On-going debate challenging the legitimacy of these findings always pitches the “street smarts” vs “book smarts” scenario as an argument. The expects on that side of the debate always claim that the most successful entrepreneurs have also always been high school or varsity drop-outs. Who can ever forget the tale of one William Gates, visionary and genius to have graduated from the school of car garage tech moguls? Did not young Zuckerberg snuff a perfectly acceptable college education for a multi-million dollar fortune and a place in history?
My favourite author, healer and teacher, Mr Paulo Coehlo wrote that college degrees are not for everyone. He expounded that the senseless insistence that our children be pushed through this sausage line for pieces of paper does not serve society in its entirety. His observation was that not every calling in life requires a degree. And while I agree with this teaching in principle, I do so also aware that this world’s fortune 500 businesses are led by Harvard and Cambridge graduates, for starters. In fact, it would seem that the Zuckerbergs, Gates and Bransons of this world a more the exception rather than the rule.
Why do entrepreneurs need an education? If I am selling flowers and not two ton trucks, why do I need a post high school education? And are we really saying entrepreneurs need a university education?
Since this piece is written without the weight of all the relevant statistics, I would like to share a story as a point of departure. And so the story goes that a long time ago, three young twenty somethings got together and agreed to realize a mutual dream of opening a women’s boutique selling hot street fashion fresh from neighboring African countries and from South America. Friend A wanted them to right away go search for rich relatives to invest in this wonderful idea they had just hatched together. Friend B disagreed; she argued that they needed to start small, perhaps even by buying from local manufacturers or designers and selling to friends and family until they could establish their brand.
Both Friend A and B competed to have their idea win the argument, each pulling out past stories and scenarios of people who had done things their way and succeeded. Each was bent on beginning the venture their way, based on other people’s past experience and yet with the hopes of achieving the extraordinary. Meanwhile, Friend C looked on a little amused at his two friends’ seemingly senseless argument and decided he too would share his idea. They would all finish varsity, work for the top three players in the fashion industry in the country and then meet after ten years to start their business together. Friend C could have been Martin Lawrence that day because Friend A and B met this suggestion with rambunctious, belly clutching laughter. After all, everyone knows “all moguls are drop outs”…right?
Fast-forward to the year 2011 and Friend B is sitting in what South Africans term a ‘Ma en Pa’ restaurant, sipping what has been her only cup of coffee for the past hour of her being there. She is lamenting on the books that never seem to balance, the staff that never cease to breach contract by going MIA instead of resigning and the customers who can never seem to reorder voluntarily. She had been peddling clothes from so called developing countries, mostly China and Dubai for ten years after having had something of a success with locally made t-shirts and jeans for four years. This success had deterred all her efforts to attain a B Com Law degree, which would have pleased her mother more, but as she sat watching her hundreds turn into thousands, she found more and more reasons to drop out of school and follow her bliss.
While sitting contemplating how this wild abandon for her dreams had turned her into a broke and miserable wrench, she hears a faintly familiar voice calling out her name. Friend B reluctantly turns to find, to her absolutely surprised, a well groomed and matured Friend C beaming at her. They embrace, sit and attempt to quickly catch each other up on the last fourteen years since they’d sat down for a chat. Friend C had unlike Friend A and B, decided to finish his degree and then work for one of the country’s leading players in the fashion industry, as was his plan for the three of them. In the ten years of working for this major player, he had received an opportunity to work, learn and travel abroad. After a while of building his reputation and network, he had rallied a few investors, established an exciting business in fashion which he then built and sold off to one of his former employer’s competitors. He now had a tidy sum of money to grow further or spend to his pleasure.
Friend B was quite naturally stunned. It would seem that education was indeed the key to success. After living through the embarrassment of having her much wealthier friend treat her to another coffee, the two friends embraced and Friend B set off to the nearest private college. I am happy to report that Friend B is now in the process of finally opening a small boutique for her all-so-famous shoes from Dubai and has not had a customer or employee dump her discourteously in two years, since she learned how to draw watertight contracts in her B Com class. What excites her the most is she will be graduating in another year with a degree in business, finally pleasing her mother. I have it on good authority that Friend A is now writing blogs advising entrepreneurs on how to end up like her dear old mate, Friend C or even Friend B.
Three Reasons Why All Entrepreneurs Should Start and Keep Educating Themselves
Education turns worker bees into queen bees. What this means is the limited knowledge you have can only take you so far. What’s more, should you be lucky enough to gain some growth, you may be compelled to surround yourself with people who always know much more than you do about your own business. Prepare to lead the pack instead of be led by the nose by accountants, consultants and lawyers. That way, your will use these very valuable professionals for their worth when you allow them to serve your purpose instead of theirs;
Education opens doors to unlimited thinking. Not only does classroom sense open one up to proven methods and trap doors lying in wait, but the discipline and commitment it takes to study, produce results and move on to a more difficult level of study prepares the mind to handle business using the same principles;
Education connects players for life. While many know that plenty of deals are clinched on the golf course, even more of us do not realize that some deals are instigated between former graduates and school mates. This is because of an unspoken sense of altruism with the man that strives against the odds to complete their education.
Of course, education is multi-dimensional. There is no way one can attribute education to varsities and colleges only. Education is a commitment to learn, explore and apply for an entire life. The truly educated never cease to learn but rather embrace this lifestyle choice as part of their route to lifelong success. What are your thoughts about entrepreneurs obtaining a formal education?
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