This weekend in Paso Robles, California the Cal Poly Western Bonanza will be in town. In it’s 28th year the premier junior livestock show is produced, coordinated and operated solely by a team of college students. With over 460 exhibitors showing close to 1,000 head of livestock, the event does not just come together over night. With three professors overseeing the process (myself being one of them), the planning of the show covers three classes over the course of a year. The class format consists of upper division students who serve as the management team and work with over 80 of their fellow classmates. The students are majoring in numerous fields from throughout the college of agriculture, and a few from other colleges on the campus. Celebrating the foundation by which Cal Poly was built upon, “Learn by Doing” is the basic foundation of this class.
The students not only learn the obvious proficiencies that it takes to run a livestock show, but develop skills that will extend well into their professional careers. Organizational and accounting methods from dealing with entries, results, and bookkeeping are obvious learned attributes. But if one really digs deeper there are so many more life lessons happening over the three day event.
Dealing with the general public and your customer is a hands-on approach to customer service. Successful businesses build the cornerstone of their sales model with customer service. Or what about leading a team of your peers in preparing a show ring or gathering sponsorship monies. Teamwork, leadership and basic management principles come into play. Salesmanship and marketing are shown in the public relations, merchandise and hospitality committees role in the success of the weekend. But I think the most important skill learned and more than likely the least noticeable is problem solving.
Anyone who has ever worked in the event business knows that no matter how much you plan and how prepared you are something is bound to go wrong. How you solve that problem and the speed of which you get back on track is key to the success of the event. And the day you realize in the world of events that what the public/ consumers perception of the outcome and your expectation are two different perpectives, you will have less anxiety and a better event.
Although on the Cal Poly campus one may hear moans and groans that the “Learn by Doing” philosophy is not applied, I can guarantee you it is alive and well in the hands of 120 Western Bonanza students.