Brandon Chicotsky is a professor of marketing at Texas Christian University. He states that his students have endured years of standardized, grade-level tests and are focused on the right answer or the best GPA.
But Chicotsky realizes businesses often face decisions with no right answer. And that has impacted his method of teaching. “I don’t offer exams in my class,” he said. “Everything I offer has a subjective outcome, not a definitive answer.”
Is college necessary for business success? I asked Chicotsky that question and more in our recent conversation. The entire audio of our discussion is embedded below. The transcript is edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: What do you do?
Brandon Chicotsky: I’m a full-time professor of marketing at Texas Christian University at the Neeley School of Business in Fort Worth, Texas. I spend a quarter of my time addressing my entrepreneurial friends’ challenges in business. I talk to them. I also spend a large part of my day reading. I’m paid to do that. I’m trying to fill a knowledge gap.
College does not guarantee success. Entrepreneurial success comes from a business mindset, financial literacy, and fortitude to psychologically build a company or contribute to a firm.
College is about nurturing students’ intellect, internal endurance, and, for business professions, a perspective in capital markets. It’s not about an ROI on tuition.
Bandholz: Why attend college at all?
Chicotsky: There’s a reason why so many entrepreneurs drop out of school. The entrepreneurs I’ve taught who graduated did so begrudgingly. They realized they weren’t necessarily getting monetary value in academic life.
The way to do college is to lean into the social life without doing keg stands and the whole drinking, fraternity, or sorority culture. I was in Greek life owing to my family’s background. It was something that was deeper and meant something. Those relationships are still meaningful. That’s often what will give you the most financial benefit outside of upskilling or learning a talent.
Today’s college students have endured years of standard tests for grade-level assessments. The students bring a mindset to class: “Did I get the right answer?”
I don’t offer exams in my class. Everything I offer has a subjective outcome, not a definitive answer. In business, you typically have three or four options, such as what software to pick or which vendor to use. Students are in trouble if a professor focuses on a single answer or the right GPA.
Bandholz: What makes students good employees for small businesses?
Chicotsky: The first thing is making sure the student is focused on learning, not entitlement. Experiencing the pain involved in a business is where the challenges reside. An enthusiasm for learning addresses those challenges. Focusing on oneself and internal naval gazing won’t cut it. Hopefully a would-be employer has known someone for a year or two. Start with interns.
Often, 18 to 22-year-olds are malleable. They have few bad habits because they’re inexperienced in business. They’re impressionable in a good way. Assign them to shadow somebody doing something well in your company. An intern could take notes on what she observed and provide a quick debrief to a manager who could affirm, adjust, or clarify some of the gray areas.
Ask potential hires what they want to accomplish or contribute. Enthusiasm and early clarity are essential. Otherwise it’s likely a mismatch. Make sure there is alignment and an eagerness to learn.
Bandholz: How can people get in contact with you?