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Liesha Petrovich

Microbusiness Essentials

Director and Educator

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We Need to Get Real with Business Students

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Two of my business students were debating the purpose of business. One said the purpose of business was to make money and the other said: “We don’t always know the purpose of a business”.

While it’s true that some businesses have a social aspect or give a percentage of every sale to a certain cause, the main purpose of any for-profit business is to generate money. Without money coming in, a business will not be a business very long.

Noble pursuits aside, this business student questioned the very essence of business. It was just another reminder that the average business student knows very little about the realities of the business world. In order to be a more effective trainer, here are a few myths we need to bust so the next generation is ready to become business owners.

Dreams Aren’t Good Enough

If I had a nickel for every person who told me “My dream is to own my own business”, I’d be rich. Yet, the vast majority of these people know very little about business. They may be great hair stylists, designers, plumbers, writers, and teachers. But being skilled at a profession will never guarantee business success.

I know this sounds harsh and that I’m quashing aspiring business owners dreams. However, I know the statistics: 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% of these dreamers will fail! One huge reason is they are completely unprepared and untrained to run a business. It’s just that simple.

We should never shield aspiring business owners from the very real possibility that they will fail. So instead of saying “Good luck with your business dreams!”, I’m honest and urge them to start very small and avoid investing their entire life savings into their dream. I don't see this as killing their dreams but as helping them understand there are many pathways to becoming a business owner. 

They Can’t Do It All

I remember what it’s like to be a new business owner without a lot of money. I learned how to manage customers, write sales copy, build websites, handle taxes and how to repair my office copier because I couldn’t afford a technician. I did some of these tasks really well and I completely failed at many.

I understand the idea that a young, bootstrapping entrepreneur needs to learn how to run a business on a very small budget. They may not have the money to outsource something and that's why we end up with logo fails like this:

A new business owner believed they were being clever with this logo and it's now considered one of the worst logos of all time. There are incredibly affordable graphic artist professionals on platforms like Fiverr, so this type of huge mistake could have been avoided for $5. And sometimes it's a matter of understanding ROI and learning how to make smarter choices. One law firm saw a 200% traffic increase after hiring SEO experts. There is very little chance a new business owner could ever get results like that. It’s not impossible, but it’s very improbable. 

Switching from a "you can do anything you put your mind to" attitude to a "do what you can and outsource the rest" mindset will show that we all need help and it's totally okay. 

Failure is Their Friend

There is not a successful business owner alive who hasn't failed. In fact, most believe that failure is an essential part of any business. Bill Gates once said:

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.

We don't talk enough about failure as a learning tool. Instead, we talk about success constantly and study companies like Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. What we should really be doing is diving into every embarrassing mistake or complete failure that happened before a company found success. And we should listen to those whose businesses did not survive their first year to see what went wrong. We need to embrace failure like a good friend so we can avoid making the same mistakes ourselves. 

Real World Business Isn't in a Textbook

Whether you're a business instructor, trainer or mentor, we all teach people who want to own their own business. Maybe they've always wanted to be their own boss or maybe they desperately need a job and think starting a business is the answer. We can't always know their motivation but we do know that the vast majority of real-world business will never be found in a textbook. 

I'm certainly not suggesting that textbooks be trashed and we just wing it from now on. Rather, it's time we started to tell the truth about starting businesses. We can't just be a cheerleader urging them to follow their dreams. I think that's why we have an 80% new business failure rate.

Instead, it's time to get real with business students even if it's not what they want to hear. It's the only way to prepare them for what's out there. 

 

Author Profile Picture
Liesha Petrovich

Director and Educator

Read more from Liesha Petrovich
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