The nation's leading business schools have traditionally directed most of their resources and attention to training managers for Fortune 500-type companies, paying little attention to the special skills needed by entrepreneurs and managers of small businesses. But changes are appearing, however slowly, at a time when student interest in smaller businesses is surging.
The Harvard Business School, for example, recently established a new professorship of business administration to put more muscle in its curriculum in entrepreneurship. The new chair has been endowed by Fayez Sarofim, a Houston investment banker, and Arthur Rock, a San Francisco venture capitalist. The first professor to fill it is Howard H. Stevenson, a former vice-president of Preco Corp., a manufacturer of specialty and commodity papers based in Springfield, Mass.
"New business ventures are what make this country great," says Rock, who along with Sarofim received his M.B.A. from Harvard in 1951. They decided to fund the new post, he notes, because neither saw enough recognition of the creativity and growth entrepreneurs generate, "and the chair was something we could do about it."
Harvard is not the only top business school showing new interest in small enterprise management. Stanford, which has long offered two popular courses in managing small businesses and new enterprises, has recently established a new elective on corporate venturing for students eager to become entrepreneurs. And the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, which in 1980 established the George W. Taylor Chair of Entrepreneurial Studies, notes that some 700 students are enrolled in management courses with a small business or entrepreneurial focus. "The number keeps growing all the time," says William Zucker, associate director of Wharton's Entrepreneurial Center.
There are also new indications that many B-school graduates are finding opportunities with big companies less inviting than before. Although many small firms are hard-pressed to match the slick recruiting and $30,000-plus starting salaries of large companies and consultants, at Stanford, at least, some 20% of 1981 graduates joined businesses with fewer than 100 employees. In 1980, that figure was 14%. Most gravitated toward such high-growth areas as electronics, genetic engineering, and the computer industry, where, according to Stanford's Steven C. Brandt, a senior lecturer in management, they're looking for less bureaucracy and a chance for more rapid advancement than more established companies generally offer.