Can a salaried college Professor who’s never run a business teach students how to become successful entrepreneurs?

photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc

I posted the question in the title of this post on a LinkedIn group over two years ago:
“Can a salaried college Professor who’s never run a business teach students how to become successful entrepreneurs?”

The sub questions were

  • What do you think?
  • Yes or no?
  • And why?

And the responses were have been thought provoking, for example:

Being an entrepreneur requires a host of attributes- some laudable, others less so – however, one key success factor that I believes trumps them all is the ability to deal with life as it “is” as opposed to how it should be.

There was more from that individual (a successful businessman and entrepreneur himself, so worthwhile taking note of) and his response certainly made me think some more:

My initial thinking was that it would be darned hard (if not impossible) for someone to teach others how to set up and run a successful business if s/he had no personal experience of doing it.

And that was my first mistake

College profs teaching business courses don’t actually do that, do they? They don’t teach people to be successful entrepreneurs. They teach specific skills like how to write business plans, strategy, sales, marketing, networking, accountancy/ bookkeeping, and so on, that are needed in business.

Catch 22 or brilliant solutions?

I suspect the entrepreneurs are too busy ‘out there’ using their street smarts and doing deals to allocate much time to classroom learning what the profs have on offer.

The other interesting core of this clanger of mine in the original question, that the guy who first responded identified (without rubbing my nose in it!) was, I believe, “the essence of what it is to be an entrepreneur” and whether that is something that can be taught at school.

And this lead me on to ponder… There are all these psychometric tests to assess suitability for employment these days – are there any to identify potential entrepreneurs, I wonder? Or ‘natural’ franchisees? Agents? Big company employees? Small company employees? (Maybe by now, two years on, those tests do exist and provide reliable results – do you know of any? If so, please share in the comments…)

If they don’t exist there could be a market for someone smart enough to come up with good, reliable tests that could help steer people in the best direction for them. They could save an awful lot of tears, couldn’t they?

Here’s another response that should give you food for thought

I recently attended gathering at one of the local colleges for entrepreneurs. On display were “ideas” for different businesses created by the students. Some were truly amazing and with the right marketing etc, could really be a viable business opportunity…

I asked each (inventor) the same questions and got almost the same answer verbatim. I simply asked, “Are you going to pursue this after graduation as a business?” and my response was very sad: over 70 of our country’s best and brightest… and they all said NO. The reasons varied, but for the most part they all would be looking to enter the job market after graduation. So to answer your question above..the answer is NO. A college professor can NOT teach you how to be a business owner. They can put you on the path as to the logistics of owning a business. But that’s about it.

It takes internal drive and determination to be a entrepreneur, and not good grades in school.

This was intriguing…

I wondered whether these youngsters ALLOWED their creativity to take wing purely because to them it wasn’t really real – it was just a college project, they’d be getting ‘proper’ jobs so why not let their imagination get as wild and whacky as it wanted to?

So they allowed themselves to come up with a big picture ‘what’ that may have been truly unique to them, without being hampered in the early stages of the ‘how’ – something they wouldn’t normally let happen. And that‘s when the big ideas and possibilities came to them – when they weren’t limiting themselves… because it wasn’t much more than a game…

Another contribution

As a former entrepreneur now working in a teaching environment “reality” is powerful tool. Story telling is a tool I use because of the impact it has on the members in my group. I am in the business of peer to peer learning. The accumulation of the bruises on my backside is an advantage that an academic doesn’t have. I know of other former entrepreneurs in formal academic environments and I believe their students get a unique point of view.

There have been many additional comments from people who’ve taken part since… the latest, surprisingly to me, just the other day…

What are your thoughts on the subject?

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