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At Entrepreneurs Club with Dr. Andy Czuchry.

At Entrepreneurs’ Club with Dr. Andy Czuchry

Last evening I had the honor of returning to the classroom where I was an MBA student 13 years ago. Thanks to the magic of wimba (a college software program that  allows classroom “broadcasting” ) the Entrepreneurship Club at ETSU was seen live by students in Austria, Texas and Washington State.  Andy Czuchry, “Dr. C” as we all fondly called him, taught us many things about the real world of business. A real-life rocket scientist, he  combined theory and practice by bringing entrepreneurs to the classroom. They taught us the way things really are in the business world. One of Dr C’s favorite expressions is how I began my presentation: “An entrepreneur would rather work 80 hours a week for himself than 40 hours a week for someone else.” Anyone reading this who is an entrepreneur knows that to be true. But there is something incredibly exhilarating about the freedom that comes with being self employed that can’t be replicated. So we’re willing to tolerate the crazy hours because of that trade off.

Here are a few more tips I shared with the Entrepreneurs’ Club students:

Pitfalls:

You can’t do it all- You need to start making teams right away and joining forces with others. Work on what you do well and look for skill sets in others to compliment yours. It’s fine to start with virtual teams (for me it was twitter and some important tweet chat groups) but stay connected. No one can operate well as an island.

Don’t rely on third party hosts- Always host your own web site and put your videos on channels you host. I learned this the hard way after a multi-part series I created for WJHL-TV called “Social Media 101” literally vanished when they changed servers. I shudder when I watch some business people use Facebook as their personal web site. Facebook (and your product photos) could be gone tomorrow.

Create Systems-  I suggested the book the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber to the group. This fascinating book points out the need to put systems into place no matter how small the company is. My current intern, Emma Brock, is developing the first-ever MarketingMel intern manual and Sarah Kinsler (who created the prezi and shared some of her MarketingMel experiences with the class) is creating an associates manual. I’m working on client intake systems.

Smart moves:

Know your personal mission as well as your company mission and vision and refer back to those often. They will direct your path.

Surround yourself with bright, young people (Both Sarah and Emma are a God-send to me)- They will keep you on your toes and give you energy.

Create an Advisory Board- This year I have six, sharp members of the community whom I trust to give me advice and to let me know if I have “broccoli in my teeth.”

Form business partnerships: I became a business partner with the Summit Leadership Foundation shortly after beginning my business. I give them a monthly contribution and then I am able to use their space without the overhead of a traditional office. Both organizations help each other out.

Set Goals and Plan Ahead: Throughout this month I’ll be working on my 2014 strategic plan. Some of those goals include: Following the Tennessee Performance Excellence Standards, becoming a certified “woman owned business” and publishing my E-book. My final thoughts were also words of wisdom from Dr. C. “Under-promise and over deliver” and “Be a lifelong learner.”  What’s on your Pitfalls and Smart moves lists?

 

 

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Jim Kouzes speaking at ETSU, Courtesy: ETSU Photo

One thing has resonated with me since I heard Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge, speak a few weeks ago at East Tennessee State University; that is the fact that we are all leaders. Think about it. Even if you say “I’m ‘just’ a mom/housewife/dad/older sibling, etc. we exert tremendous influence on those around us. And, as Scott Starnes said in last week’s post, “leadership is influence.” This is the final post in my month-long March blog theme of leadership. I’d like to thank my guest bloggers, Scott, a student of John Maxwell’s, and also Ken Fairbanks who covered new methods of online learning and leadership in education.

In reflecting on the subject of leadership, I took time to consider the best leaders/bosses I ever had and came up with these seven tips that a good leader/boss does.

  1. Communicate with your troops- Top leaders are open to communications. They know that open doors and open communications channels are always better than stonewalls.
  2. Hire bright people- Top bosses generally brag about hiring those who are better than they are. Put the “right people on the bus” as Jim Collins says and watch where they’ll go.
  3. Emphasize the positive– In my career I’ve had many bosses who were eager to share and point out the negative. That’s human nature I suppose. But the boss I clearly remember wrote, “Great job Mel!” on post-it notes. What a day brightener! I tacked those post-it notes to my office bulletin board.
  4. Give credit where it is due- The best bosses aren’t intimidated by smart employees (see #2 above.) They gladly share praise and credit for good ideas.
  5. Know how to build consensus- Inevitably you have to work with many different personalities, whether it’s at home or in a business setting. Look for ways to pull them together. Something as simple as a regular meal together can be a team booster.
  6. Be honest and expect honesty of those around you– It’s amazing how people will live up (or down) to your expectations of them. Throughout my career the trickle down effect of leadership holds true; it’s the leader’s actions and integrity that permeate the business.
  7. You are influencing others whether you know it or not- This is a personal anecdote. One day several years after our first meeting,  I re-connected with a woman in her role as a newspaper reporter. She told me how much I had influenced her to become a journalist. I was actually shocked because I barely remembered our earlier meeting. You never know when you may be influencing others. Today we regularly influence others online through the digital footprint we create on our social media channels.

Exercise: Close your eyes and think about someone over whom you have influence. Is is positive? Is it for good? Or do you need to modify your leadership style?  Take action today. They are watching you as their role model.

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Photo credit: José Manuel Suárez



Editor’s note: The following is a guest blog post by Ken Fairbanks, a lifelong learner who is now Director of Distance & Distributed Learning at Wytheville Community College. 

Distance learning, cloud computing, social networking, desktop virtualization, augmented reality, smartphones, tablets and the arrival of the post PC era… this all sounds a little scary, huh? Welcome to the world we live in. A world impossible to predict. A world characterized by disruptive technological, social and economic change. How do we prepare ourselves, our employees and children for the future?

The answer is “Lifelong Learning.”

Disclaimer: I work in higher education. I am the Director of  Distance & Distributed Learning at a community college and what you are about to read is more than a little biased.

I just want to get that out of the way!

This should not be news to you. Most of us, who have survived the business climate changes over the past two decades, have internalized the idea of lifelong learning and adaptability. How many job and career changes have you experienced? Depending on your age, you’ve probably had at least two or more. It’s now predicted that new high school graduates may experience 8-10 career changes in their lifetimes. That’s career changes… no wonder my college student son can’t decide on a major!

What we need is a new educational model that is focused more on creating a new breed of entrepreneurial workers, who can adapt to rapid change. A system more about knowledge acquisition and problem solving and less about taking standardized tests.

I think Sir Ken Robinson in the video below and a recent manifesto by Seth Godin are on the right path.

The biggest changes occurring now… are how, where, and when we are learning. When I transitioned into higher education in 2001, distance learning was still pretty new and many thought it was a fad, while others dismissed it as inferior to the traditional face-to-face education model. Today, that has changed and around 30% of all college students nationwide are enrolled in at least one online course and by 2014, that number is predicted to increase to 50%.

Being part of the change doesn’t make us immune to change. Distance learning itself is undergoing massive upheaval… the past two years have been all about mobile devices. Our assumption that students taking online courses, were using a computer to access their materials and perform their work has been shattered. Increasingly, students are using smartphones and tablet devices to complete online coursework. It’s simple economics, smartphones and tablet prices are falling making these devices ubiquitous and our primary tools for accessing the Internet. Students can also use their mobile device to interact with the world around them in real time and share their experience with fellow learners and instructors. Now we have mobile learning… talk about a game changer!

Augmented Reality (AR) will be the next evolution in technology to impact education. We are currently planning AR campus tours using Google Earth and the Layar app. Google has announced that they will be releasing AR glasses by December 2012,  very similar to the Nokia prototype highlighted in the below video.

The future of higher education and distance learning is evolving, as new competitors from the private sector enter the marketspace and big brands like MIT, Stanford and Harvard reinvent themselves. The ideas of open source content and education are gaining popularity. MIT and Stanford are now placing many of their online courses on Apple’s iTunesU for free download by anyone interested in learning. Of course, if you want their degree you will have to pay… but the learning is still there for the taking. Companies have formed their own universities for training and new entries like Khan Academy that are blowing up the traditional education model. The key over the next few years, will be the accreditation of these new open source forms of education.

Add to this disrupted reality, the recession driven increases in college enrollments and decreases in government funding and you will find higher education scrambling to embrace new technology to drive down costs and remain competitive.

I’m proud to say that community colleges have been in the forefront of many of these educational advances. I think the reason for our success has been our small size, connection to the community and ability to adapt quickly to meet the needs of today’s business and industry leaders. Community colleges have become the higher education equivalent of the start-up tech firm that can easily adjust and seize new market opportunities.

As business leaders what do we need to take away from this?

  1. We need to embrace change and look for value adding employees capable of adapting to the changes and competitive forces in the marketplace.
  2. We need to continuously invest in ourselves and our employees (human intellectual capital) through internal and external educational opportunities.
  3. We need to stay abreast of new technologies and leverage them for training and building value in our employees.
  4. We need to realize that the new generation of workers coming up, will expect instant access to education and training through mobile technology.
  5. We need to recognize that our current education model needs to change, if it’s to be successful at meeting the demands of our new economy.

About the Author: Ken Fairbanks is Director of Distance & Distributed Learning at Wytheville Community College, in Wytheville, Virginia. Ken also works as a multimedia designer and provides corporate training in leadership, problem solving, marketing and team building. Prior to moving into higher education, Ken was Director of Marketing for a successful advertising agency in the Tri-Cities and also worked in the television news business as a reporter and anchor for several years. Ken currently lives in Abingdon, Virginia with his wife Beth and two boys. When he’s not developing online courses or blowing up Facebook and Twitter with his latest thoughts… he’s probably running, walking, or biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail! You can contact Ken via Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook




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