Why You Don’t Need a Degree to Be an Entrepreneur and 7 Things You Do Need

There are some occupations where a college degree is important. One that does not necessarily require a degree is that of an entrepreneur.

Oddly enough, many colleges and universities not only have classes in entrepreneurship, but some also have graduate programs. Some of these classes may be taught by successful entrepreneurs and, therefore, may be considered a viable resource. However, having been a successful entrepreneur for nearly 30 years, nothing takes the place of actually doing it – walking the boards. No lecture, book or degree will prepare you for the “reality” of entrepreneurship.

True, there are “pros” to having a degree (or an advanced degree) and I can think of three: 1) Some clients may only want to work with people who have degrees; 2) Some certification requires a bachelor’s degree; 3) If you didn’t have an exit strategy or save money in case your business fails, you may need to get a job and corporations really like people with degrees, especially advanced degrees – it makes the company look smarter. Obviously, it depends on what you want to do, and only you can determine whether or not your business idea would benefit from your having a degree.

With that acknowledged, if you want to be an entrepreneur, here is what you really need:

1) Passion:
Find something that you are passionate about and would be willing to do for free, because that is what you’ll be doing for the first few years – working for free or very little. While some who teach entrepreneurship feature the model of a group of people who come together and run with an idea (and that sometimes works) – in most cases, the entrepreneur starts out on his or her own with little financing or assistance.

2) Solve a Problem:
Determine if your passion will help your customers solve a problem. Understand that for a business to be successful, it must solve one or more problems. These problems create holes (discomfort) in people’s lives. The vast majority of entrepreneurs find an existing hole (problem) and fill it or create a hole and fill it. Find or create a hole and fill it. Additionally, find a good role model and follow what he/she has done.

3) A Strategy:
From your research and role models, develop a plan of action. Set-up your own time-table, as to when things need to get done. Have your suppliers ready to go and treat them like gold. Also important, but usually overlooked, develop an exit strategy so that if your plan doesn’t work, you have a way to earn a living.

4) Self-Management:
Learn how to manage your time and finances. Spend as little as possible and save as much as possible. You will not only have expenses and bills, but will also, as mentioned, need to keep money in reserve, in case your idea doesn’t work

5) Basic Business Knowledge:
Become knowledgeable in the basics of running your own business. Some of the areas that you will need to understand are: insurance – both personal/health and business, business law/contracts, etc, taxes, and retirement plans. Yes, you can hire experts who can help you; however, you better have a fairly good understanding of the basics, so that you’ll know if what an expert is telling you will actually work for you.

6) Marketing/Advertising/Sales Knowledge:
Learn as much as you can about marketing, advertising and sales, as well as internet marketing. You have to know how to position yourself in the market, how to get the word out, and then how to get people to buy. Without this knowledge, you are doomed to fail. Note: Don’t buy into “get-rich” internet schemes or waste your money on the “gurus” who will show you the “quick and easy way” to do anything. There is no quick and easy way.

7) Persistence:
Work your tail off. Being an entrepreneur means working sometimes 7 days a week with no paid vacations, no paid sick days, and no pension. As an entrepreneur, you don’t get those benefits, unless you create them for yourself.

Bottom line: For any entrepreneurial endeavor, what really counts is how well you handle the above 7 items. As mentioned, there are – in my humble opinion – three reasons for getting a degree, and if you feel that your business (not your ego) would benefit from it, then go for it. While you’re doing that, someone else will be taking an idea or need and becoming an entrepreneur