As Marketplace Manager Ben Spradling and I entered the hotel in Bellevue for the 2019 DECA conference our ears heard the excitement way before we got to our booth. The pounding music from the latest techno band, which I didn’t recognize since I am in my 40s, built excitement for a day filled with meetings, business pitches and seminars. The DECA organization (Distributive Education Clubs of America) was founded in 1947, fosters and empowers emerging leaders by preparing students for careers in finance, marketing, hospitality and management. We could feel (and hear) the energy throughout the hallways of this multilevel hotel in the heart of Bellevue. This wasn’t my first year at the conference and it was great to see the interactions of the students, teachers and organizers. How much these future business owners already know continues to surprise me, along with their eagerness to discover a world of business that is just opening for these students.
The attendees set up their booths and we rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Seattle Mariners, several universities from across the state and of course Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific. Each student approached the booth with the same question. What is the Better Business Bureau? My coworker Ben Spradling and I fielded questions and answers throughout the morning, and we got a very common answer. “You guys are important.” We were thrilled to hear so much interest in the theme “Trust”. It was great to hear that it’s not just important to us but also to the future leaders of the world.
How do you get the next generation to understand and care about ethics? Do you bribe them? (Okay that’s the wrong tactic.) Show celebrities who understand what it is? I found that simply talking with them and really hearing what they had to say was the most effective. I decided long before the presentation that I needed to dig deep. Ethics could seem like a dry subject, but I was up to the challenge.
We began with real-life ethical scenarios based on the Better Business Bureau’s Standards of Trust. In each scenario students gathered in groups to discuss and decide on each standard whether they were ethical. As I revealed each situation, I could see that even the teachers were interested in the ethical dilemmas. I was pleasantly surprised and shocked. As soon as the students were in their groups and understood my ask the buzz around the room was audible. Agreements and disagreements were thrown around like posts on Instagram. They had five minutes for discussion, then we’d have a group share. Each group respectfully offered their answers and the reason why they believed it was the ethical decision. Once one group share was finished, they were all hungry for the next ethical challenge. We only managed to get through three of the Standards of Trust before our time ran out.
At the end of the day, we began breaking down the BBBNW+P booth and the final stragglers asked us the last few questions of the day. We met a lot of future entrepreneurs who will likely help reshape the world in which we live. I am excited to see what businesses they will build in the future. Next year, we will see more futurepreneurs and, just like this conference, I’m sure they’ll bring ideas of things we’d never have thought of on our own and open our eyes as much as a new and bigger world opens theirs.