The Entrepreneur's Playbook

More than 100 Proven Strategies, Tips, and Techniques to Build a Radically Successful Business

The Entrepreneur's Playbook

Author: Leonard C. Green
Pub Date: March 2017
Print Edition: $21.95
Print ISBN: 9780814438176
Page Count: 224
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814438183

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Principle 1

Find a Marketplace Challenge that Needs to be Solved or Improved

It’s typical in the nation’s colleges and business schools for the students to rank their professors. (I’ve been fortunate. At Babson, the nation’s leading college for the study of entrepreneurship, I usually come in at or near the top of the students’ lists.)

But it is also typical for professors to rank their students. (It isn’t published anywhere, but rest assured, we keep track.)

So, what do my rankings reveal? Two big things:

1. It is easier to teach graduate students than the CEOs who attend my executive education classes. Even though those CEOs are accomplished and learn quickly, the grad students learn faster.

2. And it is easier still to teach undergraduates than all those smart people going for their MBA.

When I tell people this, they ask the logical follow up question: “Do you think you would be more effective teaching high school students, compared to those in college.”

My answer? Yes.

Some of them, meaning to be funny, go further and ask, “Does this mean junior high school students would learn even faster than those in high schools, and elementary school students would out-perform those in seventh and eighth grade?”

I know they are joking, and even though I had never taught anyone that young, my answer was always (a theoretical) yes.

I will expand more on this point in a minute, but my thinking was simple: The younger you are, the more open you are to new ideas. As we get older, the more we think we know. The problem with that, as Mark Twain pointed out, is clear: “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, it’s the things we know that just ain’t so.”

I knew from teaching that the more open you are to new ideas, the easier it is to be entrepeneurial. And I had always believed that the younger you are, the easier it is to develop the entrepreneurial skills you are going to need going forward. But I didn’t know that for sure.

Then, a few years ago, I got my chance to find out.

My grandson, Kenny, was in the fifth grade at the Buckley Country Day School on Long Island and his class was doing a unit on business and entrepreneurship. Kenny volunteered me to come into his class and talk about what I do.

Kenny’s mother, my daughter Beth Green—a lawyer who once worked with the negotiation expert, Roger Fisher of Getting to Yes fame—was excited but concerned.

“Dad, they’re only 10 and 11 years old. What can you possibly say to them from your college and graduate school classes that they’re going to understand? Buckley wants you to fill 90 minutes. How are you going to hold the kids’ attention for an hour and a half?”

Beth then paused and gave me a look that I recognized from her teenage years, the one that conveyed “you are totally clueless, Dad.” But she simply said “are you sure you want to do this?”

I told her it was going to be a piece of cake. I was going to use the same opening day “presentation” that I give my Babson students.

Beth looked even more horrified, but that is exactly what I did. I stood up in front of Kenny’s class and after we spent a few minutes getting to know one another, I showed them a plain drinking mug and asked what they could to do to “alter or change the mug so that it would be worth more.” (In business schools, the concept is known as enhancing value. To fifth graders, the idea is described as making more money.)

They got very excited and in minutes came up with the following ideas:

1. Add color

2. Add designs

3. Add the name of the school, Buckley

4. Have two handles

5. Add a thermometer, to tell you the temperature of the liquid inside.

They passed test number one, they truly enhanced the value of the mug! For my second exercise I pulled out my smart phone.

“Okay, you all know what this is.” (Most had a phone of their own and they were all very familiar with what the devices could do.) “Let’s do an exercise to see who is most innovative,” I said. I divided the class into teams of four and gave them 15 minutes to answer this question: “It’s five years from now, how will you be using your cell phones? I want you to compile a list of as many functions as you can.”

You cannot believe what they imagined. Not only would they be able to watch any television program or movie whenever they wanted, everything would be instantly customizable. They would put in their preferences, and shows would be recorded automatically; songs would be compiled instantly into play lists—and everything would be voice activated. Their lists went on and on.

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