Huntington, Ind.— As business majors at Huntington College, students not only take pertinent course work, but also have the opportunity to learn how to run a business of their own through practical application. Sweet Satisfaction, the campus vending machine company, is run by the Managerial Decision Making class, a course that is available for business majors.
In the once per year course, the vending business is continually passed on to the following class. Each new group of students resumes the business in the state left to them by the previous class without financial information, plans or strategies. During the first class period, Professor Dave McEowen, assistant professor of business at Huntington College, introduces the course and leaves the young entrepreneurs to take charge.
“I leave the students in total chaos,” said McEowen. “I tell them, ‘Treat it like a course and that’s what it will be. Treat it like a business and that’s what it will become.’ It is one thing to study techniques in a business class setting, but it is very important that those skills be applied. The more effort the students put in, the more they get out.”
As managers of the business, students must buy inventory, stock machines and maintain a warehouse. They have to deal with revenue, expenses, losses, customer service problems, debt repayment, damaged equipment and stolen goods.
Students apply marketing, operations, finance, accounting, human relations and economics knowledge from the classroom to a real working business. They must determine prices that will cover the monthly debt payment as well as benefit the customer and the company. The students write an annual report and present it to the “majority stock holder,” Professor McEowen.
“Every person has a different work ethic and the key is to motivate each individual based upon their individual skills,” said McEowen. “Communication within the company is vital. If they don’t work together, they aren’t going to get it done.”
The company’s 2002-03 president, Matt Purdy, learned to take an initiative throughout his experiences in the class. “My favorite part of the course was being able to take everyone’s perspectives and desires, formulate a strategy and watch our success play out. That’s rewarding. I learned that if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.”
“Being in the class has helped me to look at problems differently,” said Mike Nimtz, a student in the class. “Instead of just jumping in and making a quick decision, I now am more likely to step back, analyze the problems and then decide on one possible solution.”
Throughout the course, students are assigned Harvard Business Review articles that cover a variety of strategic issues. They also work with a business decision-making computer simulation to further develop their strategic thinking and decision making skills. The students are assigned Harvard Business School case studies, in which they analyze the cases, follow a decision-making process, and then prepare written analyses and formal presentations of the proposed solutions.
The idea for the class was born in the spring of 1997, under the direction of Dr. Ann McPherren, professor of business, after a business department assessment showed that business alumni wished they had received more practical experience prior to graduation. Professor Dave McEowen was delegated as the instructor in the fall of 1997.
# # #