University courses that entrepreneurs would have liked to take

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It takes a diverse set of skills to be an entrepreneur. And many founders wish they had learned these skills in school, rather than on the job.

Whether it’s taking on a new role in the business or dealing with an unexpected downturn, entrepreneurs are constantly faced with situations they weren’t trained for. Looking back, many of them say that maybe the right college courses would have prepared them for the tough times.

We asked several business owners which courses they would like to take and why. Here’s how they responded:

To do business

While attending the University of Richmond in the 1990s, Casey Halloran figured that a business administration degree would prepare him for any kind of corporate career. But a few years after graduation, he and a friend decided to start a Costa Rican-focused travel agency, and he quickly discovered that his skills were missing something.

“I wish I had taken courses in transaction structures, basic negotiations, and designing and writing good win-win deals,” he says. “It’s something small business owners do every day. “

He sometimes feels at a disadvantage when negotiating and structuring terms for everything from agreements with travel and hospitality providers, such as hotels and tour operators, to contracts with his employees and contractors. Due to the financial challenges of the pandemic, he recently had to renegotiate several major deals, including a complex restructuring of how he pays the sales force at his company, NAMU Travel Group, based in San José, Costa Rica. With so many travelers canceling trips in recent months, the company has changed both how much and when sales reps receive their commissions.

“When you make a mistake on this stuff, sometimes you live with it for a long time,” he says.

Managerial psychology

David Shove-Brown, co-founder of Washington, DC architectural firm 3877 Design, took a few electives in general psychology while continuing his architectural studies at Catholic University in the 1990s. But now that the Managing his company’s 25 employees is a big part of his job, he wished he had taken courses on how to get the most out of people and deal with conflict at work.

Although he learned management by experience, having a university education in managerial psychology would help him when trying to resolve or avoid workplace conflicts. “How to move forward so as not to end up reliving the same problems? ” he says.

Consumer psychology

Kristine Thorndyke, a 2013 Indiana University marketing graduate, runs a Chinese online test prep company, Test Prep Nerds, and spends much of her time writing copy for her website. Now, she would like to have taken classes in the psychology of consumer buying behavior, so that she could write a text that would lead to more clicks and ultimately more purchases. Such a course would help him to “better understand what impacts decisions and better understand what goes on in a customer’s mind when they are browsing a website or considering purchasing a product.” , she says.

Coding

Savannah Enright of Queens, NY, has Modern Muslim Market, an online marketplace for Muslim art and home decor. She received a Business Degree in Design and Management from Parsons School of Design in 2007 and an MBA from Baruch College in 2013, but regrets not learning to code. She frequently needs to make changes to the website that require basic coding knowledge, such as troubleshooting site issues that slow load times.

“I constantly have to hire developers to fix something that’s frankly pretty easy, and yet I just don’t have this tool to do it myself,” she says.

Creative writing

Dennis Vu, co-founder and CEO of Ringblaze, an enterprise telephony solutions provider in Irvine, Calif., Wishes he had taken a creative writing course while earning his undergraduate degree in business administration and his MBA. from California State University at Fullerton. eight years ago. He estimates that around half of his time is now spent writing, whether it’s emails to users or potential investors or blog posts. Being able to write more eloquently, concisely and persuasively would make his job easier.

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“It would have helped me a lot with marketing, creating some of my own content and developing my brand,” Vu said. He currently uses Negroes to write blog posts under his signature which he helps create, but he wishes he could write them himself. “While it’s easier than ever to find a ghostwriter, it would be great to sit down and write my own content, share my own thoughts, and have my own personal blog. “

Communication

Amal Radhakrishnan, co-founder and CEO of Parkaze, a Boston-based tech startup, received her master’s degree in computer science from Boston University in 2019. But Mr. Radhakrishnan, born and raised in India, says a course focused on communications would have helped him adjust to American networking practices, so he would be better able to chat and mingle at networking events. “Effective networking is essential for every entrepreneur, but it’s a struggle for many of us,” he says.

Financial direction

Margaret Geiger, who runs public relations agency Twelve31 Media in Little River, SC, graduated in her field from the University of South Carolina in 2013. But she didn’t know entrepreneurship was. her future, so she never took a business course. . Looking back, she says, a financial management course would have helped her with budgeting, forecasting, and taxation, things she had to learn herself along the way. “Sure, you can invest in programs like QuickBooks, but it’s good to have the overall financial planning expertise,” she says.

Nothing

Some entrepreneurs believe that no course would have really prepared them to run their business.

Bret Bonnet, owner of Quality Logo Products in Aurora, Ill., Which sells promotional products, is one such person. Although he graduated from North Central College, a small private college in Illinois, in 2003, he says he wished he had dropped out of college altogether and just started his business right after high school. He took many business courses in college, but most of what he needed to know to grow his business came from experience.

“I really think just getting started and doing it is the best way to learn,” he says.

Ms. Spors is a writer in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Send an email to reports@wsj.com.

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