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ISU College of Business graduate students earn second place at International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition

May 8, 2018
Kelsey West, COB Director of Marketing

Photo of students who competed at the competition.
Cutline: (top to bottom, left to right) Thad Curtis, Joss Stuart, Krystal Scott, Tim Roth, Holly Powell and Michael Hunn

POCATELLO – This year’s International Idaho State University Collegiate Business Strategy Competition (ICBSC) team returned from its competition in Anaheim, California with a second-place trophy for Overall Performance.

This is the fourth straight year that a team from ISU has brought home hardware from the ICBSC,” said Alex Bolinger, associate professor of management and co-advisor for the team.

Over the course of three months, students Holly Powell, Krystal Scott, Tim Roth, Michael Hunn, Thad Curtis and Joss Stuart worked as a team of executives in a simulated business competing against graduate students from other universities. The competition required the students to make quarterly business decisions once a week for six weeks and then twice a week for three weeks before competing in an intense 48-hour competition in California.

Throughout the competition, the team was faced with challenges that mirrored real-world issues that companies may face. For instance, Krystal Scott, the vice president of sales forecasting, had to create a statistical model to predict sales using complex formulas and numerous integrated workbooks.

“The model allowed me to accurately predict sales to help our other members make decisions,” Scott said. “The model had an average accuracy of 91.12 percent. This means, all forecasts were within 10 percent of actual results.”

The team then incorporated Scott’s sales forecasting model and built a comprehensive, spreadsheet-based decision model to collectively make decisions about production, advertising, research and development, hiring and training salespeople and production employees, and financing the company’s operations.

“What made our model better was the integration,” said Tim Roth, the company’s chief financial officer. “We connected the spreadsheets together so that they communicated to one another simultaneously. Having the model allowed us to speed up our decision-making process and helped us make more accurate decisions.”

In order to function properly and accurately, however, the members of the student team had to continually coordinate to avoid data input errors, miscalculations and other errors that would make their data inaccurate. This, too, was a learning experience for the team members. For instance, a data entry error in one quarter led to a situation where the company had to take out a short-term emergency loan.

Once the model was completed, the team was faced with more difficulty in developing a pricing model that would allow for the level of quality they wished to maintain but at a price that was attractive to the consumer.

“Our team was operating in a world where consumers are very price-sensitive and the costs of producing a high-quality product dramatically compressed margins,” Bolinger said.


“In Anaheim, we were having trouble controlling costs,” Scott said. “One team member suggested to sell a plan to gain cash and lower costs. This was a decision that was unheard of in the competition, but ultimately was a primary contributor to how we rose from last place to second place.”

For the team members, facing the real-world difficulties that the ICBSC competition presented instilled in them confidence in their ability to work together as a team and persist.

“The biggest thing I learned was the need for everyone on the team to be committed to the team, to share the same goals, to stick to the core principles of the company but be flexible in all other areas, and realize it’s not always going to work out at first. But, if you have the right strategy and work ethics, you will eventually see the rewards,” said Joss Stuart, vice president of marketing and human resources.

Overall, each student agreed that the graduate competition provided them with an experience they would never forget and would continue to use throughout their professional careers.

“There is no other class on campus that prepares a student for the workforce better than the ICBSC,” said Holly Powell, chief executive officer for the team and the first student at ISU to ever compete in the ICBSC twice. “It is the bridge to the professional world. Academia teaches in terms of silos; students take finance classes, marketing classes, etc. In this competition every role feeds into the next and if you do not embrace this, you, as an individual, will suffer and team performance will suffer. In the real world, the business environment is largely an integrated team environment and you cannot learn how to function in that arena from a textbook, but ICBSC will teach you how.”

The ICBSC represents another unique real-world opportunity for College of Business graduate students in which ISU is the only university in the states of Idaho, Utah, Montana and Wyoming that participates in the competition, thanks to generous support from Idaho Central Credit Union.

“This was without a doubt the best experience of my collegiate career,” Scott said.