Rickie Moore, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship at EMLYON Business School makes a strong case for why aspiring entrepreneurs need a formal business education.
Prof. Moore was at pains to distinguish basic buying and selling from high-level entrepreneurial ventures. “You become an entrepreneur”, he said. Business school is a place to learn about the technicalities of running an enterprise, knowledge about finance, making investments, reassuring customers, building and maintaining a brand, along with many other skills before applying them for real in business.
We asked the professor what his feelings are, surrounding the debate that entrepreneurs do not need to go to business school and he replied: “We can also say that lawyers don’t need formal education or that doctors don’t need formal education. It’s not because you can speak that you are a lawyer. Let’s defend a few cases or pop a few arms out and see. Maybe we’ll learn as we go along, through our mistakes and try to figure out the interactions, interdependencies, risks and hazards – i.e. how does the nerve system affect or interact with the brain or the kidney ”.
Having been a professor at the Business School for 19 years, he explained that EMLYON Business School has a philosophy of educating entrepreneurs for the world. “The school has a reputation for creating entrepreneurial leaders and businesses, and students come from all over the world for the entrepreneurship training it offers”, he said.
Prof. Moore gave us an example of how business schools use engaging activities to develop students' entrepreneurial flair. Among his many activities, he runs the social entrepreneurship leadership project which allows students to work with embryonic rare disease patients associations, building up the skills and confidence of these associations in terms of strategy, project management, motivation, fundraising, communication, and marketing.
The project was started two years ago with the aim of giving something back to society and the rare diseases associations were chosen because they are small and concise enough to see the impact that’s being generated from the effort. Students from the current IMBA cohort worked with rare diseases associations in France, Belgium, Switzerland and are discussing the possibility of new projects in India and Brazil.
“Students can’t get enough”, said Professor Moore. “It places the locus of leadership on the students as they have to focus onto the associations they are helping. The students have to be generous and willing to share because at the start of the project the associations are a bit skeptical but the anxiety quickly disappears as we demonstrate and reassure them that the project is about the them, not the students nor the Business School.”
Graduates from the project have all continued to be involved by offering to help the associations and to participate in on-going assignments said Prof. Rickie Moore. None of them have gone to fully fledged social work but they all want to help one way or another.
In addition, among the students in last year’s IMBA cohort, he had a team of five students that presented their business idea at international business plan competitions in the USA and the UK. Today, all five members have become entrepreneurs including Rohan Lunawat who runs a Mobile Apps company out of Pune, India. Two other members of the group, Arnold Ferlin and Renaud Marin, have founded Anastom Surgical, which is based in France, and have developed a new urological application and patent-pending device, the UroClip, aimed to revolutionise prostate cancer surgery. The other two are working in international business development roles for firms in Asia, Eastern Europe, Middle East and South America and North America, something that Professor Moore describes as corporate entrepreneurship. They have had to write and present business plans to their top management and are now implementing their proposals. "They really demonstrate the essence of the notion entrepreneurs for the world", he said.
Immediately after the MBA, 3-6% of the graduates start their own businesses and this varies from year to year, and can be as much as 17-20% on some occasions. While around 90% of EMLYON graduates work for a firm to pay off loans, most engage in or undertake entrepreneurial activities within their firms. This doesn’t mean that their training in entrepreneurship has gone to waste since large companies seeking to rejuvenate their cultures tend to hire people with flaring entrepreneurial spirits too. "Overall, I would say that 96% of our graduates are employed in one entrepreneurial capacity or another", said Prof. Moore.
So, what does it take to become an entrepreneur if you aren’t born with it? The ability to learn is key since being an entrepreneur is essentially a journey with many twists and turns. This is where the fire-lighting comes in said Professor Moore who thinks the ideal traits required for studying entrepreneurship are people who can grasp new concepts easily, be ready to open up to their instincts and allow new ideas to grow in unexpected ways. Einstein said that logic gets you from A to B, and imagination takes you everywhere! “Students are fires to be ignited and not empty bottles to be filled”, he said.
Our conclusion, having spent time with Prof. Moore? A great business school education may not be the ticket to becoming the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg but it should improve your odds of success and save you several years of learning on the job.
Read more about students doing an MBA in Europe here