PRINCETON — Ask anyone who’s successfully started and maintained an ongoing business, and it will come as no surprise they were regularly required to make critical decisions that could make or break their entrepreneurial endeavors.
To help prepare the younger generation for such decision making, the Princeton High School students in teacher Patrick Smith’s economic class recently competed in the Drs. David and Agnes Palmer Junior Achievement Titan Competition held at Sauk Valley Community College on Oct. 27 — and won.
“This has been a great way for students to apply concepts from class to a real world business situation,” Smith said.
“They have to make decisions regarding marketing, production, research and development, and also respond to the forces of supply and demand in a simulated marketplace. These are all lessons we’ve gone over in class, and I hope the competition has only enhanced their understanding of those concepts,” he said.
Seven high school teams competed, including three from Dixon High School, one from LaSalle-Peru High School, two from Newman Central Catholic, and one from PHS.
The student teams managed their manufacturing business models through several simulated business quarters. By winning on Oct. 27, the PHS team will advance to the scholarship round, where approximately 250 students from the surrounding area will compete for $8,000 in scholarship money for the top three teams in Davenport, Iowa, on Nov. 15.
The PHS team’s local business mentors are Tommy Fehlhafer of Munson Hybrids, who provided assistance prior to the competition, and Central Bank’s Rick Clary, who provided real-world business experience to help the team make their crucial decisions during the competition.
“The contest puts the team in a competitive environment with the other schools,” Clary said.
“You manufacture and sell a product, market conditions change, and then adjustments need to be made. The biggest challenge was after the first quarter they [PHS] were in last place. Over the next 28 quarters, they were able to make adjustments and move up to first place,” Clary said.
The PHS team members are Zach Bohms, Nolan Hunt, Alec Johnson and Zakk Welsh.
Johnson said the competition helped teach them about business operations in both the short-term and long-term.
“Something else we learned was making yourself stand out from your competitors can be more important than churning out the next latest and greatest,” Johnson said.
“In others words, creating something new doesn’t always mean you get to charge the high price, especially when others are adding their own twist for cheaper. A final thing we learned was it’s never too early to save and invest in your company when it’s well liked,” he said.
Johnson also said the biggest challenge boiled down to two things, considering what your competitors are doing, and what your fellow investors want to do.
“You must always pay attention to your opponents, for as soon as you forget to take even the one that seems like they could never touch you, they’ll pull out something they kept hidden or put in a new plan of action that could change everything. You also have to deal with your side, for they may be your allies, but the advice and decisions they make won’t always be correct. However, it’s always worth taking into consideration, for you never know when you’ll find a diamond in the rough,” he added.
PHS Principal Andy Berlinski shared his congratulations with the team, as well as an appreciation for what the local business mentors provided the students.
“We’re extremely proud of the Junior Achievement Titan Competition Team for placing first at the regional competition. It’s truly a demonstration of their hard work, planning and preparation for the event, and many thanks to Rick Clary and Tommy Fehlhafer for all of their time and effort in mentoring our team,” Berlinski said.