problem?
- I am a manufacturer of railroad cars in a declining market. My firm is losing market share and money but I think the industry may rebound in the near future. What should I do?
- You have been working on an engagement for the president of a medium-sized manufacturing company that has been suffering drops in profit margins. The president’s staff includes the VP of Operations, VP of Marketing, and VP of Finance. Although equal in title, the VP of Operations has the most influence on the president, and has been worried about losing some of that power to the other two VP’s. The results of your work indicate the Operations organization is the trouble spot: it is overstaffed by approximately 40%, and has seen rising costs and falling productivity. You know that in order to implement your suggestions for improvement, the President as well as his staff need to “buy into” your solution. How do you tell everyone?
- Your client is a large electric utility. Consolidation has been widespread in the utilities industry and your client wants to know if they should be jumping on board this trend. What advice would you give them?
- You client is a large real estate development company considering buying a piece of real estate in Colorado. How do you analyze the investment?
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