Several times this semester, as the author and manager of this class blog, I have found myself focusing on the theme of either “Entrepreneurism” or “Business” being conducted “As it Can and Should Be.”
The obvious inspiration for this recurrent focus is that the twenty one (21) guest speakers around which the Midwest Entrepreneurs class was based engage in business as business can and should be—but far too often is not—conducted. As the entrepreneurs informed the class consistently throughout the semester, “doing business as it can and should be” centers first and foremost on striving to continually meet the needs, wants, and expectations—and thus satisfy and please—customers.
However, the inspiration for my coming back to this theme now, in the last class blog for the semester, is not only that “Entrepreneurism—and Business—As it Can and Should Be” is, as I see it, the most common—at least macro-level—theme emerging from this blog. It is also a very common theme emerging from the texts of the final student papers of the semester (which I sit here grading as I write this blog entry in bits and pieces/fits and starts).
The assignment for this final paper—blandly entitled Topical Paper II in the syllabus—is to expand on Topical Paper I, submitted early in the semester, by taking the chosen entrepreneurial topic and reflectively discussing:
“(a) what was confirmed about their prior beliefs on the topic, (b) what original beliefs were challenged or disconfirmed, and (c) what has been “newly learned” about the topic.”
In addition, the instructions for Topical Paper II call for students to “use specific examples, which, for instance, compare and contrast the topic in the context of usage of or importance to the success of two or three different entrepreneurs (speaking to the class this semester).”
It is not as often as I would like that I say to myself, in the midst of grading a final paper, that the students “really got it” and that it “appears that this class really achieved what it set out to achieve.” This Midwest Entrepreneurs class—due mainly to the fact that students learned from 21 real entrepreneurs sharing their experiences with them—appears to be a rare exception to the rule.
On this last paper, as had been the case on at least two previous assignments, there seems to be a greater than usual depth of understanding exhibited. Students seem also to enjoy what they are doing more than is commonly the case.
In addition, above and beyond the assignment itself and as evidenced in the high incidence of student references to both learning from real entrepreneurs and the notion of what we learned about this semester being “Entrepreneurism—and Business—As it Can and Should Be,” I truly believe—more so than with any other class I have taught (since beginning my teaching career in 1994)—that these Midwest Entrepreneurs students “really got it” and that the class “really achieved what it set out to achieve.”
Consider, in support of this assertion, the following quotations from the final student papers.
“There’s not another class here… that would give us the type of life lessons and the personal insight of real life entrepreneurs experiences.” (Kendall Cox)
“Through the entire semester of Midwest Entrepreneurs I have been privileged to learn the many insights to successful people. These life lessons are not taught in books, they are through the failures and successes of real people sharing their experiences.” (Emily Morland)
“This was definitely my favorite class at Monmouth College because it was listening to real life experiences of people who decided to run their businesses. It was a very unique class and gave me the essential aspects of risk and hard work of operating a business.” (Kevin Blair)
“Throughout this semester we have heard from many different voices from many different backgrounds. But though they were different, their ending morals didn’t deviate all that much… They see something being done and think, ‘I can do this better! I can bring the world more happiness more efficiently than this’… the one (issue) that stands out to me the most and has the biggest domino effect of them all would be the attitude towards one’s employees. This may not seem like a very important ingredient in the recipe for success but I feel that without a good employee base not only new businesses but also older bigger businesses would crumble… If I owned a business and my livelihood depended on the well-being of that business I feel like I would want to make my employees enjoy the thought of getting up to go to work in the morning.” (Trey Yocum)
“After soaking in an unbelievable amount of knowledge throughout this semester I have learned the importance of making a positive impact on your consumers by treating them with care and giving them the best possible service… Most importantly, I have learned the importance of marketing through customer service and care. I have learned how important it is to treat your customers with great care so that they come back and also bring other customers to you. This is a form of marketing that I did not even consider before taking this course and it all makes so much sense. This is something so simple, yet many business owners do not take pride in their service and care for some odd reason.” (Nick Humphrey)
After reading that last quote, I wrote the following note to myself: “Wow… I have a hard time getting this through to students in regular class no matter how hard I try… It seems to have been learned in this format well.”
And I could have used a dozen or more student quotes… But I trust you get the point…
The “actual practicing entrepreneur as guest speaker as the primary basis for student learning” format of the Midwest Entrepreneurs class this semester—a format developed by my co-instructor Dr. Mike Connell before I arrived here at Monmouth College—set the stage for a unique and highly effective learning experience for students (and myself). I am honored to have been a part of it.
From reading these last papers—and reflecting back on the semester as a whole—students obviously learned a lot about their topics. More importantly, they learned a lot about not only entrepreneurship but a lot about business; not just business, but business as it can and should be.
The main reason for this extraordinary amount of relevant learning was that they learned it not from a book or from an instructor, but rather from real practitioners of the focal subject matter of the class.
As a result, I cannot thank our 21 guest speakers enough for what they have contributed to this wonderful learning experience! All I can say to them, in parting, is: Thank you and I hope to see you again in the Spring of 2014 (the next time the Midwest Entrepreneurs class is scheduled to be offered).
Thanks also to the Midwest Entrepreneurs students; without you, none of this happens. And congratulations to those of you graduating later this week!