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As part of Endeavor’s extensive service programs, Endeavor Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to attend a weeklong executive education course at both Harvard Business School (HBS) and Stanford School of Business. Endeavor Louisville Entrepreneur, Andy Eastes, attended the program at HBS from August 27th-September 1st, 2017. It was a week that Eastes, CEO & Co-Founder of SkuVault, found extremely valuable as a business leader and a program that he would highly recommend to other Endeavor Entrepreneurs.
The program welcomed 60 Endeavor Entrepreneurs from around the world onto Harvard’s brick-covered campus. Of this crowd, only five were from the United States, making for an extremely international and culturally diverse group of business leaders. The entire cohort was housed in dorms just near the business school and conveniently next to the dining hall, allowing for an easy commute between sessions, meals, and housing.
All of the entrepreneurs stayed busy throughout the entire week. Eastes described how Lynda Applegate, Harvard Professor & Endeavor Detroit Board Member, specifically designed the week so that the entrepreneurs “wouldn’t get bored and get into trouble.” Surely, with back-to-back lunches, dinners, speakers, classes, small discussion group gatherings, and a field trip to MIT, little time was left for the group to get into trouble. Rather, what resulted was a week of learning, growth, and international collaboration.
The program itself was structured around case studies, which were sent electronically to each entrepreneur prior to their arrival in Cambridge. For the few who preferred reviewing these case studies by hand, the resulting stack was rather hefty when printed off — about four inches thick — therefore requiring a good deal of reading and preparation before class discussion. Cases varied by industry, growth stage, and problem itself, which in the end pushed each entrepreneur to think outside of their respective industry and think strategically in an effort to see around the corner and solve the problem. Through small discussion groups before, during, and after class, all of the entrepreneurs practiced this strategic thinking.
After coming up with solutions to these various business problems, the entrepreneurs had the chance to actually meet some of the individuals from the companies they studied. They consequently had the invaluable opportunity of hearing how the problem was approached and resolved firsthand, making the case studies even more useful learning tools. Sometimes these company representatives led classes, but often they were brought in at the end of a class taught by a professor.
The professors, too, “were amazing,” as praised by Eastes. “They provided relevant, actionable information.” At the end of the week, many offered their contact details to the entrepreneurs and encouraged them to stay in touch and to follow-up with any lingering questions. Some even promised to provide connections. Each of the professors also ended the week with wrap-up sessions, which Eastes said composed some of the more memorable moments of the week. These sessions were “not what anyone expected,” Eastes remarked, and that they were “very emotional and filled with life lessons.” One professor debunked some of the top myths in the business world. Another spoke about time — how much time is left in his life, his career, how many books he had left to read — and ultimately pushed the entrepreneurs to reconsider whether or not they were spending their time wisely. A third professor placed a book on each person’s desk entitled, Fire Someone Today. All in all, these sessions instigated self reflection among the entrepreneurs, both on a personal level and as business leaders. In addition to class sessions, all of the entrepreneurs met exclusively with Lynda Applegate. Eastes noted how helpful it was to run SkuVault’s business strategy off of her.
At the end of the week, one of the biggest takeaways for Eastes was the macro strategy. “You can’t just look at your industry and expect to see around the corner,” he said. Through all of the classes, speakers, and discussions, Eastes was pushed towards a new, wider-scope way of strategic thinking that he can now apply to his business strategy at SkuVault. Eastes also spoke of his initial hesitation to attend the program, especially since he always wonders how much of his time each year should be devoted to furthering his education. In the end, though, he said the time spent at HBS “was worth every minute, every dollar.”
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