If you have read any books on networking or word-of-mouth marketing, it might surprise you to learn that as a college professor and expert in the field, I would tell you that you’ve actually received a better education on these related subjects than what you would have received at most universities or colleges around the world. As hard as that is to believe – it’s true.
How do I know this? Well, besides running the world’s largest referral organization and having taught in two different business schools myself, I’ve confirmed it by asking thousands of entrepreneurs about the subject.
I recently surveyed over 1,400 business people and 88% of the respondents said they never had any college course that even covered the topic of networking! I’m not talking about an entire course on the subject (they are almost non-existent); I’m talking about ANY course that simply covered the topic in school. Yet, based on another survey of over 2,500 business people from around the world, 75% said they got most of their business through networking!
Networking, also known as word-of-mouth marketing, is one of the most important ways for entrepreneurs to build their businesses, yet we don’t teach it in colleges or universities around the world. Despite that fact, according to a third survey of business professionals that I’ve conducted, 82% of all business people belong to some type of networking group!
OK, so let’s recap – the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs from these surveys belong to some type of networking group AND get a major portion of their business through networking, and yet only a fraction have ever had any course that even mentioned the subject of networking (forget about a full blown class on the subject). What’s wrong with this picture?
We give people bachelor’s degrees in marketing, business, and even entrepreneurship, but we teach them hardly anything about the one subject that virtually every entrepreneur says is critically important to their business – networking and social capital.
I currently teach at a university in Southern California. For more than 15 years I have been unable to get the business school to even consider a course on this subject (ironically, the school of psychology is willing to have me teach it, but NOT the school of business)!
Why don’t business schools teach this subject? I think it’s because most business schools are made up of professors who’ve NEVER owned a business in their life! Almost everything they’ve learned about running a business they’ve learned from books and consulting. Well, I’ve read a fair number of books, I was a consultant for many years, and I’ve run BNI for almost two decades. I can tell you first hand that if you haven’t actually owned a business, you have a handicap in teaching a course involving entrepreneurship.
Can you imagine a law course taught by someone who’s not an attorney, or an accounting course taught by anyone without direct accounting experience? Yet we put business professors in colleges to teach courses related to marketing and entrepreneurship with little or no first hand experience in the field. Is it any wonder then that a subject that is so critically important to business people would be so completely missed by business schools? Of course not. Networking and social capital courses aren’t taught in business schools because most business professors aren’t practitioners. They don’t really understand the importance of this subject for entrepreneurs.
Granted, there was little written in the field of networking and social capital twenty years ago (do a literature search – you’ll see), but that is not the case today. There are hundreds of articles and many books on various facets of the area. A thorough bibliography of many of these articles and books can be found in the back of The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret (Revised Edition). Networking is a field that is finally being codified and structured.
Business schools around the world need to wake up and start teaching this curriculum. Schools like any large institution are bureaucracies, so it is unlikely to happen quickly; however, for those schools with vision, foresight, and the ability to act swiftly (sort of the way business professors claim that “businesses” should act), they will be positioning themselves as leaders in education by truly understanding and responding to the needs of today’s businesses. These schools will be on the cutting edge of business education so as to better serve their students while positioning themselves as a leading institution for entrepreneurs.
Word-of-mouth marketing works. Social capital is critically important. And networking is the mechanism to develop both. As more universities and colleges open their doors to professors who want to include this strategy with their marketing instruction, we are going to see a major shift in the business landscape. We will see emerging entrepreneurs who will be equipped with another strategy for success in business. We will see networking utilized at its fullest capacity and we will see business schools actually teaching a subject that the business practitioner says is important.
What a thought. Oh well, it’s good to have goals.
By the way, there is at least one school that has a regular, core-curriculum, college course on the subject of networking and social capital and that is the University of Michigan. The course is taught by Dr. Wayne Baker (a co-“owner” of HUMAX). Well done, Wayne.
On a final note, if you think a course on this subject is a good idea, E-mail this article to the department chair of any business school you may know. If I’m lucky, the school where I teach may finally be interested – or if I’m not, I may need to find another teaching position.