When I left GBSN in 2016 after eight exceptional years of managing membership, my goal was to gain practical experience in understanding how to grow a small business and deliver a curriculum. I have had some incredible experiences running an international growth accelerator for women business owners of small and medium enterprises. Through online courses, modules, assignments and in-person trainings, I spent time working one-on-one with women business owners in developing countries. From understanding ideal customers, to analyzing revenue channels or navigating financial ratios, I experienced first-hand the challenges and successes business owners face in the developing world. It was an incredible opportunity to understand entrepreneur’s daily struggles and develop strategies to grow a diverse number of SME’s.
I spent years at GBSN sitting through panel discussions and training of trainer activities. I thought I could confidently say I understood the problems of creating and delivering business education. I now know what it is like to work months on a curriculum, and how complicated it is to not only tailor it to be relevant for a global audience—but still be applied locally. It’s difficult. I have experienced what it is like to deliver an online course and realize half way through that it is information overload and that nobody “gets it”. It’s humbling. I know what it is like to spend hours creating an assignment and then log into Blackboard to find only 1/3 assignments were submitted. It’s frustrating. I know how it feels to pull out a new fun technology for a pop quiz, but due to your own user error, it fails. It’s embarrassing. Today, I feel a little closer to understanding your world.
It is so much easier to talk about then it is to do.
Over seventeen years ago, when I was a young undergraduate student I helped start the Entrepreneurship Center at Sonoma State University in California. Back then, Microsoft products would not recognize “entrepreneurship” as a word. It would autocorrect “entrepreneurship” every time to be spelled “entrepreneur.” For every presentation, Excel spreadsheet, or document, I would have to manually change the autocorrected word back to entrepreneurship. (Find: entrepreneur, Replace: entrepreneurship). Today you don’t have to search at all, entrepreneurship is everywhere and it is our future. Never could I have imagined that online courses, mentoring, support, education and networks would be accessible to so many.
Yet even with all the progress, attention, and resources, there is so much work to be done. Many schools lag behind, they don’t have the access, curriculum, or qualified professors that they need. Management filters into everything we do and in every industry there is.
Currently I support multi-national companies and SMEs enter and navigate new complex markets in the Gulf. Just yesterday I was talking with a large company and we discussed their greatest challenge in entering this new market: hiring and retaining skilled local staff. When Amazon decided to locate their second headquarters close to where I live in Northern Virginia, one of their top priorities was access to world class talent and universities that could fill their recruitment pipeline. Whether you are in a remote region of the Middle East or just a few miles from my backyard, the need for talent is the same. The demand for our work is everywhere.
I’ve grown a lot since the 2 1/2 years ago when I departed GBSN, and so have all of you. I look forward to reconnecting with our long-term members, and meeting those who have recently joined. I am thrilled to see Dan LeClair, a good friend and partner to us while at AACSB—and an exceptional champion of business education—taking the helm of GBSN with a fresh perspective and a new vision. I am confident that Dan will be leading us to new successful adventures.
The network is strong, with the most members it has ever had. Lets activate it. The mission has never been more important. Lets Achieve it. GBSN members recognize that it is not okay to just be the best or the brightest, it is our imperative to share our knowledge with others. We will, together, bring quality management and entrepreneurship education for the developing world. Now lets go deliver.
It is wonderful to be back, but in reality, my heart never really left. For me, I am coming home.
To the next chapter of GBSN. Join us.
Lisa Leander is an international development expert with seventeen years of project management experience in 19 different countries. As Senior Advisor, Membership at GBSN she will support the execution of strategy and membership engagement. In addition to her work at GBSN, she will continue advising U.S. companies navigating complex market opportunities in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, as well as following her personal passion of supporting women entrepreneurs in the Middle East. You can reach Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.