Why You Can’t Study to be an Entrepreneur, and What to do Instead to Become More Valuable and Successful

Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, and a Shark investor on ABC‘s Shark Tank said, “You can’t study to be an entrepreneur. You just have to jump.”

It’s impossible to enter into many fields without formal training; most people agree that entrepreneurship is not one of such fields. Medicine, architecture, engineering, and law, are some of such fields. Beyond formal training, these fields require advanced degrees and license before professional practice.

Entrepreneurship is at poles apart from these fields. Haven’t you observed how some great entrepreneurs take pride in their early foray into business, dating back to their formative years?

The Entrepreneur‘s Education

As a child, Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, bought packets of gum from his grandfather’s store and went selling them door to door in his neighbourhood.

At 10, Richard Branson spotted the popularity of parakeets as pets among children, pounced on the opportunity, and bred the birds in his backyard, alongside his friend, Nick Powell during one of their boarding school vacations. Later on, at 15, while still in high school, Branson started his first major business, a magazine called the student. The opportunity for the student magazine came when Branson wanted to campaign against archaic school rules, like corporal punishment, Latin, games, and compulsory chapel. Aware that the existing school magazine, the stoic, will regiment his campaigns, Branson opted to create an inter-school magazine that aligned with his interests and purpose. The first issue of the student appeared in January 1968, and by 1969, Branson had an estimated net worth of £50,000.

Nigerian entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote became interested in business at an early age. While in primary school, he bought cartons of sweets for resale at a modest profit. Although, he completed a business degree at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University before starting his major business at the age of 21.

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After graduating from Al-Azhar University, Aliko Dangote, like most people,  was presented with two options for his next line of action. The first option was to rely on family connections to get a job in a major company or decide to work in one of the family businesses, even if he is not needed in the company or business. There, he will earn quick bucks and immediately start two things: earning a living, or a family, or both. Even worse, he could have sit back in this family business without making any meaningful contribution thereto and continue to relish and gnaw away at the family wealth. Lots of his contemporaries went down that lane.

But without falling for the allure of the easy and oft-travelled route, he chose to seize the opportunity presented by the privilege of his birth and asked his grandfather, Sanusi Dantata, for a N550,000($3,000) loan to start the business of importing rice from Thailand, and sugar from Brazil, to his home state of Kano. His grandfather, who also made his fortunes from selling rice and oats, granted him the loan which he repaid in three months, having made considerable profits within that short period of time.

Dangote’s business degree coincided with his successes; the degree wasn’t responsible for his success in business. This point is buttressed by the many other entrepreneurs without a business degree recording far more successes than the Dangotes and the people with business degrees who have never started their own businesses their entire lives, or those who started businesses but couldn’t make thriving enterprises out of them.

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Life-long Learning is what Entrepreneurs Need

Entrepreneurs do not need a business education. Rather, they can adopt life-long learning to become better at managing, organizing, and harnessing people, resources, ideas, change, growth, the internal and external business environment, and a host of other indispensable exigencies of businesses. In addition to consigning themselves to a life of continuous learning (in whatever way and manner they do it,) every situation and encounter that confronts an entrepreneur in the course of running a business comes with its own invaluable lessons that he can apply to the specific needs of his business and also tailor them to suit future exigencies whenever they arise.

There’s no knowledge as Valuable to an Entrepreneur as Experience

Clients are diverse in their nature, habits, and needs, and as an entrepreneur, your performance will be excellent if you pay attention to their nuances and cater to their specific needs, concerns, and expectations. General principles as taught in schools are helpful to a certain extent, and stop there, experience do the rest.

Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience
Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience

Edgar Dale is an American educator who developed the cone of experience. Going by his findings, we remember only 20 per cent of what we hear, and 10 per cent of what we read. In school, professors and lecturers talk, and we listen. Reading is the second way we learn in school. And what is worse, is that most of the reading is not done for the sake of knowledge but to pass semester exams. So, as soon as the semesters are over, students barely remember a thing they heard from professors or read from books and journals, in the relentless bid to outshine their mates in grades. Accidentally, the urges to earn a credential, or surpass other students, or both, come in the way of the desire for practical knowledge and the will to implement that knowledge in good time. As a result, business schools end up churning out more people seeking jobs than they’re willing or able to create.

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In entrepreneurship, to go to school is to get to work; street smarts trump school smarts. If you can intern under an experienced entrepreneur in your line of business, by all means do so. There’s no better way to learn and do entrepreneurship than to learn and do it under a master with recorded successes and most importantly, failures.

People who study entrepreneurship, do so, either through reading books in the form of self-study or they enrol in an entrepreneurship program in a university. Either way, the crux of entrepreneurship is lost en route because mistakes and failure are discouraged in the entire process. We retain up to 90 per cent of what we learn and are able to apply that knowledge to the fullest capacity when we make mistakes, fail and rise afterwards.

In what way do you agree with this article? I’m open to your comments. Drop them down there.

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