In a nutshell: Consider psychology, the liberal arts and communications if you want to start a business.
A business degree isn’t the only education option if you want to run your own business one day. It takes more than business savvy to be a successful entrepreneur. (Read: continuous learner, competitive, people skills, creativity, emotional intelligence, drive and open-mindedness.) And there are other areas of study that equip you with the skills necessary to make sound decisions and be an effective leader.
Here are three other education paths that can help you as an entrepreneur.
A business can’t run without people, namely employees and customers. And, because studying psychology will help you better understand human behavior, it can help you run your business.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one of the fundamental theories of psychology, applies directly to business. The theory states that the needs of one level must be met before progressing to the next level:
- Level 1: Psychological needs, like salary
- Level 2: Safety needs, like job security
- Level 3: Social needs, like positive culture
- Level 4: Esteem needs, like recognition
- Level 5: Self-actualization, like personal growth
So, you should know which stage each of your employees is in and partner with them to achieve the next level – and, ultimately, satisfaction.
Employees are going to be motivated in different ways — intrinsically and extrinsically – and that’s for you to unlock. You’ll want to know what makes them tick, so you assign the right projects and award the right incentives.
Studying psychology will also help you understand what drivers influence your customers to buy your product or service. It starts with building trusting, meaningful relationships with customers. If you can figure out who is persuaded by authority (e.g., an industry expert endorsement), scarcity (e.g., a limited quantity available) and social proof (e.g., millions of followers on Instagram), you’ll capture customers for life.
An education of liberal arts gets a bad rap for not being specialized, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said about the success of the company, “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.”
The objective of a liberal arts education is for students to develop a well-rounded perspective of how the world operates. By studying topics like social sciences, natural sciences, art and music, philosophy, math, religion, economics and foreign languages, you gain an appreciation for a variety of subjects and better understand how they all interact with each other. Studying the liberal arts equips students with the ability to synthesize information, analyze facts, think logically and make educated decisions. It provides practice in critical-thinking and writing that is useful as an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll be required to articulate important information to investors, employees, vendors and customers. An education in communications can help you hone those skills and ensure you get your point across loud and clear. In this day and age, anyone can communicate with anyone. We have so many ways to reach each other. As the owner of the business, you’re no longer perched in the corner office with a receptionist screening your calls – you’re on Twitter getting direct messages from customers and on LinkedIn getting resumes from candidates.
According to Entrepreneur’s “7 Communication Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Master,” these skills are necessary for success:
- Listen deeply
- Interpret non-verbal cues
- Manage expectations
- Productive pushback
- Be concise
- Confidently state your value and differentiation
- Know your why
There are other education paths that can lead you to become a successful entrepreneur. It’s about embracing the instruction and making connections with the content to real-life business situations that can determine your success.