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Jacob Wackerhausen/iStockphoto

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

For students eager to start their own enterprise, business schools offer a growing menu of options: startup zones, incubators and accelerators along with courses, mentorships and other support.

Until now, there has been little for those who aim to take over the family business or buy a small or medium-sized company whose owner is about to retire.

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That's about to change. In January, the executive education wing of the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Concordia University is set to offer a certificate in business ownership to an inaugural class of 15 to 20 students.

"There are so many businesses that are successful, doing well and making good revenue," says Sandra Nichol, executive director of the John Molson Executive Centre at the Montreal business school. "They [the owners] don't necessarily have great succession plans in place for these businesses."

Many current owners of small and medium-sized businesses, which account for 98 per cent of the Canadian economy, are nearing the end of their careers and seeking options to sell their companies. Meanwhile, says Ms. Nichol, a younger generation of prospective owners doubt they have the skills or financial means to buy and operate a company. "People think they have to be a millionaire or super wealthy and that is simply not the reality," she says.

Despite the spotlight on startups and entrepreneurship, the harsh reality is that only half of new businesses survive beyond five years, according to Industry Canada. "There are a ton of accelerators out there and startups, but it is a really, really risky way of getting into business," says Ms. Nichol.

She adds: "You don't have to be the next Steve Jobs [founder of Apple]. You can be very successful as a business owner."

The six-month certificate, with tuition of $17,500, will be delivered monthly on a Friday and Saturday, with courses on what it takes to own a business, how to valuate a potential purchase and how to negotiate a purchase agreement. In addition to classroom learning, students will work with industry mentors and prepare to purchase an existing business.

At the end of the program, those students who succeed in a Dragons' Den-type pitch competition about their pending purchase will receive one year of additional mentoring from former company owners.

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Sean Smolka, about to complete his MBA at JMSB, is the third generation of his family's Montreal-based plastics injection moulding company and currently works there on continuous improvement issues.

He credits William Meder, a former student case competition adviser and director of JMSB's Bob and Raye Briscoe Centre in Business Ownership, with alerting him to the new certificate.

"If you look at an MBA program, you can find a lot of help in finding a regular 9-to-5 job and a lot of help in starting your own business and being an entrepreneur," he says. "There is no information or help on buying a business and turning it around. A lot of people do that to be successful."

Mr. Smolka, 30, is still contemplating his future business options. "Whatever I decide to do in six months or a year or two – to stay in the family business or to branch out on my own to find another business – none of this [certificate] is going to be wasted."

New industry-school career path in accounting

In a new three-way agreement, the University of Winnipeg's faculty of business and economics, Red River College and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Manitoba plan to offer a new learning option for future accountants.

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Effective September of 2017, students who graduate from Red River College with a two-year diploma in business administration (with a major in accounting) can transfer to Winnipeg's business faculty for another 45 credits and earn a three-year undergraduate BBA. Students who want to pursue their accountant accreditation take another 15 credits with the CPA, whose academic requirements are built into the accounting-related courses offered by the college and university.

The agreement, scheduled to be announced on Monday, is seen as adding a seamless pathway to earn credentials and receive professional accreditation.

Real estate company offers scholarship for specialty degree

RioCan, a major Canadian commercial real estate developer, has pledged $75,000 over three years for a scholarship for a top incoming student of the master of real estate and infrastructure program at York University's Schulich School of Business.

The first $25,000 entrance scholarship will be offered in January, when the school's new specialty degree will be available for the first time. The program includes a common curriculum over two semesters followed by an internship and opportunity to specialize in either real estate or infrastructure, according to Schulich.

"Our people set us apart and we are proud to make an investment in developing our talent pool and the future of this industry," states Stuart Baum, RioCan vice-president of human resources, in a company press release.

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In addition to the scholarship, RioCan has pledged to support students in the master program with two fully-paid internships.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

Contact Jennifer at

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