7 Things that Schools Can Learn from Entrepreneurs

When school administrators are looking for places to find inspiration, one rich source of knowledge is the world of entrepreneurship. There is so much that can be gleaned from the successful pursuits of entrepreneurs that educators would do well to have a look at the techniques used as they seek innovation and success.

Here are seven things that schools can learn from entrepreneurs.

Drive has been the main focus of many research studies, and has been described as “the will to conquer” and “the joy of creating and of getting things done.” While these phrases accurately describe an entrepreneur’s zeal to succeed, they can also accurately apply to the educational arena, where that same spark of fire to get things done is often at the heart of the mission. Educators are compelled by a deep seeded need to change the world, and school leaders must both feel this same drive themselves and also harness it in their followers.

The need for entrepreneurs to show leadership stems from the fact that they are founders of their ventures and, as such, there are no established standard operating procedures or even organizational structures that they can fall back on while starting from scratch. This is the main difference between entrepreneurs and corporate managers, since the latter often have more well-defined goals, objectives, structures, and work procedures to guide them. Too often, educators fall into the trap of becoming corporate managers and are wary of stepping out into innovation. But innovation is how change happens! If the school environment isn’t working towards the goals of educating its students, then it’s time to make substantive, fresh and exciting changes. Unlike entrepreneurs, educators have to jolt themselves into innovation.

Another attribute of entrepreneurs is the ability to lead their business and to be able to allocate resources. So too must leaders in education be able to lead their schools and to allocate resources. The difficulty here is that, while entrepreneurs and schools both face the same tight budgets, schools live with the knowledge that there will be always be a baseline of funds available. Again we come to the innovation that entrepreneurs bring to the table, but this time in the light of resource allocation. Educators must be creative with the limited resources at hand, and must be willing to work diligently to figure out how to squeeze each dollar out in the most effective way. They would do well to learn from entrepreneurs who face the loss of a business for failed resource allocation rather than simply waiting another year for new funds from the state.

Entrepreneurs are required to observe and interpret labor market changes to position their enterprises as players in the market. Schools don’t always realize it, but they’re facing those same labor market changes and would do well to make the application and recruitment process as attractive as possible through outreach and communication, just as entrepreneurs must do. For both educators and businesspeople, getting the right people is THE key to success.

Research has shown that the information and communication strategies within a business are strong determinants of service quality and the organizational culture. Entrepreneurial leaders therefore have to carefully conceptualize and implement practical channels and instruments of communication if they are to achieve meaningful results. This same thing is true for educators. Accurate and effective communication are essential factors in employee retention and happiness, and can help schools to keep those good staff members around.

It has been proven again and again that satisfied employees in business enterprises increase customer satisfaction. In education, satisfied teachers and staff increase educational outcomes for students. This is why leadership tasks should include workplace design and implementation of some sort of reward and incentive scheme that is geared toward improving teacher’s service. Administrators have their hands tied in the case of monetary compensation, but there are other opportunities for educators to create effective incentives for staff through innovation and partnership. Empowerment for educators comes from their sense that they are heard and valued members of their school community.

A school setting with a traditional top-down, heavy-handed approach to management does not generally have the structures in place to listen to new ideas. An entrepreneur is on the other hand open to all new ideas, regardless of how out of the box they might seem. The biggest threat facing any company is the failure to open the doors to the creativity that’s right there in house. The same is true for a school environment. Instituting a policy of being open to any and all ideas, no matter how far afield they might be, is perhaps the greatest lesson that schools can learn from the entrepreneurial world.

The entrepreneurial spirit and the educational spirit are two sides of the same coin, with each having the same necessity of innovation, creativity and open mindedness in order to create success.

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