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How YE students learn to be principled

Values are the principles that guide our behavior, and we believe ours are integral in leading students and alumni to fulfilling and meaningful lives. Our Foundational Values are responsibility, knowledge, passion, sound judgment, be principled, freedom, opportunity and win-win focus. And we’re exploring the core of each one, continuing with Be Principled.

“When we talk about being principled, we’re talking about integrity, respect and toleration,” says Grant Mankin, Dallas-Fort Worth Area Director for Youth Entrepreneurs (YE). “To be a principled entrepreneur, you have to treat your customer the way they wish to be treated, and do the right thing even when no one is watching.”

Being principled is central to creating value as an entrepreneur, Grant explains. “Principled entrepreneurship is the only real way to both obtain and build value,” he says. “Short-term value is fleeting. There are countless stories in the news of businesspeople who were not principled; they cheated their customers to earn millions but lost it all. Say I sell someone a shirt, but it falls apart tomorrow. Sure, I’ve got their money, but I’ve lost out on that next sale. When you behave in a way that is principled, you create lasting value.”

When YE students learn to be principled, they learn to put their customers first, always. “Being principled means that you treat your customer so they will see what your business stands for and will want to continue doing business with you,” Grant says. Principled entrepreneurship also means tolerating your customer’s perspective, even when it differs from your own. “As an entrepreneur, you’re going to interact with some people who you may disagree with. Principled entrepreneurs treat their customer with tolerance no matter what, and focus on creating value in spite of differences.”

YE educators can help their students understand the value of being principled throughout the year, and Market Day is a particularly impactful experience. Frequently, Grant explains, there are a few groups of students who feel upset at the end of the Market Day because their friends didn’t buy their product. Grant recalls a student who was selling tacos at Market Day. 

“He expected his friends to buy his tacos simply because they were friends, but tacos weren’t what they wanted. He was upset. But the student was able to learn that he wasn’t aligning his product with what his friends wanted. He wasn’t putting his customers first and wasn’t respecting what they wanted and needed,” he says. “Afterwards, his teacher was able to facilitate that conversation about being principled and the student’s entire perspective changed.”

When young people understand what it means to be principled, it can transform how they think about markets and entrepreneurship. “Often, the opposite of being principled is being expedient. When you focus on the here and now, and how much money you can make right away, you’re tempted to cut corners and risk losing your principled approach,” he explains. “Being principled means understanding that entrepreneurship is a journey, and you have to be able to adapt and pivot. It’s playing the long game for what’s right for your business and what’s right for your clients.”