Marshall Philips and Bryan Woods of the Spirit AeroSystems cohort worked as a team to win the game, which is an online simulation where students run a virtual company and compete against each other. The students are ranked against other competitors based on their corporate strategy.
In the simulation, each team inherits a company. Each team must make all the decisions on how to run and manage the company for 10 simulated years. Executive decisions, strategy, finances and personnel choices all had to be determined by the students.
“The Business Strategy Game comprehensively and effectively ‘wraps the bacon’ around the Newman University business school experience. This multi-dimensional simulation demonstrates the complexities of business and allows students to work firsthand with the tools of business, leadership and strategy,” said Assistant Professor of Business Larry Straub.
Philips and Woods are both engineers at Spirit AeroSystems and said they learned many lessons through the game, many of which they can apply to their current jobs.
In an interview with Straub, Philips said, “I was really excited when he introduced this game as our capstone project because I saw pretty quickly that it was really going to tie together everything that we had studied and learned in our MBA program.”
“To do well at the game, Bryan and I had to employ a lot of the skills that we learned at Newman University because it includes marketing, it simulates production, it simulates finance and you have to know how to do an ROI (return on investment) analysis. You need to understand leverage, you need to break down your fixed and variable costs, so there are a lot of moving parts and I saw right away that Bryan and I would be strong at integrating those parts.”
The duo said the game was strenuous, challenging and motivating. They struggled with many decisions and spent a lot of time analyzing but overall felt valuable lessons were being learned.
Woods said, “A lot of the decisions we made are akin to the decisions we make every day at our jobs. I’ve never seen a game as realistic to modeling real life as the BSG, it was a pretty phenomenal experience.”
Philips said he seconded that. To him, it didn’t feel like they were gaming the system but instead that they were truly applying the knowledge they had gained from their MBA program at Newman to a real situation.
Both agreed that the game gave them insight into what it may be like to own a large business someday or at least appreciate those who do.
“This is a great foundation for you to understand what it really takes to make those CEO-like decisions,” said Woods.
The two felt the game was an appropriate capstone project for their MBA because of the wide variety of business-related aspects it touched on — cash flow analysis, bank loans, credit score impacts, quality control, efficiency and more.
As engineers, much of their business knowledge used in the game came directly from their classroom experience at Newman, they said.
“Those are all production and quality elements that all work in concert with engineering but if you’re not pulling on what you learned in your MBA then this game will really kick you over,” said Woods.
Overall, Woods said he thought the MBA program prepared him well for the game and provided him with valuable knowledge in the field.
“Having the professors come to Spirit so we weren’t running out of meetings late in the day was extremely helpful,” he said. “But it’s an investment and you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. Two years is going to go by either way so it’s really up to you to determine what you get out of it.”
Woods felt the Business Strategy Game is what helped him tie his past two years of education together.
“The best thing I can say about the MBA program is that I’d do it again,” said Philips with a laugh. Being out of school for years now, Philips said it felt a bit odd to do homework, readings and attending classes but in the end, it was worth it.
“At the end, after I step back and take a breath, I learned a lot and I’m glad of what I learned and I would go through it again. Definitely a valuable experience. If you’re going to do it, commit, and it’ll be worth it,” he concluded.
Straub mentioned that this particular cohort got a wide variety of real-life business experiences during their time in school thanks to the game and real life.
“During this cohort, you saw it all, things were booming … and then you saw in real-time everything that can happen in business. From the (Boeing 737) MAX issues to COVID-19, you just can never get too cocky,” he said.
Straub finds the simulation to be interesting and is thankful Newman can provide it to students.