As I began my promised post on the advice I give to students in my entrepreneurship course at the end of each semester, I came across a very relevant article in Scientific American entitled "Learn to Think Better". This article, which features an interview with savant Daniel Tammet, discusses techniques for how to learn new languages and mathematics more easily. The relevance of this article will be apparent shortly.
I believe strongly that lifelong learning is one of the keys to a successful life and particularly important to aspiring entrepreneurs. Other posts on the subject are here and here. Therefore, my advice to students should not be too surprising.
- Constantly be learning. For young entrepreneurs I recommend that they become loyal readers of the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and McKinsey Quarterly; this is how I learned 50 percent of what I know about business.
- Learn from the best. Joe Gallo, the son of the founder of Gallo Wineries, once told me that whenever he met a new person he first determined if the person was an expert in the subject they were discussing. If not, he stopped listening. This may be an extreme approach but it makes my point.
- Become a good recruiter. Recruiting is rarely taught but is obviously a key skill in order to recruit good people. Learn everything you can about how to interview, screen candidates and do background checks.
- Certain organizations screen people who are successful. Notable organizations that consistently produce great people are McKinsey, Proctor & Gamble, Yale Law School, Stanford Business School, MIT and the U.S. military (officers), to name a few; people that have completed a stint in these organizations are typically great hires.
- Improve your math and statistics skills. Understanding business and analyzing a company is in large part numerical analysis. The better those skills the better you will understand KPIs, management reporting and financial information.
- Learn Chinese. 300 million Chinese speak English but the advantage may go to those foreigners who speak Mandarin.
With these last two posts I think I have now covered my entire entrepreneurship course through blog posts. The other post on semester ending advice to student entrepreneurs is here.