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I was never into academics. While the average person attends four or five schools between kindergarten and college, I racked up 14 by the time I was in my twenties. I often wonder: what if I'd been given the chance to go to a school that celebrated unconventional thinking and swapped textbooks for hands-on, real world experience? Maybe I would have excelled instead of dropping out.
I'm a big proponent of dreaming big and right now, one of my biggest, hairiest, most audacious goals is to start a school for entrepreneurs.
Over 50 per cent of people want to be their own boss, but this school doesn't have to just be for them. I'd like to think it would benefit anybody who appreciates the benefits of thinking like an entrepreneur.
This idea is still just in the dream stage. But here are five key classes I'd love to see on the curriculum.
Dreaming Big 101
I love the Walt Disney quote, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." But after a lifetime stuck in classrooms where we're taught to comply with the status quo, most people actually struggle with big picture thinking.
It's one of the reasons we run a 101 Life Goals program at O2E Brands, encouraging our employees to list their long and short-term dreams. Launching a school for entrepreneurs is one of the items on my own bucket list and so is teaching a course on dreaming big for students in it. Why? Study after study has shown that people who write down goals, no matter how crazy, are exponentially more likely to achieve them, so why not encourage the next generation to jot ideas down and shoot for the moon?
The Science of Storytelling
Business school teaches the power of advertising, but great brands - and the entrepreneurs behind them - know the power of storytelling. Starbucks spends less than 2 per cent of revenue on advertising, preferring to host events like samba parties or art shows to build buzz around product launches. We've drummed up PR by hosting huge yard sales in partnership with charities around North America.
Humans crave narrative, so at my dream school, we would practice crafting stories, not ad campaigns. Like Seth Godin's book Purple Cow teaches, remarkable brands are the ones that break the mold and surprise you.
The Art of Networking
One of the most valuable lessons schools don't teach is how to ask for help. I'd get our entrepreneurial students to brainstorm a wishlist of people who could address their biggest business challenges. But it wouldn't stop there; they'd get a chance to hone their networking skills by actually reaching out to the names on that list.
I've learned firsthand that picking up the phone can lead to amazing feedback and insight. Over the years I've compiled what I call an MBA (mentor advisory board), comprised of experts and business heroes (like Boston Pizza's Jim Treliving and George Melville, and the late Fred DeLuca of Subway) whom I can turn to when I'm faced with a challenge. All I had to do was just work up the courage to ask.
Entrepreneurs hear "no" hundreds of times - but the successful ones try new approaches and imaginative thinking to get to where they want to go. In my dream entrepreneur school, we'll be teaching tenacity.
Ariana Huffington's book was rejected by 36 different publishers before she went on to create one of the world's most popular news sites; Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, returning years later to transform the company into an innovation powerhouse. Students would learn the importance of being willing to fail and holding onto their hustle in the face of rejection.
(Corporate) Cultural Studies
Whether a company has two people or two hundred, team building and culture are essential to success. Engaged employees are happier, more productive and more likely to stick around long-term. Though "culture" may evoke visions of hip start-ups with ping-pong tables and beer on tap, I think focusing on communication is the real key to creating a positive work environment.
This class would teach how to run effective meetings and the basics of leading a huddle (a seven-minute daily standing meeting that celebrates wins and challenges as a team and sets intention for the day). I believe it's a core practice that every entrepreneur should know if they want to lead a truly cohesive organization.
To be honest, I'm not yet sure how this idea can come to fruition, but I do know that talking about it and sharing it is the first step to finding the right people and circumstances to turn this vision into reality. After all, isn't that how the entrepreneurial world goes round?