Global Entrepreneurial Management Course
The purpose of this course is to explore the interfaces between and among management, strategy and entrepreneurship in independent, corporate, and non-profit ventures. The focus is on the mastery of competencies that foster innovation and growth.
This course in global entrepreneurial management places unique demands on you due to its cross-disciplinary and inter-functional nature. It requires you to address many dimensions of your management education including marketing, human resource management, finance, accounting, information technology, production, operations, supply chain management, and managerial economics. In addition, many broader aspects of your liberal arts and social science backgrounds are relevant in this course. As such it acts as a vehicle for acquiring knowledge and developing skills, attitudes and behaviors associated with innovative and strategic management in entrepreneurial environments.
Hello, my name is John Torrens, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to Global Entrepreneurial Management, your Whitman capstone experience. So before we talk about the course, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. So, I think it might be helpful for you to understand who’s working with you throughout the course of this class here. I started out my career in a fairly unconventional way for a university professor. I’m actually a musician. I went to college to be a musician—a saxophone player. I still play in a local band once in a while, but not as often because I travel a lot. I realized shortly into my college career that the only thing I was going to be able to do with a music degree was teach music. So, I didn’t really want to do that, so I became a psychology major because I didn’t really know what else I was going to do.
Then I was going to go to graduate school for psychology, but then they told me that during my fourth year of graduate school, because it was a clinical psych degree, that they were possibly going to close the program down and that I might consider going somewhere else. I decided to get a degree in speech-language pathology, so I became a speech therapist. So I’m a saxophone player, I’m a speech therapist, and now I’ll tell you the rest of the story. I started my practice after I had a job. So, I started working as a speech therapist for about a year and a half. I owed the state of New York that much time because they funded a large amount of my graduate education. However, the reason they funded it was because I had to work in a place that they couldn’t hire anybody else to work in. So, it was a really tough setting. So, I left after about a year and a half, and I owed the state all sorts of money and fees and interest back. But it was worth it for me, because I didn’t really like my job.
So, in terms of my entrepreneurial experience, my motivation wasn’t necessarily that I was pursuing an opportunity that I felt passionate about; it was really because I was running away from something that I didn’t like all that much, which is a little bit different. So I started my own practice, which was great, and then I realized over time that my income was going to be limited to the number of hours in my day, and I didn’t think that was so cool. So then I started hiring people, and then I realized this is actually cool. I can make money as I grow my company. So I got my PhD in business, because about a year into it I sat around my conference table at a staff meeting and realized that the people sitting there were depending on me to pay their bills and mortgages. They thought I knew what I was doing, and I really didn’t know what I was doing at that point. I had no formal business education. I was just bootstrapping and making it up as I went along.
So I went up to the University and said, hey, I want to take an accounting class, because I thought as long as I could manage the books I should be OK. But they said, no you don’t want to take an accounting class, what you want to do is enroll in our MBA program. And I thought, I don’t really want to do that because I already have a master’s degree. So I did what any rational person would do. I said screw it. I enrolled in the PhD program. So my business grew really fast over time because every single course I took in my doctoral program I used my business—this growing living business—as my lab experiment. So, when I had to take my introductory to business law course, I got all my contracts sorted out. When I had to take my marketing plan, I developed a real marketing plan for my business, on and on, until I was done with the program. So, fast forward a few years, 20 years later, my company had about 300 employees, almost $12 million in revenue, and had the opportunity to sell it, which I did. There’s a lot more to the story which I’ll fill you in on later probably, but I ended up selling the company. Thought I’d died and went to heaven, because as soon as I did that, I got a job at the University. And if you’ve ever had a real job, working as a university professor is really cool, so I did that.
A few years later, I had the opportunity to buy part of the company back. So as an entrepreneur, I’ve had the experience of selling the company, feeling seller’s remorse, and then buying the company back, and experiencing buyer’s remorse. So I felt it all. I know what it’s like to struggle to try to find an idea. I know what it’s like to struggle to make payroll. I know what it’s like not to know what you’re doing and question yourself, and then I know the ecstasy and the exhilaration of selling it and then buying it back. So now I have both worlds. I run the company, and I’m a university professor and I feel like my life was pretty good. In addition to that, I’m a manager of a very small fund that invests in small start-up companies, which is an awful lot of fun for me.
So, on to the course. This is a very challenging course, and the simulation is new venture creation. So what we’re going to do here is enable you to pull everything you’ve learned throughout your graduate education into one single final product or project, and it’s new venture simulation or new venture creation. And the idea isn’t really that you’re going start the company, although we would be ecstatic if you did, and from time to time that happens. Every year we might get two or three students who actually start the companies, and that feels really good, but I know it’s a required course and you’re here, but you have to be and you won’t need to do it to get your degree. Having said that, though I hope that you gain a lot of really valuable insights and use what you’ve learned to advance your careers no matter what you do.
So, for example, if you’re working in a corporation and you’re able to apply an entrepreneurial skill set, you’re going to be much more valuable as an employee to the firm if you can do that then if you just mark time and punch the clock. So these skills are really important no matter which path you choose. So hopefully you’re going to get a lot out of it. You’re going to have a lot of fun. It’s going to be quite a bit of work, and you’re going to pull everything together into one final project that you’re hopefully going to be proud of. So my role is mostly as a coach or a consultant. Hopefully at this point, I shouldn’t be teaching you any brand new content. Really what I’m hoping to do is help you connect the dots between everything you’ve already learned and show you how all those things you’ve learned work together as one unified whole to start a company. So welcome to the class, and I’m really looking forward to working with you all.