Saturday, October 19, 2002
Steamboat Springs The young man stared intently into the glowing screen, his fingers tapping furiously at the keyboard. Suddenly he straightened up. "Dude, I kicked the hell out of the game," he said.
The young man wasn't playing Grand Theft Auto III on his Playstation 2. Instead, he was excelling at his high school business class.
Students in Steve Moos' "introduction to business" are gaining a practical understanding of all the variables that can affect the viability of a small business. They are gaining that experience through a piece of computer software. "Virtual Business, Retailing" is able to simulate the operation of a convenience store as well as a distributorship that supplies a fleet of C-stores through a centrally located warehouse. The name of the game is "let's make money."
"I love the ability to talk about theory and then have the kids try it out right away," Moos said. "It really engages them in learning business concepts."
Moos gave a test last week. The stu
dents logged on to their computers and went directly to a simulation of a convenience store that was struggling. Their job was to analyze the store's problems, devise a strategy for returning it to fiscal health, then tweak the simulation until they were $100,000 in the black.
"You've got 30 minutes to turn that business around," Moos urged his students.
Before they could turn in their tests, students each had to write a paragraph summarizing their successful strategies for Moos. Next, they e-mailed their financial statements to the teacher in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.
David Edelman and Jesse Burkett came up with a winning strategy for their store. First, they noticed their troubled outlet was charging only 75 percent of what its competition was charging for such essentials as potato chips and paper napkins. They also noticed that the store was overstocked in middle-of-the-road brand name products, when most of the demand was at opposite ends of the spectrum.
"We began ordering only generic and primo stuff," Edelman said. He also picked up on the fact that the store manager had been too stingy with his payroll. There were only enough employees to restock the shelves once a day. The store was missing out on three daily periods of intense buying by not being fully stocked.
Those changes started the store on an upward trend, but after 10 or 15 minutes, the boys noticed they were giving ground between revenue spurts (the simulation allows for the compression of time, so the students get rapid feedback on the changes they make).
Edelman and Burkett put their store over the top when they adjusted their marketing campaign.
"We noticed the business wasn't paying any money for advertising except for one very large ad in the arts section of the newspaper," Burkett said. "When they broadened their approach to include the sports section, sales climbed dramatically.
Moos said it would be misleading to give the impression that the entirety of his introduction to business curriculum is based on the computer software. He still spends time giving traditional lectures, and he admits it was a little difficult for him this year to make the tradition to a new style of teaching..
"You still have to teach accounting out of books," Moos said.
But in terms of engaging the students and giving them rapid feedback on what they have learned, he believes the computer models have excelled.
Ironically, Moos himself owned a convenience store in Denver more than a decade ago.
"I could never have created a business simulation like this on my own," Moos said.
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or