“Best in the world.” That’s not something you hear every day. But recently, University of Lynchburg student Joel Rainey ’20 got word that his overall score in the Business Strategy Game, a global business simulation that involved undergraduate business students from 385 colleges and universities in 37 countries, had tied for first.
The BSG is an integral part of BUAD 411W, Integrated Application of Business Principles, the capstone course in Lynchburg’s business administration program. Rainey took the class last fall. The game is also used by graduate students in the Master of Business Administration.
Rainey’s overall score, which is based on composites of five scores — earnings per share, return on equity, stock price, credit rating, and image rating — also was above the 99th percentile, compared to other competitors.
Business professor Frank Whitehouse has taught at Lynchburg since 1980 and has used the Business Strategy Game, or some variation of it, for about as long. He said his students routinely fall in the 80th to 99th percentile, but that last semester Rainey’s class section “collectively placed above the 99th percentile on the basis of overall score.”
As first in his class, Rainey placed even higher. “Joel’s was above the 99th percentile,” Whitehouse said. “I had to recalculate that twice, to be sure. I said, ‘Wow.’ Ninety-ninth percentile, I’ve seen before, but not this high.”
Two other Lynchburg students, marketing major Chloe Messer ’20 and business administration major Hunter Danforth ’20, tied for 15th in the world.
In the BSG, students manage a global athletic shoe company for 10 virtual years, making decisions about production, marketing, human resources, product quality, operations, finance, and other business areas. They learn quickly that no category is an island unto itself.
“The most fundamental thing they get a chance to learn is that while they may have studied operations, marketing, finance, human resources, and management as different subjects, the reality is that any decision they make in their company will have an effect in all of those domains,” Whitehouse said.
“You might think it’s a marketing decision — spending more money on direct advertising — but it will have implications for production, shipping, HR decisions to work more overtime. That’s why it’s referred to as ‘integrated application.’ This really drives it home more than anything else could possibly do.”
Students also get a chance to make mistakes before they’re faced with real-world business decisions with real-world consequences.
“They have an opportunity to make the typical mistakes, out of the box, that an inexperienced business manager is going to make, and find out relatively inexpensively what doesn’t work,” Whitehouse said. “I tell them, ‘I know what you’re going to do. Go ahead. Go ahead and get it out of your system. Cut the price 5 to 10% and see what happens.’”
Strategy also is a big part of the game, Whitehouse said, adding that students are encouraged to pick one and go for it. “In the game, it doesn’t matter what strategy you pick so much as how well you execute that strategy,” he said.
Rainey found that advice helpful. “I found the importance of having a strategy and sticking to it,” he said. “Knowing what I was going to do from the start helped me when planning things out and looking at the long-term repercussions of my decisions in that round.
“It allowed me to know ahead of time when I needed to expand my business and start the process before I was overwhelmed.”
Rainey, a Central Virginia Community College transfer who finished the undergraduate coursework for his accounting degree in December 2019, is currently enrolled in Lynchburg’s MBA program. His goal is to sit for the CPA exam and eventually work in business finance.
“He is a really wonderful young man who is going to go places fast,” Dr. Nancy Hubbard, dean of the College of Business said.
Rainey said what he’s learned in his classes at Lynchburg and through the Business Strategy Game will help him reach his goals. “I know the class and, more generally, my education at Lynchburg helped me continue to sharpen my study skills, something that’s quite important as I look toward taking the CPA exam,” he said.
“Not only that, but many of my business courses, and more specifically accounting courses, have helped form a great foundation. I know the studying I’m doing now would be far more difficult if I hadn’t learned what I did in my program.”
He added that his capstone course, in addition to his time as a tutor in the Wilmer Writing Center, helped “form and build communication skills when working as part of a team, and helped me know how to teach someone to learn, as opposed to simply telling them what to do.
“I think these skills will be helpful as I go out into the workplace.”