Lessons learnt from the University Business Challenge

Lessons learnt from the University Business Challenge

Students working at a laptop

In today’s world, extra-curriculum activities are becoming ever more crucial. The importance to distinguish ourselves from the legions of possible candidates is paramount to our success. This message was hammered into us throughout our lives from primary school to A level. Now the message is even more apparent as we quickly approach the end of our academic lives and into the reality of the working world.


One way to show the inexhaustible list of skills and to show that elusive term ‘commercial awareness’ is to participate in the University Business Challenge. It is a prestigious event that is recognised by all the commercial ‘giants’, e.g. Rolls Royce, IBM, RBS  to name but a few. The challenge pits you against seven other university business teams across the nation. Your main task is simple: to earn as much as you can in the seven simulation trading periods. Teams must work together to decipher the meaning within the spreadsheets and how they will employ the tools and money of the company to generate the greatest amount of profit possible. Just mentioning the brief overview of the challenge, one can automatically understand the thousands of examples that a candidate can draw upon when asked to explain a time when they had to communicate clearly, work in a team or take the initiative.


Now let us delve a little deeper to the lessons I took from the challenge. Being lucky enough to be given the title of ‘team captain’, I can positively say that my eyes were opened to the importance of allocating the right task to the right people. Not only did I develop the skill to manage my team efficiently, but I understood the need to appreciate the team’s strengths and weaknesses. This allowed me to ‘mix and match’ the team’s potential to best deal with the task at hand. Also as a leader, I believe that your task is to make your team grow as individuals rather than be blinded by the need to beat other competitors. This was important to me because we were a team of lawyers. None of us had any previous knowledge of the business models they teach and it was the first time many of us have ever seen a spreadsheet! I am not going to lie and say we were not worried.  Quite the opposite actually, we were petrified and de-moralised! However this is the beauty of the challenge. It forces the team to face the problem. We knew we didn’t have the knowledge to equip us for the task at hand and so we sorted assistance. We went to the lady who enticed us with this challenge. Fiona Winfield. We can gladly say we didn’t give up and that it paid off. In the first trading period with Fiona’s benign guidance, we profited an impressive £400. Even though it was not a lot we were extremely proud. It symbolised the hard work we put in to understanding the problem.

This hard work later translated into millions and at the end of the challenge, we made a profit of £20 million. Not bad for a group of lawyers.

Despite the materialistic results, I knew that we have turned from a team who feared the very sight of a spread sheet into a team who can complete the order sheet confidently by themselves. This admittedly was my proudest success as I have effectively helped my team overcome their weakness and to embrace the need to step out of their comfort zone, so that they can grow as individuals.


Therefore how does my little anecdote translate into skills that every employer is looking for? Firstly, the individual can enforce the idea of being determined characters as they did not give up in the face of adversity. Secondly, they possess the flexibility and the initiative to find skills and use the skills they have to deal with a problem. Thirdly, they communicated clearly and worked as a team to ensure that task at hand is understood by everyone.


Conclusively the potential and the amount of material one can use during interviews are unlimited. Not only do you understand the many challenges that many businesses face but you also acquired the skills that entrepreneurs possess to deal with these daily problems, a very unique skill to acquire, especially when compared to other Law students. I will highly recommend this challenge to any one who is interested in a commercial. The most important thing to get out of the UBC is to develop your character by coming out of your comfort zone. The UBC will do just that.


By Anthony Cheung.
Nottingham Law School

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