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What we can all learn from 17 year old business owners

I have been impressed by the stories that they tell about what they did, what they learned and how they will use it.

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Company Programme team from Castlehead High School

As a volunteer member of the Lothian board for Young Enterprise Scotland I have had the chance to meet over 100 16/17 year olds as they participate in the Young Enterprise Scotland Company Programme locally.

We get the chance to meet them at the training sessions we organise in the period from September to March. Their challenge is to to set up and run a company – a real company – over that period.

We are now in the final stages of the competition. Each company – and we have had 32 choose to go through to the final stages ( a record number ) – must submit a company report including accounts for judging, participate in an interview and make a final presentation.

This week colleagues and I have been conducting the interviews and we have been so impressed. Impressed not only with how they participate in the interviews but by the stories that they tell about what they did, what they have learned and how they will use that learning.

As the competition is still going on I won’t disclose any details but I did want to comment on some themes that have emerged that we older folk could do well to learn from too.

Giving each other credit

Each team ( company ) can bring up to 5 members to the interview. It was inspiring to see how comfortable they were in identifying who did what well and why.

Playing to strengths

Most of the groups talked about how they allocated roles in the team at the start by reviewing and considering each other’s strengths. Not surprisingly this usually had a positive outcome.

Dealing with change

As is the case in “real life” things come along that mean that changes have to be made. Rather than getting stuck and grumbling there were so many stories of how they got together, reviewed, planned and got on with it.

Learning from mistakes

Every team mentioned how – despite it being difficult and uncomfortable at times – the learning from the mistakes they made was really valuable. And it was not a problem to either make or talk about those mistakes!

Celebrating success

One of our questions asked each team to talk about a highlight for them. For every team there was no problem doing this – and in fact many mentioned more than one. The delight amongst them when they did was a joy to see and what also came through was how they had given themselves a pat on the back for their success

Understanding business from the inside

I want to reiterate – these young people ran a business. They raised capital to start, decided on a product, conducted market research, advertised and promoted as was required, created customer relationships, made sales, managed stock and orders, kept books and published accounts. Some said that they are inspired to run their own business in future – most said that the skills they now have will be valuable when they are working for others. Either way – in this short time- they have had a real insight into what is involved.

I will follow up this post after the awards night on 25 March when they will make their final presentations and the winner for Lothian – that will go onto the Scottish finals in June – will be known.

But if any or all of this has given you pause for thought take a look at the website for more info! We can always do with more volunteers so let me know if you are interested and we can arrange a chat.

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