Competition shows off students’ business acumen

West Point’s Linda Hannah and Lisa Klutts were among the judges Thursday at the state DECA competition at EMCC.
Staff Writer

Decide whether to use straight-line depreciation or double-declining balance to depreciate your company’s equipment.

Figure out a plan for notifying the employees and the public at your regional bakery that the payroll system has been hacked, even though no harm was done.

DevelopI a new hotel based on a successful “Cuddly Capers” cartoon.

Decide whether buying a medical office building was a good investment and how it might have tax implications.

These and more than a dozen other scenarios weren’t some part of big corporate training but rather tests for college students hoping to hone their skills with real-world judges and earn shots at state and national honors.

“I was really impressed with what the students knew and how they thought things through. It’s an important skill,” Columbus resident Brennan Dockery said of the collegiate State DECA Skills Competition hosted Wednesday and Thursday at East Mississippi Community College in Mayhew and Mississippi University for Women in Columbus.

“These aren’t simple issues, but they are ones they will run into in the business world at some point in their lives. And the processes can work in their personal lives, too. It’s just good experience,” continued Dockery, who is the creative services director at WCBI-TV.

While Dockery was judging six two-person teams in the business ethics competition, Graham Roofing President Christee Holbrook was hearing explanations for managerial accounting.

And in addition to technical skills, the students, who came from the state’s 15 community colleges and two four-year schools, also are learning some personal habits that will pay off in the future.

“He had a great presentation, spoke clearly, made good eye contact and had a great hand-shake. He addressed his scenario thoroughly and accurately. He had answered my questions before I could ask them,” Holbrook said of the one student in her competition.

A number of students used laptop computers or similar devices as part of their responses, demonstrating a dual set of skills.

“I thought that was important,” said West Point Clay Country Growth Alliance Director Lisa Klutts, who had never previously been involved with DECA — Distributive Education Clubs of America. “That certainly will be valuable.”

Depending on the competition, the students were given scenarios in their category and then had either 30 minutes or an hour, depending on complexity, to put together responses, demonstrations and presentations. The scenarios and judges’ questions tested not only their basic knowledge but also their thought processes, critical thinking and more in-depth skills.

They were graded on a 100-point scale.
“I was proud to be part of something that is clearly creating the next generation of strong leaders in the business world. It was fun to hear their strategic plans as I posed as the president of a company. At the end I got ask questions to further their thought process and even include a few of my real life experience to help them as they go on to the national level as well as the real world,” added Klutts, who judged in the tourism and travel category.

Like Holbrook, Southern Ionic’s Mary Ann Briggs had a complicated issue in corporate finance, deciding whether to buy a medical office building and analyzing all the financing options and tax implications.

“When I was reading the case, I thought I needed more time. It was stressful. These are the tough issues. He had to do it quickly. There are obviously things to learn at this stage, but I was impressed by the level of program,” Briggs said of her competitors.
Winners in the state competition advance to the nationals later this year.