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February 19, 2007

Econ major Bryan Lee wins international business strategy game

By Jennifer McNulty

Nike, beware.

Undergraduate Bryan Lee demonstrated his business savvy during a recent international business strategy competition. Lee, a junior majoring in economics, managed a virtual athletic footwear company and emerged a grand champion, the only UC student to make the final cut against competitors from around the country and the world.

Photo of Bryan Lee

Bryan Lee

Photo: Jennifer McNulty

"I was really into it," said Lee. "I love to compete, and this satisfied my competitive drive. It was a lot of fun."

The Business Strategy Game is an online simulation during which teams of students manage a company and compete against classmates. Players face realistic daily decisions about every aspect of business management, from plant and warehouse operations to marketing, sales, distribution, finance, and labor compensation decisions. Company performance is measured by brand image, earnings per share, return on investment, stock price appreciation, and credit rating.

Teams get almost instant feedback, with new rankings posted online just minutes after participants make their decisions. The process is completely automated to avoid favoritism or bias.

Lee first played the game during Mary Flannery's Business Strategy class last quarter. He and teammates James Hofmann, David Oh, and Josh Lam emerged victorious and were invited to participate in the Season II 2006 Business Strategy Invitational, competing against students from the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

But the invitational began during finals week, and Lee's teammates opted out. Lee decided to compete on his own, even as he prepared for exams in econometrics, statistics, and Flannery's class. He faced off against 262 student-managed teams from business schools around the world, who were divided into 22 industries. Lee was named a "grand champion" and was inducted into the Business Strategy Game Online Hall of Fame.

"It was a lot of work," said Lee, who spent three to four hours a day on the competition, which continued five days a week for two weeks in December. "I'd try different strategies and experiment a lot."

The invitational was "a lot more competitive," said Lee, recalling fierce battles to win contracts to sell shoes to a private label. "At UCSC, students wanted to keep their profit margins, but during the invitational, people knew they had to get that market share, so they wanted to win the bid even if it meant losing money," he said.

Lee focused on carving out a niche for his company. He said the keys to success were the ability to anticipate industry factors that affect sales, maintaining the flexibility to react to changes, and conducting long-term and short-term cost-benefit analysis.

The experience was definitely educational, said Lee, who is a teaching assistant in the same course this quarter. "It's pretty realistic. It motivates students to understand business strategy and economic concepts, and it encourages teamwork and communication among group members," he said, adding that students earn two credits for participating in the competitions.

"Bryan is incredibly talented and determined, and he's a great role model for other students," said Flannery. "I was so glad when he accepted my invitation to be a teaching assistant this quarter."

Lee, who would like to own and manage his own business one day, is applying to the Economics Department's Pathways program to earn a bachelor's in economics and master's in applied economics and finance in five years.

A native of San Francisco and a graduate of Lowell High School, Lee said he came to UCSC because he liked the learning environment here. "I wanted a place where students would work together and where professors are helpful and friendly," he said. "Here, I've developed great relationships with professors, and when I meet people in class, they're willing to work together."

An accomplished tennis player, he was also drawn to UCSC men's tennis coach Bob Hansen, who emphasizes teamwork and communication. Lee played for the team until an ankle injury sidelined him during his first year. "During team meetings, we'd share ideas about what we could do to make practice more fun and productive. We'd think about aspects of our game that we need to improve to fulfill our goals," said Lee. "I didn't get that from my coach during high school."

Lee is back on the court, playing doubles after surgery this past summer. "My timing hasn't gone away so hopefully my senior year I'll be able to play on the team again," he said.

And how about those finals in econometrics, statistics, and business strategy? "I did well," said Lee. "It was my best quarter yet. I got A's in all my classes."

Read about other outstanding students in Profiles in Excellence.

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