I’ve been asked a lot lately about business schools and entrepreneurship, which is why I did this post, last Friday, about one thing wrong in that area; and then this one yesterday, on whether business schools can teach entrepreneurship. That’s become a very interesting discussion. I expect to post on it again, if only just to summarize some of those comments.
So, in the meantime, looking at Twitter and comment reactions to yesterday’s post, I sat down today and thought about what you can learn about entrepreneurship in a classroom, that will help you be a successful entrepreneur. Not that you can’t also learn all of this from books, websites, mentors, and advisors too; but learning it in class might be more efficient.
1. Cash flow
Cash flow is critical but not intuitive. Cash isn’t profits. That ebb and flow of cash related to accounts receivable and inventory management, collection days and payment days. This one by itself justifies studying entrepreneurship. Studying this in the classroom is way better than learning it the hard way. One cash flow disaster (running out of money) in business can cost you more than two years in business school. Easily.
2. Business planning
Yes, I really like business planning. I’ve liked it since I was first exposed to it in the middle 1970s. Don’t get bogged down in the formal academic full business plan, necessarily; but business planning is a great way to see a whole business, from strategic focus to objectives to specific milestones, tasks, responsibilities, management, sales, marketing, and finance. And it’s a great tool for teaching.
3. General business fundamentals
Never underestimate the fundamentals of strategy, marketing, data gathering, finance, and analytical thinking. There’s a lot to be said for learning how to translate concepts to numbers and back to concepts. Not to mention vocabulary, and analytical frameworks, and methodologies for isolating problems and layout out solutions. Disciplines and methodologies are good to know. And hey, buzzwords don’t hurt.
4. Communication skills
Writing — clear, simple communication, in practical English sentences — is so important. It is so often underestimated. And presentation skills, focusing on what’s most important and communicating that to others. My experience is that good business schools teach that.
A good education can teach you what not to believe, and why not. Enthusiasm is great, and you hear so much about passion and persistence and all, but not without a basis for reviewing what makes sense and what doesn’t.