You probably have heard it before: Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Michael Dell… all multi-millionaire, self-made entrepreneurs who dropped out of college, or didn’t go to college at all. Are they an exception to the rule, or do they represent a great possibility that aspiring entrepreneurs going to university are missing? Is school truly a necessary part of entrepreneurial success?
As of 2015, over one million students were enrolled in Australian universities. However, according to the Foundation of Young Australians, an astounding 25% of young graduates today aren’t using their university degrees in the workplace. These numbers aren’t very telling as far as entrepreneurial success, but they do make one wonder how many of these 250,000 students were Entrepreneurship majors who couldn’t materialize their dream.
The CAUSEE study looked at the Australian small business landscape over a 36-month period, offering an interesting overview with some glimpses of the influence of university education on the success of enterprises:
As far as innovation, university education might very well be the turning point for an entrepreneur to generate his million dollar idea. However, the study found that there was no evident relationship between education level and innovativeness in products and services. It also found that previous startup experience, rather than the level of education reached by founders, was a greater contributing factor in its chance of survival.
The study observed that some of the challenges faced by startups were lack of education and experience from company founders in finance and accounting. With this in mind, it is fair to say that university education has a technical value that makes a practical difference once the hungry entrepreneur is in the field. The study also noted that a firm with higher education capital is more likely to create employment for others, as well as to create a higher ROI once established. However, higher education didn’t increase the chances of a firm becoming operational, nor being longer-lasting.
Now, let’s revisit the fascinating thought of all the extraordinary entrepreneurs who have had an idea, grown it into an incredibly profitable business, change the world forever, and strike up a fortune on the way. It takes a certain kind of person to be a successful entrepreneur: according to a Gallup study of 111 small businesses in Nebraska, US, the most successful entrepreneurs exhibit certain traits that set them apart from their competitors: characteristics such as articulateness with their clients, the ability to develop and put a price on services while being mindful of their clients’ needs, organization skills to make time for planning for the future and aligning their team’s role with it, and insightfulness to pair up their employees with areas in which their strengths will be made the most of. Even though an academic curriculum can teach someone how to carry these operations, some possess a natural ability to turn an idea into profit and maintain their growth despite not finishing university. A few are able to bring their vision to life in such a powerful way, that they become the wealthy stars that so many gaze upon and aspire to become.
Having both university education and a dream is not a proven formula for success, but it can equip you with many of the tools you will need to build your business and drive it to the top. If one thing can be said with certainty is this: what you choose to do with your resources, within and around you, is the defining factor for success.