Entrepreneurship involves starting your own company and taking risks. That’s why the classic entrepreneurship job is usually defined as "Founder & CEO".
But founding companies isn’t the only thing entrepreneurs do. So what exactly can you do professionally with a business entrepreneurship degree? Here we will present a few ideas based on the experiences of alumni from the CBS Entrepreneurship Development Program. In entrepreneurship studies the main focus is naturally on management. Graduates of our business entrepreneurship degree could manage their own companies and start-ups or take management roles as company employees. But you can also find job satisfaction in operational management positions. If you do not want to start your own business directly after graduation, that’s fine. You don’t need to enter the entrepreneurship profession straight away. This can even be a very good idea. Starting your career in a start-up, a highly dynamic department, or as an "entrepreneur in residence" offers the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs. It all depends on your ambitions and ideas. According to KfW, the average age of founders is 36-38. However, one third are under 30 years old. This shows that work experience is not mandatory if you have a strong business idea, especially in digital entrepreneurship
There is a common thread running through the many entrepreneurship professions: In almost every management position today, it is vital to think and act entrepreneurially. Every manager needs to demonstrate a founding spirit. This means that you will actively shape change, no matter what your management job title may be. There are good reasons for this. The business models of companies today need to respond to short-term challenges. Businesses face urgent questions from one day to the next. Pandemics, crises, global competition, legal regulations or changing consumer behaviour require courageous decisions. These decisions ultimately have to be taken by the company’s technical and managerial staff. In situations like that, managers must have a strong founder personality. They cannot afford to insist on the status quo. A solid entrepreneurship education is essential to give managers the confidence to take bold decisions and get their calls right.
What are the tasks of entrepreneurs? In Germany, an eight-point catalogue has become accepted as the best way to determine core management responsibilities. This system can also be applied to entrepreneurship as well. In the list below, entrepreneurs should fulfil at least six points. This applies whether you are starting your own business or taking an internal management role. Knowing your management role matters. For instance, as a management team member do you really fulfil the managing director role or do you not have enough competences? Or take a worst case scenario. Do you actually run the business without being listed in the commercial register, and still bear high risks without corresponding remuneration?
The eight points are:
You determine the company policy: As part of the management team, you have the final say on the direction in which the company should develop; new strategies and business development are core issues. In managing company strategy, you seek to break with old thought patterns. You analyse markets and develop ideas, plans and forecasts that will lead the company to success in the future. This is closely linked to further development of the product range. And of course, there is a need for coordination with company shareholders
You determine the organisation of the company: Reporting lines, hierarchies, departments, locations - it's all your responsibility
You make all the personnel decisions: No one can hire people without your consent.
Establish business partnerships: You decide which suppliers or partners the company cooperates with. Every contract crosses your table before approval.
Negotiations with lenders: You make the key bank calls. You can also delegate such tasks, but you have the final say. The search for investors is a bit more complex, as the other shareholders, if any, are the highest decision-making body.
You are in the highest salary bracket in the company: Most of the time, the salary of managing directors is at the top of the salary pyramid in the company. There are exceptions, of course: In professional sport, athletes sometimes earn considerably more, and in sales, very high salaries can be achieved through commissions.
Sovereignty over tax matters: You determine how tax matters are organised in the company.
Responsibility for accounting: You check whether the books are correct.
A business entrepreneurship degree opens all doors to the business world, especially if it is primarily a business administration degree like those offered by CBS. Upon graduation or during your entrepreneurship education, you can start a business in any industry. You could earn your first merits from consulting or find management work for a company. Here is a small selection of job ideas that could follow your entrepreneurship development program. We deal with the big and important topic of entrepreneurship salary in a separate article.
When you start a company - often together with several other people - you usually take the title of CEO, i.e. Chief Executive Officer. In German the role is referred to as “Managing Director.” In the early phase of start-ups, it is normal for all co-founders to be called "managing partners" because all people in the core founding team hold shares in the company.
At later stages when venture capital is involved, the percentage shares in one's own company usually decreases. This can proceed so far that your own shares in the company become so small that you are still a shareholder in the company, but can no longer make decisions alone - or with the old founding team.
This is important. For entrepreneurs, the role of CEO constantly changes. CEO is the most elusive job description. It can change from being the sole person in charge to a classic boss. Later, when a large circle of investors becomes involved, CEOs often transition to a leadership, coaching and facilitation function. As a CEO, you will need to manage changes like this in your professional life.
Why not use your business entrepreneurship degree to found your own business? Some people have a passion for a particular topic or industry, and a strong business idea. Others simply look for industries and business models that promise good profits. In any case, the work of an entrepreneur is very comprehensive. Functions include strategy, product development, marketing, sales, controlling, human resources, and accounting. Ideally, you will not have to carry these loads alone. Co-founders are a real relief, even if there will sometimes be arguments. It is also possible to set up a company but not take over the management yourself. For example, founders can engage external professionals as CEO, CFO, CTO, etc. This can happen when investors or business angels provide you with advice and experienced professionals. This has the advantage that you can focus on your favourite topics and perfect your business strategy.
Some entrepreneurs learn from the best by starting their career at a successful start-up. If the company still has start-up character and the founding team is on board, you can get a lot of inspiration. This is also a great way to make valuable contacts.
Examples of jobs at start-ups include sales roles or working as a business development manager. It's a tough school, but sales skills should always be in demand because the essence of start-ups is fast growth. Product ownership roles involving project management can also be interesting, helping you prove yourself while you prepare to found your own business.
All consultants need an entrepreneurial mindset; after all, you often have to develop coherent decision-making proposals for entrepreneurs. Working as a consultant is a good career starting point after a business entrepreneurship degree, especially for people who intend to set up their own companies. Consultancy work also has some major advantages. Consultants take minimal personal economic risks, and plenty of opportunities are available.
As an intrapreneur, you are expected to further develop business models within established companies by bringing a founding spirit to corporate challenges. The work is exciting, and you don't take risks with your own money. The disadvantage is that you have to deal with existing structures in the company. Intrapreneurs need a lot of soft skills, along with plenty of patience..
As an entrepreneur, you are often at the top of the company. But what if you are mainly interested in developing strategic topics for the future, and less in the other tasks of entrepreneurship? In that case the profession of "Innovation Manager" will be the perfect fit. Innovation Managers look for innovations, trends and potential partners - both internal and external - to further develop the company. Such jobs do not exist in small companies, but they are common in medium-sized companies and large corporations. Another possible job title could be "Head of Digital Transformation".
If you want to work as an entrepreneur without having to assume management responsibility, the profession "Entrepreneur in Residence" (EIC) will be of interest. These can be very well-paid positions at private equity firms. For such jobs, it helps if you have already successfully founded companies. You will be hired as a kind of business coach or turnaround manager, providing support where it is required. There are also jobs with the same name for business entrepreneurship degree graduates. EIC graduate roles have a different content and are paid slightly below average for the sector. But it's not the salary that counts here, it's the opportunities! If you start with a company builder as an EIC, you can found a start-up almost risk-free and help shape it from the very beginning.
Entrepreneur is a full-time profession. However, according to KfW, more companies were founded as part-time jobs than full-time jobs in Germany in 2021, with 371,000 sideline start-ups. Part-time start-ups are not suitable for a big business idea. But they work well when testing a small business idea. Part-time start-ups can even be a useful launch pad for careers after a business entrepreneurship degree. If you take this route, be careful. Don't underestimate the double workload with your main job.
Company succession is a huge topic. Many companies face generational changes and need wholesale reform. Business owners in that position often ask themselves: Should I close the company, sell it or hand it over to a new management team? This is where it gets interesting: If you already have management responsibility in such a company, it might be possible to acquire the company.
What does CEO mean? CEO is the abbreviation for the English "Chief Executive Officer," which can be translated into German as "Hauptgeschäftsführer" or "board member who takes the lead in managing the company" - i.e. the chairwoman or chairman of the board.
The tasks of a CEO in many countries are determined by the board of directors or the shareholders; in German public limited companies, however, the supervisory board plays the main role.
As a rule, CEOs are entrusted with strategic tasks and are not so much involved in the day-to-day business. This is the responsibility of Chief Operating Officers, or COOs. By the way, it can be even more complicated: As an Anglo-Saxon CEO, you can also be president, chairman and majority shareholder of the company at the same time, but these positions are not necessarily linked.
In Germany, different rules apply: Calling yourself a CEO has no legal significance. Instead, it is quite formally about the management of the company, which is regulated under German law. CEOs can be the sole managing director - and sole owner - of a company. They could be a managing partner or only a salaried managing director in a team of managing directors, from whose circle the company elects management spokespersons.
The choice of location for starting your own business is often made opportunistically: As a rule, entrepreneurs set up a company at their place of residence. Or they might start out close to their place of study during a business entrepreneurship degree. This is a good choice if there are suitable customers in the local area, and you rely on regional customers and are not starting a digital business.
Also, you and your founding team may have a local network of people who can support you.
Nevertheless, you should ask whether the location really is optimal if the company plans to grow later? For example, it can be much easier to recruit skilled workers in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Munich, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main or other attractive regions than in a structurally weak region. That, in turn, depends very much on the industry: An analysis of the skilled labour potential and possibly the local purchasing power potential is helpful. For the digital industry, metropolises are ideal; in technology industries, a regional network of potential suppliers may be the key to success. Setting up a business abroad can also be promising if it is optimal in terms of the business idea.
There are many more entrepreneurship professions than one might think at first glance. Leading your own start-up as CEO is and remains the classic profession. But it is worthwhile to think outside the box: The career entry after the Bachelor's or Master's business entrepreneurship degree could well be a specialist position in a start-up, consultancy work or managing in an established company. Through such positions, you will have the opportunity to gain important professional experience in order to avoid rookie mistakes. Roles like that allow you to make the best possible use of opportunities later on when you start your own business.
Are you looking for the right entrepreneurship program? CBS offers you a huge range of business schools for your entrepreneurship studies.
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