Santa Clara University student

Success Lies in Knowing Your Weaknesses and Playing to Your Strengths

Bonilla Ice, a company ran by Brian Bonilla from Santa Clara University landed sixth place in the 2016 MikesBikes World Champs

The Smartsims team reached out and interviewed Brian to speak on his experiences, the lessons he learned and advice he would give future students. 

What is your decision making process within the simulation?

  • The first step before making any decision is looking at what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. This way I could learn from my success and failure to effectively know my strengths and weaknesses.
  • The second step is to analyse the strategies of the other teams and see what they were doing better or worse than me.
  • My third step was to brainstorm on the information I collected in the first 2 steps and see where I need to prioritize my capital for business decisions.
  • My last step was doing a risk versus reward analysis to understand the potential rewards or consequences from an accurate or inaccurate production forecast.

What was your strategy going into the simulation?

The strategy was to do a medium price and quantity strategy. I went with this strategy mainly in an attempt to stay neutral and then take advantage of any market inefficiencies or weaknesses posed by the other competing firms. However, I took more high risk; high reward strategy in the final 8 competition and this dug me into a hole.

How did you begin implementing that strategy?

I implemented this strategy by making sure I didn’t overspend in marketing and operations. One tool I used was the recommended indices in the provided market recommendations and reports. Another tool that I used was ratios that existed between workers and factory capacity.

How did you familiarize yourself with the simulation?

I made sure I understood the components of the simulation and how each variable affected one another. I found all this out through the informational manual and practice with the simulation.

How would you describe the competition?

I thought the competition was initially overly ambitious in the beginning. With around 6 teams taking an ambitious strategy of investing a lot in marketing, none of us were able to receive an outstanding return on our investment to breakeven. Instead, we all received only fair returns and this is why many had a penny stock SHV. To crawl out of this hole, many of the competitors had to go through some more high risk and high reward strategies to get themselves out of the hole. Ultimately, those that played too safe or couldn’t eventually execute a well-played high risk, high reward strategy, fell behind and couldn’t catch up.

What resources did you pull on to develop your winning strategy which led you to the top of your course, then top of the first round of MikesBikes World Champs and then Top 3 Finalists?

The main resource that helped me become so successful was my prioritization of certain market segments according how much of the total market cap they comprised. So, I knew if I had control over the most important market segments, I knew I was going to win. However, this method wasn’t so successful in the final competition since I think other competitors probably did something similar. In fact, if I did the exact opposite actually, then it would have worked beautifully in the final round because there was little initial competition there.

What challenges did you face? How did you overcome these?

The main challenge that I faced was inaccurately forecasting my sales. How I tried to combat this challenge was by trying to better anticipate what my competitors do and price my bikes better.

Was there anything in particular you did that you think helped to prepare yourself?

Analyzing the industry benchmark for all firms and comparing my performance from my competitors were probably the most effective use of my time for business decision preparations.

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?

All the business concepts I learned became a lot clearer once they materialized in the simulation. It showed me the importance of effective capital allocation and long/short-term financing. The simulation gave students the opportunity to apply concepts learned to a virtual business setting. This includes marketing, financing, and operations. The simulation gave me insight into all the variables that businesses need to consider in their decisions. Thus, the simulation was a great first step towards understanding a business and the thought that goes into business decisions.

Comments on your experience with the simulation itself

The experience with the simulation involved a great mix of strategy and competition that I thoroughly enjoyed.