A team of McMaster business students captured the Queen's Cup last week in Toronto, a prize akin to the Super Bowl for MBA students from across the country.
CBC Hamilton caught up Matt Wilusz, one of the team's leaders, to talk about both the competition and the city's business landscape. Below is a Q&A with Wilusz, which has been condensed and edited.
CBC Hamilton: Your team just won the 2014 MBA Games in Toronto, what was that like?
Matt Wilusz (MW): "The MBA Games is an annual event that brings MBA schools together from across the country to a host city to compete in academic, athletic, and spirit-based events. Winning this prestigious event with the nation’s top programs has been one of my top priorities. I’ve been fortunate enough to represent the DeGroote School of Business for three years during my MBA degree, and was elected to co-chair our team with Lesleanne Blakeley this year."
'Everyone in Hamilton should be an ambassador for the city.' - Matt Wilusz, McMaster MBA student
"The best description of what it felt like to win the entire event this year … I couldn’t have asked for more of a storybook ending to my MBA career or a better group of friends and colleagues to share it with."
CBC: Why do you think your team was successful in the competition?
MW: "Along with my co-chair Lesleanne Blakeley, we put together a very motivated executive team, which in turn helped us cultivate a lot of interest from the MBA student body at DeGroote. With almost 100 applicants, there is more than enough talented individuals in terms of academic case experience, athletics, and spirited brand ambassadors. It was difficult to narrow down the field, but with our team in place it was clear we had the talent to do very well."
(Wilusz knows something about team building from his time playing for the McMaster Marauders basketball team during his undergrad. He built this team with a core of 20 experienced students, but added plenty of rookies that will be able to represent DeGroote when Hamilton hosts the 2015 MBA games.)
"There were months of practices put into the sports, various rounds of academic case simulations, and team meetings. We had a very competitive group of students that wanted to continue to enhance the positive brand image of DeGroote by bringing success on this national stage."
CBC: You live in Hamilton. What do you think of the business climate in the city?
MW: "It’s no secret anymore that Hamilton is in the process of a transformation in the world of business. The city is carving out a new identity shifting away from its strong history of manufacturing … there are numerous incentives and grants that have been moved forward by the city’s Economic Development team to transplant companies into the city from other parts of Southern Ontario."
CBC: So what would you say Hamilton's brand is?
MW: "I don't know what the new brand would be … but everyone would be surprised how many businesses there are here. It's ridiculous."
(Ed. note: Wilusz himself runs a small construction company, MJ Improvements. He also works with some classmates at a start-up marketing company, Socium Consulting Group, which works with small and medium-sized businesses.)
"There's an active and flourishing young professional network that is focused on bettering the city and keeping talent here. There's also a strong foundation for entrepreneurs and small businesses to start, grow, and thrive in the city based on organizations like Innovation Factory, the Small Business Enterprise Centre, [Cobalt Connects] , and more."
CBC: Whose job is it to sell Hamilton as a future business destination in Ontario?
MW: "Everyone in Hamilton should be an ambassador for the city."
CBC: It's probably safe to say the city is interested in keeping highly-trained business-people like yourself and your classmates here in Hamilton. What does it need to do to keep you around?
MW: "The major opportunity that Hamilton provides new graduates and business talent is the chance to be part of something, to instantly add value in corporate environments that are mainly small to medium sized businesses, and to witness the change that is happening in the city."
"I wouldn't be surprised if I stay here. But the job is equal to the city in terms of importance to me."
CBC: If you were Hamilton's CEO, what would your first task be?
MW: "I think it would be important to get all of the stakeholders in the city to align in a common vision of how Hamilton could continue to carve out a unique position as a destination point for business. The most important vehicle would be a hub that allows for better communication between the city, the chamber of commerce, young professionals and academia."
"There are talented and well-experienced individuals throughout various institutions in Hamilton. It would be beneficial to encourage the sharing of their ideas to maximize our abilities as a city and in this case, a business."