Posted By Pablo Conde on May 12, 2014 in Business Insurance, Interviews
Pablo Conde

Expert Interview with Jeff Cornwall on Entrepreneurship for Insurance 321


Small business owners and entrepreneurs face an endless stream of challenges, and one of the biggest that’s been nagging them since 2008 is the weak economy, says Dr. Jeff Cornwall, Jack C. Massey Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship, Belmont University.

And things aren’t looking up, either, the blogger behind The Entrepreneurial Mind adds. High tax rates, an incredibly complex tax system, increasing regulation of business, and eroding property rights have not made a difficult situation any easier, and Dr. Cornwall expects the climate will stay the same and could even worsen over the next five years.

“The ‘recovery’ has not made it to Main Street,” he says. “Small business owners remain cautious about expansion and hiring as a result.”

We recently caught up with Dr. Cornwall to share about lessons he’s learned through entrepreneurship and the qualities he thinks every great business owner should possess. 

Here’s what he had to say:

Tell us about The Entrepreneurial Mind. When and why did you start your blog?

I started the blog about a decade ago. It was really just an experiment. Blogging was new, and I wanted to play around with a new form of communication. It soon became clear that it was a great promotional tool for our Entrepreneurship Program at Belmont. A couple of years ago, I moved it from the university to become my personal blogging platform. I am now in the process of transitioning it to become part of a digital knowledge platform in the content space of entrepreneurship. It is becoming part of system I will be using to disseminate information and knowledge about entrepreneurship to a broad audience.

Who should be reading it, and what types of posts will they find on it?

It is geared for anyone interested in entrepreneurship. Over the past year, I have transitioned to much more video content, using interviews I have conducted with a variety of entrepreneurs and with those who support entrepreneurs. I envision over time I will develop both a written blog and a video blog. Right now it contains both.

How did you become passionate about entrepreneurship? What excites you about it?

I grew up learning about entrepreneurship at the dinner table. My father was an entrepreneur and angel investor. I have either been a practicing entrepreneur or teaching aspiring entrepreneurs for my entire career. I love the challenge and excitement of the free market. I also am a passionate advocate for economic liberty, which is essential for entrepreneurship to thrive. Entrepreneurs have become the true underdog in today’s political and economic climate. I hope through my blog and other writings that I can be a voice for small business owners. 

What qualities do you think every entrepreneur or small business owner should possess? What bad habits should they ditch?

Successful entrepreneurs need to be both patient and prudent. Entrepreneurial success needs to be viewed as a process, not an event. It takes years of hard work – there are very few overnight entrepreneurial success stories. Entrepreneurs need to ditch the notion that they can get rich quickly. The most successful entrepreneurs I have known are very careful and prudent. While they do take considerable risk, they only do so when they have done their homework and conducted solid research in the market. They take the time to develop their business model before they try to scale the business. Entrepreneurs need to ditch being impulsive and take time to ensure their business model is ready to build a business around.

Can you tell us a story about a business venture you pursued that ultimately failed? What did you learn from the experience?

The biggest failure we had was a business that was created by a law that created an opportunity to provide training and education for people injured at the workplace that was funded by workman’s compensation insurance. When the law was unexpectedly changed, the business failed almost overnight. I learned to never trust the government to create a sustainable business opportunity!

On the flip side, what’s been your favorite business victory – a time you were proud of your work and what you accomplished? How were you able to achieve that success?

That is impossible to answer. It is like asking someone to name their favorite child. I love the entrepreneurial process and have enjoyed each and every journey it has taken me on.

What types of insurance do you think every small business should be sure to have? What types, if any, do you think are a waste of money?

Each business owner should understand his or her risks, which can be different for every business. Since budgets are always tight for entrepreneurs, focus on the risks associated with potential operational and/or financial disruption of your business. When I was in healthcare, for example, our biggest risks were from litigation and disruption of our operations. I made sure to focus our investment in insurance, and I viewed it as an investment, primarily in those areas.

Can you tell us about a time you were relieved about having a certain type of insurance to cover your business? What happened?

We had business interruption insurance. In one six-month period, we were shut down by a hurricane and an ice storm. Both events shut down our operation for a few weeks. Cash flow stopped coming in, but it did not stop going out! So grateful my controller had recommended we purchase a good policy to cover these types of situations.

Follow Dr. Cornwall on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook.