My name is James Rhodes and I am a 2nd Year Business Management Student. This article has been written to reflect on the great honour myself and my team have had in representing Norwich Business School in the Universities Business Challenge, one of the world’s leading employability and enterprise skills based competitions.
Comprising of 3 rounds designed to develop employability skills using realistic business simulations that allow business and financial skills to be put into practice, whilst also using creativity and an ability to ‘think outside of the box’, I have led Team Bottom Line throughout the competition which was made up of my fellow 2nd year Undergraduate colleagues – Beth Heritage, George Khoo, Samuel Davidson and James Wynn-Lawrence.
Starting back in November 2018 the competition began by having to run a simulated business over 5 trading periods and each period we were ranked against 7 other Universities, finishing 2nd overall in our group, narrowly missing out on top spot with a cumulative profit over the 5 periods of 21.6 million pounds. You can read more about this in my previous blog here.
In view of our achievement we were ranked within the Top 60 teams and were able to progress onto the Semi Finals, where we opted to compete at the Semi Final held at Regents University in London on Thursday 7th March 2019. Having settled into our accommodation after our train journey from Norwich, we went and did some team bonding, playing Crazy Golf and enjoying a light lunch, also taking in some of the sights London had to offer. Following this, we headed back to our hotel, meeting with Tony Polack our mentor, enjoying a quick drink and team strategy session before we then headed out to Cote Brasserie for an evening meal, and onto the Sky Pod Bar to take in the views of London from one of the highest buildings.
All pleasantries aside and after a good rest and team breakfast, it was time to compete in the Regional Semi Final, where we would compete in a line-up of 9 other Universities including 2 Liverpool teams who had dominated the previous Semi Finals, winning both held at Bristol and Chelmsford and keen to continue their winning streak. Taking part in a series of activities including making start-up business decisions, creating a marketing campaign and also delivering an elevator pitch as well as a networking exercise, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and intense day, whereby we finished 2nd overall amongst a tough field of competition, edged out by Southampton. It was now a waiting game to hear if we had made it to the Grand Final on the 22nd March, and…. WE DID!
Having received the great news, it wasn’t long before we were back on the train to London and gearing up to compete in the Final. Once again, we travelled the day before, enjoying some further team bonding in the form of a game of bowling, which was swiftly followed by a team strategy session at the hotel to prepare for the task at hand and a lovely evening meal in London.
The day had now arrived and it was time to compete in the Grand Final, held at IBM’s Southbank Offices. Having enjoyed once more a team breakfast, we arrived at IBM and were anticipating what might lie in wait for us, discovering that we would run a simulated business for 3 rounds and also design a new product that was a really bad idea, elevating it into an idea that was then sustainable and aligned with IBM’s Smarter Planet Strategy.
The day now outlined, things didn’t get off to the strongest of starts in the simulation, with the team making a small profit of £29,750, whilst other teams delivered far superior margins. That said, and refusing to be deflated, this led to a rethink of our strategy which in period 2 resulted us in making a £775,950 profit, the largest profit for the period out of all teams, with only one other team making a profit. Equally, although we didn’t actually receive our TP3 results, we were advised of a strong finish in this period but unfortunately we would fall short. Having completed the 3 trading periods and now designed and presented our idea to the onlooking competition and judges, following the final presentation from IBM after a series of talks and networking throughout the day, the results were announced and we finished a respectable 7th overall.
Although at the time I was slightly disappointed, sometimes in life you have to look at the bigger picture and draw the positives, which from this whole experience there have been so many. Finishing 7th in a National competition which started with over 300 teams is no disgrace and something I beam with immense pride for achieving. I am so grateful to my team for all of their hard work and to Norwich Business School for their support throughout and for providing us with the opportunity and sponsorship to be able to represent them in such a prestigious competition- both my team and I have loved every minute!
by James Rhodes