Thanks first of all to the people in my life that made it possible for me, thirteen years ago, to devote years to coaching entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship MBA students.
That would first of all be my wife of 42 years, Mary. She is really the secret to my entrepreneurial success. Thirty plus years ago, when I proposed leaving a corporate job to start a company, with three kids at home, she said “Do what you think is best and I’ll support you.” And she did.
And, thirteen years ago, when I proposed, after selling the company, that rather than give it all to a wealth manager and buy a home in Florida, I’d like to stay here and put it at risk again investing in startups. And she said “Do what you think is best and I’ll support you.” And she did. She’s been my real friend and lifelong partner.
I’m very grateful for the support and encouragement of my three children Mike, Meg and Molly.
Thanks also to the 600 or more graduate students who enrolled in the graduate entrepreneurship cases courses I’d coached during those same years. They were choosing virtually the only case courses in the program and signed up for a different way of learning than they’d seen before. I’m grateful for their willingness to engage deeply with the process and devote so much attention and time to the diligent preparation that makes case learning what it is. Many have gone on to entrepreneurial careers and I’m grateful for having known them along the way.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to try and make a difference as people pursued entrepreneurial careers. To the extent I’ve succeeded, it’s been a group process.
Golden Angels Investors have clearly been a big part of this and I owe them all many thanks. They are both the brains and the heavy lifting responsible for the group’s achievements.
I try and give every entrepreneur we meet information they can use to grow their venture and succeed. It’s a great way to continue learning and be a better case teacher.
So what have I learned from this process?
How you teach is what you teach. The process – inquiry, intense listening, open discussion, respect for every learner, coaching not telling, -- this is what people learn to do from cases. It’s been a huge challenge because the natural tendency – at least mine – is to try and tell things – and come to conclusions. But no conclusion is worth a process that is an example of how not be an entrepreneur. Or a leader.
No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. To the extent that I’ve been able to do this, more learning occurs. My preferred role in the classroom has been to be a guide along the journey of learning. But most important is to do it in a way that reveals my own interest in every student and their plans. I always asked every student in every class to come in and talk to me for half an hour at the beginning of each semester. It helped me get to know them and pull who they were and what they did into class discussions
Change the way you think.
It’s easy in case learning to find business problems and issues.
But one of the tricks with cases is not only to find the flaws and problems with people’s thoughts and ideas, but to draw out of the analysis the possible paths to success, their costs, risks, and relative rewards. When students gain confidence from this process, they sharpen their ability to reflect, synthesize and find the path to possibilities– and then learning occurs.
I'm spending lots of time helping companies with revenue get to the next stage of growth. I’m hoping also to find ways to continue to work with groups of entrepreneurs and those with entrepreneurial aspirations to explore these issues together.
I’m grateful and appreciative for this award from the Wisconsin Technology Council and its sponsors because it affirms what I believe and have tried to practice in working with and for entrepreneurs.
Thanks very much to the selection committee and to Tom Still.
And thanks also to everyone who's sent good wishes including my friend John Torinus