Life Lessons from Entrepreneurship and Opportunity
One of the subjects we studied in our first module as part of the two-year MBA coursework was Entrepreneurship and Opportunity a.k.a E&O in Olin taught by Matt Allen and Heidi Neck. The course is designed to prepare us to answer the question – What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
Over the eight weeks of the course, I came to realize that regardless of your ultimate objective, entrepreneurial skills are needed everywhere and in everything.
A sealed envelope with $5 in it was handed over to each group with clear instructions – we had two hours to try and make as much money as we can. It could be any business or service as long as you returned the initial $5 to the professor.
From a typical lemonade stand, to salsa classes; from marketing Bertucci’s pizza in undergraduate dorms to clicking photographs at a dog fest, the range of ideas was amazing. What was surprising, though, was the fact that most of the students did not open the envelope but each group came back with an average profit of $50.
As a cohort, we realized you can always use the means at hand – your existing resources – to generate revenue. One of the biggest skills you have is the ability to form connections. As long as you are willing to move out of your comfort zone, you will be able to let people help you. You don’t always have to wait for that one big idea or worry about funding and stop because you think you don’t have enough resources. The important part is to act then you will see the puzzle completing itself.
One of the final projects for this class was developing a full-fledged business idea, working out everything from your product to target customer, financials and profitability. After brainstorming a bunch of ideas, we had our, “this is it!” moment and finalized on an idea. Next class, our professor told us: it is necessary to kill your first idea. Only then will you have an improved product. Convinced our idea didn’t need to be killed, we decided to go ahead with it.
While working through our project, we uncovered logistical flaws we hadn’t considered. That stopped us from moving further with the product. Over the next two days we tried to solve the logistical issue, but couldn’t come up with a feasible solution. With our final presentation only 9 days away, we had to pivot.
What our professor meant by “kill your first idea” was that initial ideas are thought of in a rush If people in the room like the idea, in the excitement of the unanimous agreement, you can’t foresee certain pitfalls. You have to be open to the idea of either changing the product completely or pivoting your product offering using your existing idea or infrastructure. Had we listened to our professor, we would have saved valuable time and effort. Our rigidity stemmed from the human problem of not letting go easily. But even a little modification to an existing system, can save you time and help you achieve improved results.