Can You Teach Business and Finance in High School?
Yes. Yes you can, and these guys are here to tell us how!
In episode 2 of the Because Money podcast we are joined by Jordan McFarlane and Salmaan Moolla, as we discuss teaching financial literacy and business in high school. Jordan runs the business program at Campbell Collegiate in Regina Saskatchewan, while Salmaan is a former student, having gone through the business program and is now studying business at the University of Regina.
Lots of great conversation in this episode, so much so that any attempt to summarize would do it a disservice, so watch the video and follow along with the transcript below if you like! Enjoy!
Here is a list of resources from the episode. Transcript below can be found below.
Jackson: Jackson Middleton
Kyle: Kyle Prevost
Sandi: Sandi Martin
Jordan: Jordan McFarlen
Sal: Salmaan Moolla
Kyle: Welcome back to Season 2 of Because Money. I’m Kyle Prevost and my co-hosts are Sandi Martin and Jackson Middleton. I apologize to those of you listening, expecting the smooth undertones of Robb Engen, as well as his Don Draper-esque good looks. You’ll have to make do with me instead.
Today we’re joined by Jordan McFarlen and Salmaan Moolla, who are here to talk a little Business Ed. Jordan is—in my words, not his—a top business teacher in Canada. And he, along with Carissa Holinaty has built an empire out of Campbell Collegiate. They’ve quickly, exponentially grown the program to over 500 students. And Jordan also teaches a variety of business and personal finance courses at Campbell Collegiate.
Sal is brought on here today as a witness, as a “Subject A” of the business program. He’s was a product of the Campbell machine; he is in his second year at Hill School of Business; and he’s Director of Corporate Relations for the student body there, which I think is really cool. So welcome to the show guys.
Sal/Jordan: Thanks for having us. We’re excited to be here.
Kyle: So Sal, if you ever wanted to roast your teacher, now is the perfect time. It’s a national podcast. You can throw him under the bus or point out some of his flaws from the front of the classroom—everyone’s worst nightmare.
But I guess really what I wanted to ask you guys, just the start is, why is business education important? What do kids get out of it? Do I just learn what interest rate its? What do I get if I go through the Campbell program?
Jordan: Well, I think Business Education is very important. What’s the nice thing about Business Education is it covers so many different areas. So we’ve got classes that you can take at a high school level, and personal finance. You can learn about entrepreneurship and actually get to run your company. We have a lot of stuff focussed more on social media marketing side; and career work exploration courses, where students can go and actually do real work terms. And Sal’s a great example of that. When he was in grade 11 and 12, he was able to work with Alliance Grain Traders, here in Saskatchewan, and get a great work term with the CEO. Yeah, just generally going to create a more successful—we hope—person in all areas.
Whether or not you choose to take business in the future or not, but it’s going to be some great life skills for you.
Kyle: So Sal, tell us a little bit about that experience, because I know in a lot of schools business education is here’s the business textbook—oftentimes written in 1980. They’re talking about this this new invention on the horizon known as the computer, or the CPU.
Jordan: Now we’ve got new textbooks.
Kyle: So there’s classrooms were just open it up, read, answer the question; that’s your business ed for the day? What did you get out of this sort of ground-breaking, almost like an internship by the sounds of things?
Sal: I’ll tell you just the story of how I really got involved with Mr. McFarlen. It’s kind of hard to call him Jordan. He’s still that teacher.
In my grade 10 year I was that naïve little kid that thought, you know what? I’m going to become a doctor. My dad’s a doctor. My grandfather’s a doctor. You know what, I’m going to become a doctor. Me, being a first-generation immigrant, that’s kind of the route that you go. You either go into medicine, law, or engineering; and businesses is not even on that checklist. So coming into school, in grade 10 I had one accounting class with Miss Holinaty, and you know, accounting; everyone took it as an elective. It was going to be an easy elective.
Around that time is when Mr. McFarlen and Miss Holinaty decided to put together their extracurricular Business Club. And I clearly remember it, it was in this hallway before they did the renos. In this hallway McFarlen comes out the door, points at a group of me and my buddies, and he’s like, “Hey, Sal. Business Club on Wednesday. Be there.” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s cool, super cool.”
Kyle: That’s hard-hand recruiting, right there.
Sal: We took the corner and we literally said that it was the stupidest idea that would have ever been put together, and the next thing you know I’m the President of the Business Group, years down the line. So that’s kind of how it started off.
Getting involved with my first year, started taking the classes, getting involved with the extracurricular program. I started seeing the value in it, and I started seeing some of my own values change, where I was starting to develop myself professionally towards people. I was building a network with people. I was establishing myself in the community.
Kyle: So it was just business terminology and lingo, and it wasn’t just numbers and spreadsheets. You were building a well-rounded base that you could take. If you had wanted to become a doctor, that would have served you going into medicine, or whatever the case may be. Is that fair to say?
Sal: Yeah, exactly. And that was—honestly—up until my grade 12 years, that was my thinking around it. I was like, I’m still going to take all these business classes, but you know what, I’m going to go into medicine. And I’m going to be able to utilize these things there. And it is true that you can utilize it in whatever field that you go to, just happened that I kept on getting more interested in some finance courses, taking the accounting classes here, and the personal finance class, and getting more involved with—on my own time, as well—getting more involved with the investing world and seeing how things work.
A lot of it had to do with Dragons’ Den, just taking a big part of my life, and countless hours at night. Like, two o’clock in the morning, sitting with my iPhone and watching Dragons’ Den. So kind of getting me into that, but also learning from other people, I actually started reading a lot because of the program. I started reading the Steve Jobs book. I started looking out into all the different kind of professional and successful entrepreneurs in the world. So right now my biggest inspiration is Elon Musk.
Kyle: Not a bad guy to look to as a mentor.
Jackson: Yeah, he drives a pretty nice car.
Sal: Yeah, you know, South African-born. I’m South African-born. You know, kind of a resemblance. You know, I’ll be taking over Tesla in a few more years. But I was seeing a lot of value in the classes that we were taking. I started taking Entrepreneurship class, and just from that, we did an organic jam company. And doing that, I was doing the finances, I was looking at how to properly track the inventory, how to do the finances; going to the bank and utilizing the money, extracting the money, depositing the money, paying out the employees, making sure that everything was staying up to standards.
And honestly, we failed many times during that class, from the beginning of the semester to the end. But it was the failures that we had in that class that helped us learn what we were supposed to get out of that class. Because if we sold a whole bunch of stuff in that class, we would have learned nothing.
Kyle: And just to be clear—sorry to interrupt you, Sal. I think we’ve got to make it clear to the listeners that this isn’t like a—I don’t want to denigrate anyone—but this isn’t a “Mickey Mouse” school business thing where you went out in the hallway and you sold a few things of jam. Or you presented a business plan that, you know, your teacher marked and gave back to you. But this is like real money. Like you guys were paying employees, you had a bank account, you were dealing with a substantial figure for high school kids, correct?
Sal: Yeah. And it was a whole thing. We’re dealing with the money in our hands. We can see firsthand how much goes out, how much comes in; tracking that, making sure that there’s no errors in the books. So that you’re always keeping constant with what you have. So it was a little bit stressful at times.
I remember when I was doing up the business plans and going through my ledgers. I found some things just weren’t working out and I was up till four o’clock in the morning, five o’clock in the morning; pulling all-nighters, just to try and make sure that my ledgers were working or to make sure that our money was in balance. Because even though it was $10 that was missing from the one account, you were freaking out because it was $10. And you have to look back at the rest of your employees in the company or other people who you’re working with and say, “We’re missing $10. What’s going to happen now?”
So it was stressful. It was stressful. But it was so good and that’s what you kind of learn from and you establish off of that, and then you can build that upon other things that you do.
Kyle: So Jackson, you mentioned that you went through this program. Maybe not this one specifically, but the Campbell Collegiate sort of deal, in general.
Sandi, what was your business ed like, because my business ed was nothing like this at all?
Sandi: My business ed class was…, well, we still had typewriters in the classroom, so let’s not even talk about that. But you know what I am very interested in, actually, is the idea that number one, you mentioned failing, Sal. And that just really—the idea that you can fail in a classroom with mentors and with real-world consequences, but without it being really high stakes. I think that’s really valuable. I mean, I’ve had to learn entrepreneurship while the stakes were quite high, and I would love to see the alternate universe where everybody gets to do that. And then, sorry, I have one other point, because I’m just thinking. that the idea that you were thinking you were going to be a doctor or engineer, and I think a lot of us, when you hear business ed you think, “Well, I’m not going to be in business.”
But in reality, that’s always going to be a counterparty; whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur, or not even in the corporate world at all; you will always be dealing with corporations. So knowing them from the inside, and having an idea of what their ideas of success are can be useful. I’m just really in awe of this program. I think this is really fantastic.
Jackson: Yeah, I’m going to jump in and say that in my experience, I think you nailed it where you say it’s the failures that—it’s not that they define you, but the business program certainly wasn’t rolled out to this level when I took it. I graduated in 1997, and in grade 12 we took an entrepreneurship class. Basically it was that we wrote a business plan. And I had a 60-page business plan on a coffee shop and I went around the whole city, I went to every coffee shop and bought coffee and tasted all of the coffees, and looked at all their prices.
I put together a 60-page business plan of where the City of Regina needs another coffee shop. I figured it was right on Albert and 11th. Now if you don’t know Regina, it’s okay. It’s a pretty centralized location. So, a 60-page business plan, and my teacher goes, “This is really good. You should do this.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
So, at 17, I went and talked to my parents and said, “Let’s do this.” We ended up raising $30,000 and we started a coffee shop. So in my last two months of high school, while I’m in an entrepreneurship class—oops, we lost Kyle, but he’ll be back. We raised the money and I’m in my last two months of school, I’m in entrepreneurship, and I’m starting a coffee shop. And we ran Cornerstone Coffee House for a couple of years.
I thought one of the best things about the place was there was a movie theatre right across the street and there was no other coffee shop close. Well, within a year-and-a-half, the movie theatre got torn down and the Robins Donuts got built across the street. So, it didn’t end up working, but the failure there—the business and the actual hands-on business experience that I got really did help me in the future.
So, to kind of move that forward and do that actually in high school, man, that’s super-cool. I dig that, because set that foundation for—I don’t want to say a foundation for failure, but you don’t learn anything until you realize what doesn’t work. So I really dig what’s going on with what you guys are doing.
Kyle: Just moving on, Sal. Just talking about the importance of the partnerships you guys actually built in the community as part of the program. You sort of talked about it briefly, but I think that’s important because as great a teacher Mr. McFarlen is, he probably doesn’t know absolutely everything. I’m just guessing.
Jordan: He doesn’t know very much. [laughs]
Kyle: But he knows how to put you in touch with people that do know, which is a good deal. So why don’t you tell us not only the grain internship, but also just some of the stuff Campbell Collegiate does in the communities, and some of the cool events you guys put on.
Sal: So from that point, when the students are building up our networks and kind of talking to people, it gives us a certain confidence and a little bit of a backbone that we can go up to say a CEO of a billion dollar company and say, “Hey, I’m so and so. I take business classes at Campbell Collegiate. Do you have any openings at the company that I could possibly come in and work out just for free, or to kind of just job shadow in a sense?”
And I went up to this guy Murad Al-Khatib. I had known him from before because his kids went to the same elementary school that I went to, but I had no interactions with him. I met him at one of the business dinners that we had the opportunity of going to, and I instantly built a connection off of that. He saw similarities in the way I was: his father was a doctor his grandfather was a doctor, and he took the left turn and went into business. My father’s a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor, and I’m kind of going that route as well.
Jordan: That’s a great mentor, right there.
Sal: So it instantly builds that connection off a person. And just kind of getting with that, I was able to get into a position where I was doing international trade and commodity trading in a grade 12 level class, utilizing funds. By the end of my work term, they has made me do two sales of chickpeas—of all things—to Belgium, for a substantial amount of money that you wouldn’t ever want to put in the hands of a grade 12 student because it’s such a risk. But they felt that they were building me up to the point where they could do it. And it was amazing for me.
You know, going into business you’re always thinking, hey I want to go into oil and gas, I want to go into technology, not looking that we’re sitting here on the prairies and there’s a gold mine with agriculture. Why not get into that? And I slowly continued with that. I actually just finished up a workplace placement at Farm Credit Canada, which I also had connections with because of the program. I was able to talk to some people, build my LinkedIn profile and they contacted me over LinkedIn. So it’s been pretty cool to be able to establish yourself in the community.
And now, when you go to different events or you walk around the city, downtown and Scarth Street, with is kind of like the little business district for Regina. You walk down there and you’re bumping into people who have met you, “Hey, you’re that kid from Campbell”, “Hey, I met you at this dinner”, “Hey, I met you here. How are you doing? What’s going on? We should go for a coffee.” And then you just constantly build off that.
So it’s amazing to be able to establish a network so vast and big. And I’m only 19 right now, so hopefully it gets a little bit bigger that I can continue with it. But it’s amazing. And then just kind of transferring that off onto other students and helping out other people that you may know where me fit for a different organization; you can continue building and linking off of that.
Kyle: So why isn’t everyone doing this, Jordan? Why is Campbell? Because honestly, I say it a little bit jokingly, and you guys play off all humble on me. But I don’t know of anyone else doing this. Sandi, do you know of any business programs like this?
Kyle: So why isn’t everyone doing this? What have you done? What is the magic sauce? I’m asking you to give away your trade secrets here, [laughs] but what is Campbell doing that others aren’t?
Jordan: Our big focus is that t’s all about trying to grow business across the board. We want business ed to grow across Saskatchewan. So, being involved with the Saskatchewan Business Teachers, that’s a big focus for us. So, for us, know you, listening to Sal talk right now and sitting back and soaking it in, as teacher, it’s just so rewarding to see those experiences and what’s been able to happen.
But I think it can easily happen, and I would say to any teachers out there, get involved with the business community. We’ve been very fortunate. The local chamber of commerce is a great place to start, whether you’re in a smaller community or larger community. So we build a very strong connection with both the Regina Chamber of Commerce and SASK Chamber of Commerce, and that’s what’s allowed us to take students like Sal to these businesses.
I remember six years ago when we went to our first event, it was very intimidating because we went to the cocktail hour. Nobody was drinking, but we got to meet all the award winners. And for us as teachers, we had to go in and demonstrate good networking. It was a little bit intimidating to start, and now it has totally flipped from us going and demonstrating to students how to network, to now we’ve got students like Sal who are able to work a room, and they’re introducing us to people and saying, “Oh yeah, this is my teacher, Mr. McFarlen”, as opposed to “Hey, this is my student, Salmaan Moolla”.
So the local Chambers of Commerce are great. There’s always local entrepreneurs around schools, and just going out getting contact and getting contact. And that’s going to help you build a lot right there. Business people, get involved with your local high school and try to give back a little bit. Programs are definitely in need, so an invitation to an event, or guest speaking, that can go a long way. And for us, we’ve been really lucky that we tried to do a lot of networking and it’s really paid off for our program.
Kyle: Yeah, like for example, while most teachers are sitting at their cottage, feet up for the summer, enjoying maybe one of those cocktail hours that you just spoke of, [laughs] you guys over at Campbell—although maybe you’re doing some of that too, I don’t know—but in addition to that, what was the cool week you guys just put together? Talking about networking and business, this is during your own time during summer hours, you guys got was it a dozen or ten students together and did what Jordan?
Jordan: Yes, we did actually. This was sort of outside of the school, but we thought in the summer there’s camps for everybody; there’s soccer camp, science camp. A little bit everything. You know, art camps. There’s no real camp for somebody that’s interested in entrepreneurship and business in general.
So just a local business guy here, Jeph Maystruck with Strategy Lab, we got together and we thought why don’t we throw a week-long camp to look at some business stuff, and have students focus on entrepreneurship and a bunch of different skills? And we decided to scale it down just one day for the first year, just to test it out to see if there was a market for it. And if students would like it, and try to help them build our camp and come up with some good ideas.
So we ran a one-day “Big Idea” camp, we called it, and we had the students going all over the city. We’re lucky a local car dealership, Capital, picked up the students in an F150 or a GMC Sierra. They got to ride in the vehicle, learn all the new features. And then once they got to the dealership, they went to the boardroom and had to make 30-second commercial about the vehicle they just drove in. So it was a very cool opportunity; something we hope to expand.
But there’s such a demand for it, and that’s really why we started our program here. There’s a lot of students that want to learn about it, but they don’t always have access to it, which is really the sad thing. Many schools don’t offer enough business ed or any business ed at all.
Kyle: Yeah and that’s been a common complaint that I had, and I sort of went off on that last year, Jordan. Why do you think that is, Sandi? I’ll just throw it over to you. Because we’re in this little bubble, right? We’re educators. Or Jackson, why do you think business ed suffers across the board?
Sandi: Well, I wonder if people, if teachers even really have the capacity sometimes, or believe themselves to have the capacity to actually come up with a new program. I mean, this is kind of breaking ground, right? So the teachers that are out and in the classrooms now, I very much doubt that in their training—correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t know, I didn’t go to teacher’s college.
Kyle: You’re not wrong.
Sandi: I mean, it would take a certain kind of person to think, “Hey, we should do something like this. I can envision the program and this is how we can connect things.” And Jordan, what I’m really interested in is, what happened just before you walked out into the hall six years ago, and pointed at Sal and said, “You’re gonna be part of Business Club.” Is this what you really envisioned was going to happen?
Jordan: You know what? It was interesting. We started here and my partner in crime, Carissa Holinaty, who’s an excellent business teacher here, and we do a lot of stuff together and built the program together. We were first year teachers here and we were just trying to stay afloat. First year teaching is so stressful, we just wanted to survive to the end of the year. And we really fed off each other creatively, so we started to come up with ideas like, “Hey you know, why don’t we like connect our business program a little bit more with the community?”
You know, we know x amount about business, but there’s so many people that know more and how we become more facilitators, and we started a thing called an “idea binder”. So we would just come up with these crazy ideas. We’d write them in a binder, and every month we’d go back and look at it, and slowly we started to check all the boxes. And we came up with the idea for a business club, which we thought, “Wow, that must sound really lame to students.” How do we make that fun? How do we actually make people get fired up about it?
Jordan: And now, it’s like the room’s packed. There’s so much energy. And we tell people we do a business club and they’re like, “What are you talking about?” But it’s become so much more than that. So it was just kind of developing the vision, and really it was students like Sal buying in and us letting the students lead. We’re very much a student-led program.
So we say, “Hey, what do you guys want to do? What do you want to build?” and they take ownership of it and the stuff that they have done to build this program is absolutely amazing. So the students have played a huge role in the development of this program.
Jackson: I think that’s where it has to go. I mean, really, I think you guys are nailing it. Yeah, I look back to my experience in high school, and I’m just being flat-out honest, I would have dropped out of high school had the academics been the only thing there. I knew I wasn’t going to university, but I was involved in extracurricular. I played football, wrestling, rugby. Had I not had those things, I would have dropped out. However, the only class that I actually loved was Entrepreneurship 30. It was the only class that really got to me.
And you know, I think what you’re doing in meeting a lot of the needs of people who might not otherwise have anything that they attach to. I mean, for me, what you’re doing is where I live right now. I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve never worked a real job. I work for myself and I love it. I start companies. I fail companies, and then I start new ones. But I mean, it’s the whole experience; it’s the ride. And to actually learn that you can do that in a safe place, my hat’s off to you; although I’m not currently wearing a hat. [laughs]
Kyle: Did you guys, when you first started, Jordan, did you guys suffer from a little of what I call the “business stigma”? I know I’ve previously told Jordan that I’m very impressed with the SBT and what they’ve been able to put together in Saskatchewan. At least in Manitoba and many other provinces that I’ve talked to, there’s this stigma around business and it’s like, “Well, the non-university kids take business courses,” or “if you’re not smart enough to be a doctor,” in Sal’s case, “you take business courses”. That’s sort of been the general theme.
And in many cases—I hate to say it—but in many schools, especially smaller schools, it’s like put your worst teacher in business, because it doesn’t matter anyway. Are you guys familiar with this or am I just out in left field here?
Jordan: Yeah, I think definitely. I’ll let Sal give you kind of the student perspective to see where we’re at. But when we started here, a lot of business classes are elective, so you have to choose to take them. So that can mean one of two things: either students really want to take your class or students just need your class to graduate. So we came here, it was very much like “I need a class to graduate” and we didn’t have the students that were necessarily interested in the class. So we really had to fight it being a dumping ground, like a “Hey, I’m just going to take Entrepreneurship 30 because I need a credit to graduate. It’s pretty slack,” or whatever.
So we want to change that stigma. Now, I feel like we’ve got a great balance of students from all different areas, different interests, different future aspirations; whether it’s go right to work or go to university. So I feel like there’s generally an interest and excitement around it. But that’s a teacher perspective, so Sal’s probably got his ear to the street a little bit better than I do, and can probably provide a student perspective. And now he’s an alumni, so he can be honest with you as to what students actually think.
Sal: Well, no. More or less, the first couple years that the program was kind of building off, many of my friends and everything were like, “Oh, I’m going to take Entre”, you know, “It’s slack. All we have to do is go in every now and then to do some work. And after we’re finished up our business plans, it’s a free and easy semester.” Getting into it, they didn’t realize how much work is actually put into the class. How much time outside of the classroom that you’re putting into it, because we were honestly putting more time and effort into the class outside of the classroom than we were inside the classroom. Because inside the classroom, more or less you’ve got 45 minutes, after everything’s kind of cleared up with the teachers and you have your intro for each class, you have 45 minutes to really get down to stuff.
So after that, you’re spending your lunches. You’re spending your after-school. You’re spending weekends kind of getting into the class. So it kind of builds on students and gets more students interested in it that way. But for many students, you know, taking the accounting was just, “Oh man, it’s easy. I can do math. I can add up ledgers, and it’s all good.”
So that’s where it is for students. But then going into that kind of aspect where there’s that stigma around it, when you look at the universities, the majority of the students or a vast majority of students, go into business. And they had no aspirations of touching business at all. Now it’s either they never looked at it before the summer that they went into university, or they just never had that opportunity; which is I think one of the biggest things.
Even though we had some students here at Campbell go into business, who I would have never thought go into business, now they’re looking back and saying, “Wow, I really should have taken those business classes because it would have helped me now, where I’m sitting at in my second or third year of business school; whether it be marketing or HR, or whatever. So just being able to have that foundation from Campbell.
Kyle: Yeah, I’m going to throw a shout-out here to Cyril Keston, who I call the godfather of Finance Education in Canada. Because as far as I know, Cyril is actually the only—I’m not even sure what his official title is—business education professor. I think he’s the only one, or maybe one of two or three in all Canada. And I think that’s something we have to absolutely fix.
I couldn’t get into my programs to the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba with any business background; not even economics, which is just the humanities. Nevermind something more business-driven, like an actual Faculty of Business course. So those are not teachables. You cannot become a teacher if those are your focusses in your first few years of university. And as far as I know, that’s the same in most provinces. So we need to fix that—it’s ridiculous.
I had a huge learning curve when I started seeing what Jordan and Campbell was doing. I was like, “Man, I like business. I’d like to become better at this”. I sort of hacked—to use a modern term—my own business education in that regard. But we’ve got to put some public pressure on this. This is ridiculous to me.
One other thing I wanted to bug you guys about before we let you get on with your classes, because we actually took Jordan out of his normal work day here today, is what is a case study and why do I think they’re so cool? Sal, what have you got from these things and what are they?
Sal: Okay, so a case study, from my point of view, is the best way of learning. Now, let me put it into one perspective. You have your regular textbook learning, right? And then you have the case study logic. And it’s the perfect mix of taking your textbook learning and taking your own general knowledge, and your abilities, and mixing them into one to develop your case. You have to know your basic accounting, or your basic rules and principles. But you also have to have the common sense on how to apply those textbook materials into the cases; how you’re going to establish yourself, how you’re going to develop this case, run this case through what the pros and cons of the case may be.
Kyle: So, what is the case, Sal? What are these things that you’ve talked about that aren’t textbooks?
Sal: So, essentially the case is a problem, and it’s a problem that you’re supposed to fix.
Jordan: It’s sort of a real world business problem.
Sal: It’s a real world business problem.
Kyle: Right. Yeah, so if you give us an example, Jordan. What’s a real-world business problem that a student might encounter on a case study?
Jordan: So we actually, this year, we’ve got a cool case study where we’re looking at the agriculture industry. And right now they’re trying to attract more people to their careers, so we’re working with Farm Credit Canada, and our students are going to try to come up with a little marketing campaign to generate more interest amongst young people around the business careers that are available in agriculture.
We’ve done case studies with WestJet in the past, where we look at what planes should they be buying for their next fleet. So a little bit more of a finance case. There will be entrepreneurship: should the person start a business or not, based on the information. Should they expand their business? And it’s cool to see students, I think back to Sal going through, and seeing students work in a team and they have to present it, so communication skills are often lacking in a lot of areas of school. So we see students get up in front of the class, present their idea. It’s great. It’s great to see how excited they get, because they feel like they’re actually in the company or they’re an actual consultant. It feels like you got a little bit of skin in the game, so it’s a great learning experience. We’ve been able to see a lot and we really enjoy it. It’s been a big plus for us.
Jackson: Do you guys have “case competitions”?
Jordan: Yes, we do.
Jackson: Do you kind of come up with these hypothetical things? Groups of people come up with these same faces and present and compete. That is either the coolest thing I’ve heard, or the very, very worst.
But wow! So that’s for real. You guys actually do that?
Jordan: Yeah, we’re fortunate. The Sask Business Teachers Association runs a big case competition. It was actually started because a business teacher—now working in the business community—named Joel Graham. He did some amazing work. He started up the Saskatchewan High School Case Competition, and he based it off the university competition, which Sal and a lot of former students are now starting to compete in—it’s JDC West, and it’s great.
We have teams from all across the province that come. They get their business case, they hear some business speakers talk, they learn about case studies, and then they present to a panel of judges. And we give away the big trophy at the end. We have an awards ceremony, sort of a networking and appetizers at the end.
The events have really grown from like happening in a small classroom in Melfort, Saskatchewan, with like 20 people, to now being a big-scale operation that switches every year between the Hill School of Business at the U of R, and the Edward School of Business at U of S. So we’ve been lucky. We’ve got some big sponsors, like Connexus Credit Union and the two universities, and the Sask Chamber of Commerce on-board, and they really make it possible for the students to attend this stuff.
Yeah, the sky’s the limit. We might have some international teams this year at the case competition. So it’s wild how fast it’s grown and still how much it can grow.
Kyle: So Sandi, I asked you before. Are you ready to go back to high school here? Does this sound like a curriculum that you could live with?
Sandi: I have some case studies I wouldn’t mind having other people look at. [laughs]
Kyle: Do the work for them, yeah! I actually met these guys at the case competition. They couldn’t get anyone else last-minute, so they asked me to speak. And so I met these guys and I was just blown away. And now I actually think so much of it that I base much of my curriculum around case studies.
My final exam in Personal Finance is just one case study. It’s a two-page case study, and you go through this person and they’ve got to make a recommendation to this young gentleman; in the case of this past year. What insurance do they need? What should their investment plan be? They’ve got to set up the whole portfolio: RRSPs, TFSAs, whatever they got to do. They’ve got to sort out the budget and do all these things, and present.
Because what these guys didn’t tell you up-front, Sal, how long do you get this case? 1,000 or 1,200 words? Maybe even a little bit longer than that? How much time do you guys have to tear that apart, build your PowerPoint presentation, and then present it?
Sal: So, competition style, for the SBTA, you only have three hours. And it’s stressful. You’re getting in there, ripping off your tie and you’re unbuttoning your shirt, and you’re going right at it. You’re deconstructing the case, you’re trying to not miss out on everything, and then put this into a presentation. And usually you have to throw that presentation together in 10 minutes because after going through everything and you know that three hours you’re just dead by the end.
You get out of that presentation, after you’ve gone in front of the judges, and you sit down and you pass out. It’s quite an experience. And if you’ve never done it, I urge everyone to try it at least once because it’s mentally straining, it’s physically straining. It’s crazy, but you get such an adrenaline rush while you’re doing it, and you’re also able to take what you’ve learned and put it out into a presentation and just go with it.
Kyle: I made the argument to my principle and I was trying to get everyone on-board to build a team. I said there is more learning that goes on in that three hours then in two full weeks of classes, in some cases. I don’t think I was overestimating it. Sal, would you agree?
Sal: Oh no, not at all. And for a student, they’re able to individually develop themselves more in those three hours then say two classwork days. Because not only are you developing your own thinking skills, your own analyzing skills; whether it be you’re analyzing the financials, you’re analyzing some type of marketing scheme. You’re able to think, you able to apply things. But also when you’re going up and presenting yourself in front of the judges, I know when I started off doing it I was an okay presenter. I’d be able to, you know, go up and talk and then I can get washed over. Now I’m able to go up and talk in front of anyone, and no matter how large of a group it is, you’re able to develop your own speaking skills, develop your own presenting skills.
And if that’s the only thing that you’re going to take away from it, is your presenting skills, then I think you’ve come away with a lot. Because whether you’re going into medicine or you’re going into engineering, or you’re going into law, your presenting skills is one of the biggest things that you have because you have to deal with presenting in front of a patient, or presenting in front of your employees or colleagues, or presenting a case in a court of law; you’re able to come away with this quick thinking analysis and just really establish yourself.
Kyle: So, you guys have walked the walk. Now after today, you’ve sort of talk the talk. What is one piece of advice from the number one business teacher and business student in Canada, to business people that are maybe not business people? People that are maybe considering business or their kids are considering business. And so what’s your one piece of advice to those 15-year-olds out there that think Business Club sounds geeky?
Jordan: Sure, I’ll start us off. So I would say my advice would be definitely to get involved. We have a little quote that we bust out sometimes, and it’s “life is business”, so whether you’re an individual’s going to be needing a mortgage, you’re budgeting, those skills are important no matter what you do. And using that entrepreneurial lens is going to be important whether you actually want to start your own company or you want to try to find that career path that’s going to be sustainable, that’s going to provide you with income you need or with the lifestyle you like. And also to make sure you aren’t the one who maybe loses your job during that recession, or whatever it is. You can make yourself valuable and indispensable in your organization and be a little bit of an intrapreneur.
So that would be would be my advice. To give it a shot and to get involved. It’s beneficial for everyone, which is the nice thing about teaching it.
Sal: For me, the biggest thing is getting involved, but not be afraid to fail. That’s the biggest thing because if you’re perfect all your life, you’re going to become complacent. You’re never going to achieve more if you’re always at that standard “ready-to-go” level. If you’ve failed and you see what you’ve done wrong, you’re able to establish yourself and continue and build upon and grow. And that’s the biggest thing is being a person, is you’re constantly growing, you’re constantly developing yourself. And as long as you don’t become complacent, then you’ve established yourself or you’ve made yourself. And that’s the biggest thing. If you’re a student and you want something, go out and get it. And I know how corny that sounds, but being “the master of your fate and the captain of your soul” is kind of my big thing. That’s an Ernest Hemingway quote, but take whatever you have and go with it because you can be whatever you want.
Kyle: All right. That’s Because Money, guys. Big thanks to number one business teacher in Canada, Jorden McFarlen, and the best name in money podcast history, Mr. Moolla. All right, thanks guys. We’ll talk to you next week.