Profit Minded

How business owners can go back to school for free

Darden, Wharton, and Stanford are among top-rate business schools offering online courses …

Has back-to-school season got you thinking that having some business education under your belt might help you grow your company? Join the club.

Since it was announced August 7, more than 12,000 people have already registered for a free online course being offered in January by University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business through Coursera.

"Grow To Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Business" will be taught by Darden professor Edward Hess, author of several books on entrepreneurship. The five-week course promises lessons that will help you scale your business successfully as well as better manage your life. Hess' four Ps—planning, prioritization, process, and pace—and his "gas pedal approach to growth" apply equally to growing your business and yourself, he says.

"Growth is a zigzag, detour, making mistakes, up and down process," Hess says in an engaging video introduction to the course. "Too much growth too fast not properly managed can destroy your business. This course focuses on how to prevent that from happening."

There's no prerequisite to register. All you need is a computer, internet access, and curiosity about how private businesses grow, says Hess, who had a career advising, financing, building, and investing in growth businesses before joining academia 10 years ago to study and contribute to the science of business growth.

Students can expect a blend of case studies and workshops, and a four-to-six hour commitment per week. Darden Business Publishing will provide all required reading materials for free.

To learn more, to see a list of Hess' recommended reading materials, or to register, see Coursera.

While you're there, check out other free Coursera business courses including An Introduction to Operations Management, a six-week course starting September 24 from Wharton Business School professor Christian Terwiesch, and Organizational Analysis, a 10-week course also starting September 24, with Stanford business professor Daniel McFarland.

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