The Answer to the Number One Question MBA Students Ask Entrepreneurs

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Jul12

The number one question MBA students ask entrepreneurs is, “How do I get started?” What they are really asking is, “What do I need in order to succeed in a global environment?” The answer is simple: Set clear goals, value cultural competence and the ability to overcome language and cultural  barriers, diversify your skills, become a global manager, and hone your emotional intelligence. 

  1. Set Goals

It’s important to set both short-term and long-term goals. You need to know exactly where you want to be in 5 years. That means knowing whether you will be an employee or if you are ready to start your own business and willing to take the associated risks, in order to drive your career goals.

If you decide to start your own business, regardless of what kind of business you decide on, you must have short- and long-term goals in order to get to your end result. A business may look good at first glance, but upon further research, if the proper goals and strategies are not in place, you will find an abominable mess. How will you move forward with a clear direction? How will you grow your business and market base? You won’t! You will spend the second stage of growth untangling the mess that should have been avoided in the first place. Key consideration needs to be given to proactive rather than reactive strategies.

Additionally, your vision and mission must drive the strategy. Clear vision and mission occur when you take the time to iron out goals. Look at your company. What do you want to accomplish? Put that at the top of your goal list, as your finish line, and work backward building a strategy to accomplish it. Chart a course for your ship and lead it to its destination with everyone onboard. Be flexible during your journey. Understand that you will hack away at achieving your goals on a daily basis. Some days you will succeed and other days you will fail. When you fail, it is your prerogative to go back to the drawing board and correct your course. Get it right and then get back out there. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

  1. Cultural Competence and Overcoming Language and Traditional Barriers

While it’s unrealistic to expect every CEO to speak six languages, every CEO should hire the right talent who can offer them culturally sensitive insight and translate for them when the time is appropriate. Each businessperson must know their personal bandwidth as well as their strengths and weaknesses. It is a credit to the company when individuals do this and assimilate themselves within a global environment.

  1. Balance Knowledge with Emotional Intelligence

It’s important to remember that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Entrepreneurs are like caged tigers that are ready to take on the world and explore. Entrepreneurs are not afraid of risks and often they just follow their instincts. They sacrifice a lot and stay extremely focused. Do you have this type of focus and passion?

Students think that if they simply have a good resume, they will secure the job and paycheck they aspire towards.  As such, they format their resumes and dress them up so that their accomplishments pop off the page. They ask whether internships and volunteerism will actually help them to secure the job. As I see it, that’s the biggest challenge MBA students face when understanding entrepreneurship. They don’t understand that the contributing factor in any aspect of entrepreneurship is emotional intelligence. This means you have to balance your book smarts with your street smarts. You have to look at your arsenal of weapons—including everything you learned as a kid in school and the experience you picked up in volunteer hours—and be savvy about which of those cards you play when you are encountering new people and new situations. Don’t resist change. This equation is part of the growing process to define the path of your career and overall success.

To be successful, you must be honest, authentic, and articulate, and possess emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence means harnessing the discerning qualities that give you empathy when analyzing situations and relationships. Some would call this just having a sense of social awareness. You may have the skill, the network, and the experience, but not necessarily the brains to maintain relationships. Without this, you won’t ever get off the starting line.

In Conclusion

Most of the time, students leave the university with a sense of entitlement and no direction, lacking experience and preparedness for the real world. In order for you to be successful, you need a network and you need to bring more to the table than just your MBA degree. The foundation of a successful, fulfilling career in business are clear short- and long-term goals, an understanding of your business’s cultural context, and sharp emotional awareness. Be sure to close the gap between book smarts and street smarts.

In order to be successful, you can’t chase the amenities you want to have in your life: a big paycheck, fancy toys, and so on. What you need to chase is your passion, and all the other things will fall into place like dominoes—as long as you are always moving forward and following your dreams despite the challenges that you may encounter.

Benjamin Von Seeger is an entrepreneur, frequent C-suite member and telecommunications veteran with twenty years of global business experience. His book The RiVal: Play the Game, Own the Hustle, Power in Competition, Longevity in Collaboration (out now) draws on vast personal experience and proven philosophy to inspire a new generation of businesspeople and students. Visit his website BenjaminVonSeeger.com and follow Ben on Twitter @benvonseeger.
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