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Learning from the best

Learning from the best

Kellogg students get firsthand lessons from visionary business leaders

By Daniel P. Smith

7/22/2011 - Week after week each spring quarter, Clinical Professor Lloyd Shefsky introduces a pathbreaking business leader to students in his Successful Entrepreneurship course.

“Let’s welcome Starbucks founder Howard Schultz.”

“This is McDonald’s CEO Jack Greenberg.”

“Meet American Girl founder Pleasant Rowland.”

One by one, they take over the classroom’s stage — former Kodak and Motorola CEO George Fisher, Priceline founding CEO Bernee Strom, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, even former Northwestern football coach Gary Barnett — individuals who have moved an industry needle, addressed a pressing marketplace need or redefined a traditional experience. For 75 minutes, these innovators, risk takers and visionaries stand in front of Shefsky’s students, sharing their experiences, highlighting lessons and answering questions.

“There’s nothing quite like hearing from the horse’s mouth, and each of these speakers has credibility that students accept more readily,” said Shefsky, a clinical professor of entrepreneurship and founder of Kellogg’s Center for Family Enterprises.

As an adjunct professor in 1996, Shefsky began the Successful Entrepreneurship course as an abbreviated five-week session. In 2000, it became a full-time class and a popular one among Kellogg students. Each spring quarter, more than 60 students enroll in the course.

Shefsky encourages students to recognize the entrepreneurial moments that happen daily and to learn from the course’s niche-finding guest speakers.

“The entrepreneur needs to look at the world through different eyes, seeking things that don’t work as well as they should or needs that aren’t being addressed,” Shefsky said.

This past spring, Shefsky’s guests included visionaries such as Maxine Clark (Build-A-Bear), Tom Stemberg (Staples), Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans) and Jim Sinegal (Costco). The veteran professor secures most of his guests through collegial networking and existing relationships. He spends hours with guests before each class, discussing the elements of their entrepreneurial experience that can motivate, inspire and teach students.

“Rather than relying on books and articles, I found that these speakers could make excellent points rooted in real-world experiences,” Shefsky said.

Students, in turn, benefit from both the candor and realism.

“The speakers didn’t hold back, which offered such a great opportunity for interaction and understanding nuances that just can’t be found from reading,” Diana Goodwin ’11 said.