“Why don’t you call me sometime when you have no class?”- Back to School
On Monday, I made my once a semester return to my alma mater, Bucknell University.
I don’t go there for a Bisons event or the bison burgers, but I do spend a day talking to the students, and messing with their minds.
I’ve kept in touch with three professors I adore — Skip McGoun and Jean Peterson at Bucknell, and Ann Thomas at NYLS. Skip and I have had numerous conversation and we agree that today’s students do not challenge each other enough. There’s a fierceness missing from the crop of current graduates, and its lack thereof follows them into the business world. The fire has been replaced by a collective sense of entitlement for that trophy, and a permanent neck crick as they are near-permanently looking down at their phones. They shouldn’t expect praise for mediocrity in the entrepreneurial world. So we hold a “Shark Tank”-style forum to teach these kids some humility and while showing them the important element of business world – Darwinism.
Over the course of the school year, the student groups have been tracking certain public companies as if they are brokers and analysts, like Domino’s, Krispy Kreme and McDonald’s and they present reasons for us to invest.
It’s part Colosseum, part boot camp, part Friar’s roast. The best part is that it’s only fun for us.
We barely let these kids pronounce their names before we start shredding them:
“Go Pro? You mean Go Bankrupt.”
“Krispy Kreme’s target consumer is women ages 25 to 32? How many cats live in these households?”
This is a great lesson in pitch meetings. I throw their attitudes right back at them. I have played video games and taken phone calls during their pitches. We’re not there to pat them on the head and give them a trophy for showing up. They have to learn to lose and watch their peers win. This is what builds humility and character. Everyone talks about book smarts and street smarts. This is a bit of the latter, and while it won’t help them fend off a mugger, it will empower them to sell and to take a hit.
The insight they gain cannot be understated. It prepares them to create better companies, craft better pitches and embrace their humanism.
Feel free to leave a comment about your best or worst mock-pitch experiences from either side of the shark tank.