On Friday July 14, Frank Helle (Axian CEO) spent the day with Oregon high school students judging and providing feedback on their Young Entrepreneurs Business Week presentations. YEBW is a statewide non-profit working to educate Oregon youth in business, leadership, teamwork and presentation skills.
At YEBW each year high school students across Oregon spend a week on a college campus gaining real-world business experience. Intended outcome for the week is for these students to gain competency, college exposure, career exploration, connections, communications, and confidence. They run mock companies as a team and work through business simulations, which they then present, to gain valuable feedback from experienced business leaders like Frank.
High school students who gain such experience before they enter college build superior competency, college credits, sense for career direction, communications skills, connections, and confidence. Beyond the presentations alone, students have an opportunity to practice job interviews, etiquette, networking and other skills they can leverage for life. Such students gain a distinct advantage for college applications, siting experiences few other applicants can call out in their essays.
Frank noted something unexpected in his experience with YEBW; i.e., the perspectives and advice he offered these high school students on their business plans and presentations are very similar to what he offers seasoned executives and entrepreneurs in the mentoring he does for C-Suite execs. This suggests to Frank that today’s leaders might have benefited and been that much further along in their personal & professional growth if they’d attended YEBW while in high school! Frank observes it’s never too early to be exposed to business principles like:
- Competitors can copy your strategy or value proposition, but they cannot copy your culture
- Fixed costs like depreciation and debt rob a company of degrees of freedom when recessions hit; so “invest ‘just-too-late’,” rather than too-early
- Motivated employees who understand their roles, responsibilities, & relationships drive operations excellence, which drives delighted customers, which drives financial rewards
- A company can win with the right one strategy well-executed; but it will fail if attempting to straddle the fence on two different strategies
- The need to validate a value proposition before launching a product or service
- Investors want to know for your product or service: what is the market, why will it come to you (what is your ‘secret sauce’), and do you have the management horsepower to succeed?
- Adopt a company philosophy of “Failures as learnings” to apply going forward
- Management teams holding each other accountable
- What are the roles, responsibilities, and relationships of Management Teams and Boards of Directors