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PC students dominating the virtual business world

Mike's Bike's PhotoRunning a successful business can be time consuming, labor intensive and quite stressful at times but three PC students are making it look easy.

Seniors Tonie Lagodinski, Wyatt Sumption, and Lauren Stearns are dominating the virtual business world with their crafty decision making and shrewd business sense in their capstone business course.

Through an online program called Smartsims students get the chance to build a virtual company from the ground up and these three seniors are guiding their company called Outspokin Bicycles to the top—currently ranked 11 out of close to 10,000 other virtual companies.

“It seemed too far-fetched to think that we would ever rank amongst some of the other competitors,” said Lauren Stearns, Outspokin Bicycles team member. “It wasn’t until about week six or seven when Professor Wegleitner pointed out our standing that I really realized it was within our reach.”

“Once we broke into the top 100, I didn’t give it much thought, because I didn’t really think we could keep it up,” added Wyatt Sumption, team member. “There are a dozen decisions each week, and any miscue on any of those choices would drop us way down the list.  I think it is really amazing, because it is a world ranking.  It hits home what a big deal it is when you actually look at the colleges that are ranked, and there aren’t any from the Midwest.”

Each team of students, which are from all over the world, begin the simulation with the same mountain bike company and start-up capital and have to make decisions on everything from production rates to firm size in order to climb the ranks.

“This simulation prepares the students to make decisions at a managerial level,” said Jennifer Wegleitner, Department Chair of Business and course instructor. “They have the ability to make all the decisions for the company and have to rely on market research and advertising to move their product.”

The global ratings have been running since 2008, which makes the fact that Outspokin Bicycles is in the 99 percentile even more impressive for the three senior students.

“This takes a high level of dedication and is just an amazing accomplishment,” said Wegleitner.

The simulation is so in-depth that the students have to decide what kind of bikes they will sell, whether they will sell them to chains or in independent retail stores, and even when to launch a new product line all of which correlate to their shareholder value.

“The simulation is like running your own business,” said Sumption. “You make every decision from production to marketing to how the heck you’re going to finance it all.”

Each week comes with a set of new decisions that will either lead the students to great profits or to utter decline in the virtual business world.

“The simulation was very life-like,” said Stearns. “In the beginning we were Advertising/Brand Managers and only held a few responsibilities then each year (week) we were given more and more responsibility until we finally had full control of our company.”

Business principles and practices can be taught in a classroom or read in a book but with the hands-on-learning the simulation provides the students are able to see just how their actions affect their sales.

“It wasn’t about just making decisions and having no idea how the software was going to react to them,” said Stearns. “Instead, with each year we could see exactly how our decisions affected our company and then relate them back to the knowledge we had from the classroom.”

Its courses like the business capstone at Presentation College that make learning fun and very beneficial to the student’s academic and career goals.

“Students have an opportunity to assimilate all of the information they have learned throughout their college career and apply it to real-world decisions,” said Wegleitner.

“While it certainly feels incredible to achieve such a high rank, the knowledge and the value that I have gained from this experience will far surpass the reward of the accomplishment,” added Stearns.

Story by Tim Beckham
Photo by Mark Zoellner

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