As the CEO of an MBA program specializing in entrepreneurship, I’m frequently asked ‘how does Acton define what it means to be an entrepreneur?’.
Being an entrepreneur is about solving problems, leaving things better than you found them, and creating value.
Acton students – and most entrepreneurs – have a burning desire to make an impact on this world. Entrepreneurs don’t always ‘own’ the business they’re building, nor are they necessarily huge risk takers.
Although not immune to taking risks, entrepreneurs work to minimize risk in every way possible. Entrepreneurs see opportunities to uniquely serve customer needs that have been underserved, or never served. Often, the entrepreneur has such deep knowledge about the opportunity that the risk seems almost non-existent.
63% of Acton graduates start and build their own companies. 37% of Acton graduates use the same entrepreneurial mindset that they developed at Acton to help build companies that they didn’t personally start. Both groups are entrepreneurs.
Forget the dreamy notion of being the one to ‘start’ something. People ‘start’ businesses all day every day, and most of these businesses fail. Care most about CREATING VALUE!
Jon Gray, Class of 2004
Jon Gray, 2004 Acton MBA graduate, was the third employee at Home Away. He helped grow that business for 13 years until their acquisition by Expedia, for $4.5 billion. Jon didn’t start Home Away, yet he was instrumental in building that business and serving millions of customers. Jon ended his career at Home Away as the Chief Revenue Officer (not too shabby!). Jon is an entrepreneur, one who approaches the world with an itch to make things better, improve our world, serve customers, and create financial wealth for all stakeholders.
JJ Cunningham, Class of 2009
JJ Cunningham, 2009 Acton MBA graduate, used her entrepreneurial mindset to help build Drillinginfo (a company she did not start). JJ is now teaching an extraordinary group of high school students about entrepreneurship, using some of Acton’s curriculum. JJ is creating tremendous value, equipping the next generation of entrepreneurs to go out and make an impact on this world. JJ may not directly be building a ‘business’ in the current moment, but she is building ‘lives’, serving young minds and helping them create more value in their own world. JJ is leaving those students better off than she found them.
Scott Donnell, Class of 2009
Alternatively, Scott Donnell, 2009 Acton MBA graduate, has started Anython and Apex Fun Run since graduating Acton. With these two companies (now combined), he’s built the premiere school fundraising company in America that employs 350 people and has served over 1.5 million students. Scott is using the same skills and mindset that Jon & JJ gained at Acton; the only difference is that he’s using them to build a company that he also started.
Don’t get caught up in the facade of “I’m an entrepreneur. I start businesses and take big risks.” Instead, focus your energy on being intentional in using your skills and mindset to leave things better than you found them.