Higher Learning

Investigating Your Options

The $13,750-a-year OPM program is certainly not the only option for small-business owners who want to expand their horizons. Harvard has two other entrepreneur-oriented executive education programs--a one-week Strategic Finance for Small Business course and a second one-week program especially for family-business owners. Wharton, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison are just a few of the many other well-known schools offering extensive executive education programs to corporate employees and entrepreneurs alike.

Northwestern University, in addition to a host of more general executive education courses, offers a three-day class designed for entrepreneurs called "The Art of Venturing: Entrepreneurship in Corporate and Independent Settings." Small-business owners learn business basics, strategic market planning, how to create a business development plan, negotiation strategies and financial planning, among other entrepreneurial essentials. In just three days, entrepreneurs can learn enough to make an indelible mark on their businesses.

Nancy Drinkwater did. A small-business consultant from Boston who's been in business for herself since 1970, Drinkwater didn't think it was too late to learn some new tricks, so she took the Art of Venturing course last year.

The experience enhanced her creative thinking and improved her negotiation skills. "It taught me how to develop a concise business plan and, more important, how to communicate that business plan to prospective investors and people I want to do business with," Drinkwater says. "I also got a lot of ideas about [what kind of fees] to charge clients." In addition, the course sharpened her ability to spot opportunities and solve problems.

Of course, it didn't hurt that all this took place in restful accommodations overlooking Lake Michigan. "The setting was awesome," she recalls. "It was like going to a really good hotel. The room was beautiful; the food was excellent. It was a good learning experience and a great rest, too." Would she recommend the class to other entrepreneurs? "Absolutely."

Indeed, for stressed-out entrepreneurs, the hotel-like backdrop of most residential executive education programs is part of what makes them worthwhile. Removed from your routine setting, you have time to focus on what's really important about your business. To encourage this mind-set, all the major residential executive education programs provide comfortable lodging and dining arrangements for their guests. Harvard's Baker Hall, for instance, houses 164 rooms centered around a main lounge. Wharton's Steinberg Conference Center has 103 guest rooms, five classrooms, a dining facility, an evening lounge--even a small fitness center. Such amenities are fairly representative of the best residential executive education programs.

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This article was originally published in the August 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Higher Learning.

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