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CNC team wins big at business competition

Dylan Thideman, left, Kyndra Farrell, Mark Wendling, Catherine Kemp, and Sarah Armstrong. CNC photo

A team of CNC Business Management students took second overall at the 2020 Western Canadian Business Competition (WCBC) at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus March 13-15.

WCBC is an annual business competition where students apply their knowledge and skills towards developing strategic solutions in a simulated business scenario. CNC students Catherine Kemp, Dylan Thideman, Kyndra Farrell, and Sarah Armstrong also took home the award for second-best business plan as well as the newly minted Team Spirit Award voted on by the competing teams.

“We went down there with a very open mind and wanted to take this opportunity to do as much networking as we could,” Farrell said. “We wanted to show that we, as CNC students, are very spirit oriented.” 

The simulation challenged the students to create and run a drone and camera company for eight years. CNC’s team named their company EchoTech and assumed the roles of Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Manager of Marketing, Manager of Operations and Manager of Human Resources.

This year, WCBC featured more competitors with seven teams. This caused issues right out of the gate for CNC’s team as it did not anticipate the impact this would have on the market. Ultimately, they under costed their product, which resulted in CNC’s team finding itself in last place after the first round of the simulation. 

This rough start became a valuable learning experience that Armstrong said helped the team persevere in the competition.

“It pushed us more than we would have if we magically ended up on top after the first round,” she said. “By getting that additional learning of how to overcome the mistakes we created, it really helped us more or less understand how things can change just like that.”

After that first round, Thideman was forced to do some ‘mad scientisting’ with the finances while his colleagues took creative measures within their own departments.

“My colleagues put a lot of trust in me when it came to numbers,” he said. “But our team was well rounded. Everyone presented very strong and knew their pillars so well that we were able to overcome that start.”

The competition was intense, according Farrell who was EchoTech’s CEO, with late nights working to hit deadlines until 3 a.m. only to wake up and get at it again three hours later.

“We were pressed for time,” she said. “As CEO, I had to make sure the whole team was getting in their ideas and opinions and ensure that every piece of the puzzle was fitting together.”

Adding more competitors to the simulation created a sense of unpredictability for Armstrong as she evaluated how the market share developed and changed. 

“It threw our marketing numbers off a bit and caused us to pivot our strategy multiple times throughout the competition,” she said. “I learned a lot in terms of marketing and everything to do with business, especially how to bring a company back to good standing.”

Kemp was responsible for EchoTech’s HR department. Though her area was the smallest of the simulation, she decided to expand HR beyond the parameters of the simulation. EchoTech was a global company based out of Taiwan with international offices in numerous countries. Kemp expanded HR to factor global differences and develop innovative employee retention programs.

“I wanted to feel like I could contribute just as much even though my section was inherently smaller,” she said. “HR touches every aspect of a business. The tech sector has one of the highest turnover rates and if you don’t have people, you aren’t producing services or goods.”

The team’s coach and CNC business faculty Mark Wendling was impressed with the team’s ability to adapted to the challenge of the competition. This resulted in many other teams following the business decisions made by CNC in subsequent rounds.

“They were constantly being chased down, which is a compliment, but awfully tough for them moving forward,” he said. “I’m proud of the students. They put a lot into this competition and impressed me quite a bit.”

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