Business School, Economic Development & One Sly Grin

So there I was, drinking coffee with a former professor and mentor of mine at Thompson Rivers University Business school, close to 10 years after Graduating with my MBA. After our usual sly digs at each other, we sat down to trade stories. The way I see it we are both a little “mad” when it comes to our chosen professions, but it is what drives us.… So there we were.

I told him a few stories from the trenches of public economic development, and a few business development challenges that arose from helping so many entrepreneurs start their companies in 4 different provinces across Canada. All told with a glossed over humour and long viewed lens that only time could provide. I have always felt that while entrepreneurial roadblocks can seem like the “end of business” while in the midst of them; given time, you can always find humour in those dark moments — Especially if you made it through them.

My mentor told  me stories of a bureaucratic and academic routine and improving the lives of students attending the business school. The latter being of the utmost importance and the reason, I think, to put up with the former. He outlined some great successes and some failures. He glowed with pride as he spoke from across the table about his students’ successes after graduation, in both entrepreneurial ventures and gainful employment, not to mention a few with some incredibly bright futures. The realization I came to, is that he does what he does because he wants to make their lives better, and relishes in his past students’ success.

Perceived Drawbacks can have their Hidden Advantages

I guess right there is the advantage of a small university; professors take a student’s prospects personally – something I never realized back then while in school. I couldn’t resist, so I asked what he thought of my graduating year’s class (ten years after). He gave me a sly grin and replied. I remember your class as a “scrappy” group —-disruptive would be the word now—- with actual ideas.  Some of them, of course,  were “ridiculous and, of course,  would never work…. but at least you were thinking” I took it as a great compliment and a sly nod to the cohort I graduated with.

(Personally, I would rather have 27 ideas to work and edit it down to 1 as opposed to starting out with one idea….but that is another post.)

As we continued to tell stories, with a healthy injection of humour, about how far our individual experiences have come; I joked that we both are a little bruised, but a little wiser, and then my professor replied with a comment that hit home for me (always with a sly grin). It was about business school in general, and the case method of teaching/learning, and how important it is for students who have not learned from their own mistakes yet. He always said that you go to business school to learn from other people’s mistakes instead of making those same mistakes on your own, before you get out on your own and make different ones.
I jested that I didn’t understand that business school lasts a lifetime and my experience thus far has, looking back,  taught me that. Entrepreneurial bruises are just as important as the academic ones from school. He drove the point home with a quip, ” and make no mistake there will be more.”

So what do I do when I get back to my office? I shut my door and write this, as nod to a great mentor and a nod to everyone that has taught me a thing or two.

I have another idea…

Having met so many people across North America doing such great work, improving the lives of their customers, their community, and the local economy; we at the studio will  share some best practices. Thus, I am writing it down and plan on podcasting it out – soon to follow.

The Development Studio will now be expanding its services; we will take best practices in development across North America, on a case by case basis, and share as a tactical and hopefully aesthetically beautiful guide, to help you toward your goal of a better local economy, and personal success at the same time.

That is our goal for you, and we will get there.

On behalf of our crew at the Studio,

Douglas Barill

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