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How to succeed in business

Barry McNamara
05/12/2011
Monmouth College students Katyann Quinn, Michael DiMaggio and Amanda White go over their latest numbers from the Business Strategy Game. The trio, which formed the team “Kerno’s Kicks,” finished the semester ranked in the top 100 out of more than 4,500 teams around the world, and they are now participating in a special competition for the top teams.
When it comes to selling shoes, Monmouth College has produced some of the best students in the world.

More accurately, two groups of students have excelled in the Business Strategy Game (BSG), an online business simulation competition that was part of two of the college’s 400-level capstone courses this semester.

“During the semester, groups of students compete against one another selling athletic footwear in a global marketplace,” said Steven Kerno, a lecturer in MC’s political economy and commerce (PEC) department. “Students are ranked not only against fellow classmates, but also against all teams playing from around the world.”

The goal is to make the “playoffs,” known as the Best Strategy Invitational, a two-week competition that began May 9.

“During a time that also includes final exams and preparations for graduation, my students are putting in many additional hours of work to perform to the best of their capabilities,” said Kerno.

The “regular season” spanned 10 weeks, and the top team of the six in Kerno’s class, appropriately named Kerno’s Kicks, led the entire time. In the global BSG competition, Kerno’s Kicks were ranked as high as the top 16 of more than 4,500 teams from 300 colleges and universities, and they finished in the top 100 at the end of the 10-week period.

“We stuck with the strategy that we were producing a high-end shoe,” said Kerno’s Kicks team member Michael DiMaggio, a senior from Brookfield. “We spent more on advertising. We had a higher cost structure, and we sold the shoes at a higher price.”

The price was not as high as another class competitor that employed the same strategy, but that worked in Kerno’s Kicks favor.

“You start with two plants, one in North America and one in the Asia/Pacific region,” explained Katyann Quinn, a senior from Chicago. “We spent a lot of money up front building more plants. We built in all four regions and sold everywhere.”

When it came to advertising, the teams were able to bid on celebrities to endorse their products. Some of the “celebrities” included “Oprah Letterman” and “Fifa Beckham.”

Each week of the competition was meant to simulate a year, and the clock moved even faster than that when it came to calculating results.

“We’d enter our changes for the week on Friday mornings at 9, and by that evening, we had our results,” said Quinn.

The group experienced one setback – selling its shoes to too many stores, as a result of not noticing a default setting in the game program. The team’s global ranking fell as a result, but they were able to correct the problem by the next week and regain their momentum.

“I was pretty nervous about it at first,” said Quinn of the competition, “but once we got the hang of it, we did not want to move out of first place.”

Kerno’s PEC colleague, assistant professor Keith Williams, also taught a section of the class. His winning team, Fast Pace, was composed of seniors Emerson Mueller of Algonquin, Dan Sullivan of Oak Forest and Luke Thorn of Zion.

“They lived up to their name and took the lead early, never relenting,” said Williams. “They earned Global Top 100 rankings several times throughout the semester, and ended the game with an overall score of 108.5, tied for 40th-best in the world. Additionally, they finished 55th for Earnings Per Share – which would make their stockholders happy.”

He added, “Students playing the game make potentially hundreds of decisions weekly in the areas of marketing, finance, management and economics. It’s a great way to pull their education together and to see their decisions in action. One important lesson that I hope they all learned is that they can’t assume that what worked today will work tomorrow. The competition and other conditions are constantly changing, and they must adapt.”

“This has definitely been a helpful tool,” said DiMaggio. “It gives us a very realistic look into how the decisions you make in a business today will impact the future of the company.”

“As a non-business major, this has been completely educational for me,” said the third member of Kerno’s Kicks, senior public relations major Amanda White of Roscoe. White plans to enter a graduate program in human resources at the University of Illinois.

An international business major, Quinn is going to put her emphasis on the “international,” at least for the short term. She will be volunteering in Africa for eight weeks this summer as part of Cross-Cultural Solutions.

DiMaggio, a business major with a political science minor, will return for his final semester next fall and reports being “open to anything” as he considers his future employment options.

Perhaps he should turn his attention to Beaverton, Ore., and a position at Nike.