Five Executive MBA alumni from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business returned to Van Munching Hall to offer their insights from their entrepreneurial journeys.
The event, held on Tuesday, Feb. 21, is the latest in the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series. It featured EMBA alumni Adam Bixler, EMBA '20, BlueVoyant; Elizabeth Chaney, EMBA '22, Perfect Pet Resort; Dan Cowens, EMBA '14, Snag A Slip; Tunde Ogungbade, EMBA '14, Global Accelerex Limited; and Mark Olcott, EMBA '13, VitusVet.
Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets Managing Director Jacqueline Manger delivered the event’s opening remarks and was followed by Jeffrey Mund, Supply Chain Center of Excellence lecturer and Dingman Center Angel, who moderated the panel discussion.
Each entrepreneur shared their ‘a-ha’ moments, challenges and important lessons learned with the audience comprised of undergraduate and graduate students.
Here are five tips for other aspiring entrepreneurs:
Leverage every experience. “Smith gave me 400 years of experience in 17 months. How did we come up with that number? There were 41 people in my cohort. We added the years of our experience together and that’s the number we came up with,” says Ogungbade. “I was in the same rooms for two years with peers with years of experience across multiple industries. I didn’t get that much experience spending ten years working for different sectors within consulting.”
Find the ‘mission-first’ employees. A successful team is one that buys into the business’ mission. Understand early on the difference between missionaries versus mercenaries when you’re bringing people on board, says Bixler. “When you build your team for the long term, look for those mission-oriented people,” he says. “Sometimes you need to hire mercenaries to fill a role, but understand that that’s a transactional relationship and not someone who is in it forever.”
Ask the right questions. There are many problems that aren’t worth solving immediately as an entrepreneur, but figuring out which ones can wait requires getting important answers early on, says Olcott. What’s your total addressable market? Can you turn this into a business? Will people pay for this? “All of those are things I would recommend finding out as early as possible along your journey,” he says.
It’s not all about the money. Most entrepreneurs that I know don’t get in it for the money, the money is a byproduct, says Cowens. Those who get into it for the money flame out very quickly. “There’s a period of time where I might fail, but I love thriving in failure,” he says. “The magic happens in the pivot.”
Focus on the positives. When faced with a crisis or a period of major uncertainty, the path forward requires seeing the positive outcome and taking each step to get there, says Chaney. “Make a plan every day or every hour, if necessary. Keep adjusting where you can to reach that positive outcome,” she says. “Believe that you’ll get to the other side of whatever you’re going through.”
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.