I had the good fortune today to attend a business simulation challenge for high school junior and seniors. It's called the Titan Challenge, and sponsored by Junior Achievement of Maine.
This "game" challenged teams of three to make a series of business decisions around R&D, pricing, inventory, production levels, marketing expenditures, charitable contributions, and more. As I watched the students struggle with this, I heard:
"Pricing is hard". "You have to make decisions quickly". "There are so many variables to balance". "Sometimes when you make mistakes, it's helpful, because you learn and know what not to do".
Wow! Great lessons for these kids. And it was fun watching them get excited about what goes on in business. I was asked to share my perspective to the 60 or so kids in the room (teams of 3), and I reinforced how stimulating and challenging a business career can be. I told them I was going through many of these same decisions right now in my own business. Can we increase price? How much should we put into R&D? Do we have the right amount of working capital? Should we borrow more? What inventory should we be building? What's the ROI on our newest marketing initiatives?
But I also told them business is about people, not just making hard choices about numbers. And people is what makes a career in business most rewarding.
My perspective is that business is a tremendous arena where one can create - we work hard to create value every day, in products, services, business models, etc. For someone who wants to be creative, this is a great place to devote your talents and passions.
I also shared that in business we also discover ourselves, and our own values. We are attracted to organizations that share our values, such as teamwork, family, and harmony - or competition, risk-taking, and innovation. Or lots of others. And we discover what works for us, especially as we trip and stumble, and fail, and pick ourselves up, and go at it again, a little bit smarter.
Steve Jobs famously said he wanted to make a dent in the universe - and he certainly did. My challenge to these bright young people who are the next generation is for them to find their own way to make a dent.