Sunday, January 26, 2014

Faley has “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” for UVI Entrepreneurship

UVI Distinguished Professor Dr. Tim Faley, UVI President David Hall and 13D Entrepreneurship Speaker Kiril Sokoloff  speak at round-table discussion

Working diligently at his desk at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas Campus, Dr. Tim Faley has a panoramic view of Brewers Bay. The deep blue sea and swaying green tropical flora is much different than what he was used to.

Dr. Faley left the University of the Michigan after 13 years of building the Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies into the top ranked entrepreneurship program in the country. He built the University of Michigan’s program after years of study, observation, trial, error and success. Now Dr. Faley is working to create a new entrepreneurship program at UVI.

“At the end of the day, I'm a builder,” he said. “I like to build new things and create things and see the impact of what I've built. I was able to do that for 10 years at the Zell Lurie Institute.” Dr. Faley plans to build a world-class undergraduate entrepreneurship center at UVI that will have a broad impact in the Virgin Islands.

He has already rebuilt UVI’s entrepreneurship minor program and plans to create a certificate program. The possibility of creating an entrepreneurship major is also in the works. UVI has an “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” course and Dr. Faley has revamped two accompanying courses that will cover discovering the business and operationalizing a business. The new courses are specialized, covering entrepreneurial marketing, entrepreneurial finance and growth strategy. He is also working on creating a class that will teach franchising and the legal aspects of new ventures. There are no prerequisites needed for the introductory classes. The School of Business Curriculum Committee has approved the changes to the curriculum and the proposal is waiting to go before the University Curriculum Committee.

Dr. Faley has studied successful serial entrepreneurs for years, observing how they quickly move through hundreds of business ideas that lead to creating successful businesses. “The reason that serial entrepreneurs have so much trouble describing this is that they do it very fast,” he said. “But the first time we put a student through this it is going to take them a while.” Dr. Faley plans to continue to accelerate the program as students advance. “The idea is that we leave students with a skill that they can do the rest of their lives,” he said. “To me, the goal is to create serial entrepreneurs, not coach somebody to the formation of a single business.” Dr. Faley said once students learn the fundamental principles of forming a business they can continue to create successful businesses and tailor the businesses’ needs accordingly. “It is like any sport,” he said. “If you are playing football and it is snowing you might run more and if it’s dry you might pass more, but fundamentally the game is the game.”

UVI’s certificate program will benefit a variety of people in the community, said Dr. Faley. Persons who are aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, business counselors or someone who has a business but wants to get better can take advantage of the certificate program, which can be completed with three courses.

Dr. Faley is pleased that the entrepreneurship courses will be available to students of any major. “Part of what makes entrepreneurship great is that everybody and anybody should get involved with it because at some point in your life it is going to touch you,” he said. This is one of the ideals that attracted him to UVI. “The minor, from the very beginning, was open to everybody,” he said. “UVI was forward thinking enough that they were thinking cross-campus from the beginning and that was great.”

“Not only was it setup to be across-campus, but Dr. Hall was very clear that this was not just an internally facing program, but an externally facing program,” Dr. Faley said. “You need to be thinking about the community and the territory in general.”

“That is music to my ears,” Dr. Faley said, adding that entrepreneurial education depends on an environment rich with mentors who can create an ecosystem for successful business. “It is all about the ecosystem and we need to build that ecosystem,” he said. “The University will be better entrepreneurship-wise, if the community is better entrepreneurship-wise.”

All of Dr. Faley’s time will not be spent at UVI. “There is so much to do in the community,” he said. “All the way from building a pipeline from the high schools, to helping community members start businesses and determining what role the University will play. This is a very entrepreneurial community.”

Dr. Faley’s goal is to create a global model for entrepreneurship in the territory. “There is no global example,” he said. “I would love the territory to be that. Can you imagine people from all over the globe flocking down here to see how we did it? That would be cool. That is my big hairy audacious goal.”