Despite the rush in every academic institution to offer more courses on entrepreneurship, I still have not found it to be something you can learn in school. You can pick up the basic principles this way, but the problem is that the practical rules for success are changing so fast that no academic can keep up. The best thing you can learn in school is how to learn.
The successful entrepreneurs I have met and worked with over the years all seem to share that passion for learning. They see rapid market change not as a problem, but as an opportunity for them to move ahead of the crowd, in changing the world. Making big money is usually the last thing on their mind. They are most happy living frugally.
From a practical standpoint, there are many ways to learn about business change and opportunities. Here are six steps that every aspiring entrepreneur should take full advantage of:
- Communicate with peers who have experience. The common term for this is networking. Many aspiring entrepreneurs enjoy talking about their new ideas, but fail to listen. You do not learn anything while talking. Successful entrepreneurs love to share, but they respond better to pull rather than push.
- Research current success stories and role models. The Internet is more resourceful than, the Library of Congress or any university. It changes daily to keep up with reality and is interactive. Reserve some time each day for your favorite blogs and influencers. Follow up with social networking and expand your personal contacts offline.
- Find a business mentor and a friend. A mentor is someone who will tell you what you need to hear. A friend might tell you what you want to hear. In business, you need both, and the ability to tell the difference. I find that, all entrepreneurs benefit from bouncing their ideas off someone else. Unique perspectives can add real value.
- Don’t skip new “learning how to learn opportunities.” These include the classes in school, that focus on case studies and team exercises. Extend beyond the academic world to professional and industry seminars. Focus on the opportunities that match your needs for today.
- Volunteer to help your favorite organizations. There is no better way to broaden your perspective and understand realities, than to work in a positive environment. You can get real leadership and learning experience, without long-term commitments and financial pressures.
- Start your own small business. The cost of entry for an entrepreneur is at an all time low. There are very low incorporation fees in most states, website creation tools for free and, the ability to create and offer smartphone applications. Learn from the challenges of a startup with a low-risk idea before you bet it all on the big dream.
Self-initiated learning is not for everyone. If you are one of those people, who likes taking weekly structured classes, I do not recommend the entrepreneur and startup lifestyle. Starting a new and innovative business is not a highly structured process, and finding time for structured learning is unlikely.
It is always helpful to check your motivation to be an entrepreneur. If you see it as the path to easy money or as an escape from an existing job or family pressures, it is time to recognize that learning does not come easily.
There is no substitute for doing what you love, and loving what you do. Once you learn to love learning, you too can be a successful entrepreneur.
Image credit: CC by Steven Depolo