Students come out on top in business strategy game 

May 5, 2010

PLAINVIEW – Brad Wall has never run a shoe business, but if he did, he just might be successful at it. At least that’s what the results of a recent online business strategy game in his senior-level class at Wayland Baptist University determined.

Wall was part of a three-person team in Dr. Shelley Tapp’s strategic management and business policy class that dominated not only the class competition but also other students worldwide in an online business strategy simulation that pits teams against each other to run a fictitious company. Wall’s team, which also included senior Edite Kresa of Riga, Latvia, and Kevin Weller, a senior from Plainview, had a perfect score for the game, tying with 11 other schools for the best overall score for the term out of 2,192 teams participating from 172 schools worldwide.

According to Tapp, the class is a capstone course for business majors at Wayland and the game is a big part of the class work as it pulls together all the skills they have learned while in the School of Business. Colleges and universities worldwide use the program for the benefit it provides for business students.

“The business simulation puts the students in a very real world setting. While they don’t actually manufacture a product, they do make all the decisions necessary to manufacture and sell a product on a global basis, facing competitors (their classmates) who are trying to outperform them,” said Tapp, who is associate dean of the School of Business and an associate professor of management. “This game allows the students to experience the interconnectedness of the decision areas of business.”

Tapp said the students are in competition directly with only their peers at Wayland but their scores are compared against others along the way to see how they would fare in worldwide market competition. Just like in the real business world, companies can feel the effects of decisions made by their competitors, either positively or negatively, and they are judged on how they respond and make decisions for their own company’s production.

Kresa, who is graduating with a degree in international management, said the group made a series of 20 decisions over the course of the class term, each representing a year in the company’s life. Though there are various industries to select, the Wayland class chose to compete in the athletic shoe arena, manufacturing and selling their fictitious brands in a global marketplace.

“They can decide where to produce the shoes, what continents to sell their shoes in, and whether to use a brand-name strategy, a private-label strategy and/or use the Internet to sell their line of shoes,” Tapp explained. “The game has a very real level of detail: requiring the students to make decisions such as expanding production, liquidating excess inventory, purchasing celebrity endorsements, selling stocks and/or taking on debt to finance these actions.”

Throughout the game, Tapp said teams must make decisions on production abroad and profitability, weighing all the costs and factors, as well as considering fluctuating inflation rates with areas of trade, expanding production, upgrade to facilities and worker training, all of which are very real decisions made by global companies regularly.

The teams get feedback on their own performance regularly and intelligence reports on their competition, and the game releases its “top 100” lists each week to show who’s leading the pack in certain aspects of the business strategy. The Wayland team finished the term at 8th place worldwide in earnings per share with $29.07 and 8th place for stock price at $567.04. Their return on average equity of 35.7 percent was 72nd best worldwide.

Kresa noted that the students did work on the project some in class but most of the heavier work was done outside of class time. She credited Wall – a senior graduating with a degree in economics and finance – with being the team’s leader and most active participant in the game.

“Brad really got into it, but I really enjoyed it too,” Kresa said. “It was interesting in terms of the financial aspects, which I was never very good at. It made you feel like you were part of something bigger than just the classroom since we were competing with people all over the world.”

The group’s stellar performance earned them an invitation to the game’s world championship competition which begins May 10 and lasts two weeks. Wall was the only group member to commit to the best strategy invitational, and he will compete solo in the same basic skills at a bit higher level, wanting to see how he’ll stack up against other schools.

“I enjoy things that have numbers, and I like board games, and this game really added those two components together,” said Wall, a Perryton native who wants to become a financial planner in the future. “Throughout the process, I learned how different decisions within a company would affect them financially over a period of time. It was fun because I’m competitive, and it was a good outlet for my competitiveness.”

He noted that their team was well-balanced with Weller, who is graduating with a major in accounting, and Kresa, who was the team encourager.

A second Wayland team composed of seniors Devon Allen of Sublette, Kan., Russell Daniel of Hillsboro, Kirby Dunn of Bowie and Brett Swett of Riddle, Ore., also made the Top 100 lists on the game, placing 13th overall in earnings per share and 42nd in return on average equity. Their stock price ranked 12th overall at $530.28.

“Some of the students love the competition,” Tapp added. “They figure out who are the teams to beat and they enjoy seeing how they rank each week in the industry created by the class.”