The BYU Chinese Team takes first place in the 2016 Business Language Case Competition, making five first place trophies in six years.
PROVO, Utah (Nov. 21, 2016)—Each year the Marriott School of Business hosts the Business Language Case Competition for participants from several universities across the United States. In teams of three, students create a presentation to solve a problem faced by a local business in either Spanish or Chinese.
This year the business was Altra, a Utah-based running shoe company. Their main issue was filling their minimum order quantities. “Altra is having trouble with minimum order quantities because they are a small company and they are not filling Nike sized orders right now,” explained Alex Harper, a Chinese Flagship student and political science major.
BYU students Alex Harper, Yi Ra Choi, and Matthew Sabey teamed up to solve the problem with their supply chain and won first place in the competition. Their presentation, the judges questions and any additional comments were all in Chinese.
“The case they gave us was about supply and demand, just really basic economic principles,” Sabey said. Sabey, who is a Chinese and economics double major, suggested cutting down on the number of styles Altra offers, citing a Columbia University study where researchers discovered that consumers are more likely to buy a product when their choices are fairly limited.
“It’s been proven in a couple other studies that if you have fewer options, it’s a lot easier to make a decision. We suggested that they cut back on the different styles of shoes so that way they could increase their sales and also fill their minimum order quantities a lot easier,” said Harper.
The other suggestion made by the BYU team was to move production from China to Vietnam. Choi’s family is from Korea and works in manufacturing. Her family recently moved their production from China to Vietnam, partially because of the rising labor costs in China. This personal experience was important to the success of the BYU team in the competition.
“I saw and experienced the process. I was able to share my family experience with my team members. Now Altra is in the process of trying to move their business to Vietnam. Other groups didn’t think about moving things to Vietnam,” said Choi.
While the BYU team had a good case, what really set them apart in the competition was their Chinese proficiency. Professor Steve Riep, who teaches the Chinese business course at BYU and helps select students for the competition, commented “Having a good analysis is important, but being able to explain it in Chinese is crucial and that is really what distinguished our team from the other teams.”
All three students also commented on the importance of their Chinese ability in the competition, saying that the feedback they received from the judges was very favorable concerning their speaking skills. Just as important, however, was being adaptable and addressing the concerns of the judges during the competition.
One judge in particular asked the team a question they hadn’t considered including in their presentation. “He wanted to know who the ideal consumer for Altra was and who we are marketing to,” explained Harper. “That’s a tough question because there are runners across all ages and distances from competition runners to people who just do it once or twice a week, and Altra’s marketing to all those people.”
During their lunch break, the BYU team worked to resolve the judge’s concern in their later presentations, stating that Altra particularly attracted runners who have had injuries or joint pain because of Altra’s unique, low-impact design that keeps the foot level while running.
“It definitely helped us right there in the next round because we had the same judge and he didn’t ask us that same question again. The other groups encountered him later and weren’t prepared for his questions,” said Harper.
The benefits for students in participating in the competition are widespread. Along with honing teamwork and presentation skills, Sabey also commented that he was able to befriend a few other participants and increase networking opportunities. “I learned a lot of useful business vocabulary in Chinese and I got to work and present with a great team. I also befriended the Spanish case team from Indiana. I feel like I have more people to help my network,” said Sabey.
—Hannah Sandorf (B.A. Art History and Curatorial Studies ’17)