This year’s Purolator Challenge brought forth some of the most impressive submissions we’ve seen to date.
Students and recent grads from across the country buckled down for a chance to impress Purolator, Canada’s leading integrated freight and parcel solutions provider, by answering the Challenge question: What emerging trends will reshape the transportation industry in the next 10-20 years? How can Purolator profitably adapt to these trends?
However, among all the Challenge entries, three were selected as standout winning strategies. These three aspiring professionals demonstrated an exceptional level of creativity, analysis, and research.
Caren says she’s always loved challenges – so naturally, the Purolator Challenge caught her attention. In the past, she’s participated in a number of business competitions and consultancy projects, where she’s proposed new concepts to industry professionals.
“The Purolator Challenge initially piqued my interest because I knew I’d receive valuable feedback from industry professionals and gain business insights from them,” she says. “It’s almost as if I get to test my own ideas in a real business environment.”
The transportation industry was completely new to Caren, so she began by researching as much as she could about it. At first, she had trouble envisioning a proposal – after all transportation seemed like such a steady industry to her. But after looking into other industry players and emerging trends, she began to see a lot of opportunities she could explore.
Caren tailored her submission to her Management Executive audience by assembling her findings and proposal in a PowerPoint presentation, keeping it short, concise, and clean. However, she said finding the most effective way to organize her content was her biggest challenge.
“While I was able to exert full creative control on the final product… I had to constantly challenge my own ideas and examine their feasibility,” says Caren. “It is not always an easy task to be skeptical about your own ideas and admit that they are imperfect and still need to be refined.”
“Many of our contestants had very similar ideas and this made it difficult to differentiate between submissions. Caren caught our attention by talking about a trend of “customer service in transit” and how Purolator could benefit from it. The originality (and yet well-grounded) ideas within Caren’s submission vaulted her into our winners circle!”
Caren was absolutely thrilled when she learned she was selected as a Purolator Challenge winner – she says it felt great to have all the work she put into this submission recognized by the company. She’s says this has helped her gain a better perspective on business innovation, and she hopes to one day achieve her goal of becoming an entrepreneur and opening her own business.
“By tackling a real world challenge like the TalentEgg Challenge, I have learned that in our world today, the rules of the game are constantly changing,” says Caren. “Being able to gain recognition from industry professionals has really helped me to gain confidence in proceeding with my business ideas; it also keeps me even more motivated in finding innovative ways to address our real world challenges.”
Caren’s Challenge tips:
- Support your recommendations with research – Do not make recommendations solely based on your intuition, you must be able to justify your choice and thinking. The recommendation should be a natural extension of your research and analysis. Don’t leave them as a surprise for the readers.
- Be concise – Do not try to impress the judges with all the theories, frameworks and models; the clients are most interested in your recommendations. You do not have to reiterate the facts or knowledge that your clients already know (e.g. the corporate clients are most likely to know their company’s own strengths and weaknesses better than you do, therefore, these should serve merely as background knowledge for you when you are trying to formulate your plan)
- Find a balance between “creative freedom” and “realistic boundaries” – While the participants are encouraged to think outside the box, you must also take into consideration of the feasibility of your ideas when being applied in a real world environment. Always ask yourself: If your ideas sound too good to be true, what might be some of the reasons that nobody else is doing it? This thinking process will help you to “polish” your ideas and formulate a compelling argument to justify your recommendations.
As an international student, Iana was eager to make her mark in the industry. As soon as she saw Purolator’s name in the TalentEgg Challenge, she knew she wanted to enter.
“I had been following a few Canadian companies – leaders in their industries for quite some time and Purolator was on my list,” says Iana. “So, of course I wished to use this opportunity to get noticed.”
Iana started her Challenge submission with research, so she could get a sense of the transportation industry and the trends, as well as Purolator’s company workings and their competitors. From there, she says she began to see certain patterns take shape, and she was able to focus her findings.
“My focus was to research the full potential of future trends, which would have the greatest impact on the industry,” says Iana. “I believe having strong research skills helped me a lot throughout the process. I went deep into the details, especially in the areas specific to the industry.”
“Iana was able to bring a bunch of different pieces of analysis together into one solid recommendation. This tied her presentation together exceptionally well. Many people concentrated one 1-2 trends, while Iana literally captured every trend we could think of and discussed how each of them could impact Purolator.”
Her hard work and analysis paid off – Iana’s submission was recognized as one of the most comprehensive and well-researched entries. Upon hearing she was selected as a winner, she says she was extremely excited.
“For me, I gained personal satisfaction and higher confidence in my professional skills,” she says.
Iana’s Challenge tips:
- Start early – this will give you more time for careful research and putting things together.
- Follow tips – Purolator provides tips on their Challenge page for participating students and grads. Pay attention to these: they’re telling you what they’re looking for in your submission.
- Follow the criteria – On their Challenge page, Purolator also outlines the criteria you’ll be judged on. Make sure your entry reflects what they’re looking for.
Sofia is no stranger to case studies. As a member of a student consultancy firm at Queen’s University, she says she developed a passion for all things related to strategy.
“Analyzing trends from the perspective of an industry leader was right up my alley,” she says. “I had never worked in the transportation industry before, and I had little professional insight – so I was attracted by the opportunity to learn about an unfamiliar industry.”
The open-ended nature of the Challenge was something Sofia was excited to explore. Using the structure of the Challenge question, she broke her approach down into 3 segments: “What does the industry look like right now?”, “Where is it going?”, and “How can Purolator succeed in the new landscape?”.
During her research, Sofia says she aimed to understand the transportation industry, and how Purolator fit into that space. She looked into things like industry barriers, Purolator’s core competencies, and existing innovative strategies. But Sofia says the most challenging part of her work was communicating her analysis of upcoming trends and proposed solutions in a clear and concise manner.
“While I had made all these mental connections between the future industry landscape and Purolator’s core competencies, it was difficult to organize and distill my thoughts into one presentation,” says Sofia.
“Sofia went above and beyond our expectations by completing a solid “current state” industry analysis before diving into new trends. She clearly understood the industry that Purolator plays in, and this made her recommendations extremely relevant to our business. Plus, Sofia’s report was the cleanest of all of those submitted – the whole thing oozed professionalism.”
Sofia was very pleased that she was selected as the grand prize winner of the Purolator Challenge. She says she’s grateful for the opportunity she’s been given to develop invaluable connections with Purolator.
“Given the high volume and quality of submissions, I didn’t expect to be a finalist as a second-year university student, let alone win,” says Sofia. “I approached the Purolator Challenge as a learning opportunity and I’m extremely excited by the outcome.”
Sofia’s Challenge tips:
- Polish – Ensure that your final submission is polished and professional enough that you would be comfortable presenting it to Purolator’s CEO, because the top 3 submissions are reviewed at the highest level of the organization!
- Simplify – Your ideas should be concise and easily understood within a short presentation. Complex thoughts can always be distilled to its simplest form.
- Justify – The proposed solution should mitigate weaknesses or fulfill the needs of the organization. Be sure to highlight how the solution would be successful in achieving the organization’s goals.