What should MBA students with entrepreneurial aspirations keep in mind when they’re planning to start an independent business after completing their MBA? What resources can they make use of while still in an MBA program? How do business incubators work in bschools?
Justin Sheehan – Career Development Manager at the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University) – has coached many MBA-turned-entrepreneurs to know what works and what doesn’t. He shares some practical tips that should help not only MBA grads, but also just about anyone who plans to launch their own business.
Top 5 tips for MBA grads planning to launch their own business
by Justin Sheehan (RSM)
1. Walk before you run
Don’t spend any money in the first few months. You’ve just spent a lot of money on an MBA so this piece of advice will probably come as a welcome relief.
Instead, do your homework and begin to figure out;
- Who is your customer?
- What is their problem?
- What is their desired solution?
- What will you be selling to him or her?
But don’t spend too long in this stage or you’ll overthink it.
2. Talk to potential customers
Many aspiring entrepreneurs get bogged down with the idea of building a comprehensive business model and even a product, before actually taking any steps forward.
The focus lies too much on “can we build it?” vs “should we build it?”
However, there is no use for building a beautiful product, platform or service if there is no need for it. MBAs can often be guilty of this. Don’t get caught in this trap.
An idea alone is worth nothing. Acting on an idea in a structured way to test if you have a feasible product – that is worth something.
– Martin Luxemburg, Managing Director, Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE)
How can you discover the desirability?
There is no need to have a product at this stage, just get out there and talk with potential customers about your idea.
Through interviewing potential customers you’ll get a handle on whether or not your assumptions in point (1) hold water.
80% of startups fail because there is no market need, so speaking with actual customers is key.
Doing this before you graduate will put you in good shape before you finish your studies.
3. Develop a long-term personal vision and set one or more short-term goals
After working your way through steps (1) and (2), now is the time to create something more concrete.
What’s your vision for your business?
From interviewing potential customers, you should have a clearer idea of your product or service, your potential customers and the needs your product/service is fulfilling.
With all this in mind you need to develop your long-term personal vision for your business.
Again, don’t overthink this as it most definitely won’t be the finished article and as you progress this will evolve over time, but it’s really important to have something, initially, to be aiming towards.
Then, take your long-term personal vision and break it down into short-term goals.
At this stage, think about what it means, for you, if you were to do begin tomorrow. To actually start. This will pull you down out of the clouds, to dig deep into the details.
Working through this stage is necessary, as it will force you to think of all the pieces in the puzzle.
4. Get help
You may be on a high from having graduated from your MBA and feel that you can take on the world. That’s great, you’re going to need that belief. However, that doesn’t automatically mean you have entrepreneurial superpowers and can do it all alone and nor should you.
– Dr. Ferdinand Jaspers, Programme Director at the ECE
By surrounding yourself with the right people, your idea will evolve and so will you, as long as you’re open to feedback and are someone who is coachable. As an entrepreneur should be.
There are plenty of ways to enlist help with options such as mentoring, coaching and possibly your classmates and alumni. You should also look to get involved in a community of entrepreneurs.
If you’re thinking of launching your business in The Netherlands and are non-Dutch, then such a community will be key to getting to grips with the marketplace.
5. Leverage your strengths
Yes, you’ve learned all aspects of managing a business during your MBA and you want to put your new found skills to the test. Great, but you can’t do it all. Know where you excel and organise the rest around that.
You may be a people person or an introvert, all about the details or a big-picture person, a finance wiz or marketing guru. Either way, it’s doesn’t matter to being successful.
What does matter is that you are leveraging your strengths. Spend too much time and energy in your areas of weakness and you will run out of steam.
In the beginning stage, the business will likely be just you, so focus on what you are good at and get the help you need for the other areas.
How incubators in business schools can help
Top business schools such as RSM can support you in your entrepreneurial endeavors.
If you’re taking an MBA at RSM and have an inkling that you would like to build your own business, then you should make a point of visiting the Erasmus Centre of Entrepreneurship (ECE), as soon as you can.
The ECE has its very own campus, consisting of 10,000 m2 of floor space and 100+ innovative companies, which is a hive of activity and high-octane energy. A perfect place to be for anyone looking for a base to launch something.
As an RSM MBA, you will be well supported by the ECE.
During your studies, you will have the opportunity to join the one-day Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. The basic idea is to experience the entrepreneurial journey in one day at a breakneck pace at the ECE.
You can bring your own idea or join someone else’s and, as a team effort, work on it from the ideation to the prototype for almost 8 hours.
During the day, you will use tools to craft your idea to make it more concrete. At the end of the day, your team will pitch the idea in front of your peers.
After this, budding entrepreneur, it is up to you to take the next steps. At the ECE, you will have access to everything you could possibly need to launch your own business.
You will have access to the ECE team, which consists of highly-motivated staff, four full professors and 35+ academic trainers and researchers on entrepreneurship, – varying from strategic leadership, ambidexterity, entrepreneurial finance, (open) innovation management, entrepreneurship economics and corporate venturing.
A possible next step after the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp would be to sign up for the Erasmus Startup Programme.
During the Erasmus Startup Programme, participants are expected to go out and test all their assumptions.
To get in contact with their potential customers from day 1. You’ll be part of a group of 25 participants who will have the same intention as you, launching a business, which means there’ll be peer support.
On top of that, you have access to one-on-one coaching, workshops and, not to forget, the ECE campus and community.
Want to keep going? Good, that’s the entrepreneurial spirit.
The next stage in your progress might be the Erasmus Business Programme.
The Erasmus Business programme is meant for those entrepreneurs that have already completed all the steps of the Erasmus Startup programme.
You have already validated your customer base and know what is desired by your customer, now you need to create a viable business out of it and maybe close your first (real) sales deals.
During the Erasmus Business programme, participants are challenged to further develop their business model and test these assumptions.
Through constantly building experiments, measuring with real-life clients and learning from this, you can test your assumptions!
So there you have it, all the resources you could possibly need to launch your own business are available through the ECE campus and community. All you have to do is engage.
– 10 Small business ideas for men & women
– How to create a Business Plan
– Are entrepreneurs born or made?
– A day in the life of an entrepreneur after MBA
– RSM MBA Rotterdam Interview with Admissions Director