For many entrepreneurs, college has little appeal. Some consider it to be a waste of money and a poor investment while others think they’d rather work than spend their time at an educational institute. There are no right or wrong choices, except how you make use of your choices efficiently.
But, there’s one thing for sure – given the advent of “drop out of college” scholarships and the success of high-profile entrepreneurs who only earned a high-school diploma, it is prudent to consider their business advice.
1. Mark Zuckerberg – “The dynamic of managing people and being CEO in a company is a lot different than being college roommates with someone.”
Although it may be fun to start a company with your friends, it is a mistake, unless your friend(s) is best suited to their particular task in your startup. Chill with your friends outside of work but at your workplace choose the best hires. We all know what happened with Zuck and his classmates in the massive litigation that resulted in the movie “The Social Network”.
2. Steve Jobs – “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’”
“Entrepreneurs are misfits. Our resumes are routinely non-linear, incomplete, and seemingly random. If you are hiring Bank Robbers, you must look beyond their lack of accomplishments and assess their innate abilities. When you interview candidates during the early stages of your startup, who is far more important than what, because the tasks the candidate previously performed may be only partially applicable to the role they will play in your venture”
3. Bill Gates – “The best way to prepare [to be a programmer] is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and fished out listings of their operating system.”
The way Bill gates learnt to run a business via experience is called experiential learning, something practiced by entrepreneurs who have none or little formal education. Another thing Gates famously said was“the best way to prepare to become an entrepreneur is to start a business and study how great startups succeed.”
4. Michael Dell – “As important as school was, I found that it could be very disruptive to a steady income.”
When Michael Dell dropped out and started his company, he promised his parents he would go back to college if his business failed. But he took the jump, and that’s the lesson to be learnt there. “I had to give it a full go and see what happened. I couldn’t resist the opportunity. The deal was, I would start into business full time in May, and at the end of August we would take a look and decide if it was doing well.”
“I was, you know, rebellious, an 18, 19-year old and just did what I wanted to do and all worked out OK.”
5. Larry Ellison – “I have had all of the disadvantages required for success.”
Larry Ellison always considered himself an underdog. Perhaps, that’s the sort of motivation one needs to succeed and this has not been the first time that an ‘underdog’ status is a common driving force among successful entrepreneurs.
6. Richard Branson – “My mother was determined to make us independent. When I was four years old, she stopped the car a few miles from our house and made me find my own way home across the fields. I got hopelessly lost.”
Guy Kawasaki says, “Similar to Tony Hsieh’s parents, Richard’s mom reinforced a heightened sense of self-sufficiency. Richard dropped out of school at the age of 16 to begin publishing a magazine targeted to young people, called Student. Richard leveraged the fact that record companies were Student’s biggest advertisers to subsequently launch a record store. He then built his initial store into an international chain which ultimately led to the creation of a highly successful record label.”
7. Walt Disney – “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Walt Disney understood something very early in life. That’s to “go for it and take a dip.” He realized that while at school when he dropped out and decided to create a visual company. But, he did what we now call a “pivot” in his company and decided to create an entertainment company instead.
So What are you waiting for? If you believe it yourself, quit school and take the entrepreneurial jump. You’ve checked out the success stories. School will always be there should you decide to take a few years off from startups to hone your beer drinking skills. Good luck!