Re-thinking education

An interview with Jack Delosa, CEO, The Entourage

Jack Delosa is the Founder and CEO of The Entourage, Australia’s largest and most disruptive education institution for entrepreneurs and innovators. Born out of a dissatisfaction with the education available to help entrepreneurs start and scale successful businesses, The Entourage today has a community of over 300,000. Jack is also a bestselling author, high profile investor and has been a fixture on the BRW Young Rich list since 2014.

The Entourage flips the traditional education model on its head, with a heavy focus on implementation and practical commercial outcomes. It gives both entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to embed entrepreneurial thinking into bigger businesses, unprecedented amounts of knowhow from successful innovators and business leaders.

The Entourage is creating a very different approach to professional education. Tell us how it works.

The Entourage is all about advancing education. Globally, education is a 4.4 trillion dollar industry. If you look at some of the most respected education institutions in the world - take Harvard University as an example - on any given year they’ll generate well over 4 billion dollars in revenue. Yet if you ask how much it invests in making teaching better, in improving outcomes, my opinion is that it would be zero dollars. And that’s not uncommon, across the industry and across the globe. So we have this $4.4 trillion industry and very few people are looking at what’s being taught, and what’s being learnt.

From an anthropological perspective, fewer and fewer people are putting emphasis on the brand or the qualification, and more people are placing emphasis on the student experience and the tangible career and life outcomes. So while traditional education numbers are still growing (and will continue to do so into the near future) we will get to a point where the numbers of people entrusting their learning to traditional education institutions will start to decline, as the world places more emphasis on the merit of the education, rather than the brand or the qualification.

So what we do at The Entourage is utilise the best business minds in the country, to genuinely deliver good quality education to those who have started their own businesses. Entrepreneurship is a skill that can be taught and can be learnt, and there are a finite number of skills needed to be an effective business owner. Not everyone can become a Richard Branson, but not everybody wants to. We obsess about how to start and build a great company, and we provide a high level of education and support and community for early-stage entrepreneurs to do that; something very few education institutions around the world do well.

“If you can find a way to contribute to a greater degree than the existing incumbents, and make people’s lives better, easier, more efficient - then that’s disruption.” Jack Delosa

So you’re really offering a very modern alternative to a traditional business degree for those wanting to break out on their own one day.

That’s right. Smaller businesses are not small versions of big businesses. So if you go and study business at a top tier university, the value isn’t really there because you’re wanting to go and start your own business and they’re teaching you how to be a manager in a corporate. In my view it’s actually detrimental and counterproductive to being an entrepreneur. It teaches you the rules of the wrong game.

How do you see the connection between innovation and disruption?

I try not to think through the lens of disruption or innovation. I think through the lens of contribution. Which is, where can we better contribute to the lives of people, and if you can find a way to contribute to a greater degree than the existing incumbents, and make people’s lives better, easier, more efficient - then we call that disruption. And if you can find a way to make a better contribution than you did yesterday, then we call that innovation. But essentially, it’s about how do you make the world a better place, not by espousing it, but by working really hard at it.

 What holds larger organisations back from thinking like disruptors or innovators?

There are three main inhibitors to large organisations innovating effectively. One is legacy, the second is the paradigms of the past and how they’ve always operated, and the third is bureaucracy, brought about by virtue of their sheer size.

Human history is full of people we would now define as disruptors. Who do you think are the modern day disruptors making the most valuable contributions?

It’s very true - there have been people throughout history who have had radical ideas that eventually changed the course of humanity. Consider Jesus Christ, not necessarily from a religious perspective, but in a historical context - the effect his ideas and teachings have had on humanity for the past two thousand years are tremendous.

Today, I think Elon Musk and perhaps Steve Jobs have the most impact and contribution. Elon Musk has brought more disruption to space travel in the past fifteen years than the US Government, NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, the Chinese and the Russians have in the last seventy years. He’s also done the same to the automotive and energy industries, and previously, all of these spaces - be it space, automotive or energy - have been spaces reserved for large utility companies or governments, not private individuals driving entrepreneurial ventures trying to solve global problems. So in terms of disruption and innovation rising to meet the challenges of our age in a way that’s entrepreneurial, I think Musk has done that better than anyone, ever.

Every innovator or pioneer stands on the shoulders of those that have come before them, including Musk. There have been so many pioneers that have helped underpin the work he is able to do today. If he is able to enable humanity to build a self-sustaining civilisation on Mars, as he’s working towards, then that will be the largest leap forward for humanity in a very long time.

Which industries do you think are ripe for disruption?

I’m not sure it’s technically an ‘industry’, but I think governments have become increasingly ineffective with each decade that passes. I think we need to disrupt and  re-think the way we do politics, the way we govern, and how we elect our leaders. Admittedly, that’s unlikely to change any time soon! But I think recent political changes across the world have been a result of people wanting to disrupt the status quo.

I’d love to see politics get out of the nineteenth century. When I think of education, I actually believe the government, despite its best intentions, is actually causing damage to generations of people because of how they do things and make decisions. I think part of it is the election cycle, and the fact there is no appetite to make bold decisions for fear of risking re-election. How is anyone able to do anything meaningful for the country within a three-year time horizon? It’s even tougher for businesses, who sometimes work to a one-year cycle for seeing results on new ideas or investments.

How do you define entrepreneurship?

I think the definition of entrepreneurship has evolved, and it’s evolved to one that perhaps today we might use colloquially to mean somebody that is creating their own path, and pursuing their own endeavours. That might even be pursuing a successful career - I don’t think we necessarily tie entrepreneurship with business ownership anymore. So I think we’ve moved to a far more inclusive definition, and one that’s more focussed on the contribution that one can make to the world, and the life they want to live.

What are the biggest challenges in teaching entrepreneurship?

You can’t teach someone to be a Steve Jobs or a Richard Branson. The biggest challenge most aspiring entrepreneurs have is empathy - they don’t understand what it is truly like to be an entrepreneur, and all the unique challenges they’ll face dealing with other people.

So the way we approach it at The Entourage is we have a twelve month, very part- time business education immersion program, where participants have access to workshops, an online library, a suite of experts that can be engaged at any time, one-on-one mentorship, so people can determine their own educational journey based on their own individual objectives. People can do what they want, when they want, for as long as they want.

We work in alignment with traditional education. If you want to be an Accountant, we’re not going to teach you that. But if you want to be an accountant that thinks entrepreneurially, or that can contribute commercially to the practice they work for, or wants to build the largest and most profitable accountancy practice in the country, then we can help teach the skills to do that.

We’re changing the paradigm around education where instead of people learning A, B, C and D within a specific time frame and you’re done, people can become the person they dream of becoming, and to build the business or career they want to build.

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