I Can’t Teach You How To Be A Successful Entrepreneur.

 

Tom Frank, Executive Director, The Center for Entrepreneurship

Good news…If you happen to be a student (or faculty member) at the University of Michigan who is interested in entrepreneurship, you now have more options than ever before! We have academic programs (all with very catchy names), community programs and student groups. We have pitch contests, and hacking contests, and design contests. We have workshops to teach you how to meet other entrepreneurs, how to pitch an idea, how to file a patent…and dozens more. We have incubators and accelerators and “seed” funds and venture funds. And did I mention Mentors? We have mentors galore! We even have sponsored trips to exotic locations like Detroit, Grand Rapids, and San Francisco.

We have literally every resource you could want or need on your quest to explore entrepreneurship or become an entrepreneur.

But like I said in my opening sentence…that’s the “good news.” The “other news” is — I cannot teach you to be a successful entrepreneur.

(Wait. What? Isn’t that what you are paid to do???)

I wish I could teach everyone how to be a successful entrepreneur. It would be an awesome and gratifying job that would likely result in the most epic economy ever. I’m guessing the President might rename a national monument after me if I could pull off a stunt like that…Mount St. Tom sounds better than Mount St. Helens anyway, right?

But that’s not going to happen. There are simply too many variables that separate success from failure and sometimes the margin between one and the other is razor thin. I know this to be true from experience. I have been the CEO of successful companies and the CEO of companies that were catastrophic failures. I was the same “me” when I was running both kinds. How come some of those ventures tanked and some soared? (Please reread the preceding paragraph).

So if I can’t teach you how to be an entrepreneur, why am I here and what can I teach you?

My team and I can teach you mad skills that you will absolutely need if you choose to pursue entrepreneurship. We can teach you about all of the ways you can generate ideas, test those ideas to see if they are any good, figure out if anyone is willing to use or pay for your product or service. We can teach you how to build things, how to break things and how to challenge the status quo. We can teach you how to sell yourself, sell your idea, and how to recruit and manage a great team. We can connect you to an absolute dream team of faculty, advisors, and mentors. And if you haven’t already figured it out in other aspects of your life, connections are what make the world go round. We can even find you money. (That is the first thing most entrepreneurs think they need, and usually it’s much farther down the list.)

The most important thing we can teach you is the corollary between effort and results because you will learn this by working directly with us. We are our own ambitious “start-up” in a gigantic university environment so we bust our tails to deliver the absolute best programs and service to all of our customers.

But we still can’t make you a winner. We can apply our state of the art entrepreneurial training and experiences, and we do. But at the end of the day, it’s just little old you out there in the world trying to do your thing. Ultimately, only you can make yourself great.

We want to be the tools you use to achieve that greatness. We want to take pride in your progress and buffer your disappointments. We will also tell you the truth and offer our advice and counsel with no false hope or condescending encouragement. Because that’s how it will be in the real world.

I can’t teach you how to be a successful entrepreneur, but I’ll do everything humanly possible to make sure you have the opportunities, resources and experiences to become one on your own.

Come see me. We’ll talk about it.

Follow Tom on Twitter @umichtom