Biz Language Case Encourages Connections

PROVO, Utah – Nov 15, 2016 – It was just a joke at first. Indiana University’s Spanish team and Brigham Young University’s Chinese team said that if they both won the Business Language Case Competition, they would celebrate together later that night. After both teams placed first in their language categories, Matt Sabey, a BYU senior majoring in economics, picked Indiana University’s team up from their hotel and took the them on a victory tour of Provo.

“I was so surprised and excited when our team was announced as the winning team,” says Yi Ra Choi, a BYU senior majoring in Chinese with a business minor. The competition was a new type of challenge, she explained, but her team “presented and answered with equal poise.”

Indiana University’s team was just as excited about their win. 

“I felt unbelievably happy and proud of the work we had done,” says Allison Newell, an Indiana University senior. “I’ve wanted to participate in this competition since I first heard about it three years ago. The competition pushed me out of my comfort zone to combine two of my passions: business and Spanish. To win was incredible because our team worked so hard to combine those two passions and communicate effectively.”

Laura Ricks, program coordinator for the Kay and Yvonne Whitmore Global Management Center, explained that those two passions are a huge part of the BLCC. BYU is known for its strong language programs–more than 75 percent of BYU students speak a second language–and this competition allows BYU to reach out to other universities to help students learn business language.

“Having a language skill is a huge asset, and students need to know how to utilize it to get a job,” Ricks says. “This competition helps build their confidence that they could work in business using their language skills.”  

This was Indiana University senior Martin Aguinis’ first time presenting a case in Spanish, but he doubts it will be his last time.

“This competition encouraged me and showed me how important it is to use my Spanish in the future,” Aguinis says. “I want to make sure that whatever business I’m doing, I’m able to use my Spanish and international background.”

BYU has held the BLCC annually for the past ten years. Student teams from universities across the nation are assigned a business case local to the Provo area and then present their business plan to a panel of judges in either Chinese or Spanish.

This year, four Spanish teams and five Chinese teams from American University, University of Washington, University of Rhode Island, Indiana University, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and BYU met in Provo on 3-4 November. Each team developed a plan to help Altra Running work with its manufacturer to satisfy the needs of its international market. In the Spanish competition, Indiana University took first place, University of Washington took second place, and UNLV took third place. In the Chinese competition, BYU took first place, University of Washington took second place, and University of Rhode Island took third place.

The two-day event began with the teams visiting Runner’s Corner, the birthplace of Altra Running, where founder Golden Harper shared the company’s creation story. That afternoon, the group had lunch at Sundance Mountain Resort, where they heard from Taylor Bremner, Altra’s international operations manager, and had the chance to ask Robison and Harper questions about the case. The second day of the event was the actual competition at the Marriott School.

“We wanted to create a case where they could actually talk to the company and have the experiences where the case is not just theoretical,” Ricks says. “It’s more like, wow, this case really matters to this company. They can see this company and pick the brains of those people.”

Alex Harper, a BYU senior majoring in political science and Chinese, notes the lunch at Sundance helped his team ensure their presentation was on the right track. “Altra is actually already implementing one of the suggestions that we made that wasn’t in the case. That made us feel pretty good about the direction we were going because that’s the direction the company is already actually going,” Harper says.

Judges scored each team based on both the content and delivery and the language and grammar of their presentation. BYU’s team believes their language skills, as well as their diverse academic backgrounds as non-business majors, is what set them apart.

“Even though none of us are business majors, we were still able to research and think critically about the problem and give the best presentation,” Harper says. “The fact that our language abilities were relatively equal between the three of us was a great advantage over other teams. We worked well together fielding questions and gave an equal amount of input throughout the presentation. I think this was impressive to the judges.”

The competitors left with more than just a win or a loss, though. They left with valuable connections and friendships.

“I loved getting to know the other teams,” Newell says. “It’s fascinating to learn from other people and hear about their experiences. Everyone we met was incredibly down-to-earth and genuine. I really appreciated that.” 

The Marriott School is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, entrepreneurship, finance, information systems and public management. The school’s mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,300 students are enrolled in the Marriott School’s graduate and undergraduate programs.

Nine teams from six universities expanded their international business skills at the GMC's Business Language Case Competition.

Media Contact: Jordan Christiansen (801) 422-8938
Writer: Kayla Goodson