UCLA Graduation 2010 History Department

Do You Have An Aptitude For Business?

I attended my nephew’s graduation ceremony from UCLA this past weekend and the businessman who gave the commencement address carried my memory back to when I was graduating from college.  He gave me much to ponder about my own personal journey towards becoming an entrepreneur. You see, my nephew has graduated with a Liberal Arts degree in History and the commencement speaker holds a degree from History too.  The point he was making is that just because you get a degree in a non-business school does not necessarily mean you won’t end up working for yourself someday. Nor will you keep the same job for long in today’s rapidly changing business environment.  I obviously did not know that I had an aptitude for business, networking, sales and marketing, customer service, self-motivation, strategy, and leadership the day I graduated from the College of Communications at the University of Texas in Austin.  I guess I should have known had I been paying closer attention to what interested me and what activities I was drawn to. The signs were there all along:

  • Spear-headed the occasional summer sno-cone stand in my neighborhood (self-motivation and sales & marketing.)
  • Thrived in sports competition since grade school (strategic.)
  • Captain of the Varsity volleyball team in high school (leadership.)
  • Could not wait to get my first real-paying job as soon as I was old enough to start working, which was the local grocery store (self-motivation.)
  • Fired from the local grocery store in high school because I was spending too much time talking to the customers (networking.)
  • Always had a dream of doing something on my own even though I had no idea what that would be (entrepreneurship.)
  • Ignored people (teachers, bosses, aunts, uncles, neighbors, etc.) in positions of power whom I perceived to be incompetent (self-confidence.)
  • Received numerous awards for outstanding customer service as a flight attendant for major airline company. (This was my first job right out of college.)

What Has Been Your Personal Journey Towards Entrepreneurship?

I believe there is not one RIGHT path to entrepreneurship.  I meet hundreds of small business owners every year and I am always intrigued and interested to learn how they decided to go work for themselves.  Personally, I can definitely say that I have grown into becoming a business woman over the years. Let me give you an example. Upon graduating from college, I had a yearning desire to travel the world. I wanted to experience other cultures, places, food, and people. So, I became a flight attendant for a few years. While flying the friendly skies, I had my first real business experience with cutting costs. The CEO of the airline decided to cut out the olives in the salads in First and Business Class travel. That seemed like a minor decision. However, that one decision saved the airline $40,000 a year! That was chump change to a very profitable airline, but it nevertheless was an expense that was removed, which meant every expense mattered.  Obviously, one could argue that the CEO should have renegotiated the olive contract with the supplier. Or, he should have found a cheaper olive vendor that wanted to expand market share. The story here is that I learned a lot about business from being a flight attendant. Not because it was the airline’s intention, but because by the time I graduated from college, I started to pay closer attention to everything around me. I was observant. I learned a lot about company culture, branding, customer and employee attitudes, diplomacy, top-down leadership, how upper-management was perceived by the laborers, procedures, etc. I also learned a lot about myself and one thing was clear. I was definitely not the corporate type. How about you? When did you decide to become an entrepreneur? When did you realize that you could no longer work for someone else? What was the turning point for you? Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? I Would love to hear your story! Please post your comments below.

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