Entrepreneurial Spirit: Bob Knowling '77

WM asked 18 Wabash entrepreneurs:

What’s the most important thing you know about being an entrepreneur?

What should Wabash be doing to instill this "entrepreneurial spirit?"

"Entrepreneurs Can Paint That Picture"

Applauded by President Bill Clinton in 2000 for his work bridging the "digital divide," Bob Knowling is now CEO of Telwares, which provides communications expense management software and services that helps corporations understand how they spend money on communications services.

Until 2005, Knowling was CEO of the New York City Leadership Academy, an independent nonprofit corporation created by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg given the task of developing the next generation of principals in the New York City public school system.

What is the most important thing you know about being an entrepreneur?

I’m not sure that I would call myself an entrepreneur, but there are things that I see in great entrepreneurs. First, they have the ability to look around the corner, to know where the puck is going to be instead of where it is.

Second, they are evangelistic about their ideas and can paint a compelling story about the future. Aristotle said, "The soul never thinks without a picture." Entrepreneurs can paint that picture.

Another thing they all possess is speed—speed in decision making, speed to market, speed to profitability, speed to market share, speed to tough decisions and speed to change course on strategy or people if they are not right for the business.

The final thing I see in great entrepreneurs is courage.

What should Wabash be doing to instill this entrepreneurial spirit in our students?

The college teaches you to think and to reason. I didn’t understand what this meant back when
I was a student. I do now. I don’t believe that the College needs to change its approach.?

Coach Mac Petty gave me hundreds of life lessons when I had no clue about his methods of coaching our team and, more important, why he rode my ass all the time. Countless employees in my company can recite Coach Petty’s words of wisdom.?

The College needs to continue to provide a rich and diverse experience for young men and Wabash alumni just need to continue providing opportunities, access, mentoring and support. I used to shun the notion of role model and mentor but the truth of the matter is that there are thousands of great Wabash men out here who are making great things happen all over the globe and in every industry that you can imagine, and every one of them is a role model and mentor.