For the first time in Westminster history, a team from the college's Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business clenched the coveted first-place Kierfulff Cup at the 2018 Business Valuation Challenge at Georgia State University.

During the national finance competition on Nov. 17, student teams from across the country battled to see who could best asses the value of selected real-world private companies. Westminster teams took home first- and third-place awards.

The national competition included eight college business teams selected from an initial group of 24. The final teams were judged in person by a group of 21 executives from firms around the country.

"Our teams were particularly creative, insightful and technically well prepared," said Dr. Richard Haskell, Westminster associate professor of finance and the teams' faculty member/coach. "Their  presentations went well beyond the expected and evidenced a developed sense of artistry and interpretation in finance that simply wowed the judges."

The Business Valuation Challenge gives students the opportunity to step outside the textbook and become competent in valuing actual business-asset combinations such as companies, divisions and joint ventures. For the final competition, the top eight teams were invited to present a live valuation case with supporting documentation to the judges using a suite of online services used by professional valuation analysts valued at $5,000.

"The competition was high stakes and fast-paced," said Harry Cross, MBA and Team B member. "It was perfect though, I personally thrive in environments like this. The routine was rigorous and preparation was tricky, but Rick ensured that our weekly workload was full of practice exercises. There was never a moment without some form of valuation work to be done. Each of us brought something key to the table."

To prepare for the challenge, Haskell had his student teams value firms he had personally worked with. They prepared their cases with financial and qualitative data given by the firms, and then presented their valuation reports to the other teams as well as to the companies' CEOs and CFOs via conference calls. He also solicited valuation analysts from local consultancies to work as mentors for each team and attend weekly preparation sessions.

"After we submitted the presentation videos to the judges, the teams continued to prepare as though they'd been invited to the final round," Haskell added. "This way their preparation continued and they
didn't lose focus, which was invaluable as our teams were not only well prepared technically, but were able to handle virtually any questions the judges threw at them."

In addition to their preparation, team members also believed their mentors played a key role in their victory.

"I would attribute our success to our advisors and professors, Jeff Pickett (Lone Peak Valuation Group), Rick Haskell and several others who gave of their time and talents," said Grayson Massey, finance
major and Team A member. "I would also credit my teammates who showed professionalism, dedication and were all around just a great group of people to work with."

While winning first and third place was rewarding for the teams, the benefits of the competition extends far beyond their awards and recognition.

"Each of the top three teams received an invitation from the judges to reach out to them personally when they're prepared to go to the job market," Haskell said. "The teams gained tremendous confidence in their abilities and witnessed an extraordinary validation of the academic program in which they've participated. The Gore School of Business and Westminster also had some important validation as we prevailed over teams from Tulane, Auburn, Georgia State and other impressive universities and business schools."

"The victories of Westminster College's teams at the National Business Valuation Challenge are a great accomplishment for Professor Haskell and his students, the Bill & Vieve Gore School of Business and Westminster," said Dr. Örn Bodvarsson, dean of Westminster's the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business. "They validate the high-quality coaching by Professor Haskell and his colleagues, the high-quality instruction and mentoring by the Gore School's faculty and our outstanding undergraduate and graduate business programs. I am enormously proud of our students."