By Bill Jolley | Associate Professor, School of Business and Management

At graduation this past spring, I sat with the family of a senior management student who had just completed the required capstone course in strategic management. The student’s father said to me at the luncheon table, “I wish I had had a course like this when I went to college. It is very realistic.” Coming from a business executive who has turned around many failing companies in his business career, I took that as a great compliment. The course he spoke of has at its core an online computer simulation of a global athletic footwear industry where twelve company-teams compete against each other.

Co-managers, or Executive Leadership Teams (ELTs) as I prefer to call them, are evaluated based on their company’s performance over 10 years on three key financial measures – Earnings Per Share, Return On Average Equity, and Stock Price – along with their company’s credit rating based on several debt ratios and their corporate image based on ethical practices, CSR, and product quality. These measures are then weighted equally to derive an overall score index.

The 2016 spring semester was the sixth year the course has been taught and each year we have companies that rank among the top 100 in the world competing against some 450 universities in 40 countries.  Our ranking gets even better when compared to US college teams participating in the simulation of which there were 318 this year. This year, however, was a particularly exceptional year.

The Executive Leadership Team of Evan Conner, Valerie McGuire, and Feliks Abrahamyan of Dashing Designs (Company D) earned a Global Top 100 ranking on their EPS – the 31st best EPS performance, worldwide!

Against other teams from the U.S., Dashing Designs earned the highest overall score index, tied other teams on their corporate image and credit rating, and mid-way through the 10-year simulation had already surpassed the record set by other teams by the end of the competition on ROE and stock price.

Their accomplishment was celebrated with all students and professors participating in the simulation through a “press release” from the authors complimenting the university on a performance that reflects commendably on the caliber of instruction that students are receiving in the course.

So what was their secret? First, their team exhibited strong visionary leadership. Second, they ran their company with unyielding execution of a single-minded business strategy. Third, they backed their decisions with critical thinking and thorough analysis of the data. Yet the most distinguishing characteristic of the high performing teams was their exceptional passion and enthusiasm generated by a competitive spirit. The rivalry among teams – in and out of class – was what drove many of them to put in the extra time and effort to win. Needless to say, Dashing Designs was the team to beat.

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