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The Education of an Entrepreneur

The Education of an Entrepreneur

July 16, 2021

I remember when I was young my father used to take me with him to go make his weekly "collections." We would drive to Dadeland and we would park right outside of the Dadeland Bank branch. Every 15 minutes or so, someone would stop by and walk up to our car window and my dad would speak with them, they would hand him some money and off they would go. I don't think we ever stayed longer than about a half an hour. Once done, my father would drive around and make a deposit in the teller and then we'd be off to the golf course for me to ride in the cart with him as he played a round. I remember him telling me that it didn't really matter what I did when I grew up, but that whatever it was, I needed to do it for myself.

My father is a good man and he worked very hard and was honest with all those he came across. His first real job was driving a taxi cab and over the course of time he accumulated a few medallions which he leased out to driver's and would collect a fee. When times were good, he made enough money off those leases to support the family. My father didn't have more than a high school education. He would laugh that when he attended his one and only semester of college that he majored in ping pong and didn't hit the books too hard. He found out he failed out part way through the 2nd semester when the teach was taking roll and he wasn't enrolled in the class. When he went down to the registrar, he learned he failed all his 1st semester courses and was automatically unenrolled. He laughs when he tells that story. Even if he had made it through college, I wonder how much he would have learned and applied to what eventually became which was a Taxi Cab company owner. So it begs the questions, what is the best education path to take when doing it for yourself is what you want?

Education is critical, but what you need to learn is often outside the classroom.

So much of applying to colleges and beyond is about getting yourself ready for that "first job." If your grades and activities are good, it will reflect well on employers. But how about if you owned a mango stand when you were a kid, where does that fit in? If you sold the most chocolate in the school contest for 3 years straight, what was it that the college education would actually teach you? If you are an entrepreneur and your child may follow your footsteps, you need to be very purposeful about the reasons why your child is going to college and what that are going to be learning. I recently had a podcast with. My good friend Walter Gonzalez, click here. He recounts when he was in college that he was president of his fraternity and that he was not a good president at all. However, he remembers those lessons learned as being critical to the president he has become today of his company. It was the non-classroom "education" that really made the most impact on him. For those young adults who think they may want to to have their own business, it's these extracurricular activities that a college education offers that would likely be the most valuable. I remember when I joined a fraternity I was automatically connected with our Alumni network and was able to meet and speak with so many recent graduates to get first hand guidance from those actually out there doing. The one I connected with the best was an attorney and it was influential on my decision to go to law school. Building those leadership and networking skills in college can give you a tremendous leg up when it comes time to go out on your own.

It's never to early to start.

I remember when I was about 7 years old when my brother decided we were going to sell our Mangoes to passing cars in front of our house. We sat out front as my brother waved down cars and then would send them over to me to handle the finances of the transaction. When we were done with the day and went to divide the profits my brother knew my grasp of money was not that advanced and that I could very easily be convinced to take all that heavy change and he would get all the paper and I would feel like I got the better of the deal. Only when my parents got involved was I forced to undue the division so that we both got equal money. However, we both worked for that day and were both happy with what we received from it, who's to stay that it was an unfair deal? Such lessons early in life are crucial to learning the basic lessons of business to utilize later in life as when we are faced with our first entrepreneurial opportunity out of college, I can think back to the mango stand and the deal I struck. If I could make the other person on the transaction happy and see value with the deal struck and provide them value, I could secure a good deal to help me start out in the business. The earlier a lesson learned the greater benefit over the long term. It is simply never too early to start learning those lessons. For that reason, I always stop no matter what when I see a young kid with their lemonade stand to help grow those entrepreneurial urges.

Start early and never stop learning from your failures as well as your successes.

Everyone who has ever started their own business will say unequivocally that they learned more from their failures than from their successes. When you put your heart and soul into something and then it doesn't work out, fails, it creates an indelible memory and feeling in your mind that will always be a part of you. The courage and dedication to continue to move forward is where the significant and long term success will come from. I often notice that those who were fortunate enough to have early success without struggle or failure often do not achieve long term success. It's not their fault, but the lessons learned from trying and failing are so important to have and if they come after success, they are very tough to listen to. The vast majority though have many struggles and failures before success comes. It's not about how many times you fall, it's how many times you get up. Reach out to those who have a business that you feel you want and pick their brains. Be very willing to change your course when new information presents itself for a better way to achieve your goal or that the path you are on is not working.

What is the value of a college education for an entrepreneur.

Any way you look at it, College is a very large investment of both time and money. Other than a home, for most people it is the single largest investment of their lives. If doing it for yourself is a strong possibility in the future, what classes would benefit you the most? I went to a liberal arts college and got that well rounded education, my degree was in accounting, so I did get a good education in understanding numbers. Regardless of the major, it's very important to take some basic finance classes to at least understand the difference between revenue and net profit and the different forms of business investment. My wife who received a fine arts degree and MFA in acting wishes she was forced to take at least one of those classes which would have made such a difference in her career. Taking a basic accounting class would be very valuable as well. Understanding financial statements and balance sheets would be a strong asset when looking for loans to start or grow your business which are critical.

I found a great article that I think simply and effectively sums up the education of an entrepreneur, click here. If you think there is anything I've missed, reach out and let me know!