Entrepreneurs head to school

Kathleen Brooks
MOST profiles of Richard Branson tend to include his lack of academic credentials – he left school at 16. Similarly, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was a Harvard drop-out. This could lead some people to deduce that you are either born with an entrepreneurial spirit or you are not.

However, the study of entrepreneurship has now entered the classroom in the form of the Entrepreneurs’ Business Academy, the latest venture by Dragon’s Den star, James Caan. The academy, which opens in London next month, provides courses and seminars for business owners and budding entrepreneurs. The topics covered will include how to hire key staff, discovering the secrets to maximising revenues and profits and how to be more efficient with your time.

The London Business School (LBS) also offers its students a range of courses in entrepreneurship, including how to find an opportunity and how to grow a business after the initial start-up phase. Simon Dolan, a successful entrepreneur, agrees that it is possible to teach the tactics of running a successful business, but the lessons that are learned have to come straight from the horse’s mouth: “I don’t trust academics who don’t have experience of being an entrepreneur to teach a course,” he says.

Jeffrey Skinner, the director of entrepreneurial management at LBS, shuns textbooks in favour of case studies of successful entrepreneurial ventures. This is the best way to give budding entrepreneurs an insight into what it takes to make it on your own, he says.

“It sounds like it’s easy to build a business, but it’s not. It can be emotionally draining and it can take 20 years to be considered an overnight success. Only after that do people admire you.”

Dolan, who also runs the Raw Business academy for would-be entrepreneurs, says that starting a business is not rocket science. But the person he thinks is best suited to it will learn the tricks of how to run a business quickly, and have deep reserves of resilience and determination: “You can teach strategies for how to cope with setbacks, but you can’t teach resilience and determination, you are born with those.”