Professors – Separate Your 'University Self' From Your 'Entrepreneurial Self' – Tips and Suggestions

If you are a professor (and I'm assuming you are since you're reading an article that starts with the word 'professors'), then you might have a question similar to this one:

I am interested in developing a line of teaching tools that come from my experience teaching graduate students and faculty. In developing teaching tools or publications that grow out of a university career, how do you carefully separate your business self from your faculty self? Can you do both at once?

This is such a wonderful question and is one that many faculty members may have pondered in one form or another as they think about various aspects of their career and how they can develop 'deliverables' from their work that could be taken to a larger market or audience. From my own experience – doing this very thing – here are some recommendations:

  1. Establish a company that is separate from your personal 'self.' You need to set up a separate entity for everything you are doing related to your teaching tools (or other ideas or products that will spin off this project). You will need a checking account that is just for your company as well as designing a credit card for this. You can start at as a DBA rather than incorporating, but I would not wait too long on that. This is definitely a tip where 'sooner rather than later' is the watch-phrase.
  2. Begin to think about yourself separately. You have your university self and you have your entrepreneurial-separate-from-the-university self. Designate times when you are working on your entrepreneurial projects – and see it as separate time and as a separate part of your life and work. Avoid working on your entrepreneurial projects while at the university (writing, making phone calls, or whatever) but rather work on it at home. It's not that university folks do not regularly work on their college work at home – we all do, however, going the other direction is what you want to avoid. People are a little testy in the academy when someone shines – let alone when someone shows an entrepreneurial sense and then, heaven-forbid, actually makes money from it.
  3. Avoid talking about your teaching tools, books, manuals, consulting, etc. with others at the university. While you may be very excited about what you're doing, others may be jealous either of what you're doing or just the fact that you're excited about it. There's no need to get others worked up unnecessarily. You want to stay under the radar – not secretive, not sneaky by any means – just under the radar. Announcing what you're doing (which tend not to be most faculty members' styles anyway) is not going to help you in any way.
  4. Find others – nearby or far away – who ARE excited and DO want to know what you're doing and talk with them about your projects. The beauty today is that we can find MasterMind members / colleagues / supporters anywhere in the world.

So, if you are someone in higher education with ideas that you know would find an audience beyond the academy, take this suggestions to heart.