Rebeca Hwang recently told us about an exercise she uses at Stanford University where students create a business plan about themselves. The Personal Business Plan (PBP) is an exercise created by Tom Kosnik that has helped turn Rebeca’s E145 Technology Entrepreneurship class into:
“This was by far the best course I have taken at Stanford, absolutely amazing curriculum.”
Rebeca explains the PBP is a way for students to apply the tools learned during their entrepreneurship course to something near and dear to their hearts…themselves!
To make the elements of the business model relevant, faculty force students to think of themselves as a company. Students do this assignment individually, and ultimately must figure out how they offer value to their world.
“The entrepreneurial process is at its core concerned with ‘the pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources already under control.’ This process is as applicable to your career as it is to starting a company. The goal of this assignment is to identify where you want to be and how you will get there. Do not worry about your current resources. Think about this with an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Most important of all, the assignment works, and Rebeca’s students love it.
“make sure you spend a lot of time on the personal business plan, it is worth it! I wish I had spent more time on mine, and will in the future because I think it’s very valuable to think about what your plans and possibilities for life are.”
“Through the personal business plan, it really helped reevaluate what I desire and would like to pursue in life.”
Below is an overview of the Personal Business Plan assignment. For full details, check out the complete lesson plan below.
The Personal Business Plan
Students write at most five (5) pages answering questions about their future vision (such as “What are your values?” and “What personal or professional skills would you most like to develop?”) and about their present plans and passions (such as “What opportunities could help you to achieve your future vision?” and “How will you reach, connect with or influence your customers?”). The full question sets are available in the lesson plan.
In addition to answering these questions, students include at least one exhibit within their five (5) page limit, which can be “any combination of graphics or quantitative analysis [they] desire”.
Examples of exhibits professors give students are:
- A resume (current and/or future)
- A decision tree showing paths to a number of future career options
- A specific “short list” of attractive jobs, company names, and key audiences
- Segmentation of different organizations’ readiness to accept your value package using Geoffrey Moore’s adopter categories
- A chart addressing the risks, mitigation strategies, etc. associated with your Reality Test
Faculty give students required and recommended readings/viewings to help them prepare an effective Personal Business Plan, all of which are available in the full lesson plan.
In using sources, guide students with the following:
“Failure to use at least one concept from one of the readings will lower your grade. We will reward skill and creativity in applying the concepts with higher grades. On the other hand, don’t get carried away with citing too many sources. We are less interested in having you paraphrase what other people think and more interested in seeing how you think.”
Grading the Personal Business Plan
A team of two graders reads each PBP. One grades in detail, the other reads to make sure the first grader is not too difficult or too easy a grader.
Because this assignment is about trust at its core, students choose who grades their assignment.
Students are reminded that the grade is not an evaluation of their choice of career path or current life plan, and that only they can decide if their choices will bring them happiness and success.
Professor Tom Kosnik developed a robust grading rubric for this assignment, which is included at the end of the lesson plan.
Because this assignment is worth 20% of their grade, students take it very seriously. Because this assignment is about them and their future, students invest tremendously in it, and receive incredible value from doing it.
We are grateful to Rebeca Hwang, Tom Kosnik, and the faculty who teach E145 Technology Entrepreneurship at Stanford University for sharing this amazing exercise.
Because students are applying business model components to themselves, they deeply engage in learning these components and have a very clear understanding how to apply them.
Through this assignment, students will learn to see themselves as a company, and that they must continuously invest in and develop a plan for. They will also deeply embrace the tools and methodologies they learned in the course because they are applying them to their future. They will see that learning is meaningful when applied to a personal context.
Get the “Personal Business Plan” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Personal Business Plan” exercise to walk you, and your students, through the process, step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers, so you’re welcome to share it.
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