A Conversation with Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Dean Michael Strauss
Entrepreneurship. It’s what empowers the individual to make a difference. Entrepreneurs have an “I can do it” attitude; and boldly state: “my ideas will succeed; I will rise to the top; I won’t take no for an answer.” Entrepreneurs are constantly looking to challenge the status quo, asking how they can do it better. Acting without fear, entrepreneurs see problems in society as opportunities and bend over backwards to create solutions.
But not all entrepreneurs are able to achieve their dreams and reach their potential. According to Associate Dean and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Michael Strauss, a lack of experience is the prime contributing factor to failed ventures. Young entrepreneurs often have the passion, desire and drive necessary for success, but lack the know-how and practical knowledge to turn their dreams into a marketable product.
Through the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, Dean Strauss shares the wisdom of his experience with students and provides the guidance necessary to transform their ideas into reality. “I first test them to see how much research they have done,” said Dean Strauss. ”What are they selling? Who is their target market? Who is their competition? What are they doing differently?”
Dean Strauss was born in Israel and moved to the United States with his parents at age fourteen. After earning his MBA from Baruch College, Dean Strauss went on to work for corporate America - most notably, at American Express, where he served as Executive Vice President. He subsequently became involved with private equity groups that bought companies in distress. “I came in to these companies as the CEO: my job was to fix the company and sell it at a profit.” After that, Dean Strauss started a consulting firm that helped small business owners take their ventures to the next level.
“I work with the student to create a roadmap, how are we going to get from point of idea to point of execution?”.Aspiring entrepreneurs must have the answers to questions that range from “how am I going to spread the word about my product?” to “how am I going to finance my operations?”
Dean Strauss has helped YU students launch close to 20 ventures over the last four years including a BBQ cookbook targeted to men, which was published and promoted in Barnes & Noble stores, and a Bluetooth chip that’s inserted into the stem of your eyeglasses, promoted on the Home Shopping Network and completely sold out in the first 15 minutes.
For YU students already dealing with a dual-curriculum and rigorous coursework, time is scarce. Time, though, is a requirement for starting a business venture. As Dean Strauss likes to point out: “Organization. Ben Franklin used to say, ‘if you want something done give it to the busiest person’ if you get organized and don’t waste time you’d be surprised what you can accomplish.”
So, what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the unsuccessful entrepreneurs? Character. Entrepreneurs need to have leadership skills. They need to have the self-confidence necessary to make a tough decision even though it may not be popular - and in the case of error, admit a mistake. Successful entrepreneurs have a high level of energy and are constantly taking calculated risks. Their motivation doesn't come externally, they love to build things.
Most importantly, the Dean and Entrepreneur-in-Residence stresses: "Don't be inhibited. Don't fear failure. Take action." Most successful entreprepreneurs fail with their first ventures but have the resilience to learn from their mistakes. As Dean Strauss puts it "if you kick them out of the front door they will come through the back door."