Business school and the entrepreneur

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I went to business school to get the education that would help me become a successful entrepreneur. Not that there is any correlation between having an MBA and being a successful entrepreneur. In fact, the only correlation between being a successful entrepreneur and something else that research has ever found is that the entrepreneur has to be both intelligent and persistent.

Nevertheless, I hoped to learn a thing or two that would prove to be useful down the road. Since I haven't started a venture yet I can't really speak to the usefulness of the classes I took, but I still wanted to show my roadmap through the business school from a budding entrepreneur's view. So here are the elective classes I took:

  • Entrepreneurship: Formation of New Ventures (Garth Saloner)
  • Managing Growing Companies (Joel Peterson)
  • Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital (Peter Wendell and Eric Schmidt)
  • High-Tech Strategy (Robert Burgelman and Andy Grove)
  • Corporate Finance (Jeffrey Zwiebel)

The Corporate Finance class was based in turn on the mandatory classes of Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting (= Cost Accounting), and Finance. I took it primarily to improve my (financial) business modeling skills, a critical skill needed to refine your operational model as well as estimate your capital needs, which in turn you would need for discussions with potential investors.

Managing Growing Companies builds on Entrepreneurship: Formation of New Ventures. The Venture Capital class goes hand in hand with both classes. Corporate Finance provides the financial analysis base, and High-Tech Strategy provides the strategic outlook on how to position a high-tech startup. The only important classes that are missing are classes on Project Management and Sales Management. We have a Sales Management class, but I didn't get in. The business school does not offer a project management class, which is somewhat surprising given that the professional life of many of us is basically a string of projects. There are dedicated Marketing Research classes (which I took) but they don't really play to the entrepreneurial situation.

With the exception of Corporate Finance, all the classes mentioned above had a lot of touchy-feely talk. Organizational culture and structure, people issues and how to manage people all played a major role. These organizational behavior aspects were supported by the core classes of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior and Dynamics that I took a year earlier.

One more class: High-Performance Leadership with David Bradford. This is an organizational behavior class that focusses on effective team leadership, that is, how to form, motivate, and manage high-performance teams. If there is something that gets my juices flowing than it is to be a member or the leader of a truly high-performing team that puts a dent into the world, as Steve Jobs used to say.

All really cool, in particular the roster of absolutely fabulous professors and lecturers given above. There is no other place on this world where you would get to learn from such greats! (And this does not mention who we had as class guests, for example, John Morgridge, Mark Leslie, Meg Whitman, Scott Cook, and and and.)

Copyright (©) 2007 Dirk Riehle. Some rights reserved. (Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA.) Original Web Location: