Applying Business Theory to the Real World
Southwestern students demonstrate acumen in international business challenge
As a varsity tennis player, D’Artagnan Bebel II knows something about athletic shoes.
It turns out that he knows something about the business of athletic shoes as well.
Bebel and teammate Jordan Evins have placed among the top 100 teams twice this semester in the Business Strategy Game, 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 like a business wargame,” said Don Parks, associate professor of business. “It enables students to experience the impact of their decisions, evaluate the results, and then respond to the new situation. They test theories, models and concepts in a simulated world.”
Bebel and Evins have been participating in the competition this semester as part of Parks’ business capstone class in strategic management. The competition runs year-round and teams can join the competition whenever they want. Over the course of each week, teams have to make more than 150 decisions that will impact their performance.
“The first week it took us about 12 hours over the course of four to six days to complete the decisions” Bebel said. “Now it takes us about two hours to complete our decisions. The bulk of our time is actually spent processing the data and results pages from the previous weeks.”
The contest currently has 3,153 teams from 206 colleges/universities worldwide participating in it.
“Making it on the international top 100 list was one of our goals,” Bebel said. “It is a huge accomplishment that we are very proud of.”
“It is exciting and a nice reward for all the time we have invested so far,” Evins added.
Parks has had his capstone students participate in the Business Strategy Game since he joined the Southwestern faculty in the fall of 1994. Participating in the competition, along with written analyses and reflection, counts as 40 percent of the students’ capstone grade, with the remainder coming from the study of strategic management theory and work on case studies.
Parks said he has students participate in the competition because it gives them a chance to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. He said participating in the competition also enables students to bring back to the classroom a more nuanced understanding of the theories, models and concepts they have been learning.
Since the fall of 2008, one or more teams from Southwestern have been ranked in Business Strategy Game’s top 100 teams at least once during the semester. 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. Southwestern students also typically score in the top 10 percent of business students nationwide on the Business Field Test, which is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
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.
Bebel is a junior with senior credit hours pursuing a degree in business with a communication studies minor. After graduation, he hopes to hone his skills as a marketing consultant before entering an MBA/JD program.
Evins, also a junior, is a business and economics double major. He would like to become a consultant.
Both said participating in the Business Strategy Game has helped them learn more about the responsibilities of running a business. The simulation also has given them a greater appreciation for what executives do.
“It has been a unique experience to be an executive of a global corporation where we analyze, strategize, make major decisions and take risks with the goal of meeting and exceeding shareholder expectations, just like a real international corporation,” Bebel said.
–Ellen Davis and Reese Cisneros ‘10