“Hey Sir, if you know so much about businesses why aren’t you running a business?”

One of the recent blog posts on this site: “Did you like Maths when you were at school, Miss?” brought to mind a question I (and probably every teacher of Business) have been asked hundreds, if not thousands of times: “Hey Sir, if you know so much about businesses, why aren’t you running a business?”

The answer to this is not a simple one and every time it gets raised in a lesson, I give a slightly different answer.  Sometime I say “Because I’ve never had a decent product idea”.  Sometimes I say “Because when I’ve calculated the risk, like all good entrepreneurs, I say no to ideas that aren’t likely to turn out in my favour.” Sometimes I say “The potential reward hasn’t been worth the opportunity cost.”

Sometimes I say, “I am: you are my products!”

Some people would say that I should count childhood things such as sourcing old bicycle frames and parts from the local tip, respraying, repairing & rebuilding custom “upcycled” bikes for re-sale.   I don’t count this:  mostly because, I suspect, that a Health & Safety inspector may have not approved!

In truth, I have done all sorts of things, and continue to do so on a daily basis, that are essential to the running of a successful business, be they entrepreneurial, organisational, managerial, taking calculated risks or being “leadership” related. But I have never actually run my own proper business and I don’t really have a desire to show my business skills in that way.

Honestly, the real answer to the question in the title of this post has more to do with how I feel about one of the greatest teaching falsehoods, dare I say ‘alternative truths’ that, to this day, remains a common perception of the teaching profession in the UK, namely that: ‘Those who can, do.  Those that can’t, teach’.

For me, anyone who dares to say this, in anything other than a wind up (as one or two of my £600K a year lawyer friends have been known to do) is saying more about themselves, their own arrogance and prejudices than they are about the vastly undervalued and unrespected profession that the readers of this blog have in common.

Teachers are some of the most entrepreneurial people in the country:  they know their target audience inside out; they are enthusiastic about their product;  they are persuasive; they plan; they experiment all of the time; they take both small & large risks on a daily basis; they work to unrelenting deadlines regardless of how long it takes; they are driven and intrinsically motivated; they change their target audience (and their product when teaching second or third subjects!) on a regular basis. And they do it because they love it!  How could running a business be better?

 

What entrepreneurial characteristics do you regularly show?

Which ones are you developing in your students?

How do we quash the British cultural attitude that ‘Those who can, do.  Those that can’t teach’?

 

Owen Perkins, Business and Economics

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