Monday, July 11, 2011

A New Business Minor

I’ll begin with a sweeping statement: All students eventually go to work somewhere. Thus, it makes sense for all students to get some business education, if possible.

Some students will agree with this statement and will pursue a minor in business administration. The typical minor in business administration looks a lot like the typical business core curriculum. I’ve written several blog entries on different ways to re-conceptualize the business core. In this post, I’d like to (re)consider the business administration minor.

The relevant question is, I suppose, “What does a non-business major need to know about business?” The traditional answer has been “a little accounting, a little marketing, a little economics” and so forth. Odds are the typical business minor student comes out of this experience with just enough knowledge to be dangerous to her and few practical skills that may actually help her when she is employed by someone or tries to begin a business.

Here’s my minor in business administration:

Financial accounting. Accounting is the language of business. Students who can “read” a set of financial statements and understand the basic concepts (receivables, payables, revenues, expenses, profit, and so on) can understand why managers make some of the decisions they make. I believe as employees they will make better decisions, too, as they will have some idea of what the “bottom line” is and why management focuses on it. Of course, there are many other important factors related to “the bottom line,” but understanding the financial side is a good place to start.

Business law. The law of business is vast and can be very complicated. Non-business majors need to understand that employers, employees, and consumers all have rights and responsibilities. They all have limitations on their actions, too. An employee’s actions often have consequences and sometimes those consequences are very costly. A general knowledge of the laws of commerce would benefit everyone.

Business process modeling. This would be a course that teaches fundamental methods for modeling business processes. It could be a modified course in systems analysis. We know that when people build models of situations, their decision making improves.

Customer relationship management (CRM). This would be a course that surveys several topics. I would include the data management aspects of CRM, some basic consumer behavior, and perhaps some topics focused on what distinguishes pleasurable events from non-pleasurable ones, among others.

Business plan development. Learning the basics of business plan development exposes a student to the many facets of successful businesses (and business launches). Many students underestimate, due to inexperience, the many factors that contribute to successful business concerns.

These are my thoughts. You may think of some other courses that would be better.

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