Daring to Show Up, Year after Year

Quote from Joe Hadzima: "Why do we keep doing this? Because I get emails, five and ten years after participants have taken the course from people saying, ‘I started a company, and I remembered something from the course.’ There’s some enduring value here."

15.S21 Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans, ranked by INC Magazine as one of the “10 Best Entrepreneurship Courses in America,” has been taught at MIT for more than 25 years by its creator, Joseph Hadzima.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

For all its renown as a research institute churning out new discoveries and inventions, MIT is just as well-known for its astonishing ability to foster entrepreneurship. The report “Entrepreneurship and Innovation at MIT” examines the impact of MIT graduates who have founded and built for-profit companies. The report estimates that, as of 2014, living MIT alumni have launched more than 30,000 active companies, creating some 4.6 million jobs and generating $1.9 trillion in annual revenue. The cumulative result is the equivalent of the 10th largest economy in the world.

OCW has dozens of course sites dealing with entrepreneurship, and you can see them in our entrepreneurship courses list, organized as Core and Supplemental course lists and by Topic. (The funding for this list was provided by The NASDAQ OMX Educational Foundation, Inc.).

OCW has just updated a core foundational course, 15.S21 Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans. The course has been taught at MIT for more than 25 years by its creator, Joseph Hadzima. Thanks to his experience founding more than 100 companies, Hadzima’s understanding of how to get a business off the ground is unmatched.

Videos Viewable in Two Ways

Screenshot of side by side player with separate windows for video and slides.

15.S21 Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans features a side-by-side viewer with synchronized windows for the video and automatically-advancing slides.

The course site has lecture videos and lecture notes, viewable in conventional, single-screen presentation or adjacently in a side-by-side viewer (a first for OCW). Each lecture has a full set of readings, and most topics have a slew of related resources from which you can learn more.

Entrepreneurship as a Way of Thinking

The business plan, the focus of the course, is in Hadzima’s view not simply a document, but really more of an evolving understanding. In his opening lecture, he calls it “a shared vision between you and your team as to where we are, where we’re going, and how we plan to get there.” Moreover, he maintains that this vision can apply not just to start-up business ventures, but also to social developmental entrepreneurship, to nonprofits, even to governmental ventures.  Hadzima sums up neatly: “It’s a way of thinking about how to organize new ideas and get them going.”

What Real Practitioners Have to Say

Despite his extensive experience, Hadzima remains humble in this effort. He recognizes that others have valuable stories and insights to share, which is why the course has a number of guest lecturers covering topics like marketing, sales, and finance. In the Instructor Insights on his This Course at MIT page, Hadzima recommends inviting “real practitioners” to speak to entrepreneurship students, people who are “passionate about their ventures, because then you can provide the theoretical framework (which is key), and they can demonstrate how the theory plays out in practice.”

Showing Up

With twenty-five years of experience teaching entrepreneurship, Hadzima is about as real a practitioner as an instructor can get. The funny thing is that it wasn’t even his idea to start teaching the course. When a student in his law course asked if he would take on this new task, he said he’d think about it, and then got distracted with his many entrepreneurial commitments. A bit later, the student reappeared. “Well, we put it in the [course] catalog,” the student said, “We dare you not to show up.”

Hadzima thought some more: “I figured, well, all you really need to start a company is a customer, somebody who wants what you’re selling. Here’s a student who wants what I can teach. So let me figure out how to do it.”

He’s being doing it ever since.

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