Entrepreneurship Lessons from Carter Cast

When students think about their post-MBA careers, they can go one of two ways. They can follow tradition and take really great jobs that people take every year. Or they can pursue something less traditional. On one hand, there’s merit to getting a job that provides structure and pays well, especially for some people.  On the other hand, there’s also merit to pursuing the entrepreneurial route. Not only is it a great learning experience but it’s always the best way to build skills while working on something you are passionate about. At least that’s what Carter Cast, former CEO of Walmart.com told me this morning.

Just minutes ago, I got done chatting with entrepreneurial guru Carter Cast. Carter came to Kellogg just months ago to help ramp up its entrepreneurial program. Like me, Carter is a Cardinal Wildcat – more specifically, a Stanford and Northwestern (Kellogg) alum. And so I had the chance to tell him more about what we’re working on, and he gave me a few great pieces of advice.

“Understand your purpose” Carter said. Know what your true north is and keep working towards it, even when you have to change the business model a bit.  He said this as I talked about how my business model was changing. No longer were we focusing on what we did when we had the idea, but our ideas are really different now.

He also said, “Be true to who you are.” Understand your skills and make sure they compliment where you want to go. He gave a story how he used to want to be an olympic swimmer and basketball player. But he came to find that swimming required training his upper body and basketball his lower body. So they were not complimentary, no matter how much passion he had. And that made success more difficult.

Carter also revealed the impact he wanted to make at Northwestern. That it was not just about getting a “leadership” title and being named Director of Kellogg’s Entrepreneurship Center but instead that he came here to teach people about entrepreneurial leadership.  He wanted to help emerging entrepreneurs to go out on the ledge.  In fact, the best advice he said, was “Who  cares if people don’t believe in your idea? Do it anyways?” He went on to suggest that we should learn from them when they challenge you but forget about them after talking.

Thanks again Carter for the great lessons. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences. And to staying in touch as we launch our website.

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 Leadership

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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