I am James Rhodes, a final year Business Management student, and this year I decided to compete once again in the IBM Universities Business Challenge (UBC). UBC is a highly prestigious simulation based competition in the UK that is designed to develop employability skills by using realistic business simulations, allowing commercial and financial skills to be applied over a number of stages. 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.
Having led Team Bottom Line last year to the Grand Finals, finishing 7th overall in a competition that started with over 300 teams, I decided to return for the 2019-20 series. Drawing on my experiences from the previous year, I was able to alongside my fellow 3rd year colleagues Matt Byrne and Sonny Hague devise a strategy that would ‘attack’ the competition right from the off, with the aim of building on last year’s 2nd place finish in the group. Similar to last year, the business we had to run in the first round was a solar energy company, and as the Team Leader I appointed each member to have a set role, utilising our respective strengths.
My previous experience combined with the academic excellence of my colleagues, we led the group right from the trial trading period (TTP), through to the very end of the competition, qualifying as outright group winners with a cumulative profit of almost £25.4 million – which certainly avenged some demons from the previous year having marginally missed out going through as group winners! While there were some challenges along the way, including having to respond to a market recession, price restrictions and supplier issues, we navigated these problems and we were invited to the semi-finals as one of 55 teams fortunate enough to reach this stage.
Competing in Bristol was a new experience for me having competed last year in London, and this time round we were competing against 15 teams, versus 10 the previous year, so it was always going to be tough. We travelled as a team the day before the competition to Bristol and were lucky to have fully funded travel, accommodation and meal expenses, which was appreciated following an almost 6 hour journey, and allowed us to enjoy a round of crazy golf after checking into the hotel to get our competitive spirits flowing – although my skills leave a lot to be desired! Following this, we enjoyed a lovely team meal alongside our accompanying academic Graham Manville, Director of Employability.
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 strong line-up of 14 other Universities including several previous winners, and others also with a strong heritage within the competition. Taking part in a series of activities on the day including making start-up business decisions, creating a business model canvas and also delivering an elevator pitch style advertisement, alongside an idea generation exercise, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and intense day, which saw us finish 6th overall, falling short of a top 3 finish to reach the Grand Final.
Whilst at the time I was slightly disappointed, finishing 6th was no disgrace, and sometimes in life perspective is needed, particularly in these tough times we now find ourselves in. Having led two teams in two years, reaching 2 semi-finals and 1 grand-final, I alongside my colleagues have got so much from the experience and I beam with so much pride. Developing invaluable skills whilst boosting our CV’s, UBC has served as a great help in securing employment as we move onto pastures new, and I would actively encourage any student, whether first or final year to take part in the competition which is both great fun, but also develops crucial employability skills.
I would just like to place on record my thanks to my other colleagues a part of Team Bottom Line who worked so hard, and also to Dr Graham Manville for his support, with a further thanks to Norwich Business School for affording us with this fantastic opportunity.