Beer Blast Meets Murphy's Law: An NYU Stern Case Study in Crisis Management

Tom Hamnett, MBA Class of 2014
EVP, Stern Student Government

Shawn McClain and Thomas Hamnett were two second-year MBA students whose only experience with crisis management was reading about it in their introductory Marketing class.  The President and EVP of the class, respectively, they were excitedly preparing for the first Beer Blast of the year, ready to welcome back old friends and meet new ones during the grandest of Stern traditions.  However, on that fateful night, Murphy enforced his Law and everything went awry.  Kegs were delivered without hoses to the tap, mixed communications with catering led to no beer servers being scheduled, and the card swipe system failed.  McClain and Hamnett were faced with two decisions: admit defeat and cancel Beer Blast, or manage through the crisis and quench the collective thirst of the Stern MBA class. There was clearly only one acceptable choice.  McClain and Hamnett went into Action Mode.

BeerSchematic

The first, and most pressing issue, was the lack of drinkable beer.  Despite having enough beer to feed the Belgian Army, it was trapped in warm kegs, ungettable by even the most skilled kegsmith (see: Exhibit A).  McClain made the executive decision that the people must have their beer, and set off on the first of several beer runs to the local Gristede’s, where he would eventually purchase every can of Natural Ice in the store (see: Exhibit B).  Hamnett ferociously shuttled ice to the beer blast room by the tub load in order to make sure that beer would be at a perfect serving temperature.  The people had their beer.

BeerCart

Next, the tag team of Hamnett and Events Chair Sarah Needham divided and conquered the two remaining large issues – the lack of beer servers and the lack of hoses to the keg.  Needham, through a combination of emails, phone calls, and unflinching determination, tracked down our favorite beer server – Peter – who promptly headed to 44 W 4th UC-100 in order to serve Stern students their favorite beers with his signature flourish and style.  Hamnett pulled the beer distributor out of a doctor’s appointment in order to send a rush order of keg hoses to Beer Blast.  Within an hour of opening Beer Blast doors, keg hoses were in place and Peter was slinging brewskies to the enthusiastic MBA class.

It wasn’t a pretty night.  Rain poured outside, sweat poured inside, empty beer cans abounded.  But with the help of an amazing crew, we were able to claim a resounding “Success!” at the end of the night.  Many special shoutouts and thanks are in order, from our catering partners, to OSE, IT, and some amazing MBAs who stepped up to help out.  Thank you all for your effort, determination, and winning spirit that saw us manage through crisis and into a fun time had by all.  And thank you to all the student who shows patience throughout the crisis.

We like to think we fixed many of those First Beer Blast mistakes and held a smoother, cooler (thank you for the spot coolers Ops extraordinaire Barbara Albrecht!), and overall stress-free Beer Blast the next Thursday.  We will work hard to continue to make Beer Blast into Best Blast, and be sure to stay tuned for future crisis-free Beer Blasts, coming to a business school near you.

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