As I get older, I love to talk about how times have changed. It seems like my kids are in 17 different after-school activities and when I was a kid, I just walked to my friend's house every day to shoot hoops.
When I was in college in the early 80s, schools didn't have any undergraduate business programs, let alone an entrepreneurial program. And an entrepreneurial program focused on values-based leadership? No chance.
Times have changed. I'm now 27 years into a bootstrapped business and never took a class about business or how to run one. Today's college students are getting a much better education. Not just about business—but the importance of having a business with social and societal impact. And the good news is that the youth of today get the fact that a successful business means more than just making money. They want the feelings that come with helping others, making a difference, and changing the world for the better. They want to connect their personal values to their business values. I just hope they stick with their convictions, and don't get caught up in a bigger-is-better mantra.
I was fortunate to be asked to judge the 2nd annual Values and Ventures business plan competition at Texas Christian University. Teams from 30 universities around the world competed to win money to support business ventures. I listened to presentations from five finalists. They were:
Here's what amazed me:
If we can see this type of talent and potential at such a young age, I think there is hope for the world of business. I get frustrated every day watching businesses focus on finance before customers, growth before people. I stand on my soapbox telling them that culture creates profits. I try to convince them there is a better way, and while some listen, I'm not always sure they hear me.
But if these students are wired this way naturally, then at least we have hope for the next generation, in which all stakeholders will be created equally, and culture will be the driving force behind commerce.
Though they may be pursuing their education, let's not be so arrogant to think that we can't learn from them. When it comes to what is important in business and life, there's a lot these business undergrads could teach us.