Colleges Should Offer Two New Courses for Entrepreneurial Students

Earlier today I was talking to a second-year MBA student at a top 10 business school. As graduation looms on the horizon, he’s looking to network with startups and find a full-time gig in the summer. After the usual discussion about the desired type of gig (building or selling) as well as appetite for risk (seed stage, early stage, growth stage, etc) he posed a question on behalf of his professor: what should colleges be doing to prepare students to be entrepreneurs?

I thought for a second and offered up that colleges should offer two courses not commonly found:

  • Professional Selling – Nothing gets done until something gets sold. Sales skills are important for entrepreneurs, not just sales people. Beyond the sales challenge of signing the first 10 customers, most entrepreneurs have to sell investors on why they should invest in their idea. Professional selling is an ideal course for entrepreneurs.
  • Lean Startups / Customer Discovery – Business plans are dead. Validating ideas with prospects prior to building a product is alive and well. Dynamic business model canvases are in vogue. Entrepreneurs would do well creating and testing hypothesis, using the scientific method, rather than writing plans based on third-party information found in a vacuum. Doing is better than theorizing.

Of course, colleges are good for teaching subjects, but they are no substitute for getting out there and starting a real business, even if it’s a simple concept anyone can do. Colleges would do well to offer courses on professional selling and lean startups / customer discovery.

What else? What are your thoughts on these two course ideas as well as other courses colleges should offer for entrepreneurial students?

7 thoughts on “Colleges Should Offer Two New Courses for Entrepreneurial Students

  1. It wouldn’t be rationale to demise our educational system by promoting entrepreneurship – 9 out of every 10 businesses fail. While I don’t want to be discouraging, its probable that there’s no honor into being an “employee” in today’s age.

  2. I’m a guest entrepreneurship professor at a few different universities and business schools, and teach a version of customer dev based on blanks lean launchpad (taking the flipped classroom one step further by eliminating lecture in favor of project based, team facilitated learning, a la Stanford d school). students work on real businesses while in class. That gets them the best of both worlds: experiential learning with support from the university.

  3. Fortunately, there are a number of universities that offer the professional selling course and a handful that offer a degree in Professional Selling. Check out the University Sales Center Alliance (www.universitysalescenteralliance.org). There are a little over 100 universities that have courses and programs in professional sales and almost 40 that have Centers for Sales Excellence.

  4. To respond to a previous comment. The reason that most new businesses fail is because they fail to make a product that someone needs to buy. The purpose of customer discovery is to talk to customers before launching a business, before building a product, before spending money. And to use the process to pivot their vision to a business model that can be successful. It is an essential skill to everyone who wants to be an entrepreneur.

  5. “Nothing gets done until something gets sold.” — Love this line. Most folks don’t realize the importance of not only understanding the sales process/sales skills but also the creation of go-to to market strategies that align sales organizations for success. I would trade an awesome product with difficult sales issues for an OK product with easy sales….anyday.

  6. I would say, software development. It teaches systems thinking, co-ordination, logic, data driven decision making, problem analysis, etc etc etc. If you can design a complicated software program you can design and manage a lean business that’s exceptionally placed for growth and have the skills to deal with any problems

  7. I took Entrepreneurial Selling while getting my MBA at University of Chicago. Not only did it cover several different sales scenarios (phone, in person, warm lead / cold lead. led gen, lead qualification), but it also dealt with selling with limited resources in a startup environment. Courses like this should be a must for both undergrads and MBAs. Here is a discussion of the course and its syllabus: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20110401/best-courses-2011-entrepreneurial-selling-at-the-university-of-chicago.html

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