Friday, February 14, 2014

What They Don't Teach in Business School

Part of 2010 Conference on Entrepreneurship [at Stanford University] 
Description: A group of entrepreneurs talk about what they learned in the trenches that they never could have learned in a classroom. The panelists will also share the courses that were most helpful to them in their entrepreneurial ventures, the courses that they wished they had taken, and the topics that business schools should be teaching to aspiring entrepreneurs.
My notes

Chuck Holloway moderates the panel discussion.

Mike Cassidy (Harvard) has started up four businesses, and has had three successes so far.  He's still working to see how his fourth can succeed.

The morale of his team is a key factor.

Speed is the ultimate weapon, for example, in launching products.

I have this fantasy: I wish I had the power to control the brain of someone I'm trying to get a business development deal with.  You can try different sales techniques, and find out which one works.  Ask, even if you think it's too far-fetched or too much.

My first one, we (three partners) put in $500, so we started with $1500.  Even small amounts can feel like a million dollars.

We keep meetings sparing in a streamlined schedule.

There's benefit to exponential growth, such as investor confidence and staff morale.  But it's hard to sustain drive and motivation over long periods of time.  That's why I like to sell my company after two years.

Nazila Alasti (Stanford) debunks the notion that mothers cannot be entrepreneurs.

She didn't have a line-of-sight on her contributions at a juggernaut of a company like Apple, so this was one motivation to go into her own business.

Small sailboat analogy speaks to our journey.  You shouldn't give up.  If you're still coming up with good ideas, keep at it.  Persistence always pays.  Stay on the process.  Don't let people derail you, even if you're six months pregnant.  The alpha male is a lion, but I'm an ant.  I just work in a small, persistent and methodical way.  The lion sits in the shade, then chooses which prey to go after.

It's hard to get $10 out of a person.  Maximizing profit vs maximizing value.  I have to ask, What am I maximizing?  We always think bigger is better, but I'm not sure that applies all the time.  If you work at an organization, pay attention and learn about scale.  Learn where you're weak, if you want to be more of a holistic entrepreneur.

If you don't believe it, nobody else will believe it.  At the end of the day, I just sit for 10 minutes.

Watch executives: How they run meetings, what they do.  Get to know their administrative assistant.  Take advantage of learning and development offerings at your company, because at a startup there aren't any.

From e-mail, shift to actual customer service and customer support.  It'll be a renaissance.

Will Price (Northwestern) abides by the notion of: How could you not do it?  If not now, when?

The culture is about risk-taking.  Entrepreneurship is a full-wafer test (rf. semi-conductors): It tests your passion, your endurance, your perseverance, your leadership, your sales ability.  Trusting in process that you will get to the answer.  Investing is hypothesis-driven thinking, and he had to switch process-driving thinking.

A team that recognizes, and grasps, the market quickly is important.  Knowing how to work with investors is also crucial, given the inherent differences in thinking between them and entrepreneurs.  They're more likely to hold to an original idea and plan, and won't be pleased to hear that it's not working.  

What I didn't learn?  Risk is relative.  There is no such thing as a safe place.  Business schools over-teach how rational organizations are.  Sometimes I don't understand how some decisions are made.  Idea-driven, logical and rational vs people- and politics-driven.  For some reason, business schools are prejudiced against sales.  But it is the sales people who run the world.  If you're good, and you can sell, go sell.    

Be authentic with people.  Conversations with the right people can recharge you.

I worked at Morgan Stanley.  Learn how stuff gets done, learn how you work.  The difference between good and great is 10 minutes.  Before you submit something, walk around for 10 minutes and review it.  You'll find mistakes that you can correct, before you actually submit it.

A CEO has two jobs: to sell and to raise money.  Crack the formula the code for sales, hire renaissance people who can do everything.

Be capital efficient.    

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

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