Running a business is complex! There are many interrelated/interconnected dynamics and activities that need to work together to drive total company performance.
To focus participants’ time and thoughts on the most important issues, business simulations need to limit the scope of marketplace dynamics and thus participants’ decisions. One way to accomplish this is to have each competing team run an initially identical company. The term used for this scenario is “even start”. Even start levels the playing field by giving each team the same number of customers, products, sales, profit, production levels, R&D expenditures, etc. This allows a great deal of strategic flexibility as teams can take any desired direction. Also, a leveled playing field eliminates excuses as to why a team wins/loses the competition :). The drawback is that is less “realistic” at the start of the competition (however, as the competition progresses this becomes less of an issue).
Another way to limit the scope of the business dynamics is by having each team start the competition in a unique position compared to the other teams, with different products, production levels, R&D expenditures, etc. In a “unique start”, each company has a unique position in the marketplace thus limiting the strategic options a team can pursue. This can be a more real-world scenario at which to begin the competition.
At PriSim we typically use the even-start for competing teams. However, both approaches have benefits and challenges. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which one better fits your specific learning objectives.