Roasting marshmallows, belting out campfire songs, and creating picture frames out of macaroni noodles not your teen’s thing?
No sweat, says John Crawford, co-founder of Parsippany-based consulting firm Enspirix and longtime instructor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Discover Teen Busine$$ Camp. “Teens can go to soccer camp or art camp, but this is another escape for them where they can learn about business and careers and discover what interests them,” he says. “It’s a fun thing to do every year. It’s a creative idea.”
The one-week Teen Busine$$ Camp runs Monday to Friday, July 12 to 16, beginning at 9 a.m. at FDU’s Florham campus in Madison. All participants will receive a certificate of completion at the camp’s conclusion, and lunch and snacks will be provided, but teens can also bring their own.
Tuition costs $490. Call 973-443-8842, or visit www.fdu.edu. A medical form is available online.
Teen Busine$$ teaches youngsters about basic business skills through educational and entertaining activities, something Crawford says he could have benefited from when he was a youngster.
A creative teen who enjoyed art and music, Crawford had no distinct career path. He grew up in Hillsborough with his father, a mid-level manager for an industrial company, and his mother, a homemaker who often worked part-time at a pharmaceutical company.
Crawford received a football scholarship at the University of Rhode Island, where he was asked to write a jingle for an American Federation of Advertising competition during his freshman year. He learned he had a knack for business and sales.
“I was definitely drawn to business, but I also was artistic and I played the guitar,” he says. “That competition was the spark that got me interested in using all of my interests. I could see using my creative talent to solve a problem that was unique.”
At that point Crawford focused on marketing and advertising. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration; he later earned both an M.B.A and a master’s degree in psychology and organizational behavior from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Crawford took an entry-level sales job at ITT in New York City. “I was quickly able to showcase some of my talents on some voluntary assignments,” he says. “People started to see the kinds of things I could potentially do, and they created a series of positions for me that didn’t exist prior. I was able to do a lot of sales and support-related roles.”
By age 26 Crawford oversaw the sales incentive programs for a large number of ITT employees. “That combined creativity and business,” he says. “I had to put together structured incentive programs that spurred sales people to overachieve.”
Crawford eventually moved on to be an independent consultant for 12 years. He is now the managing partner of Enspirix, a management consultant firm. He lives in Essex Fells with his wife, M.J. Jolda, who is the head of marketing for Marcal Manufacturing in Elmwood Park.
“We help companies more effectively get their people to use technology so they can work in dispersed ways,” he says of Enspirix. “Now, I’m working with ITT on a client basis.”
Getting down to busine$$. During the camp, teens learn skills that can be applied to all areas of life, both in school and in the business world. “It’s this youth movement, and they need to get on board with what’s happening as early as possible so they can learn, and so we can instill the foundation and the basics,” Crawford says. “They learn about all the key aspects of business during the week.”
Camp topics include communications, in which teens learn how to speak and write in professional environments, how to make a positive first impression and appropriate business etiquette; networking, in which teens learn how to build relationships; finance, in which teens learn about saving, budgeting, investment, and cash management tools; marketing, in which teens learn how to design a market strategy and use library and Internet resources to find business information; entrepreneurship, in which teens learn to build a team business plan; and leadership, learning how to be a team player in a global business environment.
The business of team dynamics. Crawford participates in the teamwork and leadership segment and stresses the importance of interacting with others. The topic, he says, covers how to deal with conflict in a simplified way, how to work and make decisions in a team environment, how to influence or motivate a team, and how to create a team identity.
“In today’s world, working in teams and collaborations is the way things happen,” he says. “With this, it’s hands-on learning, so it’s fun. The things that we teach them get to be applied right away. Each exercise illustrates the lesson.”
Working with others, particularly in a global business community, is an increasingly important skill, especially as teens spend more time using technology to communicate instead of having face-to-face contact. “To some extent,” Crawford says, “technology makes business impersonal and reduces face-to-face relationships. We try to show them how to apply technology so they’re not overusing technology.”
“Their future is going to be all about interacting,” he adds, “and it’s not going to be people sitting across the table. It’s going to be people across the world.”