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Putting their best foot forward: BSU students thrive in worldwide business simulation

The members of Dontopedalogy are, from left, Ryan Kohorst from Sauk Centre, Minn., John Gregorich from Britt, Minn., and Judah Chezick from International Falls, Minn.. All three are seniors in business administration. They are involved in a worldwide business competition for college students. (Bethany Wesley | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Three local university students learn today whether they remain at the top of an international competition that simulates the operation of a shoe business.

Senior business majors Judah Chezick from International Falls, John Gregorich from Britt, Minn., and Ryan Kohorst from Sauk Centre, Minn., are participating in The Business Strategy Game, through which teams of students to manage an athletic footwear company.

Their team, named Dontopedalogy, has been in a tie with other groups for first place for three weeks and finds out today whether they end the competition in the top spot.

They actually are graded based on how they do in the simulation against their fellow BSU students, but the simulation measures their performance on four variables -- overall score, earnings per share, return on average equity and overall stock price -- to compare teams internationally. There are more than 5,500 participating students worldwide.

"It's as close as anything I've ever seen" in simulating the running of a real business, Kohorst said.

Running a business

The teams manage a virtual footwear business by making decisions relating to plant operations, distribution and warehouse operations, workforce compensation, online sales at the company's website, sales and marketing, and finance.

Dontopedalogy members said they meet once or twice a week to review the figures and collaborate to make decisions for the company. Each week represents one business year and the businesses operate in four international markets: North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

"Each year you get your results back and when you go through those results you can see what you did good in and what you did bad in," Gregorich said. "That's usually where we find our problems and fix things, tweak some of our solutions."

The challenge, according to the game's website, is to craft and execute a competitive strategy that results in a respected brand image, keeps the company in contention for global market leadership and produces good financial performance as measured by earnings per share, return on investment, stock price appreciation and credit rating.

"We're learning all the things that go into making major decisions about a company," Chezick said. "We talk about (such things) a lot in class, but it's different to actually do it."

Dontopedalogy -- which means to insert one's foot into one's mouth -- reported that they were making steady progress through the first four weeks of the 10-week competition and then zipped ahead in the fifth week. The team has since been ranked among the top 100 throughout the world.

"It started fairly competitive and then the gap widened as it went on," Chezick said.

"We have the best shoes in the industry," Kohorst said. "We have 10 stars and that's the best you can get. And we also sell them at a very competitive price."

The final decisions had to be submitted by midnight Thursday and the team said results are posted soon afterward.

"Capstone courses in business are exciting because there are so many components to being a business person," said their professor, Dean Frost. "This is the one class where they get to make it all come together. They can say, 'I really can run a business.'"

Frost, who has had the three students in his classes before, said it is difficult to predict who will thrive in the simulation.

"This is a very valid, good way of assessing their learning, but it's quite different than taking an exam, writing a paper, or even presenting in class," he said. "To a certain extent, it's good that it is surprising because it really taps into new things."

Frost reported there was a team last spring that had a similar run tied with other groups at No. 1 and they were invited to take part in the champions round, something he fully expects for Dontopedalogy as well.

"This is really about competition," Frost said. "Business is about competition of course, but this is really about who wants to compete the most. Lots of students have the knowledge and the skills to do well in this. The ones who really do the best are the ones who really want to win."