Exploring Enterprise Experience
Business start-up decision-making simulation for enterprise students
“Our students benefitted from the Exploring Enterprise simulation in that it enabled them to reflect on the different purposes and forms of enterprise, presented them with business start-up challenges both financial and non-financial. They were engaged throughout the simulation and it has informed their career choices.”
School of Economics, Finance and Management
University of Bristol
Abstract and learning objectives:
This business simulation is as close as students can get to the real thing in terms of having the responsibility of setting up and running their own business but in a safe learning environment.
The structure of this simulation recognises that motivations for starting an enterprise can differ. So the simulation offers a choice of enterprise at the outset, which participants can select:
- For profit: build-to-sell
- Lifestyle enterprise
- Social enterprise
- IP: Researcher to Innovator
Participation in the simulation can be both on an individual or team basis. There is also the option to score all phases of the simulation, so participants can see how they are doing or for assessment purposes.
As a scoring system will be built into each phase of the simulation, it can be run competitively where appropriate with teams of students working together to set up and run the simulated business, i.e. a virtual entrepreneurial league.
Having selected one of the three enterprise options, the structure of the simulation is designed to take participants through four phases:
- Driving performance to deliver financial and non-financial outcomes
- Building value and exit strategies
At each stage of the simulation, participants work through issues arising at that stage of business development, then have the option to transfer learning through to their own business plan for their start-up business.
A business planning framework is integrated into the simulation for this purpose.
A video mentor will provide guidance at the start of each phase of the simulation and a business analyst will provide competitor and industry updates
The start-up phase includes:
- Purpose – enterprise, social enterprise, lifestyle business, build-to-sell etc. Decisions about purpose will be reflected in the scoring system for the simulation so that participants can choose how their performance is evaluated based on the purpose of their business.
- Strategy – industry analysis, competitive analysis, key activities and capabilities required.
- Value proposition, customer segments, customer relationships and revenue streams
- Keys to success
The simulation takes participants through a range of decisions that will allow them to plan in detail for how their business might operate.
As with all phases, the participant will undertake this phase of the simulation based on the simulated business and then have the option to transfer knowledge to their business plan.
- Business structure options, scalability and options for future growth.
- Key partners including suppliers, outsourcing of business functions, strategic customers/clients, support networks and access to experience and business knowledge.
- Competitor analysis – identification of competitors and research into their business performance through Companies House, media coverage etc.
- Market testing of value proposition with customers/clients compared to potential competitors.
- Key resource requirements that will drive success – human, physical, intellectual, investor.
- Review of business plan and investment strategy, cost structure and ROI.
- Investor proposition.
Driving performance to deliver financial and non-financial outcomes:
This phase of the simulation is focused on what it actually feels like to run a business on a day-to-day basis. The authors of the simulation have run a number of SMEs and the design simulates as closely as possible the real experience of running a small business.
Participants in the simulation are faced with a variety of decisions and challenges that impact on their financial and non-financial business performance.
Non-financial business performance indicators include:
1.0 Management of Growth:
1.1 Entrepreneurial capability & management of organic growth
1.2 Competence in entering new market segments
1.3 National/International market positioning
1.4 Growth through acquisition
2.0 Management of Risk:
2.1 Management of Financial Risk: Liquidity, cash flow, creditworthiness
2.2 Management of Legal & Reputational Risk
2.3 Management of Operational & Business Risk
3.0 Leadership Capability:
3.1 Strategic leadership and ability to drive business performance
3.2 Excellence in operations, information management, admin etc
3.3 Ability to lead and manage change
3.4 Retention of key personnel and attraction of talent into the business
3.5 Ability to deal with underperformance
4.0 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):
4.1 Corporate Governance
4.3 Social profile
4.4 Sustainability profile/Carbon footprint
5.0 Client Attraction and Retention:
5.1 Understanding market segments, channels and client expectations
5.2 Breadth of services & products
5.3 Creativity & Innovation
5.4 Account management structure
5.5 Value-added to client businesses
6. Procurement and Supplier Management:
6.1 Buying effectiveness
6.2 Exploitation of synergies that deliver economies of scale
6.3 Effective management of suppliers / spend control
This phase takes participants through a series of decision periods, equating to six months in the life of the business, during which they make a range of decisions examples of which are listed below:
- Opportunities to expand the business.
- The need to respond to competitor activity.
- Responding to a down-turn in the economy and customer/client budgets.
- Employees bringing claims for unfair treatment under employment law.
- Supplier contract negotiations.
- Setting of employee performance objectives and performance development reviews.
- Opportunities to expand the social impact of the business.
- Tendering for new client business.
- Setting and implementing policies on sustainability.
- Recruiting into the business.
- Cash flow issues and seeking new ways of funding the business.
- Expanding into international markets.
- Franchising the business.
- Outsourcing IT or HR activities.
Building value and exit strategies:
The final phase of the simulation provides an opportunity to understand how businesses are valued by accountancy firms and to plan an exit strategy. This phase will also include an opportunity to review the whole business and what would drive increased value in the next 3-5 years.
There will also be an opportunity to evaluate social impact and opportunities to increase social impact over the next 3-5 years.
While many business owners will never sell their businesses this focus on exit strategy will give participants the opportunity to review all their thinking about their start-up business.
- Stimulate Enterprise thinking & build confidence:challenge participant’s thinking and highlight the need for creativity, innovation and persistence.
- Business acumen: gives participants understanding of how business decisions, changes in the business environment and competitor activity drive business performance
- Financial awareness: understanding the sources & role of finance in business start-ups
- Effective communication: encourages articulation of ideas
- Information literacy: able to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information
- Collaboration: encourages co-operation with others to achieve a common purpose
Content & Format
The Exploring Enterprise simulation comes in two versions:
This is designed for easy inclusion into a course module at 10 credit level. It helps put taught theory into practice and helps develop core workplace and enterprise skills.
This is a shorter version ideal for extra-curricular enterprise day activities to give students across disciplines the experience of running an enterprise. It can be run competitively thus building team-working skills and business acumen.
Undergraduate or Masters students working either individually or in teams of up to 5.
Simple and practical on-line simulation platform with the following resources:
- teaching notes for the educator team
- introductory slides
- comprehensive student team briefing
- scoring & assessment options: MCQs, peer review and a reflective account
- student / team mentoring guidance
- plus telephone helpdesk for educators.
An introduction to current users of the Exploring Enterprise simulation is available as part of the briefing and adoption.
Student team resources include:
Engaging on-line simulation platform with the following resources:
- comprehensive team briefing
- explanation of decisions to be taken each week
- timetable for decisions
- notification of scores (where appropriate)
- helpful hints & tips
- plus email helpdesk.
In-curricular version: On-line:
The in-curricular version of the simulation is delivered on-line. All resources are downloadable from the simulation website.
Extra-curricular version: Live delivery:
The extra-curricular version of the simulation is delivered live.
The in-curricular version is normally run on-line over 5 weeks with decisions each week. However, timetables for delivery can be scheduled to fit with course requirements.
The shorter version of the simulation can be run live over one day.