[quote style=”boxed”]Plan. Plan. Plan. Don’t jump into anything without knowing as much as possible about what you are getting into and what you hope to achieve.[/quote]
Greg Bier is an associate teaching professor and the director of the University of Missouri’s Entrepreneurship Alliance. The Entrepreneurship Alliance is one of many initiatives designed to foster a culture of innovation at MU. Dr. Bier currently teaches Operations Management and Experiential Entrepreneurship for the University of Missouri’s Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business. In addition, Dr. Bier has served as a reviewer/editor for the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
What are you working on right now?
I’m building a board of advisors for the Entrepreneurship Alliance. It has been a challenge because I need a solid group of successful entrepreneurs who want to have a stake in the success of Mizzou’s EA. I’m working on developing a group that represents a diverse range of industries, markets, products, services and business life cycles, all with varying levels of success. I’m working to create a unique board in the sense that some members are serial entrepreneurs, some have developed only one business during their careers and some have made early exits from successful ventures. The challenge is to create a group that’s accessible to students and willing to take phone calls from EA students they may be mentoring.
Where did the idea for the Entrepreneurship Alliance come from?
The idea came from Dave Spence, a successful entrepreneur and Mizzou graduate who recently sold his very successful packaging business and is now running for governor of Missouri. He wanted students to be able to apply themselves outside the classroom in a multi-disciplinary manner. Entrepreneurship requires a set of skills that isn’t necessarily conducive to death-by-PowerPoint. It has to be inspired, nurtured and felt. It takes self-confidence, a tolerance for risk, a thorough understanding of the market and the ability to make a pitch. Those are the things we focus on. We do it experientially. We build risk tolerance and self-confidence through zip-lining and climbing towers. We develop pitch skills through practice with angel investors who serve as coaches during pitch retreats. Then we move on to local, regional and national pitch stages. We routinely invite exceptionally successful entrepreneurs from all different kinds of industries to share lessons learned and simply discuss their stories with students. They build mentoring relationships so students have people to reach out to and who can serve as inspiration.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m an early bird. I check email and texts from students throughout the day. I have classes most days of the week and I typically start class with a joke, so I spend time looking for appropriate comedy material to lighten the mood of those around me. I meet with students all the time. Sometimes I meet with them for breakfast and sometimes for lunch or dinner. I find that meeting with students is a lot easier to do off-campus and it makes them more comfortable to simply chat about their ideas, goals, plans and aspirations.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I surround myself with people a lot smarter than I am, typically my students. I use them as sounding boards, get them to buy in and then set them free.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
As uncool as it sounds, I like the fact that personal debt is trending down in this economy. People are starting to realize that debt is part of what’s holding them down and they have to get their finances in order. Unfortunately, most politicians aren’t following the same trend.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I used to work for the Missouri State Department of Corrections – the prison system. I didn’t like it because right after lunch, everyone started watching the clock and just trying to grind their way to the end of the day. It wasn’t exciting or challenging. That lasted about 3 months. I learned how important organizational culture can be in creating a great organization that people want to be part of (or not).
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Not much. I’ve made the critical career moves at close to the right times. Those experiences were beneficial and got me here today. I’m where I want to be right now. However, my youngest daughter will go to college next year and it’ll be time to re-evaluate what to do at that point.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Plan. Plan. Plan. Don’t jump into anything without knowing as much as possible about what you are getting into and what you hope to achieve.
Tell us a secret.
I completed the U.S. Army’s airborne school, learning to be a paratrooper, just before I turned 21. I also learned to scuba dive while I was in college. Last year, I took my wife and daughter skydiving and we all go scuba diving together. The problem is…I get motion sickness from both.
What are your favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
- Facebook allows me to keep in touch with family and friends who are spread out across the world. I recently got back in touch with a high school buddy who was serving in Iraq who I haven’t seen in about 25 years.
- I’m learning to use Twitter more to create the Entrepreneurship Alliance buzz and branding we need with Mizzou students.
- Amazon.com and Craigslist are great! Neither is new, but I shop online all the time. You can’t beat the prices, reviews and convenience.
What’s on your playlist?
REO Speedwagon and Queen are on my playlist. I’m a product of the 1980’s. I just went to a Queen tribute concert.
If you weren’t working with the Entrepreneur Alliance, what would you be doing?
I’d be blowing up landmines all over the world. I was one of the founders of the United States Humanitarian Demining Training Center. We helped build landmine awareness programs and demining programs in countries like Bosnia, Cambodia, Mozambique and Croatia through working with the United States Departments of State and Defense, as well as the United Nations. I traveled a lot. The one thing I miss since I left is getting to blow stuff up on a regular basis. What guy wouldn’t?
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @GR8GameBusiness: The Great Game of Business was a concept started by Jack Stack concerning Open Book management. Open Book is a novel concept (that works!) that gets each of your employees to operate as “intrapreneurs” and grow your business for you.
- @BrianNull: Brian Null is my business partner and the founder of MO.com, “where we believe your business is a big deal!” Brian is a serial domain entrepreneur and has developed some amazingly successful domains.
- @Tony_Horton: Tony Horton is the co-creator of Power 90, Power Half Hour, P90X and P90X2. He is a very inspirational person; he will turn 54 years old this year and he’s in great shape. He basically started from scratch when he moved from the East Coast to L.A. He started his own fitness business and made a name for himself by attracting big-name celebrities as clients. The rest was history when he released P90X.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
My dog displayed her inner duck. Now that it has warmed up, I’ve been playing with my lab by throwing a tennis ball off our dock and having her run and jump into the water. She can probably jump 15-20 feet off the dock. Recently, her tennis ball has begun to sink because it has a hole. Now she dives underwater like a duck to get it. She just disappears underwater looking for it. Man’s best friend. She’s crazy.
Who is your hero?
Professionally, my hero is probably General Colin Powell. He overcame a lot of bias in the military and became an absolutely phenomenal leader with unquestionable ethics, doing what he thought was right. His military doctrine is simply that if you are going to do something, do it with overwhelming force. That notion can be used well beyond the military. Personally, my hero is my wife. She’s smart, she’s a great mom, she has a great career and she (barely) puts up with me. What’s not to love?
What is the biggest challenge or weakness facing today’s college students?
Communication skills and professionalism are their biggest challenges. Students depend too much on electronic communication. Tweets and texts are great, but the art of communicating eyeball-to-eyeball is what’s going to make you successful in the future. Similarly, tweets and texts are too informal. They are fine for family and friends. However, different generations communicate differently and you need to be articulate to get your pitch across to a diverse/different audience. It takes practice. Students need to practice it more.
What has been your biggest professional challenge?
When I started the Humanitarian Demining Training Center with numerous subject matter experts in landmine removal, improvised explosives and mine awareness, I had to balance an intense career with family needs. We worked all over the world. The challenge was that with a new organization, there was no road map to follow and no established market. The politics, nationally and internationally, were exceptionally complicated. It simply took a lot of stick-to-itiveness to grow the organization in that atmosphere while maintaining a family life.
What have you done that is really cool?
A few months ago, my wife and I had our 25th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we ordered a 2012 Corvette Z06. It’s our third Corvette, but this one is special because our 3 kids hand-built the 505 hp engine at GM’s Performance Build Center and then my wife and I walked the car down the assembly line in Bowling Green, KY. The car then sat on display at the National Corvette Museum for about a week before we picked it up. On nice days, I love to take off for a drive. It is cool (for a middle-aged guy)!
University of Missouri’s Entrepreneurship Alliance Website: http://business.missouri.edu/1368/default.aspx
Dr. Greg Bier on Twitter: @gregbier
Dr. Greg Bier on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/greg-bier/36/bb9/241