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Ask Dave

No Business Dropping Out

Dakota is a college student studying music business. He's been running his own business for several years, and he'd like to focus on the business and leave school. His parents disagree.

QUESTION: Dakota in Nashville is 19 and a college student at Belmont University studying music business. He’s been running his own business for several years, and he’d like to focus on the business and leave school. His parents disagree. Dave has a question for Dakota to ask himself.

ANSWER: There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a tree surgeon and running a tree surgeon operation. There’s nothing wrong with cutting trees and that kind of a thing. Let me ask you . . . I’m 52. When you’re my age, which path do you think will lead you to a better life?

You’re pretty entrepreneurial. That’s obvious. Good for you.

Realigning yourself to get more of a traditional business degree to help you run your business later might be something to think about. I’ll tell you—I mean, I’ve got an undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee in business finance with a specialization in real estate from many, many years ago—from 30 years ago. I will tell you now sitting here running a business with 400 team members that the things I learned in getting that degree—the knowledge base—is part of my success. Having an in-depth understanding of accounting, an in-depth understanding of economics, a really good grasp on the academic side of marketing . . . a lot of those things, obviously, are different today in the computer world—internet world—than they were then, but to have that tacit understanding, that underlying foundation—it has been a part of me being able to grow this business to be successful.

If I’m in your shoes, regardless of your parents—it’s nice that they’re encouraging you, but if your goal is to run a large business by the time you’re my age at 50-something years old and be working on it, not just in it, meaning you’re going to be the largest tree surgeon in the Southeast or whatever we’ll call it, trucks everywhere in every state—whatever you’re doing—then having that academic underpinning and the basics of business is probably going to help you hit that goal.

If you were my son or my little brother, I just say I think it’s going to help you achieve your goal, but it might be that the specialization in the music side is not needed. It might be more of a general business thing where you get the finance, you get the accounting, you get the marketing, you get the management, but even just things like some basic logistics stuff in your senior-level management class—it’s going to help you organize and run your trucks. There’s stuff there that if you hadn’t been through that class, it changes. It’s harder to grasp. It’s not that you can’t do it without the education. I just think the education greases the skids a little bit for you and lowers the resistance in the marketplace for you. You just see things through different eyes then.

If I’m you, I’m going to finish for that reason because I think the tools you’re putting in your belt are going to help you to win—not because the degree is going to matter. I don’t think the degree is the issue.