Monta Vista DECA: Excellence in Written Events
Monta Vista DECA in California has developed a competitive excellence program that has yielded much success at the International Career Development Conference. In 2011, Monta Vista saw 18 members earn top 10 or higher honors, including three international champions and seven second place winners in five events.
Located in Silicon Valley, the center of venture capital and private equity, the Monta Vista DECA chapter maximizes its resources available through the community, parents and networks. The largest chapter in California with more than 450 members, Monta Vista DECA empowers its own successful student competitors to serve as coaches and mentors for underclassmen as part of its competitive excellence program. Chapter advisor Carl Schmidt also serves as an advisor for another career and technical student organization which engages both chapters in a friendly rivalry to out-perform each other at the respective regional, state and national/international conferences. Here are his thoughts.
How do you help members find the events that are right for them?
Our competitive excellence program includes a strong coaching and mentoring program. Our September study sessions are devoted exclusively to introducing both new and returning members to all current, changed and new competitive events. Subsequently, our competition team, augmented by our other chapter officers, provide intensive, individual event counseling. Members are also provided opportunities to perform individual personality assessments through a variety of instruments to give them insight into themselves.
We strongly advise members to choose two events: one role-play event and one written event in order to strengthen their different sets of skills and increase their chances of qualifying for ICDC.
What's your approach for helping members prepare for written events?
For me, the classroom is for providing concepts and context. Thinking like an entrepreneur and/or an investor begins here. Most of the real work (for competitive event preparation) takes place at our study sessions. We recreate a Silicon Valley environment where members engage and connect with each other and evaluate ideas. Our organizational structure (http://mvdeca.org/officers.php) reflects our vision, mission, values, goals, objectives and priorities. Therefore, we are heavily weighted towards competitive excellence and our competition team reflects that focus.
- Written presentation: Study the winning written events documents available through DECA Images. Review genuine business plans made by actual start-up enterprises. We host a business plan workshop at which members of the venture capital and private equity communities serve as workshop presenters. The conference begins with an actual start-up firm making a business plan presentation to the team of venture capitalists present. Our members observe the presentation and listen attentively to the questions asked by potential investors. The executive summary of the written projects is always the last section written.
- Oral presentation: Each member should read Guy Kawasaki’s “Art of the Start,” and we now issue that to all of our incoming freshmen at Business Boot Camp. We focus not on preparing a presentation for DECA, but rather on making a presentation to a genuine investor where the members are seeking real money. I will hear the presentation several times before it is presented at ICDC.
- Interaction with judges: Connect and engage! Be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes technology fails; always have a backup. Never assume that the judge is giving you his or her full and undivided attention. Never assume that the judge understands what you are talking about. Ensure that you have a way to differentiate yourselves from your competition. A win or loss is usually at the margin, so everything counts.
What are some "extras" that help members stand out?
We prepare for business, not for DECA. We prepare our own resources and study guides, which we continually update and refine. We maintain a culture of competitive excellence where performance counts and is recognized. We have pennants made for every ICDC first place winning individual and team. We have bought into continuous improvement – last year’s performance is a point of departure, a new benchmark. We are really competing with ourselves. We value our alumni/alumnae – their career successes have become inspirational. We encourage our members to “push the limits” or “push the envelope” and not worry about “playing it safe.”
What about failure?
Be wary of early success. Sometimes a member may attribute early success in his or her DECA career to sheer genius. As a result, the member may slack off, become unreceptive to learning and resistant to coaching. Alternatively, failure can be a great teacher. We believe and teach that we can often learn more from failure than success. Since most new businesses and new products fail and many successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have some failures behind them, the ability to recover, learn from mistakes and begin anew is critical to ultimate success and a true mark of a champion.