The Entrepreneurial Mindset

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Why It’s Vital for Students to Learn to Survive in Today’s Marketplace

Today’s high school students are busier than ever. Between studying for SATs, applying to college, nurturing GPAs, and engaging in extracurriculars, students can be so overburdened that the idea of embarking into the world of entrepreneurship can seem like a distant dream.

And yet, more and more young people are starting to build their own businesses. Mark Greenberg is the founder and CEO of BuildEd. He uses his experience as an entrepreneur in industries ranging from consulting to real estate investment to develop entrepreneurship courses for partners like ASU Prep Digital and several K-12 programs.

According to Greenberg, entrepreneurship is an essential life skill and it’s never too soon to get started. As he sees it, adapting the proper mindset and learning the basic principles of entrepreneurship can transform students into successful business owners. But it all starts with how you define “entrepreneur.”

“An entrepreneur is a problem seeker, a problem solver, and an innovator,” says Greenberg. “I don’t think entrepreneurship is limited to those who start organizations or ventures. More than anything, an entrepreneur is a person that can add value, whether they create something themselves or work for a company.”

Under that definition, the path towards entrepreneurship and an entrepreneurial mindset can be pursued by anyone, including a teen. For those who are interested in attaining entrepreneurial success for themselves, Greenberg lays out its three core components.

The Building Blocks of Entrepreneurship

Identify the opportunity. This usually means finding a problem to be solved or a need to be filled.
Create value. Solving the problem or filling the need in a unique way.
Capture that value.

“Once you’ve done One and Two, Three is really easy,” says Greenberg. “Everything is an exchange of value. For example, if you’re aware of your company’s needs, and you’re constantly creating value, you’ll be running the place at some point. Conversely, if you just do what you’ve been asked, then you’re only a commodity.”

Of course, entrepreneurial skills can be developed outside working for a company or other professional setting. Entrepreneurship starts with finding ways to add value to the environment you’re already in, whether that’s the classroom, the athletic field, at home, or at a part-time job. This can be a novel concept for many high school students.

“What if you did two or three things for your parents that you weren’t asked to do?” he asks his students. “How do you think that value might be exchanged? When you ask if you can stay out a little later, do you think you might get some of that value back?”

As Greenberg sees it, entrepreneurship is much simpler than we tend to think it is. If you have the ability to add value to your community by identifying and solving a problem with an idea or skill of your own, then you’re already on your way to becoming an entrepreneur. All that’s left is to put your idea into action.

Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Optimism is vital.

There’s a time and place for constructive criticism and playing the devil’s advocate, but successful entrepreneurs look at every problem they face with the confidence that a solution can and will be found.

Don’t fall in love with your idea.

“Starting from that place means your ears are closed,” Greenberg explains. “Entrepreneurship, when done properly, is about getting the answers to the test before you take it.” But if you already think you have the right answers, then you’re going to have serious issues when you encounter unexpected challenges. The best way to counter this is by listening well and being willing to adapt your idea for the sake of finding a solution.

Navigate risks with caution.

“I think it’s a false premise that entrepreneurs are risk takers,” says Greenberg. “They’re obviously not paralyzed by risk. There’s risk in taking a new job, there’s risk in starting something on your own, but entrepreneurship is about understanding fully what risks you’re taking and mitigating those risks.” In other words, foolish entrepreneurs dive headfirst and blindly into every risk they encounter, but successful entrepreneurs are aware of every potential risk, so they know which are worth taking and which should be avoided.

Learn by doing.

“Business savvy is something you accumulate over time, based on experience,” says Greenberg. “You have to get in the game. Yes, you need education, but you also need experience. We want our students to learn by doing.” Greenberg believes any student can be taught the essential skills of entrepreneurship as long as they have a safe space where they can experiment with their ideas; the guidance of an experienced teacher who inspires and challenges them; a strong curriculum that teaches them practical lessons; and most importantly, the opportunity to test their ideas in the real world.

“If you create an environment with those four things I think you can absolutely create entrepreneurs,” Greenberg says. “I see entrepreneurship education as the great equalizer. You don’t have to have an IQ of 150. You just need to step up, be armed with an idea, and be willing to work hard.”

Even if most high school students have yet to develop specific professional ambitions, according to Greenberg’s definition of entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurial mindset is useful far beyond the world of startups and business ventures, and therefore it ought to be learned and adapted by everyone.

“Life is about interacting with people, and there’s a lot of problem-solving along the way,” he explains. “Entrepreneurship – your ability to interact with people well and solve problems – will equip you for your personal life, your family life, and your professional life.”

We’re sold.