ByAdam Mendler, CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.
As an entrepreneur managing businesses with limited resources, I can attest to the importance of flexibility and efficiency in every aspect of your operation. To thrive in a landscape in which your competitors have deeper pockets, longer relationships and greater brand recognition, you need to build a company that can win on ingenuity. Smaller, more nimble organizations must consist of people who are adaptable and able to shift with the inevitable currents of change. Working for a startup entails wearing many hats and readily performing tasks outside of the job description. While large entities -- big corporations, sprawling nonprofits and governmental agencies -- consist of teams of specialists, entrepreneurial businesses need capable generalists to survive. Liberal arts graduates are generalists by design.
I have long believed in the importance of a liberal arts education, and in my time as an entrepreneur, I have come to learn first-hand just how valuable individuals educated in the liberal arts can be for entrepreneurial businesses. The kinds of skills developed when studying the humanities may not be as measurable as those incumbent in engineering graduates, but they can be equality vital within a startup.
Liberal arts graduates are agile thinkers: They have learned how to think, not what to think. They might not have memorized every formula or solution, but they know how to find them and how to apply them. When an employee is an agile thinker, he or she is better equipped to take on responsibilities beyond the job description -- an undertaking that is inevitable in virtually every startup. There is little more valuable to entrepreneurial companies than employees who are self-starters, self-motivated and self-directed. Managers are almost always overstretched, and the less they have to manage, the better. Lifelong lovers of learning are more inclined to find a way to figure things out, and in turn, are better-equipped to effectively pivot as circumstances change.
Polished Soft Skills
Having studied human culture and been given the opportunity to think deeply about how humans interact socially with one another, humanities graduates enter the workforce with a running start on matters social and interpersonal. I believe strongly that at the end of the day, business is about people. Needless to say, interpersonal relationships can make or break a business, and soft skills are of vital importance for employees at all levels.
A healthily functioning organization relies on individuals capable of seamlessly working together and with those outside of your company. Employees with outstanding people skills have uplifted their colleagues and, in turn, our business. Polished soft skills are especially important in startup companies given their relative size, as each person's potential impact is all the more pronounced.
Similarly, in entrepreneurial businesses, strong communication skills are vital. Employees must share knowledge quickly, easily and efficiently and communicate verbally, via email and through emerging technology channels such as Slack or Evernote. Humanities and liberal art graduates are trained in the fields of writing and communication and thus face not as steep of a learning curve in effectively communicating upon entering the business world and in adapting to the unique communication demands inherent each company environment. Adept communicators ultimately uplift the performance of their colleagues, as they often serve as a bridge between team members or teams. Effective communicators will also likely rise through your company ranks, as strong communication skills are a prerequisite for successful managers.
A New Trend?
Unsurprisingly, my company's team is filled with former liberal arts and social sciences graduates, with leaders of our portfolio companies holding degrees in law and society and English literature. A former writing intern who majored in English now drives key aspects of our operations. And while I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, I also earned a bachelor of arts in political science. We have been able to build an extraordinary corporate culture and have managed the navigate the consistent change that comes with starting and building new businesses.
We are far from the only ones who place a premium on liberal arts graduates. Slack and Ubisoft are among the prominent companies that have aggressively pursuing humanities majors over the course of the last several, and Mark Cuban has become a vocal proponent of hiring individuals with liberal arts backgrounds, especially as automation continues to make flexibility in the workplace increasingly important. Soon enough, hiring liberal arts graduates may become a trend. Join us while there are still lots of good seats on the bandwagon.
Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.