The word entrepreneurship brings up images of one person starting a company. While that picture of the lone entrepreneur with a magical idea remains a part of what entrepreneurship is, there is much more to it. In today’s hyper-competitive economy, big firms, as well as small and medium-size organizations, are all trying to reclaim their entrepreneurial roots.
The UNL College of Business Administration Center for Entrepreneurship is establishing that same entrepreneurial spirit in the work it performs with students and in the community.
“Innovation is critical for any firm to succeed, and entrepreneurs are the best employees for innovating and moving things forward. Organizations structures are changing to help employees be more innovative and able to take calculated risks,” said Paul Hogan, advisory council chair of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the UNL College of Business Administration. Hogan is also co-founder and chairman of Home Instead Senior Care headquartered in Omaha, Neb.
Today, large organizations talk about intrapreneurship, while smaller organizations want to hire people who are innovative and able to develop their ideas. This means students of entrepreneurship can start their own businesses or take their skills to the established businesses striving to grow quickly and compete in new ways.
“We have a development program for entrepreneurs. We throw them into the fire, and it works out great. We call what we do intrapreneurship," said Joe Petsick, co-founder and CEO of Proxibid in Omaha, Neb., and also an advisory council member at the Center for Entrepreneurship.
The courses students take at the UNL College of Business Administration teach students to recognize opportunities, take action with their ideas and use disciplined process to execute and deliver. Entrepreneurship classes foster experiential exercises, designed on the ways adults learn. Students passionate about starting their own businesses can see results in a short time based on the mentoring and learning they get in the classroom.
“Last semester, a student in the Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation course created a new business providing advanced English lessons to Chinese Americans. In a few short months, he started offering classes to his first group of students,” said Dr. Theresa Welbourne, director of the CBA Center for Entrepreneurship and FirsTier Banks Distinguished Professor of Business.
A key part of the entrepreneurship curriculum is centered on teaching students how to solve complex problems.
“One of the great things about the entrepreneurship courses is that students learn problem-solving skills. This ability was critical to me during my 10-year career as a manager for Intel in different positions in operations, engineering and human resources. I am proud of how our students demonstrate these skills,” said Dr. Sam Nelson, management lecturer at CBA and advisor for the student organization group, Students in Free Enterprise.
He added that students in his Opportunity Identification and Evaluation course identified areas of opportunity for CBA as the college transitions to the Big Ten Conference. Students were challenged to research how CBA compares to other Big Ten business schools and recommend solutions. They focused on execution by analyzing feasibility in terms of budget, location and facilities.
The Center for Entrepreneurship is developing new knowledge to help firms not only start up, but to grow. The team’s research continues to show that leadership and human capital management, overall, are key factors in predicting successful growth.
“Some of our best employees are entrepreneurs. It is hard to start a business, but it’s even more difficult to grow it,” said Bill Champion, president of Orthopaedic Marketing Group in Omaha, Neb. Champion is also an advisory council member for the Center for Entrepreneurship.
Welbourne is building a research stream to understand what it takes to grow quickly and improve longer-term performance.
“If we can help businesses avoid the pitfalls of growth, it means more jobs, more wealth creation and overall, more success,” Welbourne said. “The lessons learned will be integrated into our teaching, used for executive education and distributed via publications that can be available to a broader community.”