Integrating values and purpose for entrepreneurial success: How BYU’s Scott Petersen approaches business
I’m in love with the idea that we can change and improve the world through entrepreneurship and innovation,
says Scott Petersen, Executive Director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at Brigham Young University’s (BYU) Marriott School of Business. He believes that entrepreneurs can succeed while remaining true to their family, faith and community.
Scott started his first company in 1988, and has since built seven successful businesses. After many years as an entrepreneur, senior consultant and executive chairman for several ventures, he joined BYU Marriott in 2010. Here, he has brought in seasoned entrepreneurs to teach from real-world experience and incorporated lean startup methodology – a first for an academic program in the US.
“This methodology helps students understand that entrepreneurship is discovering the answers to unknown, untested, untried and unproven business models, and ultimately growing new businesses,” he says.
A practical program
BYU’s entrepreneurship program has been nationally recognized by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine as a top five university program. Students spend a year developing an idea, thoroughly testing and vetting it with real customers, and then creating a viable business model and product with the potential to scale.
“We go from soup to nuts, all the way from an idea to customer learning, validation and revalidation, and into early product development, sales, marketing, branding and leadership – really everything across the board,” Scott says. “I don’t think there’s anybody else that runs an idea competition, then an innovator competition, then a business model competition, then a new venture challenge, then a venture launchpad, and then aggregates the entire venture community together to fund each of those ventures.”
In each phase, students’ work is subject to rigorous review and feedback to ensure their ideas are sellable, scalable, competitive and disruptive in a purposeful way.
The program is intensely iterative, so solutions will change many times before a team achieves product and market fit. Students are also required to put their ideas to the test in the real world. “We teach them to become researchers, to follow the scientific method and to camp out with their customers,” Scott says.
The importance of knowing your values
BYU’s entrepreneurship program also emphasizes the importance of purpose. “We want students coming up with big ideas that have the potential to scale and solve big problems,” Scott says. “We want them to understand that building a company means they still have social responsibility.”
He advises that founders identify their values and principles and integrate them into their company from the outset. “As you build a company, you must build culture from the ground up so that stakeholder alignment is maintained as the company scales. If you don’t, a culture will automatically form and you won’t like it.”
He also says that “successful people are successful because they’re willing to do things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do.” This means putting in the hard work, continually learning, delivering value and giving back to the community that nurtures you.
Create innovative companies that are great to work for, that are caring and fair, nurturing, have demanding expectations, and are contributors to society.
Scott’s commitments to his family, his faith, and his students prove that you can be a responsible leader and successful entrepreneur without sacrificing other areas of your life. His underlying driver is a passion for entrepreneurship and the determination to leverage that passion for good.
Scott encourages his students and you to “create innovative companies that are great to work for, that are caring and fair, nurturing, have demanding expectations, and are contributors to society.”
All photos: Startup Guide Salt Lake
Want to know more about Salt Lake’s startup scene? For more in-depth information about the coworking spaces above, as well as the best startups, universities, programs, investors and key experts, order a copy of Startup Guide Salt Lake.