On an entrepreneurial mission

Dr. Jeff Cornwall, Jack C. Massey Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University, and author of the Entrepreneurial Mind
  1. Understand the importance of listening to the market. So many aspiring entrepreneurs come up with an idea and try to push it out into the marketplace. And that’s hard to do, because the market may not be ready or may not want it. What entrepreneurs do is fix pain in the market. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who find a problem and solve it. We help students slow down and make sure their idea is aligned with what the market needs. If it’s not, they have to pivot and change — and that’s part of the process.
  2. Financial literacy. It is critical to know and understand the numbers and be able to translate the business model into numbers. You have to be bilingual: your native language and accounting-ese. You have to speak the language of business.
  3. Understand the importance of seeking help. You need people to help you, advise you, coach you. It’s not something you do as this lone hero. It’s very much a team sport that requires you to bring a lot of people around you to make it happen.
  1. Don’t assume that even though you’ve got it started you’ve got it right. Be open to adapt and change as you learn more and the market starts to react. Your business model needs to remain fluid. That’s why we’ve moved away from “business plan” as an instruction manual. The best tool is something that allows you to continually test and refine, even as you open the doors.
  2. The importance of selling. For whatever reason, a lot of people don’t want to sell or market their business. In reality, if you build it, they may or may not come. So it’s important to understand that you have to sell, hustle, and promote — and do it all with a sense of urgency. You’ve got only so much runway before you run out of money and time, and if you don’t get your business airborne you’re not gonna make it.
  3. The importance of starting to build a company. That is a lot harder than it sounds for most entrepreneurs because they haven’t done it before. It’s about people, systems, human resources, marketing — not just you but a system you bring other people into. It’s a reflection of you.



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Empowering Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and working to make TN the most startup-friendly state in the nation. Host of 36|86 Festival | launchtn.org