Ron Lazof is managing director of Prism Advisers, LLC and a Job Creators Alliance member.
What makes an entrepreneur? Is there a formal course of study to be followed? With today's exploding costs of a college education (multiples substantially higher than CPI and GDP growth) and the consequent increase in post graduation debt load and interest carry, is obtaining a college degree the most efficient way for the driven entrepreneur to reach for the successful establishment of a new enterprise, and the job creation that comes with it?
Many colleges and universities offer courses—and some even offer degrees—in entrepreneurial arts and sciences. While I find some of the offerings interesting and perhaps even useful and beneficial, in general they aren't the most effective or efficient way to reach the ultimate goal. Certainly a budding entrepreneur would be assisted by a working knowledge of the law, accounting, economics, marketing, production methods, statistical measurements, and other skills that go into making a business run. However, an aspiring entrepreneur would probably enjoy more success if they just spent that time and energy in actually pursuing their enterprise with energy and a thoughtful plan.
Doing is all-important. I believe the sport apparel and equipment manufacturer, Nike, got it right in their long-running marketing campaign. "Just Do It!" applies to sport, where success in execution is all important, but it certainly also applies in business. Training and education in law, accounting, marketing, and the associated business skills—while they are ultimately necessary to a successful enterprise—exist in a marketplace where they can be "purchased" as and when needed. What cannot be purchased is the vision and passion for success required to take an idea and turn it into a business. And idea is not the same thing as a business. Nor can one buy the willingness to personally risk everything—yet that is precisely what every entrepreneur must do in order to be succeed.
In addition to vision, passion, and risk, any entrepreneur will need to add to that basic skill and experience, as well as start-up capital, no matter what path you choose. Skill and experience are gained by following the Nike dictate: Just Do It! Capital is attracted in proportion to the perception of both opportunity for gain and the corresponding risk. Risk and return are always and forever linked, so if you seek significant financial return, you must accept significant risk, at least according to the prevailing "free market" philosophy.
All that said, where should our new generation of entrepreneurs look for guidance? First, they must look to themselves for the vision, passion, and drive to achieve. Secondly, they must look to their peers and the examples of those who have plowed the path before. Most Fortune 400 entrepreneurs are self-made—that's right, they did build it themselves. Few have inherited wealth. Many did not finish or even start traditional educational paths. Their haste to "Just Do It!" combined with their vision and passion required them to gain experience through trial by fire. When they failed—and make no mistake they did fail at some point, perhaps repeatedly—they got up, dusted themselves off, and tried again, in a cycle that would brook no obstacles and accept no limitations until the successful delivery of their vision to the market. So if you desire to be entrepreneurially creative, and become a job creator for the good of yourself and your country—take your well-formed vision and deep-seeded passion and get out and Do!