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ASU biz students nail honors in global contest


February 22, 2008

They’ve done it again.

Students from Arizona State University’s School of Global Management and Leadership have won top honors in a worldwide online competition that featured 111 universities from 12 countries. This is the second semester in a row the school has earned “Grand Champion” status in the Business Strategy Game (BSG) “Best Strategy Invitational.”

The two-week online exercise divides students into teams of 1-5 co-managers who are assigned the task of running an athletic footwear company in head-to-head competition against companies managed by other class members. At the end of the semester, winning teams are invited to participate in the Best Strategy Invitational.

The winning ASU team was represented by senior Jessica Archuleta and December (2007) global management graduates Rebekah Benedict, Mike Drigants and Ryan Mengel.

“These are very bright students who successfully integrated material they learned in our classes and put that to work in results-oriented decision making,” says Kathleen Anders, a lecturer in the school whose topics of instruction include strategy formulation and implementation, benchmarking, competitive strength assessment and strategy options for competing in international markets. Anders teams have been invited to compete in each of the six final competitions since the first Best Strategy Invitational was staged in April 2005, and have won three times.The competitions are held in April and December each year.

Of the collegiate teams invited to participate in the December competition, 20 “industry” winners emerged, each topping 10-12 teams in its industry. The ASU entry, “IUZ Shoes,” represented Industry 12.

All companies in the overall competition began the exercise on the same footing from a global perspective – with equal sales volume, global market share, revenues, profits, product quality and performance, brand recognition, and other market measurements. Teams were challenged to create and execute a competitive strategy that resulted in a respected brand image, kept their company in contention for global market leadership, and produced good financial performance as measured by earnings per share, return on equity investment, stock price appreciation, and credit rating.

“What I liked best about the competition was building a functioning team and pitting our skills against other teams,” says Mengel, a management and leadership graduate. “I felt this was one of the best practices for a real-world team environment I encountered at ASU. We had to use our team-building skills, people skills, and technical skills in order to achieve the synergy needed to dominate in this particularly competitive environment.”

Over a two-week period, students were required to make over 40 decisions daily addressing sales forecasts, productions, distribution, marketing and finance. Each decision set represented one year of operations.

“This exercise was helpful in understanding how different aspects in business influence one another,” says International Studies graduate Benedict, who founded Lifetouch Therapies, a sports massage therapy business, in 2003. “Scanning annual results in a 24-hour period helped me to conceptualize the long-term results.”

Anders likes the game’s ability to mirror the complex and ever-changing business world and says it presents a virtual real-world experience for her students.

“The invitational requires students to apply what they learn in business school,” says the two-time BSG “Master Professor.” “It challenges them to gain and sustain a competitive advantage over other companies from around the world.

“This year, the administrators of the game introduced changes in the global environment during the second year of operations; they increased tariffs on goods brought into North America and continued making unexpected pronouncements throughout the competition. It required our students to quickly and frequently adjust to new conditions. The global environment was much more volatile this year, yet our students were able to effectively adapt and respond to change.”

“Winning twice can give you a great feeling of success,” says Peoria resident Archuleta, referring to the team’s success in the preliminary competition as well as its win in the semester-end invitational. “The reality of the game – things like bidding on celebrities’ endorsements and measuring that impact on sales, as well as making decisions on online sales – reflects how our society is today; the game is up to date.

“This was just a lot of fun in a learning environment.”