Recently my good friend and colleague, Linda Samuels, invited me to sit on a panel of professional business people and entrepreneurs at the Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University in Boston. The purpose of the gathering was their experiential/field research presentation of their business plans by four of Linda’s Executive MBA students. The members of the panel were there to listen, take notes, ask questions and make suggestions for the path forward. We were, after all, working professionals who presumably had taken our share of hits, gotten up off the canvas, persevered and kept going. I was honored to be invited.
College or College of Hard Knocks
There is a presumption among those entrepreneurs of my generation who did not go to college that the lessons learned in the so called “College of Hard Knocks” are far more valuable than those learned in college. Not true! If I had been half as prepared to start my business as Linda’s students will be, I would have made fewer mistakes, lost less sleep and made more money. No matter how comprehensive a business plan is, you can never totally avoid the hardships of starting and growing a business. Linda’s students know this. That’s why their plans include an exit strategy. When I jumped into my business I didn’t know what an exit strategy was. I did what the Vikings used to do. I landed on foreign soil and burned the lifeboats. I couldn’t “exit” if I wanted to. So much for the “College of Hard Knocks.”
St. Lucia’s Gift to the World*
Back to Linda’s Executive MBA students. Meet Laverne Auguste. She is from the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Part of the Lesser Antilles, St. Lucia is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. As of 2010, its population was 174,000. Its main industry, like much of the Caribbean, is tourism. It’s easy to see why. Because her success depends largely on being first to market it would be imprudent for me to discuss the details of Laverne’s business. You will have to wait until she graces the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. I will say this: She will create jobs and raise the standard of living first in her native St. Lucia, then throughout the Caribbean and quite possibly the rest of the developing world. Why do I say that? Because she has “it” – that combination of talent, passion and resilience that fuels all entrepreneurs. A young woman with her intelligence can succeed at anything. But she didn’t choose just anything. She chose something that she is passionate about and believes in. It was her passion and commitment that inspired her to name her company after her grandmother, Martha Auguste, who instilled values in her as a child and even today is a major influence in her life . The fire is lit. It won’t go out.
Listening to Laverne talk about her business was inspiring. Her plan was thorough and thoughtful. It covered every foreseeable contingency. It was also eye opening. I came home, pulled out my business plan and chuckled to myself. Let’s just say I had left some things out. Like burning the lifeboats. I will be going back to my plan and reworking it.
And Now Back to You
I’d love to hear from successful entrepreneurs who did not go to college. Did you ever wonder if your path would have been easier if you had? Do you feel like you missed something that you couldn’t have gotten any other way? Or looking back, do you think college wouldn’t have mattered that much? Talk to me.
Find out more about Suffolk University’s Executive MBA program.
*In the interests of thoroughness I should point out that two Nobel laureates, Arthur Lewis, an economist, and Derek Walcott, a poet and playwright, have come from the island of St. Lucia. My guess however, is that future generations of St. Lucians will remember Laverne Auguste for having a greater impact on their daily lives.