So you went to college to get your degree. You spent thousands and thousands of dollars for that piece of paper, and then you started your company and may have discovered that much of what you learned in school isn’t terribly relevant. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong believer in the value of education, yet we all know folks who complain that another day has passed in which they didn’t once use algebra.
But your alma mater may not just be the place where you might have had one too many beers. It can actually still be very relevant and serve as a fantastic resource for canny entrepreneurs. Here’s how you can help make your school matter again.
Say you’re thinking about moving into a new industry, and you need to understand who your customers will be. You may need a big, time-consuming study, but you can’t do it yourself. Or say you need a business plan written, but that’s not your field of expertise. Consider talking to the professors in relevant departments and see if you can get some help.
When I’m looking to hire, I chat with professors about their best students. This process is one of the biggest win-wins, because professors who help their students land jobs are heroes, and I get the best and brightest.
For example, I offer a service to bookkeepers and accountants, and when I need a new marketing plan, I chat with people in both the university’s accounting and marketing departments for advice. The variety of perspectives is immeasurably valuable, and understanding more about the people I’m pitching to is a huge benefit to me. From time to time, you may even run across a professor who will put students to work on a project in exchange for course credit.
2. Recruiting base
Some of my very best employees have come from my alma mater. When I’m looking to hire, I chat with professors about their best students. This process is one of the biggest win-wins, because professors who help their students land jobs are heroes, and I get the best and brightest.
Even if you’re not local to your university, try approaching one of your nearby schools for bright young talent. A bonus: You may be getting hungry, ambitious employees who are just at the beginning of their careers (which means you can still afford them). You may not land a lifer, but you could get a great couple of years from recent graduates before they move on.
Believe it or not, universities can be investors. They have endowments and grants to maintain, and that may mean bringing in money through sound investments. Ask your school what resources they can offer, and you may be surprised. You could end up with your alma mater as an angel investor, and one of the best parts of investments from schools is they can often be backed with research and plenty of support.
If you’re a graduate of a school, you may have the inside track when it comes to your school’s investments, and you should absolutely consider capitalizing on your alumnus status. You don’t want to let an opportunity slip through your fingers just because you didn’t ask. Be active, and try to go after the valuable investment dollars your university has to spend.
Don’t underestimate the power of networking, and the beauty of networking with folks who graduated from the same school as you is that you instantly have something in common. We can be attracted to commonality, and your trust factor may automatically be higher simply because you share a school. Whether you’re looking for new customers, investors, employees or business partners, your alma mater should be one of the first places you consider looking. Attend alumni events. Go to campus lectures. Keep in touch with the pool of people who are predisposed to want to see you succeed.
Too often, we leave college thinking we’re finished—except, perhaps, for a reunion every 10 years or so. But we may not realize that the network we’ve built can benefit us long past our graduation dates, and the resources of our alma mater may continue to benefit us long after we’ve walked across the stage. Keeping in touch with professors working on the most recent developments in their fields can help keep your company invigorated by new ideas, and even give you a competitive edge. Reach out to your alumni association to network with fellow graduates. And contact your college’s alumni center—they may have more resources for you than you can imagine. Don’t let your investment in your education go to waste. Make the most of your alma mater.
Author: Mike Michalowicsz – Profit First