Lundquist College first-year business student Shawn Recca bested more than 100 contestants from around the world, including many contestants who competed as a team, in the SmartSims business simulation during winter break.
Used in intro business courses around the world, SmartSims business simulations uses the true-to-life experience of building a virtual bicycle manufacturing company—Mike’s Bikes—from the ground up.
Adopted in all BA 101 (Introduction to Business) courses at the Lundquist College of Business, students use the introductory version of SmartSims. Recca mastered the SmartSims business simulation in his fall term BA 101 class and voluntarily chose to enter the world competition—which uses a different, “advanced” form of the simulation.
In the classroom simulation, students vie against the computer as it seeks to increase shareholder value for its own, competing enterprise. Students analyze the market, develop strategy, and make key decisions for their company long term.
Each year the best performing students in classes all over the world are invited to compete in the Mike’s Bikes World Championship.
Recca decided to participate in the competition in order to keep himself on track during the break.
“I was able to be proactive, to stay in the classroom mindset,” he said. Recca is declared pre-business, and intends to major in business administration with a concentration in finance and minor in economics.
Senior Instructor Tom Durant said this kind of initiative is impressive, adding Recca was one of the highest performing students in his section of BA 101 in fall 2019.
“Put yourself in Shawn’s place as an incoming freshman—there’s a lot of adjustment that needs to be made,” Durant said. “To voluntarily decide to enter into this world championship competition really speaks to his sincerity and his interest in business.”
Like the educational version of the application, those competing in the World Championship launch Mike’s Bikes. This time, it isn’t the computer they’re competing against but other students.
There’s a qualifying round at the World Championship, and the 10 students with the highest shareholder value at the end of the round move on to the finals. Over the course of the competition the intensity gets ratcheted up as different aspects of business operation—from factory space to labor costs—become more important.
The competition takes place entirely online, and participants can see how well their competitors are doing via their shareholder value.
“Shawn’s achievement is significant,” said SmartSims CEO Ian McPherson of Recca’s sixth place finish. “He competed in our Mike's Bike’s World Championships using a simulation which he had not used before—our Mikes Bikes Advanced Business Simulation used in senior and MBA courses.”
The competition included 163 students from around the globe, mostly seniors who had used Mike’s Bikes Advanced for six to twelve weeks in their courses, McPherson said.
While he’s proud of his sixth-place finish, looking back Recca would do some things differently. By adopting a high growth strategy, he spent large amounts of virtual money early on, which lost him some potential profit down the line.
“This can often be acceptable,” Recca said. “Due to the high competition of my peers, however, my company was left with little funds to finance operations or to grow in the following years. I really looked into the future. All my decisions were to have a high value in the end. That backfired.”
In the process, Recca learned valuable lesson about starting a business: balancing the needs of now with the needs of the future. Growing too fast is a primary reason many startups fail, he said.
“You had to be smart about it,” he said.
—William Kennedy, Lundquist College Communications