Budding Business Owners

Originally posted: February 21, 2012

Senior business majors Roberto Juarez, Madison Leeper and Rachel Nowlain all hope to run their own business someday.

If their performance at Southwestern is any indicator, all three will do well.

The three, along with Colin Berr, a senior international studies and political science major, tied for the fourth highest possible overall score out of 3,800 teams from 239 colleges and universities worldwide who participated in a business strategy simulation the week of Feb. 13.

The Business Strategy Game is an international competition that is done via the Internet and tests students in all aspects of business, from HR and marketing to product design, production and finance.

In the game, teams of two to five students imagine that they are running an athletic footwear company that competes in the global arena. Each team has to develop and execute a competitive strategy that results in a respected brand image, keeps their company in contention for global market leadership, and produces good financial performance as measured by earnings per share, return on equity investment, stock price appreciation and credit rating. They have to keep corporate social responsibility in mind as well.

“It’s really the ultimate capstone class,” Berr said. “You have to use everything you have learned in previous classes.”

The team of Berr, Juarez, Leeper and Nowlain is one of six from Southwestern that have been participating in the competition this semester as part of a strategic management business capstone class taught by Don Parks, associate professor emeritus of business.

The competition runs year-round and teams can join whenever they want. Parks requires his capstone students to participate in the competition for 10 rounds, and each round requires making more than 150 decisions that will impact their performance.

Berr said he and his teammates are spending about 10-15 hours a week on the competition outside of class time. They credit their success with the fact that each of them has a different strength they bring to the team – Juarez does well with numbers, Leeper is a good writer, Nowlain is a good organizer and Berr is a good strategist. In late February, the team – which calls itself “Epsilon” – was trying to figure out how their company could cut costs and still remain competitive.

Parks has had his capstone students participate in the Business Strategy Game since he joined the Southwestern faculty in the fall of 1994. He said the simulation contributes to the department’s goals for the business capstone class by helping students develop a more nuanced understanding of theory, illustrating how multiple disciplines are integrated, helping students learn how to be a more effective as a team, and improving verbal and written communication skills.

Since fall 2008, when the Global 100 rankings began, Parks said at least one team from his class had made it into the top 100 every time Southwestern has participated in the Business Strategy Game. Parks said the success Southwestern students have had in the game is one of several validators of the quality of Southwestern’s business program.

“This represents consistent, not random, performance by Southwestern business majors,” Parks said. “I attribute this consistent high performance to Southwestern business majors’ ability to comprehend, integrate and apply what they have learned in their other classes with their capstone class.”

Parks noted that the Fiske Guide to Colleges has repeatedly recognized Southwestern’s business program as one of the top small college business programs.

In addition, Parks said corporate employers have said that Southwestern graduates compare more favorably to their peers at other universities in areas such as noticing the perspectives of others and thinking beyond themselves, taking initiative, taking risks and accepting responsibility for their actions, and accomplishing their tactical objectives as well as the company’s strategic objectives.

“I just hope we do as well in the real world,” Nowlain said.

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