Entrepreneur's Guide to Finance and Business: Wealth Creation
Techniques for Growing a Business
In a recent
Kellogg School interview, Professor Rogers discussed in more
detail his new book and the importance of entrepreneurship.
School: You write in the preface of your new book about your
mother, Ollie Mae Rogers, and how she provided your first
glimpse of entrepreneurship as you helped her with the family's
used-furniture business. Do you think you would have had the
career you've had without her influence?
Prof. Steven Rogers: I don't believe so.
The reality is I'm a product of not only my nurturing, but
the DNA of my mother and father, in particular my mother.
I have her strong genes relative to independence. Independence
is not something unique, but the combination of having that
independent gene, the entrepreneurial spirit and experience
is awfully powerful. It's no coincidence that, in one form
or another, all my siblings have tried entrepreneurship. It's
just a part of how we define ourselves. I literally had training
in the world of entrepreneurship, in the world of business
ownership, at an early age, so there was no fear and intimidation
later. The training was essential - being in charge of furniture
stores and working in flea markets and interacting with customers
was my boot camp.
You mention in the book something you call "putting
meat on the carcass" - adding real-life experience to flesh
out the theories and models that are so much a part of academic
life. How did your approach to teaching and your real-world
experience shape The Entrepreneur's Guide to Finance and
SR: The field of entrepreneurship is ideally
taught by those who've been entrepreneurs, and/or those who've
had a close, direct relationship with entrepreneurship as
an investor or adviser. The ideal is to have a combination
of the practical and the theoretical. One of the things we
try to do here at the Kellogg School is make sure those who
have practical entrepreneurial experience and who are engaged
in the teaching of entrepreneurship don't simply tell "war
stories." We require that they teach theory as well. Therefore,
hopefully my book is the ideal entrepreneurial book in that
it is written by one who understands and can teach the theory
of the fundamentals of business, combined with the practicality
What skill or skills are most potential entrepreneurs
SR: I think the greatest skills that entrepreneurs
lack are those related to finance. Most entrepreneurs are
people who are great at marketing or who have a great product
or service in mind. It's not uncommon to hear entrepreneurs
say, "I don't know anything about finance. I let my CFO, I
let my bookkeeper, I let my accountant do all of that." And
the reality is that's a poor way to run a company. You'll
ultimately get burned. As I say in the book, the financial
aspects of running a company, the fundamentals of finance
are not brain surgery. Everybody can and should learn them,
including all entrepreneurs.
Americans are known for their resourcefulness, independence
and entrepreneurial spirit. You add to that the fact that
the 1990s, with the dot-com boom, saw a large burst of entrepreneurial
activity. What things attract people in this country to entrepreneurship?
SR: The primary attraction is the desire
to be independent. Most people become entrepreneurs because
they want to be responsible for their own success or failure.
The second reason people probably become entrepreneurs is
because of the interest in wealth creation. I want to make
it very clear and the book states this fact: Most people do
not become entrepreneurs to get rich. They become entrepreneurs
for intangible reasons related to personal satisfaction and
lifestyle. They want to have independence from someone else
telling them what to do and they want to be responsible for
their own success. It's not money that drives it. One of the
things we saw in the dot-com era was this euphoria around
entrepreneurship that was, in my opinion, unhealthy, in that
a lot of it was driven by the desire to become wealthy, but
not driven by the desire to have a company and to build something.
And the reality is, if [making lots of money] is the motivation,
then people won't be entrepreneurs very long.