By Tiffany King

The College of Coastal Georgia has been described as "a small, big school" where it's small enough that the professors know your name, but with big opportunities. This has been true for senior Jabe Harris, who was named Grand Champion of the 2021 Best Strategy-Invitational, hosted by GLO-BUS, a global strategic management simulation.

Harris, 33, is a native of St. Marys and served in the United States Air Force as a medic from 2006 to 2010. He is majoring in business with a concentration in marketing and a minor in communications. Harris came to Coastal Georgia because of its convenient location to his job and his desire to earn a degree. People often talk about those defining moments in their academic career that helped them choose a career path or gave a confidence boost to their decision to pursue a certain degree. For Jabe, it was Dr. Bill Garlen's capstone Strategic Management class, which uses the GLO-BUS simulation as the course curriculum. Garlen is the Director of Business Innovation Development and Assistant Professor of Management in the School of Business and Public Management.

GLO-BUS is a completely online exercise where teams of students run a digital camera company in head-to-head competition against companies run by other class members, Garlen said. Company operations parallel those of actual digital companies. Just like in the real world, companies compete in a global market arena, selling digital cameras in four geographic regions—Europe-Africa, North America, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America. Students act as company co-managers and must make decisions relating to research and development, camera performance, production operations, pricing, workforce compensation, finance, and other areas. GLO-BUS is used globally in 22 countries by approximately 317 business schools with 32,600 students per year to teach corporate strategy. Harris described the course as unlike any class he's taken at the College.

"This class is our capstone class for the business degree. It's not a class where you go and get a lecture and have a book and study for a test," he said. "It's more like a review of everything from all your business classes into one."

Instead of buying a book, students bought access to the GLO-BUS simulation. Each week, students worked together in their companies to craft and execute a competitive strategy that results in a respected brand image to keep the company in contention for global market leadership, with good financial performance as measured by earnings per share, return on investment, stock price appreciation, and more. Student co-managers are encouraged to think rationally and logically in deciding what to do and gain valuable practice in making a variety of different business decisions under circumstances that mirror real-world conditions. For example, when GameStop stock prices changed, the simulation was also affected because the value of the US dollar decreased, Harris explained.

His company's product was action cameras, such as GoPro and drones. He and his co-managers worked together to decide how expensive the cameras would be, the quality of the camera, editing capabilities, and other camera functions.

"What you're trying to do is produce the highest quality camera for the lowest cost, but there are many different ways to do that," he said.

On the first day of class, while Harris and his co-managers were perusing the GLO-BUS website, he noticed something called the Best-Strategy Invitational, where individual students from high-performing companies worldwide face off in a separate competition.

"I'm an extremely competitive person, so when I found out that we were competing, the first thing I said to them (team members) was 'I want to win,'" he said. "When I saw that if you do well enough you get invited to another competition, I wanted to win 10 times more. That's what I set my eyes on."

Any student-team that finished in first place in the simulation conducted at their school, college, or university globally received an invitation to participate in the Best-Strategy Invitational (BSI). Seven seniors finished the GLO-BUS course in first place, Garlen said, including Harris, who worked hard throughout the spring semester to score high enough to get an invitation. Harris even placed in the top 100 performances at one time during the simulation. When Harris received his invitation to BSI, he was very excited.

"I wanted to win. There are a few things in this world that I feel confident about, and going into that was one of them," he said. Harris also viewed the BSI as an opportunity to draw attention to the College. "This is a global competition. There were people in my industry from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, the University of Maryland, and one person from a $70,000 tuition school in Britain, and here we are in Southeast Georgia. I wanted to put us on the map."

To accept the invitation and participate, Harris paid $10 which was donated to the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). The competition was daily, for two weeks. Harris had less than 24 hours to make his business decisions and do it without his co-managers. During the class competition, students took over their companies from Year 6 to Year 12. In the BSI, competitors went beyond Year 12 to Year 15, which was uncharted territory for Harris, however, his strategy was to invest in research and development. The rankings would come the following morning, and for a while, Harris was in last place.

"I knew I was going to be near last place because I was heavily invested in research and development, and that costs a lot of money. But I knew that it was a long simulation and knew that if I stayed that course, it would pay dividends in the end," Harris said.

Harris watched how other competitors had expensive, high-quality cameras. He said with that particular strategy comes a smaller market of people who can afford the cost of an expensive camera, thereby limiting the number of sales. It was important for Harris to find the sweet spot of selling as many cameras as possible at a high enough price. As he progressed through the competition, he jumped from last to fourth, then to second, and ended in first place, becoming the Grand Champion.

"I went from worst to first," he said, laughing. "It definitely was a huge moment of self-recognition. It really pumped me up and gave me confidence. Some of the people that I was going against attend some of the nicest schools in the world, where prestigious people teach them. It's humbling at first, and it's a reality check that you don't have to be in the biggest place to do something big. We can still perform down here. That's a big confidence booster."

"To have a student reach number one in the Global Invitational for the little old College of Coastal Georgia is a really big deal and deserves high recognition," Garlen said.

A Great Learning Experience

Harris believes GLO-BUS is a great tool to help business students connect everything they've learned together. GLO-BUS can seem intimidating at first, but the deeper one goes into the simulation, the more it benefits the student, Harris said. He talked of the available resources on GLO-BUS to help students understand their company decisions.

"The learning curve is really steep in the beginning, but once you take the time, you'll realize how much you can do in there and it feels liberating," he said.

Prior to GLO-BUS, Harris didn't understand the significance of business terms, such as earnings per share and return equity. Now, if someone says that their company's return on equity dropped 20 percent from last year, Harris can make an educated guess that it could be due to stock prices, the issue of stocks, or a change in product pricing. He understands how things interact and what they mean in a business. Going forward, Harris will use his experience to better evaluate a business, potential employer, or company that he may do business with.

Harris came to the College with a background in computers and chose his major to learn how to better market his skills to potential employers. However, since then, he's realized the different career paths he can now take. For example, he's open to the idea of being a liaison between a company's technical department and marketing and sales team because he now has a perspective from both sides. Although he's currently unsure about which career path to pursue, Harris is more confident that he has the skills and education to make him a valued asset for any employer.

He remains grateful for not only winning the BSI but for participating in the GLO-BUS simulation. Harris hopes more students participate in the simulation and people come to know more about what the College has to offer.

"I think that they should look out for our business school because we're on the rise," Harris said. "We have a lot going on."

Other GLO-BUS rankings:

Strategic Management students running H-Company in the GLO-BUS simulation placed 15 out of 100 global colleges and universities in the Overall Game-To-Date Score category for the week of February 15. Those students were Matt Delaney, David Reynolds, and Robert Walters. H-Company ranked ahead of teams from Auburn University, Florida State University, and the University of Georgia.