An Introduction to Opening Cases

There are three (3) components to a strong opening:

1. Structure (what you say)

2. Delivery (how you say it)

3. Confidence (how much you believe it)

Structuring is your ability to take an ambiguous problem, break it down into its key areas, and decide what data you need to completely investigate those areas. A good structure would usually have something like 3-5 areas to investigate with 3-4 pieces of data under each category.

Structuring is important, but delivery is much, much more important. The biggest thing to remember with delivery is that you need to be concise and sound smooth. Even if you think you are concise you probably aren’t concise enough.

Confidence is probably the most important one of all. Your clients (at least initially) probably won’t know you very well, and so they’ll be looking at you to figure out if you really believe what you say.

How to Structure

We mentioned in the previous section that you need to break down your problem into categories. I usually decide on my categories by asking myself “what conditions would have to be true to do what the client wants?” For example, let’s say the client has come to you with a new product and wants you to help him decide about whether or not to enter a market. Here are some possible conditions:

1. The Market has to be large, growing, and preferably has segments we can capture.

2. The Product is a unique, differentiable good that provides value to the customers.

3. The Competition is weak or nonexistent, targets a different segment than we’re planning to, and there is a low threat of new entrants.

4. We know How we’re going to enter (organically, acquisition, etc.)

5. Entering will be Profitable and we can pay back any investment costs quickly.

You can choose categories by asking yourself “how can I logically associate these ideas” (I did this by choosing a category for market attractiveness, product, competition, How to Enter, and Financials based on the words I bolded).

Next, ask yourself “what pieces of data would I need to make sure that each of those above categories is true?” and nest them under each category. Here is an example for market entry:

Market Entry

Note that the above structure doesn’t go into every issue, but does allow the candidate to touch on all major issues. And it can be delivered in a very concise fashion.

How To Deliver

1. Start by listing the key areas you want to explore.

2. Next, dive deep into each area by naming the area, giving a rationale for why you want    to explore it, and listing the key pieces of data you would examine.

3. Rinse and repeat until you hit all categories.

4. When you are done, explain which category you want to start with and why.

Be concise.

For example, if I was to open the above structure I would say the following:

To answer the question of whether or not we should enter this market, I’d explore five (5) areas: market attractiveness, the product, the competitive landscape, how to enter and the financials.

The first area would be market attractiveness to see if the opportunity is big enough for us to consider it. I’d look at three (3) things: the market size, the market growth, and any customer segments.

The second area would be the product to see if we have a valuable, differentiable good or not. I’d look at three (3) things: what it does, the value to customers, and how it’s differentiated from competitors).

Anyway, you get the point. After I briefly touch on each category I’d say. I’d like to start by investigating the market attractiveness to see if this opportunity is large enough to consider.

How To Be Confident

This one is straightforward:

1. Always look your interviewer in the eye.

2. Never ask a question without a clear reason for asking it.

3. Record yourself, and eliminate all of your tells.

4. Be calm and smile.

5. Take plenty of time to answer things.

Summary

Remember, opening is important because:

1. It creates a strong first impression.

2. It allows the interviewer to give you the benefit of the doubt.

3. It helps you to focus on the key issues necessary to crack the case.

And you can open strongly by focusing on:

1. Structure (what you say)

2. Delivery (how you say it)

3. Confidence (how much you believe it)

Good luck!

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