Friday 10 May 2013

In praise of university for future business owners

Simon Dolan has put forward the case that a university degree is "a waste of time" for the "vast majority", and urges young people to start their own businesses instead of going to university.

As a graduate myself, I'm bound to be biased.  But here's why I feel university is a Good Idea for anyone interested in a business or professional career.

Learning work and life skills

Simon says (no pun intended) that university "robs people of learning how the real world works".  I learnt skills at university that stood me in excellent stead when I left.

I'm probably showing my age here, but it was at university that I first learnt to use e-mail and became confident with it.  Without e-mail skills today I would be a much less effective professional.

I also learned how to manage on a tight budget.  Most of my clothes and books came from charity shops.  I had a bike but no car.  The slow-cooker was my best friend.  This meant I wasn't hungry to be earning big money as soon as I left university.  I was happy to start on a low salary, train as an accountant and achieve a larger salary once I'd qualified.

The confidence to be yourself

In a small class at school, there's pressure to do what everyone else does.  In a large university, there are so many different personalities there that you can "be who you are" and have no contact with those who think you're "square" if you like folk music, tea instead of booze, and early nights.

When you run your own business it's vital that you choose a business you're passionate about.  Having time and freedom at university to "be who you are" can help you find and grow in your passion, whether it be sport, craft or music.

Making real friends

When you have the freedom to "be who you are", you are much more likely to make true friends.  I made wonderful friends at university and fifteen years later I'm still close to many of them.

And it was at university that I met the best friend of all - my husband.

Simon writes that "resilience and self-belief are an entrepreneur's most precious commodities".  He's absolutely right - but it's so much easier to be resilient and to believe in yourself when you have a strong, supportive network of friends.  Being at university helps you to build that network.

It takes time to learn

I'm a qualified accountant.  I only attained that qualification five years after I graduated.  And then it was another two years before the ICAEW would even contemplate letting me have my own business and my own clients.

Not every business can be started by a school-leaver.  Enthusiasm must be coupled with experience.

You can start your business at university!

When you're a student, if you have the entrepreneurial spirit, the right business idea and enough passion, you can start a business at university!  You have a captive audience of potential customers, time to develop your business, and often support available from the university itself.

It doesn't have to be one or the other, business or university.  Why not make it both?

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