Succeeding As An Entrepreneur: Here's How Executive Education Can Help

Succeeding as an entrepreneur requires going beyond creative solutions for profitable product-market combinations. Skills, and thus executive education, can and should take center stage in this regard.

learn more about Dr. Wolfgang Amann

By Dr. Wolfgang Amann


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Qatar is actively diversifying its economy, in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030. Fostering entrepreneurship thus bears promising potential to generate additional businesses, further growth and decrease the dependence on the oil and gas industry. Nevertheless, the survival rates of startups throughout the world ring in warning signals: the majority of new ventures perish within the first four years. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute (2016), the top three reasons that accounts for 88% of the failures are incompetence, unbalanced experiences, and lack of crucial experiences.

Certainly, in various local contexts, the statistics may vary. Succeeding as an entrepreneur, therefore, can be heavily contingent upon issues beyond a government providing favorable legal contexts or fostering multi-stakeholder eco-systems. Concurrently, succeeding as an entrepreneur also requires going beyond creative solutions for profitable product-market combinations. Skills, and thus executive education, can and should take center stage in this regard. I outline four theses to specify how business schools in general and executive education in specific can equip entrepreneurs to succeed– in a sustainable manner.

1. Executive education helps "know thyself"

Better programs and seminars provide current and future entrepreneurs with an opportunity to learn more about themselves, how they think, take decisions and implement them. The Hogan Development Survey, for example, helps identify strengths and the risks associated with overplaying strengths in entrepreneurial ventures. There are surveys and coaching opportunities to identify one's preferences for a more logical "causation" versus a more intuitive "effectuation" styles in entrepreneurship– starkly different approaches both with pros and cons. Entrepreneurship seminars enable entrepreneurs to overcome blind spots.

2. Executive education bridges skill gaps

If most ventures fail because of skill and experience gaps, the first insight entrepreneurs need to gain is that this is not a fatalistic situation. Simulations, "serious games" and case studies hone critical skills, so that a lack of them do not prove to be calamitous in the marketplace and herald the undoing of the untrained entrepreneur.

Related: Are Entrepreneurs Born, Or Are They Taught?

3. Action learning projects serve as acid tests for ideas

Executive education seminars represent unique opportunities to spruce up on general entrepreneurship knowledge and skills. They can also provide an excellent platform to help acid test ideas, prototypes and customer readiness. Better executive education seminars enable participants to learn from peers, faculty members, and other entrepreneurs as guest speakers as well as project coaches.

4. Business schools and executive education seminars act as character gyms

Better seminars on entrepreneurship do not limit themselves only in conveying core entrepreneurship related knowledge and skills. They also put a lot of focus and emphasis upon the kind of entrepreneur that the participants aspire to be. Do they become (more) active in the marketplace in order to contribute to society at least to some extent, or to merely maximize their own profit and thus take as much out of the markets as possible? As an entrepreneur's products and services evolve over time, so should and must the entrepreneurs themselves. In better seminars, participants clarify personal visions, values and anticipate solutions to likely future dilemmas before they actually occur.

Entrepreneurial activities can easily be mistaken as a game with set chances to win and lose. Successful entrepreneurs, however, ready themselves proactively. They spend time not only on the development of their products and services, but primarily on themselves. They do not have to walk the journey alone. With the right learning partner, they tip their odds of success significantly to their advantage.

Related: Educating Execs: HEC Paris in Qatar

Dr. Wolfgang Amann

Strategy and Leadership Professor, HEC Paris in Qatar

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Amann serves as Strategy and Leadership Professor at HEC Paris in Qatar. He has been designing, directing and teaching in executive education programs for 18 years. His research focuses on internationalization speed and scope of SMEs. 

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