This hopefully not-too-rambling blog entry is the result of the recently realized convergence of several important issues related to entrepreneurship and our efforts to support entrepreneurial activity here at Monmouth College.
This entry is also partly the product of the convergence of a couple of recent news articles published on the Monmouth College webpage. More on the specific issues and articles shortly…
At the heart of the matter here is the role of entrepreneurs—particularly in the context of their running of small businesses—in “economic growth” and the general welfare of economies and communities (considered at whatever level one desires [i.e., local, regional, national, global, etc.]). In this regard, over the course of just the last couple of months, I have heard pieces of numerous national and regional news stories which all contend or conclude that small—usually entrepreneurial—business is The Key to economic growth and welfare.
Although I never question the importance of entrepreneurship and small businesses in the context of economic growth and welfare, I—as someone extensively trained in many forms of social science research methodology—do frequently question the accuracy of data, the means of data collection, and conclusions featured in these stories.
I am far more swayed toward believing that small—usually entrepreneurial—business is The Key to economic growth and welfare when I see hard evidence of it with my own eyes. Take, for example, the following (18 July 2014) Monmouth College news article.
The article nicely chronicles how (1) a small, entrepreneurial business—co-founded by 1986 Monmouth College graduate Roger Well—is providing internships to three Monmouth College students this summer, and (2) this is the result of Mr. Well’s interactions with “several business classes throughout the spring semester.” This, in and of itself, is a wonderful example of the potential key role of small, entrepreneurial business in economic growth and welfare. However, this story barely scratches the surface in this regard.
Not featured in the article are the following issues.
1. The internships at ENFOS are extraordinarily good internships. These three positions are providing the students with invaluable exposure to the world of high-tech, big heavy industrial business activity and are paid positions; very well-paid. Many internships today have students doing relatively meaningless tasks that they are not paid to perform. These three internships at ENFOS provide the student interns with valuable experience, social networking, and substantial pay.
2. Mr. Well’s stated interactions with “several business classes throughout the spring semester” consisted primarily of working closely with me and students in two strategic business capstone courses I taught here at Monmouth College in the Spring semester (as well as Mr. Well’s enlightening guest speaker appearances in my Midwest Entrepreneurs and Principles of Marketing classes). In my facilitative capacity, I guided the nearly 40 students through the at first intimidating process of understanding what ENFOS actually is and does down a path toward being able to provide hopefully useful strategic recommendations to ENFOS (addressing key strategic issues faced by the Silicon Valley firm as provided to us by Roger Well). My presence in the picture in the article is due to the fact that I was at the ENFOS office in Naperville, IL to present a summary of the classes’ strategic recommendations to Mr. Well, the interns, and other ENFOS personnel. The semester-long interactions between Well and I and the students in the two capstone classes were the subject of an earlier Monmouth College webpage article.
3. Most exemplary of the notion that small, entrepreneurial business can play a significant role in economic growth and welfare is the fact that ENFOS not only employs three Monmouth College students as well-paid summer interns but also hired a 2014 Monmouth College graduate to fill one of the best full-time, entry level positions I have ever witnessed in my 20 years of teaching business classes at universities and colleges across the country and continent. If you click on the second of the two links provided above, you will see an attentive young man with his hand on a notebook computer sitting in the front row. That young man is George Burnette, a 2014 graduate of Monmouth College. He is now employed at ENFOS as a Software Business Consultant/Analyst. His starting salary is one of the highest I have ever seen an undergraduate business student land (and I believe he is also eligible for bonuses based on his involvement in business development/sales-related activities). This position also provides George with extraordinary potential to gain invaluable, cutting edge experience with a firm growing at a rate of around 30-35 percent per year providing valuable services to some of the largest companies in the world. George was not at the ENFOS office in Naperville—and thus not in the picture in the article accessed via the first link above—due to the fact that he was out on his first client visit—with a major energy firm on the East Coast—the day I was there.
I have so far tried to address the importance of entrepreneurship and small business and our efforts to support entrepreneurial activity here at Monmouth College via the examples and links above. That leaves me with one—related—key issue to cover: Value in Education.
Value is a big topic in the classes I teach here at Monmouth College; and was featured heavily in the two strategy capstone classes mentioned above as well as in the Midwest Entrepreneurs class.
Value is what a customer/client perceives to be receiving from a good or service provider considered in relation to what they have paid; i.e., “what you get for what you pay.” All too often, people erroneously confuse “value” with price and assume that low price correlates with “high value” (and that higher priced goods or services are necessarily of “lesser value”).
A recent Monmouth College webpage article—citing recent Money magazine data—strongly suggests that we here are providing students a “high value” education.
Quoting from the article:
“Monmouth College appears in the top 15 of two listings on Money magazine’s new college rankings, released earlier this week. The magazine named 665 ‘Best Colleges,’ with Monmouth ranking No. 14 in the Most Affordable Private Colleges category and No. 15 in Colleges That Add the Most Value.
‘Receiving a high ranking in these two categories reflects positively on what we consider two of our areas of strength,’ said Monmouth College president Clarence Wyatt. ‘Through a strong experience in the liberal arts and sciences, we give young people the opportunity to become lifelong learners who are flexible and employable, while also making it possible for students from all economic backgrounds to attain a top-notch private liberal arts education. These rankings, which are based on public data, serve as evidence that we are consistently providing opportunity and accessibility better than almost all other colleges in the nation’.”
I see the case of George Burnette as the perfect example of the high value of a Monmouth College liberal arts education; and I say this based on 18 years of experience teaching within business schools at non-liberal arts institutions prior to arriving here in 2012. George, like other highly motivated Monmouth College students, graduated as an extraordinarily well-rounded person capable of performing important strategic tasks for potential employers.
Being well-rounded—as the liberal arts experience here allows one to be—provides the student not only with the background and perspective needed to land positions like the one he did at ENFOS but also the diverse background and perspective needed to be successful long-term; in both one’s career and in life. Much the same can be said of Roger Well ’86; who majored not in business but in Geology (then later earned an MBA).
In closing, let me try to “bring this back around” to entrepreneurship and our efforts to support entrepreneurial activity here at Monmouth College.
The company that hired George Burnette ‘14—and the three summer interns—is an entrepreneurial firm co-founded by a Monmouth College graduate (Roger Well ’86). In my 20 years of teaching business classes at the undergraduate level (in California, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mexico), I have personally seen but one other company—Arkansas Best Freight/U-Pack—provide students and graduates with a higher volume of meaningful employment and experience than ENFOS. Arkansas Best Freight/U-Pack hired roughly two dozen of my students for full-time positions and internships over the course of a seven year period. ENFOS hired four students—one full-time and three interns—after but one semester of interaction. I am personally aware of no other company of any size matching what ENFOS has done in this regard over any period of time.
Lastly, endless thanks to Roger Well and the others involved at ENFOS for working with me and the students here last semester. Thanks also to Monmouth College’s Steve Bloomer and Marnie Dugan for bringing Roger Well and I together in the first place (as part of the College’s Alumni Distinguished Visitors Program); this would not have happened without you.
I hope to be doing much more of this “win-win” sort of thing—class projects meaningfully benefitting students, alums, and employers—in the near future. I am always open to ideas for entrepreneurial and other firms looking to be involved.