Tag Archives: entrepreneur

Ask Dr. Business – How do I know if I want to be an entrepreneur?

This week’s question:  How do I know if I want to be an entrepreneur?

Dr. Business:  Everyone has an idea for a business, but not everyone can be an entrepreneur and convert that idea to a commercially successful enterprise. Why is that? Primarily because the concept of entrepreneurship is inherently about taking risks, and most people are risk averse. Additionally, not all of their ideas are viable enough to be profitable, or there just aren’t enough customers, the cost of making it happen is beyond their means, etc.

Another major requirement for success as an entrepreneur is a deep rooted passion to the extent that it consumes them. Entrepreneurship can be a long hard road to success.  Passion for your purpose is vital.

Lastly, is the lack of experience in running a business. For all these reasons, I require the students in my course on Entrepreneurship to develop a business plan to see if their idea is commercially viable and to help them understand what it will take in terms of time, money, and pain to start and manage an embryonic business. It’s an exercise that can save them from themselves. The popular show “Shark Tank” is a wonderful platform for anyone wondering if they want to be an entrepreneur to observe what happens to would-be entrepreneurs and their ideas.

Entrepreneurs Beware The MBA

The big trend in the MBA today is NOT to follow the flocks of graduates rushing to the corner office in the traditional corporate jobs in finance and management.  Today, newly minted MBAs seek to become their own boss by becoming an entrepreneur or joining a startup.  In a study by the Wharton School of Business, 7% of their MBA graduates were bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at graduation, while historically about 25% of their graduates had dabbled in entrepreneurship since 1990.  The first thing these go-getters learn after graduation is that business school taught them a few things that aren’t really true when you own your own business.

  1. Plan. Plan. Plan.  Business schools like to focus on building plans for everything. That’s great if you don’t have any time pressure, like when you’re in a classroom.  However, when you’re in the thick of running a business and dealing with rapid change, planning is a task that requires significant resources and time.  These are luxuries that new entrepreneurs and startups don’t have.  Business is messy, unpredictable, amorphous and always changing.  Even the big companies use the most common method of business planning; that is, trial and error.
  2. Hard work is the key to success. This was echoed to me so many times in grad school.  I know I’ll have to work hard and in the corporate world, this exacerbated by competition for bonuses, promotions and fun work.  However, the new MBAs coming directly from business school aren’t seeing the benefits being hailed by professors.  Organizations aren’t giving away those perqs like in years past.  So, if you’re going to work your butt off, you might as well do it for yourself, rather than some organizational leaders who won’t appreciate what you have to offer.  There is a small caution to this tale.  Entrepreneurs will be pushed and pulled from all angles, so rest and release are critical to maintaining sufficient motivation.
  3. Learn what others do first. “Play it safe” sentiments are echoed through the hallways of business schools.  “Get a corporate job and learn how companies are running their business before tackling your own company” a professor always told.  Isn’t that what business school is for?    Besides, if there is ever a time for taking risk, it’s when you are young and full of energy.  Young MBAs have to chase their dreams while they can afford failures.  Diving into the corporate job can quickly lead to domestication, which comes with a family, mortgage and lots of activities that eat up time you don’t have.  There’s nothing wrong with these things, as I have them all.  But you can always fall back on your MBA to get you a decent job if the entrepreneurial thing doesn’t pan out.
  4. You need to acquire funding. The big MBA programs give out badges for raising a lot of capital to start a business.  Money is important but not necessarily when you’re starting out.  The biggest focus for you as a new entrepreneur is to figure out what the heck you’re doing.  Learning business in school is not the same as putting it into practice.  You aren’t solving problems that are easily defined and have easy solutions.  Learn the business first.  If you’ve seen the hit TV show, Shark Tank, you already know that investors don’t like investing in an unproven concept.  They want to see that you can make money with the idea, not risk their money trying to figure it out.

One of the big criticisms of business schools is that they don’t employ professors who’ve actually started and run businesses.  Of course, you will also find that the corporate world is full of those types too.  As an entrepreneur, learning is critical and has real value in all you do.  It’s psychotic to think that business school will give you all the tools you need.  That’s why we’ve brought a great resource for you here on our blog….Ask Dr. Business.  Send us your questions and we’ll get you answers from a tried and true entrepreneur.

An Interview with Dr. Business: Professor Robert Donnelly

Recently, we’ve been asked by our clients to share more on entrepreneurship.  Typically, we promote a lot of discussion on the MBA and general career advice.  Now, we’re adding a little more for all of you overactive professionals who want to do their own thing.  Yep, Entrepreneurship will be part of our discussions here on the Blitz Blog.  We’ll soon be adding a column, called Ask Dr. Business, where you can ask Professor Donnelly questions for yourself.

To kick this off, we decided to provide a short introduction to Professor Donnelly and ask him a few questions.

About Professor Donnelly:

bobProfessor Donnelly is an author, educator, and brand builder for businesses and individuals. His latest book, Personal Brand Planning for life, and his earlier tome: Guidebook to Planning – A Common Sense Approach, are both available on Amazon. Professor Donnelly has been teaching in MBA programs for over 20 years now and concentrates on Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Strategic Brand Management. Prior to academia he held senior management positions with IBM, Pfizer, and EXXON, and was the CEO of the North American subsidiary of a Dutch multinational firm. A prolific writer he was the Editor of the Entrepreneurial CEO column for Chief Executive Magazine for many years and still writes for CE. His columns and blogs appear frequently in the global entrepreneurial space.

Here’s my interview with Dr. Business.

Todd:  From a career consulting perspective, we are seeing a lot of MBAs move towards entrepreneurship.  Why do you think this is happening now?

Professor Donnelly:   Due to the uncertainty of long term careers in corporate America brought on by continuing advances in technology coupled with the implications of Big Data and Predictive Analytics, MBAs are naturally attracted to take advantage of their education and experience to become entrepreneurs by utilizing their skills to contribute to developing customized solutions to new problems emerging in the new world of work. Every semester several of my MBA students implement the business plans they developed in my course to start new businesses.

Todd:  Is transitioning from an MBA mindset to an entrepreneurial easy?  What are some of the challenges professionals will face?

Professor Donnelly: The biggest challenge is taking risks, which are the epitome of the entrepreneurial mindset. Professional managers are risk averse by nature and have become enamored with the safety net provided by the typical corporate umbrella. This false sense of security represents a safer place to be than venturing out on their own where their success or failure is based solely on the decisions that they have to make themselves. Secondarily, they have to have a passion for what they are doing and make the time commitment required for success. This is far different than a corporate situation where decisions are often made by others and you can go home at 5 o’clock without a worry about tomorrow.

Todd:  We know most universities don’t provide entrepreneurial classes.  Where can students and graduates go to get some real advice on becoming an entrepreneur?

Professor Donnelly: It’s unfortunate that entrepreneurship is often an elective, and courses on personal branding are few and far between, if available at all. Entrepreneurship can’t be gleaned from a textbook. It has to be studied by following the now well worn path of successful entrepreneurs. Every business starts with a solution to a problem. Peter Drucker, the guru of management, said “the purpose of a business is to create a customer, and the job of the leader is to grow the value of a customer.” Just think about the problems that you have all day every day. Each one of those problems represents an opportunity to devise a solution. Shake Shack started with a food cart in a park in New York fourteen years ago and just had an extremely successful IPO. The challenge is to implement a better, faster, cheaper solution – Uber, Zip Car, The Swiffer, Tide Spot Stick, whatever.

Thanks, Dr. Business, for sharing a few moments with us.  We look forward to your column on this site and bringing a unique perspective to entrepreneurship to this blog.

So what questions do you have for Dr. Business?