Entrepreneurial Instructor: How to Become One?

When you embrace the role of trainer, it builds loyalty, drives your team's development, and drives superior business performance. Teaching is not simply an "extra" for good managers but an integral responsibility. If you don't teach, you don't lead.


Having the idea of a business venture is generally easier than making it a reality. Creating a company is not something that, as such, is taught in universities; the school imparts some knowledge in subjects such as administration, economics, or finance. However, 90% of people with projects and ideas lack knowledge about how to create and manage the day-to-day running of a company.

Some experts say that entrepreneurship is required in addition to school learning; education teaches you to stay in line and look at what has been. Entrepreneurship requires standing out and imagining what could be.

Research by the Kauffman Foundation, a non-profit organization created to promote entrepreneurship, showed that in the United States, between 1985 and 2008, the number of courses to promote entrepreneurship increased approximately twenty-fold. More than 5,000 entrepreneurship courses enroll more than 400,000 students a year.

The goal of entrepreneurship in education is to develop the entrepreneurial mindset for the benefit of those joining the digitized economy, whether within a corporation or in their venture. The foundation expresses that "entrepreneurship is fundamental to understanding and succeeding in the contemporary global economy."

The study of entrepreneurship benefits students, regardless of their major and the economy as a whole. According to academic researchers, Alberta Charney of the University of Arizona Department of Economics and Gary D. Libecap of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), entrepreneurship graduates are "three times more likely to start their own business, three times more likely to be self-employed, have 27% higher annual incomes, own 62% more assets, and are more satisfied with their jobs."

Studying entrepreneurship while building a business means the theory has a real-life application. Students can apply the models they learn to their businesses. To understand what entrepreneurship is all about, students have to do it. Startup founders become experts in processing information, evaluating, and planning.

Entrepreneurial Education

Entrepreneurship education focuses on developing skills to help students lead exceptional lives in a rapidly changing world. These include skills such as team collaboration, effective presentations, data analysis, using social networks for advocacy, solving complex problems, using creativity to solve problems in innovative ways, and developing business proposals.

Entrepreneurial education brings some benefits, among them:

1. Preparing for an uncertain world

According to a World Economic Forum survey on the Future of Jobs, half of today's work activities could be automated by 2055, creating new roles, responsibilities, and challenges for the future workforce. Entrepreneurship-focused programs teach students crucial life skills to help them navigate this uncertain future.

2. Creativity and collaboration

Entrepreneurship education fosters creativity, innovation, and collaboration, which the world's top universities highly value and will serve young people well beyond college.

3. Problem identification

This teaching allows us to identify the problem before learning how to solve it. Traditionally when the problem is presented, we go into "solution" mode rather than "identification" mode. Problems can only be solved in the real world when properly identified and described.

4. Develop the courage

Qualifications, intelligence, and socioeconomic status are no match for the characteristic that University of Pennsylvania researcher and psychology professor Angela Duckworth defines as "grit," i.e., passion and sustained persistence applied to long-term achievement. The demanding and uncertain path of entrepreneurship requires more passion and sustained persistence than most other activities.

5. Thinking about making the world a better place

Entrepreneurs seek to solve problems, satisfy needs and alleviate pain points with the help of their products and services. They are programmed to make a difference and make the world better. By participating in entrepreneurship programs, students are not only preparing to create their future but to change the world.

The question is: do these courses make any difference to the business future of your students?

Justin Wilcox, one of the founders of TeachingEntrepreneurship.org, believes that the key skills of entrepreneurship are empathy, experimentation, iteration, creative problem solving, financial management, and effective communication, which are best learned in a real-world context. "No one learns to play an instrument or ride a bike by reading a textbook. Similarly, business skills are developed by practicing them," he says.

What is not learned in the academy must be obtained externally. The ideal would be to find professionals, advisors, or even experienced business people and entrepreneurs who have had both successes and failures in their projects.

They can become trainers who can provide a vision that helps to organize the path of entrepreneurship and its management; from them, you can get the necessary training to make an idea a reality. They are leaders who can bring their entrepreneurial experiences that help to have introspection on what real entrepreneurial life means.

A trainer is not necessarily a teacher. Entrepreneurial training processes are beginning to go beyond schools and educational institutions to get closer to spaces of interaction in everyday life where there are the needs that the entrepreneur wants to satisfy, whether it is a product or a service.

In this sense, it can be said that a consolidated company can become a scenario for training and learning and that those who are normally identified as bosses or leaders can be trainers of both their collaborators and entrepreneurs.

University or Reality

Under this criterion, in addition to having a college education, to create a successful business, you must have a growth mindset, be open to learning, and be willing to take advantage of the resources at hand. University courses in entrepreneurship can provide essential skills. Still, there are many ways to acquire these skills as long as you have the desire to do so, and that comes in the practice of real-life entrepreneurship.

Mike Seper, Director of the Fostering Innovation for National Security Program at the University of Washington, where he teaches, thinks that books on innovation or entrepreneurship cannot provide a formula for success. "The idea of making my students buy textbooks to learn how to be more entrepreneurial is not an approach that has ever worked for me, and my classes do not require textbooks.” Steve Blank, founder of Lean LaunchPad and designer of the National Science Foundation I-Corps (NSF I-Corps) and Hacking for Defense classes, is famous for telling students, "Get out of the building!". Lean is a methodology that makes it clear that new businesses and startups are not scaled-down versions of large companies and need their processes and tools to succeed.

According to experts, the answers entrepreneurs are looking for are not found in textbooks. However, the mentality has changed. Today, the answers are no longer sought in a book but through asking others, which generates a natural mentoring between a trainer and the person who wants to start a business. Seper puts it this way: "The lessons I learned during office hours were much more valuable than anything I learned in a textbook.

Not surprisingly, more and more business educators are pushing textbooks aside and replacing them with a reality check. One learning opportunity is called "Customer Discovery" which consists of conducting a series of interviews to validate a hypothesis from which customer discovery is achieved. The last experiential learning opportunity begins with the conversation with customers.

Many Already Do It

Today there are several examples of what it means for the entrepreneur to have a trainer who works based on the day's experience and not on the theory of books.

During Kundapur Vaman Kamath's four decades as an executive at ICICI Bank of India, the institution of which he became CEO, he taught all its employees. The classroom was the Bank's own office. In his classes, he offered advice on communicating with stakeholders and explaining the importance of ambitious goals. Kamath saw every day as an opportunity to offer his direct employees a personalized management master class. Over time, he was credited with molding an entire generation of banking executives in the country.

Bill Sanders, founder of the real estate firm LaSalle Partners, frequently taught his subordinates how to conduct themselves professionally, prepare effectively for meetings, communicate a vision when trying to sell, and see the industry not as it is but as it could become.

Stars like fashion icon Ralph Lauren trained their people in the same highly disciplined approach they employed, based on extensive knowledge and experience. Mindy Grossman, CEO of Weight Watchers and former Polo Ralph Lauren executive, recalled being in showrooms with Lauren and listening to him explain how to achieve authenticity and integrity in fashion, whether they were "creating a $24 T-shirt or a $6,000 alligator skirt."

Similarly, Jim Sinegal, co-founder and retired CEO of Costco Wholesale, recalled how his former boss, Price Club founder Sol Price, systematically tried to increase his employees' expertise in the details of retailing. "We were tested every day, and if something wasn't done correctly, he made sure to show us how to do it."

Some training leaders like to keep their offices open to observe employee performance and encourage conversations from which new projects might emerge. While maintaining a culture of privacy in their office, others spend time walking among the staff where it is possible to improvise a class on a specific aspect of work and where the employee can better understand and process the teachings.

Former Burger King CEO Jeff Campbell recounts teaching he got from his then-boss Norman Brinker, a fast-food and casual dining legend: One night in the office, Brinker brought up a memo Campbell had recently sent to a team member directing him in some detail to take a specific action; Brinker's comment was, "The next time you tell someone to do something, try to give them the objective and let them decide how to do it. You'll find out how smart he is or isn't, and he'll probably come up with some things he wouldn't have thought of."

For an entrepreneur trainer, it is very energizing to see entrepreneurs put all their will into learning and apply the learning in their ventures; for one who is open to knowledge and experience, the feedback on their efforts helps them pave the way for success.

Going alongside a trainer allows you to test the assumptions on which you design your business and be willing to accept that some of the entrepreneur's assumptions may be wrong and, if so, pivot towards something that people are willing to buy. You learn by testing hypotheses and striving to discover what you didn't know before. Innovation and entrepreneurship start by determining the current state and what can be built from what others have experienced and learned.

It is amazing how stellar entrepreneurs engage in continuous and intensive mentoring of their direct subordinates, either in person or virtually, during daily work, which, in addition to learning, fosters competence or compliance, as well as mastery of skills and independence of thought and action. They know that each subordinate must be taught in a way that suits their particular needs, personality, and developmental trajectory.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark recalled receiving that kind of specific advice from his former boss at a local IBM branch after an incident in which he behaved like a know-it-all. In brushing him aside, his boss said quietly, "Don't correct people when it matters little."

The Novelty

Recently, a certification process has begun to gain momentum to help bring ideas out of labs and universities and into the marketplace to face the challenges of the uncertainty of creating successful innovations.

Its purpose is to help build a venture from scratch. To create disruptive entrepreneurs and help them refine their innovative ideas, as well as accompany them throughout the entire venture journey and train them in EBELI (Evidence-Based Entrepreneurship & Lean Innovation) methodology.

This methodology is a system created more than ten years ago to help bring academic research to the market to provide solutions to real and relevant problems. It involves taking ideas from the laboratory to the market, confronting them with potential customers, partners, and competitors while confronting them with the challenges and uncertainties involved in creating successful innovations.

Want to become a great instructor and make an impact on the world? Visit here for more information.

In Brief

The business environment is one in which the importance of training and knowledge transfer is increasingly understood.

Organizational culture is learned through daily coexistence and immersion, but it can also be seen as an intentional training process that requires the best trainers to carry it out. It is not in vain that every day we see the growth of training departments, education, and corporate universities within companies, where employees are offered training processes that have to do with technical skills for the position they occupy and also skills for their own life for their well-being and personal growth.

It is not very difficult for a successful entrepreneur to be recognized as a trainer in different scenarios. Good leaders have always acted as trainers, even if they do not identify themselves. The leader is seen as someone who knows the path, the goal he wants to reach, and the tools necessary to advance along the way. He relies on them and ensures that the entrepreneur develops the ones he needs as he moves forward.

The leader defines the tasks, and responsibilities, monitors, and, depending on his work style, gets more or less involved with the team in its development. The trainer identifies not only the task but also the procedures to achieve it; not only the responsibilities but also the attitudes required to assume them; and instead of monitoring, he accompanies the trainee so that he learns and grows.

The trainer seeks to make the most of the entrepreneur of his skills; he accompanies him to develop new skills and reach the next level. In addition, assuming the trainer role allows the entrepreneur to draw on other tools outside the university and from experience in the field.

Suppose you decide that you have the experience and the necessary elements to launch yourself as a trainer. In that case, you should consider five basic questions to ask yourself before taking your trainees through a training process:

  1. What is the training purpose of a specific practice?

Given that in practice, we learn and learn a lot, it is important to start by being clear about what we want students to learn in that experience or level of practice.

2. Where will the internship take place?

More than finding places, it is necessary to find places where there are allies in the training process and who are willing to offer the necessary experience for learning.

3. What experiences would you expect to have?

Do not stick to the day-to-day or to the contingencies that may occur. Being clear about the experience you want to achieve will give greater enrichment to both the trainer and the trainee.

4. How would you do the accompaniment?

The theory that the trainee has is not enough. The purpose of being in the field is enriched when the trainer helps connect his or her own experiences with the ideas of the trainee. How would you share those experiences?

5. How would you evaluate the experience and provide feedback to the entrepreneur?

It is not about a school grade but about detecting areas of opportunity that help to improve and the best way to communicate them assertively.

Ultimately, great leaders understand that even a little high-quality, personalized teaching can pay big dividends. Their teaching can be more relevant, timely, and personalized than the content taught at universities, colleges, and specialized education institutes. And when you embrace the role of trainer, it builds loyalty, drives your team's development, and drives superior business performance. Teaching is not simply an "extra" for good managers but an integral responsibility. If you don't teach, you don't lead.

Finally, there is the invitation to reflect on what other elements you could contribute to being an instructor of exponential entrepreneurs. We reiterate our invitation to visit https://certifications.openexo.com/exo-builder-certification-journey.

Whether educating cohorts of thousands of entrepreneurs in Hangzhou, DC, Santiago, or London, or an intimate group of 100 leaders for a big corporation, Pedro connects with global audiences in an extraordinary way. Find out more about Pedro here.
Entrepreneurs & IntrapreneursEntrepreneurshipEducationEBELI

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Pedro helps individuals & organisations thrive. He simplifies complexity, identifies inefficiencies, connects dots & imagines ideas that drive meaningful outcomes.