Brandon Chikotsky is a professor of marketing at Texas Christian University. He notes that his students have endured years of standardized, classroom tests and are focused on getting the right answer or the best GPA.
But Cicotsky recognizes that businesses are often faced with decisions without a right answer. And it affected his teaching method. “I don’t offer exams in my class,” he said. “Everything I suggest has a subjective result, not a definitive answer.”
Is college necessary for business success? I asked Chikotsky that question and more in our last conversation. The full audio of our discussion is posted below. Transcript edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz. What do you do.
Brandon Chikotsky. I am a full-time professor of marketing at Texas Christian University, Neely School of Business in Fort Worth, Texas. I spend a quarter of my time addressing the business challenges of my fellow entrepreneurs. I talk to them. I also spend most of the day reading. I get paid for it. I try to fill the knowledge gap.
College does not guarantee success. Entrepreneurial success comes from a business mindset, financial literacy, and the psychological disposition to build or invest in a company.
College is about developing students’ intelligence, inner resilience and, for business majors, capital market perspective. It’s not about tuition ROI.
bandholz Why go to college at all?
Chikotsky. There’s a reason why so many entrepreneurs drop out. The entrepreneurs I’ve coached who have done it in tears. They realized that they don’t necessarily get monetary value in academic life.
The way to be in college is to lean into the social life without the whole culture of kegs and drinking and fraternity or sorority culture. I was in Greek life because of my family background. It was something that was deeper and meant something. That relationship still makes sense. It’s often what will give you the most financial benefit outside of honing or learning a talent.
Today’s college students have taken standardized tests for grade-level assessment for years. Students bring a way of thinking to class. “Did I get the answer right?”
I do not offer exams in my class. Everything I suggest has a subjective outcome, not a definitive answer. In business, you usually have three or four options, such as what software to choose or which vendor to use. Students are in trouble if the professor focuses on one answer or the correct GPA.
bandholz What makes students good employees for small businesses?
Chikotsky. The first is to make sure that the student is focused on learning, not law. Experiencing the pain associated with business is where the challenges lie. Enthusiasm to learn solves these challenges. Self-centeredness and internal naval views won’t cut it. Hopefully, the prospective employer has known someone for a year or two. Start with the interns.
Young people between the ages of 18 and 22 are often flexible. They have few bad habits because they are inexperienced in business. They are impressive in a good way. Have them shadow someone who is doing something good at your company. The intern could take notes on what he observed and quickly debrief to the manager, who could confirm, adjust, or clarify some gray areas.
Ask potential hires what they want to achieve or contribute. Enthusiasm and early clarity are key. Otherwise, it’s likely a mismatch. Make sure there is a fit and a willingness to learn.
bandholz How can people communicate with you?
Chikotsky. My website is Bchicotsky.com. I’m also on LinkedIn and Twitter @Chicotsky:.