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I once heard about an MBA professor’s unique final exam (I think my friend Peter was telling me this over a diner-dive breakfast in NYC, as we discussed the interview “test” of taking candidates out to see how they treat the staff…to set the scene…), and the lesson has stuck with me.
This professor spent the entire semester telling the students how important the final exam was going to be, that it could count for at least 50% of their grade for the class.
You know, educational fear of jeebus threats.
When finals week came up, the students were freaking out.
Studying for hours on end leading up to it. Quizzing each other on potential answers. Doing everything they could to learn everything they could about all things business and management.
The day of the final came, and the students filed into the classroom.
On each desk there was a single, blank, piece of paper.
The professor got to the front of the classroom, and cleared his throat.
“The final exam is one single question. Anyone who answers correctly will receive an A for the semester. Anyone else will be graded on a bell curve against all these students.”
Eyes shifted and terror captivated the room. What would the question be?!
The professor turned to the board, and wrote one sentence on the board:
What is the name of the custodian who cleans this building?
In that simple question, those students learned an extremely important lesson.
It doesn’t matter how much you know about business. It doesn’t matter how well you manage your team. It doesn’t matter how respected and revered you are in your industry.
If you don’t know the name of the person who cleans your waste bin every night, you are failing as an entrepreneur.