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Studying entrepreneurship not only about starting a business

March 27, 2017

ISB students learn the importance of having entrepreneurial skills and mindset

There is often a misconception that studying entrepreneurship is only about starting your own business venture. While learning about starting a business is always valuable, in reality very few business graduates actually start a business upon graduation or soon thereafter. Those that do go into business for themselves usually do so after gaining several years of work experience. According to research by the Kauffman Foundation, the average age of successful start-up founders in high-growth industries was 40. And high growth start-ups are almost twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as by people 20 to 34. [i]

Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship

Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs

Entrepreneurship students recently visited the MTEC SmartZone and discussed the qualities of successful entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs met with CEO Marilyn Clark.

However, studying entrepreneurship, or at least taking a course on the topic can be very valuable at the undergraduate level. The reason is that established organizations value employees possessing entrepreneurial skills and mindsets through what is known as Intrapreneurship. According to businessdictionary.com, Intrapreneurship “applies the ‘start up’ style of management characterized by flexibility, innovation, and risk-taking, to a secure and stable firm. The objective is to fast-track product development (by circumventing the bureaucracy) to take advantage of a new opportunity or to assess feasibility of a new process or design.” [ii]

Students in BUS435 Entrepreneurship recently visited the MTEC Smart Zone business incubator and accelerator in Houghton and met with CEO Marilyn Clark.  While there, Clark emphasized the Entrepreneurial, and in this case, the Intrapreneurial mindset and skills that are in high demand by organizations of all sizes operating in today’s dynamic work environment.  While the list was long, here are some of the skills she highlighted:

Reliability – According to Clark, the number one complaint of employers are unreliable employees. Being reliable and dependable is one of the basic skills that set good employees apart from bad employees in all types of businesses and organizations.

Creativity and innovation – For the entrepreneur, creativity and innovation are often the cornerstone to any business venture. Most successful growth-oriented ventures are the result of a new product, process, service, or research and design innovation. For the Intrapreneur, it may mean a business process improvement, a new strategy, identification of new market opportunity or other. In both cases, the successful individual will be able to unleash their creative energy to come up with innovative ways of achieving their goals and objectives.

Tolerance for risk – New opportunities, initiatives, improvements, projects and strategies all involve various levels of risk. Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs must both be willing to take and accept moderate risk in order to accomplish their objectives.  However, they don’t foolishly proceed without understanding the risks involved and then doing their best to eliminate or mitigate such risk.

Motivation and drive – While often synonymous with one another, motivation is described simply as the desire to achieve a goal or objective while drive can include the personal characteristics or traits one uses to reach such goals or objectives.  Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs both possess the necessary motivation and appropriate drive to not merely identify their goals and objectives, but also to implement and realize them.

Decisiveness – It’s also important to be decisive and to be able to make the important decision while understanding the ramifications and risk that it may entail. To quote Second Lieutenant Carwood Lipton from the mini-series Band of Brothers “(Lieutenant) Dyke wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions. He was a bad leader because he made no decisions.” Being decisive and making important decisions is a defining factor for both good leaders and entrepreneurs.

Flexibility and open-mindedness – Clark emphasized that this may be the most important quality of today’s Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs.  Such individuals will continuously face new and unfamiliar opportunities and challenges, all of this within the framework of a more diverse and global business environment. Those who are the most flexible and open minded will be at a distinct advantage in this regard.

Employment opportunities for business graduates in high-tech firms

While the firms under the SmartZone umbrella are primarily high tech, there are employment opportunities for business students – especially in marketing, accounting and occasionally in human resources.  Clark advised the students to “be flexible and willing to learn the language of the high-tech industry and enterprise you are looking to work for.” That’s sound advice as many high-tech firms are founded by engineers and others with a technical or scientific background. Therefore, they often need quality business and marketing expertise.

Finally, Clark advised the students to “have a goal and a personal vision and choose a job that you have an interest in and are passionate about.  At the same time strive for balance and to live a happy and rewarding personal life. “

For more on the MTEC SmartZone go to mtecsz.com.

[i] The Best Age for a Start-Up Founder. TIME. March 14, 2013

[ii] Businessdictionary.com

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