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The entrepreneur's b-school

Concordia’s John Molson School of Business is becoming a knowledge hub for business owners and entrepreneurs
October 16, 2015
By Yuri Mytko

The John Molson School of Business is in the top ten in the world when it comes to expertise in family business (from left): Alexandra Dawson, Director, National Bank Initiative in Entrepreneurship and Family Business; Peter Jaskiewicz, CIBC Distinguished Professor in Family Business; Rob Nason, Assistant Professor; and Michael Carney, Concordia University Research Chair in Strategy and Entrepreneurship.

Greg Adelstein, GrDip (sports admin.) 93, knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. Founder of iGotcha Media, a Montreal-based digital signage agency, he has been developing high-tech companies for more than 15 years. What he enjoys most though is sharing tips and tricks with young business students. As the new entrepreneur-in-residence at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB), Adelstein does just that.

“I meet with students one-on-one or in groups in the classroom and try to help guide them through the entrepreneurial process,” says Adelstein. “I also act as a judge in some of the entrepreneurship-focused competitions that JMSB runs.”

Greg Adelstein GrDip (sports admin.) 93

In addition to mentoring students, Adelstein guides research projects and delivers lectures in JMSB’s entrepreneurship classes. His position is part of the National Bank Initiative in Entrepreneurship and Family Business, established at JMSB in 2014 thanks to a $1 million gift from the National Bank. The initiative aims to further knowledge and understanding of the distinctive character of family enterprise and entrepreneurship —key drivers of economic growth in Quebec and Canada. It funds research, scholarships and fellowships for students with an interest in entrepreneurship, a speaker series and the National Bank Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

Alexandra Dawson, associate professor in the Department of Management and director of the initiative, says that research-probing issues that affect small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), like succession planning for instance, can play a very important societal role. The CIBC estimates that in the next 10 years half of all small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada will experience transfer of ownership.

 “Over 70 per cent of those businesses, according to estimates, are family-owned and -managed, so advancing knowledge in this area is vital,” says Dawson.

“I would say that at the moment we are in the top 10 business schools in the world when it comes to knowledge creation in the area of family business,” says Peter Jaskiewicz, associate professor in the Department of Management and CIBC Distinguished Professor in Family Business. His hiring in 2013, and the recruitment of Rob Nason, a PhD in entrepreneurship from Syracuse University, are among the many exciting developments at JMSB that promote its new direction toward becoming a hub of entrepreneurial expertise.

JMSB faculty members have been tremendously successful in recent years in their applications to federal and provincial agencies for SME-related research grants.

“We have made great strides in entrepreneurship and business ownership over the course of the last few years,” says JMSB Dean Steve Harvey, who also notes that a new academic chair in this field will be announced soon. “It has been an area of focus for JMSB and we are now seeing the positive results of our collective efforts.” Harvey sees the spirit of collaboration among faculty members as the key to this success. “As we begin to further the function of this cluster, we also look to replicate these achievements in other areas of business scholarship.”

Harvey says that a number of initiatives are being planned for this fall that will focus on business ownership as a fundamental part of entrepreneurship. A central part of these initiatives will be the creation of additional entrepreneur-in-residence positions like Adelstein’s.

“There’s just no substitute for experience, and there is no shortage of successful businesspeople willing to share their experiences and impart some wisdom,” says Adelstein. “It’s important for young entrepreneurs to have someone to bounce ideas off and to share their hopes and fears with. Surrounding oneself with experienced individuals is very valuable.”

According to Dawson, this type of mentorship is a powerful complement to theoretical instruction. “Hearing Greg’s stories and anecdotes really gets students’ curiosities going,” she says. “He makes the notion of being an entrepreneur come to life. Programs like this can help sow the seeds of entrepreneurship because many students don’t know they want to be entrepreneurs. In the safe environment of a classroom, where you can make mistakes, they feel comfortable asking questions like, ‘Is this for me?’”

Through its education and support of young entrepreneurs, and through the expertise that it shares with the business community, it is evident that JMSB is well on its way to being regarded as a top resource for the next generation of business mavens.

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