15 Things They Don’t Teach You in Business School
As any student of business school will tell you, the classroom is just about learning about finance, management, and client relations. But for everything that is taught in your coursework and on your final paper, there are a host of other people who know more than our professors.
For example, they don’t teach us how to negotiate a salary when starting out on our first job offer. They also skip over the importance of networking and hiring specialists-in-training to get ahead in our industry. And perhaps most importantly, there is absolutely no advice in our textbooks about what to do after graduation. In this article, I present some of the more important things I learned before and after business school.
1) Starting a startup is hard, especially for non-technical founders
Generally speaking, it is much easier to start a business if you are not the technical founder. If the idea has very complicated technical requirements then it might take you longer than your competitors from other disciplines.
However, if your idea has no technology or science at all then chances are you have an advantage over your competitors from computer science or engineering.
This dynamic will likely change in the future as software becomes more user-friendly and coding less important for startups. But for now, don’t work on a technical startup if you don’t have any background in the field.
2) Don’t worry about where your company will be based
Every entrepreneur has a list of reasons why they want to build their startup in their own city or country. But unless you are really passionate about your location, it is usually better for all parties involved to move somewhere else.
While it is not always possible or even that common, there are many instances where major tech companies have moved overseas simply because they thought it was more attractive or convenient than their home base. More than likely the populace of your country will not like that and your competitors will smell blood in the water.
3) Become a jack of all trades instead of a specialist
By nature, we try to be labeled as “the expert” in our field. But being an expert usually means you are not getting the best experience. Instead of sticking to what you know and becoming irreplaceable, branch out and be willing to learn new things.
Even if it means working a job outside your industry or going back to school while already employed. No matter what you do, stay flexible and open-minded because the tough part comes after you get a job and then realize that the industry is changing faster than ever before.
4) Hire people more experienced than you to help you get ahead
This is something people often forget, but the best way to become good at anything is to hire those who do it well. If your startup is struggling to find a product manager, hire someone who has already managed one or two before.
If you are having trouble writing a great business plan, hire an expert in your field who can teach you by example. You get the idea. The real problem comes when these experts are busy with their own projects and can’t take on an apprentice, so if that is the case then find someone that taught them in school or through another social network.
5) Passion is overrated.
Sometimes we ask ourselves why we do what we do and how someone ever gets started. While passion can certainly help you get to where you are going, it won’t do much for you once you arrive.
Ultimately, this idea is all about balance. Before one decides to start a company they should have three things in place: passion, a clear vision of where they want to go and maybe a small amount of money saved.
Once these three things are in place they can move forward with their startup and hire the right people to build the dream.
6) Finance is not important at first
Finance is important when you first start a company because that’s the foundation on which everything else must be built. However, if you have a great vision and passion to make it happen, then financing is less important.
If you are an entrepreneur with a good vision, there is always someone who will help finance your project as long as you can convince them of your dreams. Ultimately though, what really matters is the idea.
So make sure you can explain your vision in one sentence and be able to tell it to anyone who will listen over and over again.
7) Do not work for free
It’s fine to volunteer for a good cause or a friend of yours who needs some help getting started on their project. But remember that working for free means that someone else gets the benefit of your labor without paying the person who did all the work.
This can be a very dangerous path to go down. If you are going to take that route, remember that you have to have something valuable in return. Otherwise, you will end up paying someone else pretty quickly in the form of rent or your own salary.
8) It is never too early to network, even when you are a fresh-out-of-college student
Networking is very important in getting an initial foothold in your industry. Not only will it help you find the right people to help you with your business ideas, but it will also lead you to great experiences while on the job.
When was the last time a co-worker told you what they really feel about your company or product? Probably never. But be ready and keep an open mind at all times so that by the time you need help, someone will be there for you.
If not in person then through social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter where most people go for career advice these days.
9) A strong sense of ethics and a good reputation is more important than anything else
It is very important to be honest with people and treat them with respect as much as you can. That goes for your employees and customers, but also for the people in your industry. If someone has a weaker reputation due to being corrupt or committing a crime, it will likely reflect on you in some way and make it harder for you to succeed.
So if you see someone in trouble or something that looks shady, make sure to let them know that they are making the wrong choice and don’t have any friends if they turn their back on those who can help get their names back out there again.
10) Never forget to live your life
People often forget that they need to step outside of their work and enjoy what they do. One of the best ways to do this is to get out in nature and just spend time away from technology.
From a purely business standpoint, people who take some time off are usually more productive and much less stressed when they come back into the office.
Not all employees need vacation time, but those who are serious about making it in their industry should always find a way to separate themselves from work so that they can be the best version of themselves.
11) Make sure you have a backup plan for everything before you start
Starting anything, especially if it is for profit, is risky. So before you begin you should always have a backup plan in place. Things that could go wrong include your co-founder leaving, the bank not being able to support your loan, or even if the government says no and takes away your business through taxes.
The reason for these things happening is that startups are famously risky and prone to making a lot of mistakes. So always have an exit plan in place even if it means selling out some of your equity so that you can move on to a new venture.
12) Do what is necessary for the success of the business, not what is easy
This may seem obvious but many times people try to do things that are way more difficult than they need to be. It’s good to look around but don’t get caught up in all the extra bells and whistles while you are dreaming of what you can achieve.
If the founding team is going to suffer through those extra challenges then it will be worth it in the end because it will be a success story. But if everyone is willing to just work hard and follow their vision, then all that matters is that they are now making an actual profit; all the other excesses will come along after the money has changed hands.
13) Treat everyone with respect, even when they are wrong
People just want to be treated fairly and fairly compensated for the work that they do. So if you disagree with something, don’t take it out on the person who has made a mistake and be like “you’re fired.” Understand that people are trying to do their best for you and you have your own job to do too.
So if someone is being a jerk or being rude to customers, it can create a huge rift in the business. Not only will you not get the help that you need, but there is also a chance this person can launch their own separate project and make more money than you will ever see.
14) It does not matter how much money you make, you have to spend it at the same time
It is easy to forget that when you are making money, at the same time you are spending it. A lot of people look forward to putting a lot aside in order to make sure they are set for retirement but there is nothing wrong with enjoying every moment of your financial success while it lasts.
Many start-up businesses do go under and if that happens, then no one really cares if you had a huge savings account or not. So it is best to take advantage of the situation and enjoy your time here on earth instead of waiting for tomorrow.
15) If it does not work out, find a way to fix it
If you run a business and things start going south, it is okay to admit defeat. It is much better to take care of your relationships with employees and customers than to just keep going down the same path that will end up costing you more in the long run.
You will never know if your idea was bad if you do not let people react to what you have been doing. Many people are afraid of making mistakes but once they realize failure can be fixed quickly, which makes it better than trying something for years and never knowing for sure whether or not it will work.
So these were just 15 basic lessons that I learned in my first startup experience. It is only one of the thousands of businesses around the world and there are always a million different opinions on what works and what doesn’t.
CONTRIBUTED BY Bing Bing Coffee
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