December saw New Jersey Institute of Technology run its third annual strategic management showcase where students competed against each other for various prizes. The criteria for judging the competition was based 80% on their performance in simulation and 20% on their presentation and strategic plan. The Cycle Paths (Yidi Wu, Michael Teixeira, and Amad Ellahi – pictured above) took first place despite a dip into insolvency after the second rollover.
The Smartsims team reached out and interviewed The Cycle Paths to speak on their achievement, experiences and advice they would give future students.
How did you effectively work together as a team?
“It was a rough start. The team was not united at the start; one of the members felt left behind. The turning point was when our team went bankrupt after the second rollover. Our team was lost, and that was when we realized that this is getting serious; this competition is worth 25% of individual grade and if we fail, it’s all over. “Go big or go home” that was our motto after the second rollover.
We do not recommend going bankrupt as a way to get your team serious, or rather, a way to encourage your teammates to start contributing. Instead, the key to success is have a team leader. You should have one of the team members lead and divide up the roles effectively among the team. Each member should focus on one or two decision areas. However, it is the team’s responsibility to check one another’s work before finalizing decisions.
The 3 points for any effective team;
- Divide the roles
- Combine the numbers”
What was your decision making process within the simulation?
“It was a zero-sum competition, where there are winners and losers. We learned that if we want to win and succeed then we have to study what competitor. Each week, we printed out last week’s results and went over the numbers. From there, we looked at what we needed to do to move forward. We had an idea on what we are aiming for, however, we found that you never be sure. Learn your enemies and find their weaknesses.”
What was your strategy going into the simulation?
Before the first week? WIN. After the bankruptcy? Let’s go BIG
We were extremely aggressive, we went for low prices, high volumes. We want monopoly. For our low prices, we were able to profit with our high volumes. As far as marketing goes, we were in second or third, it did not matter to us as much because we were dumping our bikes as such low prices.
The best advice we can give future students is: study your competitors and your market.
If you want to win, you MUST look over each week’s report and find your competitor’s weaknesses and begin developing a strategy.
How did you begin implementing that strategy?
Bankruptcy was something we never want to go through again but it was something that pieced our team together. We used tools like Microsoft excel and the MikesBikes offline rollovers. The offline rollover was a powerful tool that your team must use to piece through a couple of the numbers. I do not think I can get into the details on here, but do not use the offline rollover to compare to other groups, but rather use it as a tool to study your own company. Play around with the numbers.
How did you familiarize yourself with the simulation?
This is sort of cliché but the quote ‘practice makes perfect’ is practically what you need to do to familiarize yourself with the simulation. Read the manual, you’ll learn more than you think, and just practice over the offline simulation over and over again. Even now, after we won, back to back, if you put us in front of the simulation again, we would still get lost over a couple of things. You just have to practice.
How would you describe the competition?
Fierce, brutal, and intense.
What challenges did you face? How did you overcome these?
Getting up early every weekend to come to school to go over the numbers and strategies so we would not miss anything else; that was rough.
Time management is critical during the showcase, you have a limited time to go over the numbers before the next rollover.
The other major challenge your team is most likely to face will be conflict (in one form or another) between team members. During the showcase competition, our team was placed in a conference room on a floor of facility offices. At the end of the competition, let’s just say, we were most likely not be welcome back. Fierce competition can lead to conflicts, because everyone wants to win. Compromise, this is the best solution.
We went through bankruptcy, we knew exactly what a single mistake can cost. At the end of the competition, yes we could’ve got a higher shareholder value, but we did not want risk it. Trust us when we say, many of the teams went bankrupt because they swing too close to the fences. When conflicts arises, take a step back, look at the numbers and ask yourself: “does your team need to swing for the fences?”
Was there anything in particular you did that you think helped to prepare yourself?
Be prepared when the numbers do not go your way (more often than you think). This is a zero sum game with winners and losers. It has to be balanced and believe it or not, no one wants to be on the loser side. You win by outsmarting the other teams.
How has participating within a course which uses a business simulation to supplement their teaching materials helped you? What do you think of the business simulation?
This business simulation was exceptionally fun. Our team was fully engaged in this competition and course for the grade, money and the bragging rights. Fierce competition kept this business simulation exceedingly fun, especially since the other teams are putting up a fight. This simulation definitely made me realize things will never as smoothly as you might think. Have a strategy in mind and be prepared when things go south.