MBAs and Entrepreneurs are Needs, Not Wants

I was having lunch with an ad agency exec last week, and was surprised when he came out glumly as we talked about his daughter who is approaching college age, proclaiming ‘these are simply the worst of times! I don’t know what to tell her!!’

The times are not worse – they’re just changed. Yes, we are still in something of an economic slump and no, we are not creating enough jobs to keep up with our population according to ADP. We are not ‘returning to normal’ - but perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing. Perhaps this is the new normal - where we can no longer look to our companies to secure our future. When you remove job security and entitlement, we have to all become entrepreneurs – whether formally starting our own businesses or in terms of how we approach our careers and in how much value we create.

The business world is changing and expanding. Like any growth spurt, there are considerable pains that go along with these changes. However, all creation is spurred forward by destruction and where there was once despair just a few years ago now sits opportunity. Technology has allowed for the rapid expansion of educational opportunities. Women who would have never been able to continue their education now can. Online MBA programs make becoming an entrepreneur more feasible for those with no formal business training. Their flexible schedule allows students to study when is convenient while still holding a job and caring for a family. As adults returning to school is increasingly common, there are also more resources for this than ever before. Once graduated, the internet allows people to start an online business, and enter a global market, with nothing but a website and tenacity. 

This makes for very exciting times, where the rewards for entrepreneurship are even greater and their alternative far less 'secure' and appealing.

Which is why we have partnered with the founders of In Good Company  this week for our event '100 Entrepreneurs Speak', which is all about how to approach entrepreneurship in a way that creates real value for your life (as well as for your business). I had a moment to chat with Adelaide Lancaster, long-time entrepreneur, co-founder of In Good Company and co-author of ‘The Big Enough Company' to ask a few questions as we prepare for Tuesday’s discussion:

Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you

Adelaide: Entrepreneurship is the opportunity to create meaningful, challenging, sustainable and rewarding work on YOUR terms. You get to drive the bus. You’re in charge of what you work on, who you work with and how you do it. I’m not sure it gets any better than that. However lots of times we forget to take full advantage of this opportunity as a result we build businesses that work but don’t deliver the rewards or experience we are looking for.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received in your career/as an entrepreneur?

Adelaide: I (try my best) to follow three rules in business (and in life):
1.       The journey must be as enjoyable as the destination.
2.       Progress, not perfection.
3.       Success is about satisfaction, not size.
Q: What tips would you give to an entrepreneur who is feeling discouraged/tired, to get back up and running?

Adelaide: 3 things:
1.       Get in the Right Mindset. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Long-term success depends on your ability to maintain your stamina. You won’t get as far if you sprint out of the gate. Instead pace yourself, respect your limits, and keep the whole “race” in mind.
2.       Establish Fair Expectations. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Good things take time, plenty of research, and lots of tweaking. Be generous when you do forecasting, project planning and goal setting. Remember that things always take longer than you anticipate.
3.       Make Progress with Small Steps. As exciting as the big vision may be, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by it especially when the path from here to there is unclear. Progress comes from moving forward everyday with small, persistent steps. Moving forward always feels good, even if it’s a tiny bit at a time.
I would also tell them to remember that success is about satisfaction, not size. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game or buy into the “bigger is better” view of success, but the truth is that being an entrepreneur is a lot of work. Given the investment that you make (time, money, energy) you better enjoy the work that you’re doing. It’s not worth it to compromise on the things that are important to you just to make your business a little bigger. Instead, start with your needs and build your business to suit. In my mind, that’s the opportunity of entrepreneurship – the ability to create meaningful and rewarding work on your terms, not someone else’s.
Q: Can you think of any great questions to ask yourself before embarking on your entrepreneurial venture,
or along the way to make sure you are keeping in touch with your real needs/goals?

Here are several things that every entrepreneur should know.

What’s in this for me?
What do I want my business to be known for?

What’s my definition of success?

What is the long-term business goal?
What must my business afford me in order to be worth it?

What do I get by being my own boss that I wouldn’t if I worked for someone else?

What compromises am I willing to make to be an entrepreneur?

What am I/what do I want to be known for?

What job/role do I want to have 3 years from now?

The answers to these may change and that’s ok. Nevertheless, it’s important to take stock of these frequently so you can make sure your business is really working for you!
Meet Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams at our event this week at Time Warner Center. Click here for more information and to RSVP.