2 Business Case Study Examples That Perform Like a Boss

Let’s say you just moved into your dorm room, and you’re moving in with a heavy, awkward, flat box that’s soon to become your TV stand.

When you open the box, the directions are text only. There are no images to show what screw A or fastener B actually look like and no diagrams to show how to connect shelf 1 to bottom panel B.

In this case, a diagram or example would do wonders.

The same is true for writing a new type of paper. If you’ve never written a business case study before, reading an example can certainly help you see what a finished product might look like.

So if you’re writing a business case study and need an example, you’re in luck. I’ve got two business case study examples (with annotations) just for you!

2 Business Case Study Examples That Perform Like a Boss

business case study examples

Most case studies follow a specific format and include an overview of the business, a discussion of the problem, proposed solutions, and recommendations.

(If you want a refresher about the specifics, read How to Write a Case Study That Means Business.)

In the examples below, I’ve included annotations to help you see what these writers do well. I have also provided suggestions to highlight areas where these case studies might be improved.

For both business case study examples, my commentary is below each paragraph. The specific text I’m discussing is notated with a bracket and a corresponding number [#]. When you see an asterisk in front of that at the end of a paragraph *[#], my comments apply to the preceding paragraph as a whole.

Now let’s get to those business case study examples!

Business case study example #1: A Training Needs Assessment of the McDonald’s Corporate Restaurants and the Possible Outcomes of Modifying Their Training Program

Though this case study requires some revision, I’ve included it here as an example of a solid basic structure. It includes all of the basic components of an effective case study:

  • An introduction to the problem
  • An overview of the company and the problem
  • Proposed solutions
  • Conclusion section
  • Evidence to support information

This case study, however, would be more effective if it expanded ideas through further discussion, examples, and evidence from sources.

business case study examples
“MacDonlad’s” by Cristian Eslava, Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A Training Needs Assessment of the McDonald’s Corporate Restaurants and the Possible Outcomes of Modifying Their Training Program

[1] Summary

[2] In the fast food industry, it is not uncommon for customers to expect unsatisfactory service. Quality is becoming one of the widely addressed concerns among these types of restaurant chains. Since it has become a common standard for chains such as Burger King and McDonald’s to underperform in terms of service and quality. The only “justifiable ” reasons for this are the low costs of food and the quick service, hence being deemed a “fast food” restaurant. Other widely known facts regarding these establishments are the minimal level of qualifications required for holding a job, and the level of pay that reflects it. Many of the employees that work in this type of industry know that this is not an ideal career. [3] Many workers have minimal education and/ or work experience, and are often younger. The quality of food and the competence of the employees is also evident of  this. [4] For this training needs assessment, I will be discussing possible outcomes in modifying the training program of McDonald’s corporate restaurants.

Susan says:

[1] Like most case studies, this example uses headings to distinguish the various sections of the paper.

Check with your professor to see which headings should be used in your assignment.

Susan says:

[2] The opening line of the introduction establishes the broad focus of this case study: service at fast food restaurants.

This is a good start because it sets the stage for the paper, but starting with a good hook sentence would make this even stronger.

(Read: How to Write Good Hook Sentences.)

Susan says:

[3] These two sentences begin to narrow the focus of the paper: working qualifications and training.

(Read: How to Narrow a Topic and Write a Focused Paper.)

Susan says:

[4] Though this writer chooses to write in first person (“I”), most academic writing is written in third person.

(Read: Why Third-Person Writing Is Critical to a Great Essay.)

The final line of the introduction is the thesis statement and establishes the problem to be analyzed: modification of the training program at McDonald’s.

(Read: How to Write a Thesis Statement in 5 Simple Steps.)

Training Needs Assessment

[5] Many of the employees who work for McDonald’s are high school students without a formal education. This is why it is justifiable for this fast food chain to pay their workers such low wages. It is a common industry practice to start common crew members off at minimum wage. [6] Even the supervisors who oversee the operation of these establishments make an average of $18,230 annually (Bradford, 2013). The hard work and stress that is required to function at one of these places can make employees feel like they want to give up. A negative mindset can have detrimental effects on an employee’s work performance. [7] Still, the low pay and high turnover rates make many employees indispensable. This allows them to get away with poor work ethics and less-than-adequate training. [8] By providing a more higher hygienic standards, reasonable pay and a training program which is more enforced, McDonald’s has the potential to reclaim its positive status in the fast food market.

Susan says:

[5] In the opening sentences, the writer provides background information and an overview of McDonald’s workforce: teens with little education or experience who are paid minimum wage.

Establishing the type of workforce at McDonald’s enables the reader to understand where problems in training might exist and how to improve training.

Susan says:

[6] Background information and a discussion of the problem should be supported with evidence.

Here, the writer cites one source, but it is the only citation in this section. Incorporating additional research would help strengthen the overview and analysis.

(Read: 3 Types of Essay Support That Prove You Know Your Stuff.)

Susan says:

[7] These two sentences do a great job of clearly illustrating the key problem in training: workers are paid little for their stressful work. This leads to high turnover rates.

Susan says:

[8] The last sentence of this paragraph establishes the writer’s solution.

While increasing pay and improving training make sense, in the context of the current case study, the idea of improving hygiene is out of place here. It hasn’t been discussed as part of the problem.

If the writer would like to include a discussion of hygiene concerns, the information should be included earlier in the paper.

Doing a reverse outline to identify any areas that stray off course would help the writer identify issues like this.

(Read: What Is a Reverse Outline and Why Should You Use One?)

Outcome 1

As minimum wage gradually increases, the difference in pay between common crew members and their floor supervisors will also decrease. Many fast food chains, including McDonald’s, start their crew members close to minimum wage, which does not significantly affect their prices (Katz & Krueger, 1992). This lack of price change is mainly reflected in the salary cuts of higher-ups within the company. When employees are not making enough money for the stress and fast-paced labor that they are required to endure, they will naturally feel less inclined to do a good job. This also applies to trainers and employees in positions of authority. If workers are paid appropriate wages, they will likely be motivated to work harder. *[9]

Susan says:

*[9] In Outcome 1, the writer argues that pay among hourly employees and floor supervisors is too low, thus causing poor work ethic.

This is an important consideration, yet this argument could be strengthened by adding additional examples and evidence from sources to support this information.

Outcome 2

Training programs of many fast food chains are very simplistic and not taken seriously very often. At McDonald’s new crew members are required to watch videos before watching other people do their job. In many instances, job training is not enforced thoroughly. If a program in which verifiable progress is being made, new employees will likely face less confusion in their position. *[10]

Susan says:

*[10] In Outcome 2, the writer emphasizes the need for managers to enforce training practices. Yet like previous sections, the details here are a little vague.

Adding specifics would create a more effective discussion.

Outcome 3

The quality of fast food is one of the most notable consequences of consuming it. It is common for unmotivated employees to not take their personal hygiene seriously. In turn, this negatively affects the sanitation and quality of the food (Egan, 2007). When food service establishments take the time to enforce thorough and basic sanitation procedures, the quality and safety of their products is ensured. *[11]

Susan says:

*[11] Though this point about personal hygiene is discussed in the solution, it is not fully addressed in the background information.

Remember to stay consistent. If hygiene is a concern in fast food industries, the writer needs to provide an overview of the problem in the background section.

Expected Performance

When employees are appropriately compensated and standards are strictly enforced, the quality of service will likely improve. Fast food establishments are no exception. In order for customers to receive satisfactory service and products, employees must be properly trained, properly motivated, and all products should be cooked and distributed safely. *[12]

Susan says:

*[12] A discussion of how to implement solutions is key to a successful case study.

While the case study does include a conclusion, it does not provide a specific discussion of how to implement the recommended solutions.

References [13]

Bradford, H. (2013, February 1). Chipotle Salary Can Top $95,000 Annually. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/chipotle-salary_n_2601611.html

Egan, M. B. (2007). A review of food safety and food hygiene training studies in the commercial sector. Food Control, 18(10), 1180-1190.

Katz, L., & Krueger, A. (1992). The Effect of the Minimum Wage on the Fast Food Industry. doi:10.3386/w3997

Susan says:

[13] The writer uses APA format to cite sources, but the capitalization on some of the titles is incorrect.

APA is usually the preferred citation style in business courses.

(Read: The Stress-Free Guide to APA Essay Format.)

Business case study example #2: Walmart Marketing History and Marketing Case Study

business case study examples
“Walmart Checkout Cash Register” by Mike Mozart, Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

This case study analyzes Walmart’s business strategies, possible problems with the current strategies, and recommendations. This paper, however, is missing a conclusion.

Walmart Marketing History and Marketing Case Study

[1] Question # 1

[2] In Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines, Treacy and Wiersema highlight three distinct “paths” or strategies to market leadership. They include operational excellence, customer intimacy, and product leadership. [3] This paper will highlight how Wal-Mart has successfully implemented the operational excellence strategy, as well as consider future initiatives within this strategy that Wal-Mart can still incorporate. The discussion will then focus on the customer intimacy strategy and explain how Wal-mart has also incorporated this strategy in a variety of its operations. The product leadership strategy will also be briefly discussed, however, due to its limited scope in this particular environment, it will not be emphasized.

Susan says:

[1] Though headings are generally used in case studies, this essay uses questions to help identify key parts of the paper.

Check with your professor on the expected format for your paper.

(Read: Essay Formatting Survival Guide (Infographic).)

Susan says:

[2] This case study successfully provides a definition of business strategies to give readers background information, a key component of a good introduction.

(Read: How to Write an Essay Introduction in 3 Easy Steps.)

Susan says:

[3] Though a thesis statement is generally a one-sentence overview, this paper includes several sentences to identify the topic and focus of the paper. In doing so, the writer provides an effective roadmap of the essay.

(Read: How to Make a Thesis Statement the Easy Way (Infographic).)

Wal-Mart has effectively implemented an operational excellence strategy in its quest to continually lower costs and deliver products and services with minimal difficulty or inconvenience. Whether it be through reducing costs, through its various relationships and practices with suppliers or controlling energy consumption by monitoring and controlling lights, heat, A/C, etc from their head office or even managing inventory efficiently, Wal-Mart has effectively minimized both variable and fixed costs while also ensuring stock outs are minimized. Wal-Mart has also effectively eliminated (non-value) added production steps as it successfully re-defined the integrated retailers relationships with its manufacturers. Wal-Mart has also been successful in implementing a variety of IT systems that have also facilitated this strategy. Whether it’s through their own private satellite networks, or their EDI systems with suppliers or even the implementation of UPC scanners at the registers, Wal-Mart has been an industry leader in using technology to facilitate this strategy. Wal-Mart has also successfully incorporated convenience in their strategy, as some stores are open 24-7, and if one was to look at the multiple services offered, whether it be the automotive garage, pharmacy, restaurant, photo lab, they are effectively becoming a one stop shop. (A friend has even joked, that in the future, they will have a day surgery department.) *[4]

Susan says:

*[4] In this paragraph, the writer provides background information and discusses the strategies Walmart has implemented in order to lower costs.

[5] Has Wal-Mart reached the limits of lowering costs? Absolutely not. As indicated, they have a variety of initiatives that are being examined. The first initiative involves using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) with their top 100 suppliers. This will further improve their distribution efficiency, as it will reduce the need for unloading to check products, as well as, serve as an internal control function in dealing with shrinkage. It’s been estimated that such technology could unlock supply chain cost savings of 6%. The second initiative, involves improving its efficiency with customers. By using RFID tags in stores to further reduce check out labor requirements, as well as shrinkage, Wal-Mart would again be lowering operational costs due to improved efficiencies. It’s important to note, that with technology, it’s inevitable that new products and procedures will always be emerging that will continue to enhance and facilitate this strategy. Wal-Mart’s current practices are also undoubtedly not 100% effective and efficient, thus, it is reasonable to expect Wal-Mart to continue to make advances in the practices currently in place and become even more cost efficient and profitable within an operational excellence strategy. *[6]

Susan says:

[5] Here, the writer successfully transitions from an overview of current Walmart practices to a discussion of how to improve Walmart’s current cost-lowering practices.

(Read: How Good Transition Words Can Improve Your Writing.)

Susan says:

*[6] The above paragraph discusses recommendations to improve Walmart’s cost-lowering strategies.

While the information is effective, it could be strengthened through use of evidence that would further support these strategies.

Although on examining Wal-Mart’s practices, the focus is on operational excellence, if one was to look at a variety of the practices currently being used by Wal-Mart in its ability to market its merchandise in unique targeted ways, it becomes clear that Wal-Mart is also following a customer intimacy strategy. Customer Intimacy, as defined by Treacy and Wiersema means segmenting and targeting the markets precisely and then tailoring offerings to match exactly the demands of those niches. One would only have to look at Wal-Mart’s Modular Category Assortment Planning System (MCAPS) to see this strategy in use. The MCAPS system examines store traits and historical selling data to establish store specific modulars, which essentially plan the layout of products to best, suit a particular market. There are literally thousands of specific layouts, all of which can alter the size and merchandise mix for the target market. This data is collected, integrated and analyzed in the various information systems, which serve both as great supply chain management tool and a way to establish purchasing patterns of target customers. Another example of this segmentation is evident in Wal-Mart having 3 distinct store formats, which are also segmented to particular target markets. Wal-Mart is also using this strategy in its practices of empowering store managers with the autonomy of sourcing locally and running particular promotions in which they feel target their specific market. By continuing to train and even cross train employees it will also facilitate this strategy, as associates will be more knowledgeable and helpful to customers. *[7]

Susan says:

*[7] The writer uses this paragraph to provide readers with more background information about Walmart’s marketing strategies.

The product leadership strategy of offering customers leading edge products and services that consistently enhance customer’s use or application of the product has not been a strategy that Wal-Mart has actively employed. You could certainly present Wal-Mart as the industry leader in driving a variety of the innovations that have been implemented in this industry, however, as far as offering customer’s leading edge products and services has not been its strategy.

[8] Question # 2

In analyzing the various store formats and target markets within each format, it is first important to highlight why Wal-Mart expanded its operations then examine each expansion in some detail to highlight how Wal-Mart targets distinct markets. Further growth opportunities will then be evaluated, as well as the potential for the cannibalization of sales within Wal-Mart’s expansion objectives. *[9]

Susan says:

[8] Once again, the writer uses a question format to address the expansion strategy of Walmart.

Susan says:

*[9] In the above paragraph, the writer addresses the recommendation of additional expansion strategies.

The driving force behind every Wal-Mart initiative was and is the continued growth and profitability of its operations. Quite simply as Wal-Mart developed over the decades, it continually sought ways to become more efficient and for new avenues in which to pursue profitable growth. Although Wal-Mart started off with the regular Discount Stores, in 1988, “it intended to drive increased traffic to the general merchandise departments through the food offering.” However, what Wal-Mart’s discovered is that with its operating efficiencies the food business was deemed profitable in and of itself. [10] As such Wal-Mart focused on this expansion and the following four retail formats were developed to target specific markets: Discount Stores – 1568 Stores (40 departments & limited grocery) -company’s leading retail format by number of stores (trend of converting to Supercenters) -potential customer base of at least 150,000 people -remained concentrated in small towns and rural areas – less competition -consumer target by income ($60,000 to less than $25,000) Supercenters – 1258 Stores (40 departments & full line grocery) -larger format that added a full-line grocery store to a Discount Store with ancillary or specialty departments -larger more focused on food (45% sales) -more ancillary businesses and services than direct competitors -potential customer base of 76,000 people were needed to generate the volume to break even -operating margins were smaller due to narrow margins on food in general -remained concentrated in small towns and rural areas – less competition -consumer target by income ($75,000 to greater than $25,000) Neighborhood Markets – smallMarts – 49 Stores (limited drug and grocery) -stores focused on groceries but also offered limited lines of general merchandise and photo processing -enter space constrained suburban areas -consumer target by income (greater than $75,000 to $25,000) SAM’s Clubs – 525 Stores (large format) -warehouse clubs – bulk buying and rapidly changing assortments of relatively few SKUs in warehouses -not industry leader – COSTCO -addresses a more affluent market segment than either Supercenters or Neighborhood Markets -consumer target by income (greater than $75,000 to $40,000) Walmart.com -access to higher income consumers (earning $75,000 and above) It is important to note that Wal-Mart not only targeted specific customers based on income, but targeted specific markets based on population, as this would be the key factor in deciding what store format could be developed. *[11]

Susan says:

[10] While these statistics offer great evidence, awkward formatting and the overly long sentence make the readability quite poor.

If this information were broken up into several sentences or presented as a bullet list of facts, it would make the content more reader-friendly and clearer.

Susan says:

*[11] The above paragraph provides a clear overview of Walmart’s strategy and uses good evidence from sources to provide statistics regarding Walmart’s expansion.

In the future, Wal-Mart should focus its efforts on expanding the Supercenter store format because of the following reasons: -Long run sales are expected to be higher for the Supercenter store than the Discount store and even when you incorporate initial investments, the Supercenter is substantially more profitable (Sales $75 million / year compared to $39 million / year) -Even if operating margins are slightly lower (2%) in the Supercenter, the additional volume will increase NPV per store – Exhibit 7 -Has substantial room for upgrading or expanding its current 1,568 Discount stores -There is substantial room for expansion of new Supercenters: “Wal-Mart planned to open 1,000 more in the US along in the next five years.” (Pg. 20) -Estimates show you only need 76,000 people to generate break-even volume, which facilitates expansion in both small communities and elsewhere This particular expansion does have drawbacks as the overall growth of the core business and food in the U.S. is expected to taper off from 15% to 10% over the next decade. As well, the Supercenters’ operating margins are also currently at 6.6%, and although they do expect to get better as the operations mature and improve, efficiencies would have to drive this margin to at least 7.5 – 8 % to see significant increases in NPV per store, which is feasible. *[12]

Susan says:

*[12] Following the pattern of the previous paragraphs, this paragraph transitions to recommendations on how Walmart can further successfully expand.

Having evaluated the various alternatives, it is felt that Wal-Mart should continue to seek ways to improve its operations to be as efficient and effective as possible, while focusing on the expansion of its Supercenters both through new site developments, as well as, upgrading and expanding its current Discount sites.

Cannibalization can occur with the expansion and upgrading of this strategy, however, by the examination of the Neilson Panel Data, it clearly demonstrated that sales growth in the Supercenter’s were mainly derived from new shoppers, increased purchases from existing shoppers, competing shoppers and less than a quarter were actually from other Wal-Mart division stores. Thus, it can be concluded that new sites, which would be established in various new locations (not near other stores), would not significantly cannibalize other stores’ sales. As well, by expanding Discount stores, cannibalization would also be reduced, as they would not be building new competing sites, but merely expanding product and service offerings.

Question # 3

On examining the proposed financial services opportunity Wal-Mart is considering, one would suspect that this strategy would not only be a great complement to the various other services Wal-Mart currently provides, it could easily be facilitated very effectively and efficiently. On discussing this opportunity, this paper will highlight various factors in why Wal-Mart should pursue this growth option. *[13]

Susan says:

*[13] Again, the writer begins a new section with a question. This time, the writer examines financial services within Walmart.

The first factor of why Wal-Mart should pursue this strategy is that it can be easily facilitated in its current operations. Wal-Mart has thousands of stores, to facilitate this new in-store service; stores would only have to be slightly modified. Which again, could be even easier facilitated if they choose to have this service in a kiosk, or in the middle of their store, like the photo labs. Such expansion would not be costly, and any mistakes made early on in the roll out of such services, could easily be fixed for subsequent roll outs.

The second factor is that Wal-Mart has absolutely transformed and redefined the operational excellence strategy, as well as the customer intimacy strategy. It has very effectively implemented cost savings both from the supplier and customer side and has initiated a variety of information technology systems that have driven these strategies. The financial services could easily be added incorporating this strategy, whether it be through modifying their current IT systems or tailoring specific sites to offer specific products, depending on the target markets, Wal-Mart’s core strengths would make this service effective.

The third factor is that by implementing yet another service, such as financial services, it will not only give customers more convenience; this service will truly be a complementary service. For example, if a customer has to go to the bank and do groceries, they would be very inclined to do it all under one roof, again adding to the operational excellence strategy of providing customers convenience. *[14]

Susan says:

*[14] The above three paragraphs provide a detailed overview of why Walmart’s current strategy is effective.

In examining the difficulties or threats with providing such services, three immediate concerns must be addressed. Currently, references have been made to various regulatory problems that Wal-Mart has encountered. These must be evaluated because if regulatory problems are going to be a battle in every state, it would make the roll out of such services very costly, especially if Wal-Mart had to continually lobby state and federal governments or hire lawyers for litigation proceedings. The second issue involves IT security issues. Although, they currently have industry leading IT systems in place, the nature of the financial services sector, would undoubtedly require a variety of additional security measures, which would also have to be addressed. The third issue involves the human resource function in the employment of financial service representatives. Would their required skill levels be higher than other employees? The skill level of employees would also dictate, what services could be offered at the various branches, which leads into what financial services entails. *[15]

Susan says:

*[15] In the above paragraph, the writer explains recommendations for possible improvements.

Does financial services simply mean a financial institution where you can have a savings, chequing or credit card accounts and have other services such as payroll cheque cashing, money orders, etc. or would this encompass investment accounts, etc. in which employees would have to be very thoroughly trained and certified. Due to the limitations of the later, financial services would be deemed as the first description. Although, on examining the Wal-Mart website’s financial services page, it only offered credit cards, which is interesting. Was this the intended expansion strategy, or did other factors impede further product or service expansion? *[16]

Susan says:

*[16] This case study provides a detailed overview of Walmart’s business strategies and offers succinct recommendations.

However, the paper is missing an effective conclusion.

(Read: How to Write a Killer Essay Conclusion.)

It’s also missing in-text citations within the case study and a list of references at the end. Most business writing requires APA referencing.

Polished to Perfection

business case study examples
“Building an open source business” by opensource.com, Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Even after you’ve reviewed business case study examples and think you’ve mastered your writing technique, you can always improve.

Here are three quick tips to help you put the finishing touches on your paper:

Happy writing!

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