Can You Learn How to Be an Entrepreneur?

EU Business School on entrepreneurship in business education

This article is sponsored by EU Business School. Learn more about the Entrepreneurship MBA.

Starting a successful business can be a dream come true. Taking an idea from creation to fruition and attracting customers and capital while working for yourself are exciting notions. Providing an innovative product or service can mean huge profits for entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s dream can easily become today’s nightmare of debt and despair. Startups fail. Preparation doesn’t guarantee success. Still, an increasing number of entrepreneurial MBA programs aim to minimize risk by combining business fundamentals with an environment conducive to experimentation.

Teaching entrepreneurship might seem like herding cats. MBA programs emphasize teamwork, so how do educators reach a roomful of individuals aspiring to lead not follow? To find out, we spoke with Dr Andrew Ward, professor of business management at EU Business School’s Barcelona campus, about his school’s Entrepreneurship MBA and the role education can play in helping the next generation of business owners.

Like many business professors, Dr Ward had a fulfilling career before he became an educator. Born and raised in the city of Liverpool (in the northwest of England in the UK), he became interested in chemistry, enrolling at the University of Wales in Bangor. After graduation, he worked in food and in biotechnology, in product and tech development, alongside sales.

“I have been really lucky because I have mostly had great roles with lots of creative freedom,” Ward explains. “I worked in the food and drink sectors, from whisky and chocolate to selling flavor. And in between, had some experience selling antibody technologies and trying to set up a functional drink business in Spain.”

Teaching entrepreneurship

B-school students hoping to become entrepreneurs should expect a wide course of study. “The Entrepreneurship MBA develops key knowledge and skills in the fields of new product/service development, new venture creation and small/family business management,” EU Business School’s online prospectus explains. “The management courses prepare for the challenges of growing a business and adapting to environmental changes. This program provides graduates with the framework and skills to become entrepreneurial leaders and managers in any organizational setting.”

The EU Entrepreneurship MBA prepares students to turn their ideas into profits. Successful startups include IT technology, B2B sales, B2C sales, venture capitalism and of course, consultancy. Ward explains that teaching entrepreneurship “encompasses all functionalities and is not just about the sexy end of creating new ideas and sitting around brainstorming. A good entrepreneur needs to know how to manage risk in all departments from operations, production and R&D through to finance, marketing and sales. Entrepreneurs do not have the big company support with large departments and big budgets. That can be an exciting challenge and an opportunity too.”

The classroom has one huge advantage over the marketplace. In school, failure is a learning opportunity. In the ‘real world’, it can mean bankruptcy. “The key is to start with the idea that everybody is creative so students form groups with this seed,” Ward explains. “Groups are formed around an entrepreneurial project so they have ownership right from the start. Students are given the tools to develop their ideas and can see how the project can be taken from the ‘ideation’ phase to full commercialization from a theoretical perspective. The great advantage of using the theoretical approach is that students can use both really disruptive, off the wall ideas and more conventional entrepreneurial ideas. They do not lose any money but it gives the students a sense of what can be done and how to do it.”


Online entrepreneurs

In his article ‘Evolving Entrepreneurship’, Dr Ward writes, “The internet has changed the rules of the game. New technologies associated with the internet are revolutionizing the way entrepreneurs work. The internet is compelling for new businesses because entrepreneurs can develop their own rules.”

He points out that, “The connectivity in the last 10 years has encouraged entrepreneurship in a very positive way. All you need is a computer and an idea. Entrepreneurs can connect to funding (crowdsourcing), develop a webpage, set up the payment software and marketing part over a weekend. This was costly and time consuming 20 years ago. But entrepreneurs will still have the age old problem of getting people to part with cash for a product or a service. And this can be the difficult part on the internet because it can get very noisy.

Ward admits that this change from traditional bricks and mortar businesses towards online industries has also impacted MBA education – and not just programs teaching entrepreneurship: “I think business education in general has had to adapt to the internet. It has been a significant enabler across all topics, not just entrepreneurship. In entrepreneurship specifically, I alluded earlier to the key aspects of crowdsourcing, access to information and services, among others. It is essential that these sorts of topics are incorporated into the way we teach entrepreneurship.”

Entrepreneurial Cohorts

The notion of entrepreneurs as rugged individuals is an inaccurate cliché. Even the most temperamental introvert will have to work with others in order to be successful. Still, modern MBA programs utilize a cohort model, where students collaborate in small teams throughout their education. How does an MBA in entrepreneurship utilize cohorts? As Ward points out, “Entrepreneurs may be individualistic, but not all of them are. Nevertheless, at some point, even if the idea can be started on the internet and the business can be managed largely by one person, they need to interact with others. So, if students want to pursue an entrepreneurial activity they learn that having a team around them can help and this is the approach I use. There are also some tactics I use to help with the balance of groups based on cognitive skills (the innovative-adaptive spectrum). This helps to incorporate a range of thinking styles (eg individualistic versus team player) and generate a range of business ideas.”

For many who earn an MBA in entrepreneurship, those cohorts become one of the best parts of the program. After graduation they provide invaluable networking opportunities. They also offer the perspective of fellow entrepreneurs – with all the challenge, excitement and hope that go along with starting a business.

This article is sponsored by EU Business School


 

Written by John Bankston

Content writer John began his career as an investigative reporter and is a prolific educational writer alongside his work for us, authoring over 100 nonfiction books for children and young adults since 2000.

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