How Do You Teach “Entrepreneurship”?

By November 14, 2011

This semester I enrolled in the introductory class for the new Entrepreneurship minor at the University of Scranton. Over the course of the semester, our class hosted several guest speakers ranging from a tech entrepreneur with several exits to a local franchise owner. Each of these entrepreneurs displayed several common themes throughout their presentations: passion, finding your complement, and temperament.

The theme of passion was repeated as each speaker told his or her story. Many of the entrepreneurs claimed that it was their passion that kept them driven and determined to meet their goals. Professor Richard Yarmey Esq. explained the important role that passion plays in an entrepreneurial venture: passion, when coupled with action, leads to success. In other words, you can have all of the passion in the world, but unless you execute and implement your strategy, your passion is worthless. Without passion, a startup venture cannot possibly survive. Passion is the underlying element to perseverance. The nature of a startup venture is comparable to a roller coaster – filled with ups and downs. The love of a product, service, and customers is what keeps the entrepreneur focused and persistent through both the good times and the bad.

Another theme prevalent throughout each of the speaker’s stories was the importance of finding a partner that complements your abilities. One of the key elements to each of the speakers’ successes was their ability to find a person who complemented their skill-sets. Social Media Marketing consultant Amy Tobin taught us that her partner complemented her marketing abilities with his technical know-how. The tricky part is finding that someone who not only complements your skill set, but also your passion. When you are in the process of selecting a complementary partner, be sure to find someone who believes in your idea as much as you do, otherwise you will find some partners working much harder than others.

The final common theme between the diverse group of entrepreneurs was that of temperament. As Professor Yarmey puts it, “you have to be willing to exchange labor for success.” Running a startup venture is something that sometimes takes years of bootstrapping. You have to be willing to accept the fact that you will have to do a lot of hard work without the promise of a weekly paycheck.

Jack Brennan, an entrepreneur who found a market in the early days of the first cellular phones, put it this way, “Entrepreneurship is in your gut. Not many people are meant to be entrepreneurs. It’s a lot of headache. It’s a lot of failure. You need to dust yourself off and start all over again in the face of failure. There are times when you will get no sleep. Keeping your integrity despite all of this is key.”

Brennan also taught the class the value of “connecting the dots,” as Steve Jobs would say. Throughout his career Brennan had several unique experiences that shaped his temperament. It was only after looking back on these experiences that he was able to connect the dots and identify that things happened one way or another for a specific reason.

Professor Yarmey recognized the grey area of introducing the entrepreneurial “spark” into the minds of easily distracted college students. The course, aptly titled the Entrepreneurial Mindset, included a unique approach to “teaching” entrepreneurship. Instead of sticking to the traditional read-the-book-take-a-test model of education, Professor Yarmey utilized a group of diverse entrepreneurs to tell their stories of success and failure.

These presentations were each followed up with a written critical thinking assignment outlining the importance of each speaker’s story. It is important to recognize the common elements that are present in all forms of entrepreneurship. Whether you are aiming to become the next Facebook or running a family-owned small business, passion, working with complementary partners, and temperament are essential to your success.