GCU business students negotiate a few wins

GCU students Parker Boynton and Alfredo Ramirez (from left) earned first prize in the Border Entrepreneurial Challenge in Yuma in April. (Contributed photo)

Parker Boynton graduated from Grand Canyon University two weeks ago with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship, but before completing his program, he added a key skill to his resume.

Negotiating.

Despite a lack of experience when it comes to negotiation, Boynton earned first- and second-place finishes with the help of two GCU classmates.

With less than a month to prepare, he and Isaac Ballew finished second in the 12-school National Undergraduate Negotiating Competition in April at Paradise Valley Community College.

Two weeks later, Boynton and fellow Canyon Angels member Alfredo Ramirez earned the top spot in the Border Entrepreneurial Challenge at Northern Arizona University’s Yuma campus. Participants included students from Mexican universities, such as Autonomous University of Baja California, Sonora State University and CETYS University, as well as Arizona Western College, NAU and GCU.

The Border Entrepreneurial Challenge gave binational teams a chance to present new entrepreneurial plans or extend current entrepreneurial projects to a binational panel of judges.

Parker Boynton and Isaac Ballew (from left) finished second in the 12-school National Undergraduate Negotiating Competition recently at Paradise Valley Community College. (Contributed photo)

It also brought to light people skills and business skills that Boynton hadn't tested before in quite the same way he did at these competitions.

In mid March, Professor Niraj Kohli asked a select group of students if they were interested in competing.

Boynton responded immediately.

Parker Boynton made a favorable impression on GCU professor Niraj Kohli. (Contributed photo)

“That tells me a student is on the ball,” Kohli said of Boynton's eagerness. “ ... He’s got what it takes, which is a little hustle and a desire to do this, and I’m glad he won.”

Boynton and Ballew lost to Baylor in the finals of the National Undergraduate Negotiating Competition after beating Babson College of Massachusetts in the first round, but they were satisfied by their performance despite their lack of experience and brief time to prepare.

“We looked at different negotiation techniques and watched a sample video,” Boynton said. “But negotiating is just like an argument with rules, almost. If you’re decent at talking, asking questions and articulating your thoughts, it’s something that I feel you’ll get better at with practice.

“But I think we’re naturally suited for it. We scored very well in the first round, and we figured out what we were doing as we went along.”

Ballew said it helped that contestants were given the same information, leaving them to rely on their communication skills to supplement the data.

“Sell the vision,” said Ballew.

In the first round, Boynton and Ballew simulated a distributor talking to their manufacturer about a new product, negotiating price points and timelines. In the second round, they replicated a production company working with a streaming service selling a new move.

For the final round, “don’t ask,” Boynton said with a laugh.

Ballew said his experience as co-founder of Outback Dummy Co., which finished third in the Canyon Challenge in December, helped.

Isaac Ballew pitches Outback Dummy Co. to judges at the recent Canyon Challenge entrepreneurial competition. That event, he said, sharpened his communication skills. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

“Just being able to communicate ideas effectively and understand how to talk to people, understand how to understand people’s thinking, and then move on to how you want them to think that way,” Ballew said. “Don’t manipulate.”

Boynton, who was a student in Kohli's production/operation management class, believed they succeeded because they asked direct questions, conveyed their thoughts concisely and worked together rather than viewed the other side as the enemy.

“Negotiation is not how can I outsmart you,” Boynton said. “It’s about listening to what the other party wants.”

In the second event at Yuma, Boynton and Ramirez tried to sway judges who were assessing business ideas and opportunities they were trying to address.

“We were saying, ‘What are your needs as an employer?’ “ Ramirez said. “ ‘What are you missing? When you’re hiring people, what are you not getting from these people you’re hiring that you need?’

“Then they’d give us a list of the top four or five things. They’d give us the KPIs (key performance indicators) that they want those employees to hit. We’d create a simulation learning event. We’d put these people through to test their knowledge of these skills and see how cohesive they were in their skills and report those findings back to the company.”

Ramirez, a marketing major with a minor in business administration, said he was trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible at the competition, including the tidbits Boynton learned from Kohli, who came to the United States from India with $50 in his pocket and now invests in capital markets, consults and, as a teacher, molds the young minds of business students.

Presenting in front of an audience was invaluable, as well as learning from professionals in the workforce, Ramirez added.

“The biggest thing is to keep growing, 1% each day, meet cool people, do cool things and not take my experiences at GCU or my life for granted,” Ramirez said.

GCU has allowed Ramirez to put himself in uncomfortable positions, like in the Border Entrepreneurial Challenge, that he wouldn't normally put himself in.

What Ramirez has learned? It's all about the chance "to try new things," no negotiation necessary.

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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