Universities Business Challenge: NBS Students Reach Semi-final

My name is James Rhodes, I am a second year Business Management Student and this article is written to reflect on my team’s journey in the University Business Challenge so far. UBC (University Business Challenge) is a highly prestigious simulation based competition in the UK that is designed to develop employability skills using realistic business simulations, allowing business and financial skills to be put into practice over a number of weeks. The competition is made up of a Trial Trading Period and 5 other periods during which you are ranked against 7 other Universities in your league.

The journey began in October 2018 when an opportunity arose to take part in the challenge, funded by the Business School. As soon as I learned of the opportunity I jumped at the chance to compete against other Universities, building on my success in the UEApprentice last year, having won the competition. UBC was now a chance to put my skills into practice on a larger scale and continue to boost my CV, something that is crucial in the increasingly competitive graduate job market.

James Rhodes & Olivia Whiting accepting their prize for winning UEApprentice

The Business we were asked to run was a Solar Energy company operating in two markets, with two products and a contract market. Having assembled my team, I appointed each member based on their strengths to a Director role to look after key business areas, such as finance and marketing. Next, we analysed our management reports containing key financials and also the Breaking News report, consisting of market restrictions such as maximum price changes and interest rates etc.

Things got off to a relatively strong start with the Trial Trading Period which saw us make a few changes to the previous board. We delivered a modest profit just short of £1.5 million and now had some invaluable feedback to move forward with.  

With the Trial Trading period out of the way, the first trading period saw us finish 4th overall delivering a profit just short of £1 million, only slightly down from the trial. We re-evaluated as a team and altered our strategy slightly, focusing purely on the main markets, having previously tendered for a contract, then tweaked our marketing spend and pricing. This proved to be a springboard for the weeks to come. In the 2nd trading period we achieved a profit of £2.7 million and finished 2nd for the period, bringing us up to 3rd overall. The race for the top two spots was well and truly on and we had not only closed the gap to a small margin but we were moving away from those ranked below us.

As is the case in all markets and in business as a whole, a curve ball was thrown at us in Trading Period 3, the markets were in a slump and now unfavorable, which required us to ‘balance the books’ and tweak things slightly. Fortunately, we were one of three teams to deliver a profit this period, generating a profit just short of £1.4 million; more importantly for us now though, we moved into second place, pulling away from the teams below us even further.

Trading Period 4 saw us deliver not only our largest profit yet, but also the largest in our league to date – £4.8 million. Subsequently, we moved into 1st place overall. But we could not become complacent, it was crunch-time and the final boardroom loomed. 

Before we knew it, that was that. We had done all we could and awaited the results of the final period, this was tense each week! We had anticipated that to secure a place in the semi-finals we needed to set ourselves a new record profit, and this proved to be the case. We managed to net just short of £5.8 million and land a place in the Semi Finals, finishing 2nd overall, and very comfortably ahead of the others in our league.

We might have narrowly missed out on top spot by just over £266,000 but we were not disappointed. Everything we did was achieved organically, without expanding our loan. The growth we achieved was purely through the sales made and changes in our strategy, something we are very proud of. The last period was particularly challenging with many factors favouring the other Universities, who used their loans to expand production and inventory, but we played to our strengths and now look forward to the Semi Final on March 7th in London.

I would just like to place on record my thanks to my other colleagues, Samuel Davidson, George Khoo, James Wynn-Lawrence and Beth Heritage, all part of Team Bottom Line and also to Dr Graham Manville for his support to date and allowing me to write for the blog. A further thanks to Professor Paul Dobson and Norwich Business School for affording us with this fantastic opportunity.

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