I didn’t. But the high school students at Raffles Junior College (RJC) sure did. I was at the school yesterday giving a presentation on business plan writing to about 40 (?) members of their Entrepreneurship club (along with Justin who’s an alumni). This was a weekend camp for the new members who had a 2-hour crash course on business plan writing as part of their camp programme. 2 hours?!?! Man, it took 10 weeks for John Nesheim to teach that same course. Maybe a couple of days for a proper workshop for business plan competition participants. But 2 hours? I didn’t really know what I was in for when i took this project up.
“Can you talk about “Business” or “Entrepreneurship” for more than 3 minutes when you were 17?”
I am good at BS, so I sure could =D But it won’t make sense to those who really knew. I wanted to develop a presentation that excited the young audience without killing their interest by boring them with details. Thats where the E27 philosophy came in. We invoked a lot of excitement by highlighting Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Blake Ross, Mark Zuckerberg, the Youtube guys — most of which were 1-5 year timeframes away from the young audience when they started up. But inspiring them was easy, the meat of the presentation was the tricky part.
I had ONE BIG Challenge: the Curse of Knowledge.
1. I had way too much knowledge from my years of starting up and working for a startup. A fine line had to be drawn between simplicity and quality.
2. These kids had their own Curse of Knowledge too – from Google. I have to help them navigate through that surplus of information that plagues modern society today.
We realized 3 things early in developing our presentation:
1. A business plan format is really boring and tedious to 17-year-olds.
2. Everything was available on Google.
3. We are all very good “buying” consumers but we just dunno what its like on the other “selling” side.
We ditched the entire business plan format as the focus. And did away with a lot of business jargon like sustainable competitive advantage, core competency, value proposition. At its very core, entrepreneurship=business=making money. To me, entrepreneurship is making money with soul as a real human being. (You have to curb some human instincts when you work in a big corporation.) Injecting what you know about human society, their psychology and their attitudes towards buying things. All of us are humans and we are in contact with many businesses every day. And thats the angle I took.
Since everybody could google “Business plan writing” anytime, we focused on 3 key concepts that will be good filters in knowing the core of what it takes to write a good business plan. These filters were intended to be the mental “Compasses” to navigating the “GoogleLand” and overcoming the Curse of Knowledge.
1. Unfair Advantage
These were smart kids and I tried to make the examples and analogies as close and personal to them as possible. I asked that what shoes they wear, the food they eat, the MP3 player they like and what other company dominates their consciousness. From there, I explained why Nike, Singapore Airlines, AirAsia, Apple iPod conquers the business world and their minds.
Hopefully, it was all engaging. The room was bloody cold and the kids were dressed in T-shirts and shorts. I feared there would be a mass exodus midway through the lecture due to hypothermia fears. =D Thankfully, there wasn’t. Lets see if any of them find this blog post so we all get some real feedback.