What Students Taught Me As A Guest Speaker
I was very fortunate to be invited as a guest speaker this past week at William Paterson University, New Jersey’s College of Business. They’re hosting their first ever Business Concept Competition in November, and being a recent MBA from there in Entrepreneurship with my own business, I was invited to conduct 4 workshops over 2 days to present the idea of Entrepreneurship to students, encourage them to participate in the competition, and provide them with tools such as how to write a Business Concept Statement. With time duration of an hour, it’s difficult to get into depths of entrepreneurship and of running a business, but what I tried to do was discuss the traits of and opportunities for an entrepreneur; sections of a Business Concept Statement that forms an initial presentation of ideas (almost a bridge to a more thoroughly vetted Business Plan); the competition application process; and my experiences as a small business owner.
While I was gratified to get very good student evaluations from an engaged audience, they wanted to learn more and had some pointed feedback that I will certainly incorporate in my future discussions on entrepreneurship. I remember my college days, how some faculty members distinguished themselves from others by providing practical discussions and materials that students could relate to. Now it was my turn to read and incorporate their feedback into any future engagements, so here it goes:
• Share More Personal Experiences: While I tried to give them some anecdotes about my experiences, they wanted to hear more. Admittedly it was hard within the time and topical constraints, but I’ll give more concrete examples of small triumphs and trials of starting and running your own business. Everyone loves a good underdog story!
• Ways to Raise Start-up Capital: This was one of the most repeated comments I received to discuss further. Theory from business text books can’t replace real world experiences and resources, especially now where crowd funding and crowd sourcing have replaced traditional means of fund raising.
• Process of Starting a Business: There’s no easy way to start a business and the available resources online can be overwhelming for many. So I’m hoping that this blog and any workshops I do will provide some concrete resources to start a business.
• Discuss Specific Issues Related to Entrepreneurship: Every entrepreneur has unique experiences based on their geography, skill set, and personality. Perhaps even before writing a business concept statement to flush out ideas, it may be helpful to write a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) Analysis. SW = Internal, OT = External that shows your core competency and any gaps that need to be filled.
• Global Business Opportunities: Based on the industry one wants to get into, nothing like online research, and then networking through the local Chamber of Commerce, other Business Associations, and walking trade fairs when they come to the biggest city near you. One thing I’m still learning is the power of networking!!
• Ways to Research Competitors’ Cost Structure and Improve Own Profitability: From my experience, this is very hard to do other than for public competitors. It may be easier to adopt your industry’s best practices through benchmarking, leading to cost efficiencies and improved profitability.
I would like to become a more effective communicator of entrepreneurship, so would really appreciate your comments and ideas.