Dr. Matthew G. Kenney is President of Kenney College, a specialized graduate school offering a MBA in Entrepreneurship. He founded Kenney College, which is licensed by the Florida Department of Education’s Commission on Independent Education, with a simple mission: Enriching Entrepreneurial Minds. As both a scholar and entrepreneur, Dr. Matthew Kenney believes that educational and commercial opportunities are being missed because entrepreneurs are not being instructed in a way complementary to how they learn. An award winning MBA professor and pioneer in the are of online education, Dr. Kenney has a goal to fundamentally change how entrepreneurs are instructed, believing there must be more emphasis on individualized instruction; small student-faculty ratios; and more academic freedom for both students and professors. He is the author Entrepreneurship: Myths, Realities & Rewards (2007) and Academic Entrepreneurship (2009), both available via Amazon.com, and his scholarly work has been published in peer-reviewed management, marketing, technology and entrepreneurship journals.
Dr.Kenney grew-up working in a family business and started his own company at 23. His entrepreneurial success led to consulting opportunities and an appointment as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Johnson & Wales University. He has earned his A.S., B.S., and MBA from Johnson & Wales University, and his Doctorate in Business Administration (marketing specialization) from Nova Southeastern University’s H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
What are you working on right now?
I’m having a great time building Kenney College. Higher education is a great industry because you are constantly meeting and working with talented and ambitious people, but often the work is theoretical. It’s fun building a brand again, and conducting research that will lead to amazing opportunities. My team and I are currently working on several grants that are at the cutting-edge of the study of entrepreneurship as a science. We’re building an elite brand dedicated to understanding the entrepreneurial mind, which is very exciting. The work we’re doing is making a real contribution to society.
3 Trends that excite you?
The study of entrepreneurship is my passion and vocation, and I’m fascinated by how innovation and creativity manifest in human beings. Basically, I’m excited by learning more about the entrepreneurial mind and how it works. Three trends that excite me now, and which I am working on are:
1) Stimulating entrepreneurship in the sciences.
To reduce our dependence on foreign oil and regain jobs lost from the Great Recession we’ll need more commercialization of scientific research, especially university based research. Academic genius does not generally translate into entrepreneurial genius. Technology transfer (e.g. commercializing research) will be at the center of our recovery, but opportunities will be missed until scientists begin to develop entrepreneurial traits. Our team at Kenney College is working hard to be a bridge for technology transfer and we’re very excited about it, especially in the bio-energy arena.
2) Examining the link between differently-abled learners and entrepreneurship.
There has been more focus recently on examining the relationship between learning disabilities and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are far more likely to be classified as learning disabled, but the coping skills developed by entrepreneurs with dyslexia, dygraphia, dyscalculia etc. seem to enhance entrepreneurial abilities. Our team is doing a lot of research in this area. We’d like to see the phrase learning disabled replaced with differently-abled, since many entrepreneurs view their so-called disability as a blessing.
3) Online education.
This is the fastest growing area of Higher Education and Department of Education meta-analysis has shown that it is often more effective at helping students attain learning outcomes than on-site courses. However, colleges offering online programs struggle with higher levels of attrition. There are many factors for this but it’s my belief, as an entrepreneur and marketing professor, that colleges are marketing to online students incorrectly. Most are trying to replicate a traditional classroom, with 30:1 student faculty ratios and McDonaldized instructional materials. This simply doesn’t work. Online students have different psychographic and demographic profiles. We believe the future in online instruction must, among other things, offer more customization of instruction and tailoring instruction to student learning styles.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It begins with research. Before bringing a product or service to market we need to have the confidence to know there is a likely customer waiting for us upon completion. Experience and intuition are important also, but research findings give me a lot of confidence. Earning the ability for Kenney College to offer a graduate degree was a huge accomplishment for me personally and our team, but it wouldn’t have been possible without literally years of research. Every paper and assignment I did as a doctoral student, including my dissertation, was aligned with my goal of building Kenney College. Once you do the research the opportunity begins to crystallize. For example, when you visit our home-page, you’ll note it looks nothing like any other college.
It is designed to appeal to kinesthetic learners as this is the learning style of most entrepreneurs, which is our target market. Kinesthetic learners are those who learn by doing and represent about 5% of the population. My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur is to remember that research separates ideas from opportunities. Find data that supports your intuition and it will give you, and your stakeholders, more confidence.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
When I was launching my first business I underestimated the importance of planning and researching. For example, my first venture was a fresh-foods business. I would produce and deliver all-natural products directly from my shop to local stores. The sales were so strong that a supermarket chain I was selling to wanted to distribute the products chain-wide, or to about 60 locations across multiple states. Rather than making multiple little deliveries, I’d make 1-2 per week into a central warehouse. Sounded great at the time, but the warehouse wasn’t equipped to handle fresh items very well. Lobster salad cannot sit unrefrigerated on a pallet like a case of corn, but it did. I learned a valuable and expensive lesson: Distribution is probably the most important and most difficult aspect of the marketing mix.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Paradigm shifts don’t happen too often, but when they do get on board and be a leader. There is currently one happening in Higher Education as we shift from an online vs. on-site mentality to one that views both methods equally. Outside Higher Ed, I’d be looking to the bio-energy field as the ‘next big thing’. The technology is there, it’s mainly a question now of reducing costs via economies-of-scale and distribution. There is too much money flowing into the industry for there not to be, in my opinion, a major breakthrough. If I were beginning my entrepreneurial career I’d be in this space.
Where do I envision Kenney College in 10 years?
I see it as an elite brand and the leader in graduate level entrepreneurship education. There are many fine undergraduate and graduate programs across the world teaching entrepreneurship, but our goal is to develop successful alumni, instructional techniques, research findings that make us the gold standard.
What impact higher education has had on your development as an entrepreneur?
I used to be very frustrated by the educational system, especially high school. I felt like I was misunderstood and that school was a waste of time. It wasn’t until I went to college and studied entrepreneurship that I realized that I wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I wasn’t instructed in a way complementary to the way I learn. Once I was with other entrepreneurs learning became fun, and the undergrad experience helped me learn about myself.
As a MBA candidate I learned more about how others saw the world. For example, I better understood corporate culture, which helped me become more successful selling to big companies. I learned about organizational behavior and began to see the causes of employee problems, and how to solve them. More importantly, I saw that my ineffectiveness in some aspects of leadership were the likely causes of the problems. My MBA was a fantastic investment and transitioned me from a career in the grocery industry to one in academia. I would highly recommend a MBA to anyone who is in a transitional phase of their career.
The doctoral degree was much more academically rigorous and gave me great insight into the cultural aspects of academia, which I needed to achieve my personal goal of becoming a college president. I’d highly recommend a DBA or doctoral degree in general to anyone interested in a career in academia. Or, to consultants who want to use research to identify profitable
opportunities. The emphasis in a doctoral program is much more on conducting primary research and becoming a subject matter expert is a specific discipline. It’s more challenging than a MBA, but well worth the effort. It’ll fundamentally change the way you see most issues.