What Have You Learned About Entrepreneurship That School Can't Teach?
Q: What is one practical DIY thing that you have learned about entrepreneurship that traditional education did not teach you? How/where did you learn it?
— Geoff R., Columbus, Ohio
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council. Founded by Scott Gerber, the YEC is an invite-only nonprofit organization composed of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth.
A: You Already Know the Answer
I learned to trust myself and my gut instead of always searching externally for an answer. This came about after many hours and dollars spent on seminars, programs and books. I was sitting in a leadership program after becoming a certified coach and I found myself saying, "I know this stuff." Why did I need someone else to tell me what I already knew? The lesson was to test my hunches.
Ambassador Bruny (twitter.com/ambassadorbruny), (ambassadorbruny.com/)
A: Get Away From the Detail to See the Big Picture
Traditional advice places a high level of importance on detail, but this can be a hindrance. Why? An extreme focus on detail limits one's ability to grasp the larger picture, which is critical to knowing what details to focus on. Under the microscope, everything appears larger. Learn to discern what is most important and how it contributes to the larger scope of things.
Kent Healy (twitter.com/Kent_Healy), The Uncommon Life (theuncommonlife.com/blog)
A: People Are Willing to Help … If You Ask
Thanks to higher education, I entered the traditional workforce not realizing there were any other options. Learning from industry professionals is what helped me find my own success. Be proactive about requesting informational interviews and seeking out the wisdom of others. As long as you respect others' time, they'll typically be willing to share their experiences.
Steph Auteri (twitter.com/stephauteri), Word Nerd Pro (stephauteri.com)
A: All the Tools for Success Are Online
Leveraging the power of the Internet has enabled me to learn about entrepreneurship at an accelerated rate. Traditional education is simply not able to keep up with the amount of information available online. Utilize online communities geared toward teaching and promoting entrepreneurship. Some of my favorites are theyec.org, under30ceo.com, youngentrepreneur.com and quora.com.
Anthony Saladino (twitter.com/cabinetkings), Kitchen Cabinet Kings (kitchencabinetkings.com/)
A: How to Build a Team
Traditional education is all about the individual — working on your own coursework, improving your own grades. Entrepreneurship requires immense teamwork. The greatest tip I ever heard was this: When you are building your team, hire only people you would trust to hire more people without consulting you.
Ben Lang (twitter.com/entrepreneurpro), MySchoolHelp (MySchoolHelp.com)
A: The Price Is Right
One thing I wished someone taught me early was how to set pricing models. We had to learn this on our own and read about it from diluted Web sources. But it is as important as putting the product out — if you don't set your retail price correctly, all other avenues of sales become difficult to manage. Drop shipping, wholesale accounts, affiliate sites, commission sales — all important.
Jerry Piscitelli (twitter.com/portopong), Portopong LLC (www.portopong.com/)
A: Reverse-Engineer Your Goals
The only way to create change in your business or personal life is to define and complete the right sequence of baby steps. This is something I was never taught. There can be 10 steps or tasks between me and my end desired result. If you can reverse-engineer something you want to accomplish — define the baby steps, deadlines, money and talent needed — you'll be in good shape.
Josh Shipp (twitter.com/joshshipp), JSP Inc. (joshshipp.com)
A: How to Negotiate
Schools rarely teach negotiation, and if they do, it's using sample scenarios between classmates with no "skin in the game." As an entrepreneur, you need to negotiate all the time, and it's a skill I continue to refine each day. Whether it's negotiating salaries with new hires, equity splits with co-founders, or deliverables with team members, negotiation is one definite educational DIY opportunity.
Doreen Bloch (twitter.com/doreenbloch), Poshly Inc. (poshly.com/)
A: Effective Goal-Setting
Business school taught me how to set goals in an organization and how to organize systems properly. However, it didn't teach me how to set goals as an entrepreneur. With the need to balance my personal brand, personal life, company and the goals for each, I had to develop my own system for setting and achieving goals. I learned by trial and error.
A: It All Comes Down to Making Money
As an engineer by training, I knew a lot about delivering results, solving problems and creating things. What I didn't learn from school is that running a business comes down to one thing: making money. It's so simple, but without this mindset you'll be hard-pressed to build a successful business.
A: Novelty Is Overrated
Academic culture puts a huge weight on novelty and innovation. I started my business while finishing a Ph.D. and it took me a long time to learn that I didn't have to come up with something completely new to make a significant mark. Making current technologies easier to use or more accessible is far better than coming up with something new just for novelty's sake.
Charlie Gilkey (twitter.com/#!/CharlieGilkey), Productive Flourishing (productiveflourishing.com/)
A: Sales and Marketing Rule
Traditional education teaches you that if you do the best work, you will be rewarded accordingly. But in the world of business, it doesn't matter what you do, but who knows about it and who buys it. I've seen dramatic improvements in my business game by investing in sales and marketing training.
Elizabeth Saunders (twitter.com/RealLifeE), Real Life E (schedulemakeover.com/)
A: Action Is the Most Important Activity
Traditional education teaches us to plan before action (the business plan). How many entrepreneurs out there simply followed a business plan to success? In my opinion, very few. The most practical lesson I have learned is simply to start. Start now and don't be afraid to get it wrong. Getting it wrong is the only way to know how to get it right. Planning to start is not starting at all.
Lucas Sommer (twitter.com/audimated), Audimated (audimated.com/)