University of Vermont Case Competition
Every January for the last several years, the college town of Burlington Vermont has become the center of attention for people from around the globe.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t (yet) a worldwide phenomenon, but, for students learning about Family Enterprise, this is the one place that hosts the annual Schlesinger Global Family Enterprise Case Competition (SG-FECC).
The University of Vermont (UVM) has been doing this for a few years (this was the 8th edition) and they have it down to a science.
This year it was held virtually, for reasons that don’t require much explanation, and that could have caused all sorts of challenges (and likely did) but you never would’ve noticed.
An Impressive Bunch of Young Leaders
The second part of my title references a movie featuring one of my favourite rock bands of my childhood, The Who, so perhaps I’m dating myself here.
But I really wanted to properly frame the “A-Ha moment” that I had this year, similar to the one I’ve had every time I’ve participated as a judge. If I’m not mistaken, this was my 6th time.
You may think that I’m talking about the competitors, who come from schools all over the world, every year. And you’d be right, the students who compete in the Case Competition have impressed me every year.
It’s really nice to see the social aspect of the competition when it’s done in person, noticing that some of these undergraduate and graduate students are seeing snow for the first time in their lives.
A Huge Volunteer Undertaking by UVM Students
But it’s much bigger than just the competitors, it’s the entire organizing committee, which is composed of a few dozen students, who take care of everything from A to Z.
Yes, they are led by a few paid “adults” who work for UVM in various capacities, all of whom fall under the watchful eye of the brainchild and fearless leader of this project since Day 1, Pramodita Sharma.
But what impresses me every year is just how mature, competent, professional and diligent these young people are, and what they’re able to pull off, with only minimal supervision.
What they do have is structure and people who have done the job in previous years.
Come to think of it, this is a lot like many family businesses, and that’s where we’ll turn now.
Motivated and Aligned Young People
The young people of today, who many label as Generation Z, are so impressive to me, in so many ways.
I know that many business families can be hesitant to incorporate these youngsters into important roles, but from my vantage point, many of them are way more ready than the young 20-somethings of decades past.
They also benefit from having grown up with the latest technology, and with school systems that do a much better job of giving them practice at working together on projects from a young age.
Many also seem to be much better than their elders at harnessing the collective wisdom of the groups to which they belong.
They typically have plenty of motivation, so if you already have some structure and some vision, they can often handle way more than you might expect.
Great Examples Abound
The recent Presidential Inauguration gave us another great display, as Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old Poet Laureate knocked my socks off with her poem.
My own kids are 19 and 21, and I see so much promise in them and their friends too. I see it in my clients’ rising generations and at SG-FECC every year too.
With the recent passing of Hank Aaron, I happened to hear his Baseball Hall of Fame speech, in which he said “A man’s ability is limited only by his lack of opportunity”.
Many Winners, Especially Wilfrid-Laurier and ESADE
There were many winners at SG-FECC this year, especially those from Wilfrid-Laurier University (Canada), who won the undergraduate competition, and ESADE (Spain) who took top spot in the graduate category.
I look forward to being back in Burlington for the next “in person” version, whenever that is possible.
Meantime, like so many other areas of life these past few months, we’re all adapting and realizing how much we can all still accomplish even in these sub-optimal conditions.
And with these promising young people taking on bigger roles all the time, the future is bright.