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In this interview, Prof. Dr. Christoph Seckler, Assistant Professor, Chair of Entrepreneurial Strategy, analyses the ties between the corporate world and the entrepreneurial one. He explains how corporate managers could benefit from entrepreneurial skills and why an MBA could be the right choice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Why should corporate managers think and act like entrepreneurs?

Good corporate managers have always been entrepreneurial. Being entrepreneurial means to explore opportunities and seize them effectively. This can mean to explore opportunities for new projects or to seize the chance of hiring good people for the team. These entrepreneurial capabilities will become even more important in an increasingly volatile and uncertain business environment.
What I think corporate managers can get inspired by is how entrepreneurs effectively explore and seize opportunities. The key principles are:

  1. learning quickly through smart experiments 
  2. embracing failure as part of the game
  3. sharing novel ideas is more effective than keeping them secret

Can creating a start-up not replace formal education with rapid on-the-job-learning?

It is true that much can be learned as an entrepreneur. And the learning curve is steep. But the MBA experience is much broader. It allows participants to develop as people while acquiring the necessary skills, tools, and knowledge needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. So I think a very good combination is to do an MBA and to seize this opportunity to get to know like-minded students with whom you can found a start-up. This way you get the best of both worlds.

Why should corporate managers think like entrepreneurs

Does an MBA help founders succeed?

Definitely. I think that our MBA programme is very well suited to prepare founders to succeed. Research shows that successful founders are characterized by three things: the right knowledge and skills, personal networks, and the right mind-set. All three increase future founders’ capabilities of discovering, creating and seizing opportunities.
The curriculum of the MBA provides our students with the right knowledge and skills in our interactive education formats. MBA peers become invaluable advisors, co-founders, or future customers and professors become mentors. Finally, ESCP Business School fosters an entrepreneurial mind-set characterised by taking initiative, being collaborative and overcoming setbacks together.

What are the main and most important skills that you will gain from an MBA and that are vital to being a successful entrepreneur?

There are several skills that have been shown in research to be vital for successful entrepreneurs. Individual skills include problem solving skills, managing stress, and developing self-awareness. Other interpersonal skills include leadership skills, communication skills and building effective teams. These are the skills that we teach across different modules within the MBA in International Management.

You are teaching the Entrepreneurship course in the MBA. What is your focus, and can you tell us something about special features within the course?

The course is focused on helping our MBAs to develop as entrepreneurial leaders. We use an experiential learning approach to educate them in forming effective entrepreneurial teams, exploring business opportunities, validating business models and in successfully pitching their ideas to investors.
A special feature of the course is that it is co-taught with two remarkable colleagues: Jack Fuchs and Jörg Reckhenrich. Jack Fuchs is a Professor at Stanford University and an Angel Investor who brings his considerable knowledge and experience of the entrepreneurial environment of Silicon Valley. Jörg Reckhenrich is a highly qualified Coach and successful Founder as well as a wonderful artist from Berlin who shares his expertise on creative leadership. Together with Jack and Jörg, it is our aim to provide the MBA students with the right tools, skills and expertise needed to develop as effective entrepreneurial leaders.

What is in your opinion the impact of the pandemic on entrepreneurial businesses?

Countless new ventures find themselves in difficulty. Many go through a very tough period and it is good to see how entrepreneurs support each other in getting through that time.
At the same time, the pandemic has also created new opportunities. It has changed what people need, and it has also increased the development of advanced technologies to address these needs. So we are seeing different COVID-19 vaccines, innovative video-conferencing solutions, and novel ways of combining work and personal life. I am very curious to see what new business ideas and potentially whole new industries are going to emerge from that.

What is your advice for the aspiring entrepreneurs of today?

There have been few times in history in which it has been more exciting to become an entrepreneur. The current developments, particularly in digital technologies and in the field of sustainability will lead to many novel opportunities as well as challenges that entrepreneurs will have to tackle. By becoming an entrepreneur, you can seize these opportunities and tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
At ESCP, we equip you with the right skills and knowledge, network, and mind-set to succeed as an entrepreneur.


The interview was led by Alison Masse, Programme Manager of the MBA in International Management at ESCP Berlin. If you want to know more about the programme, don't hesitate to reach out! (amasse@escp.eu | +493032007173)