Business professor relishes foreign experiences

Tim Hatten has taught entrepreneurship around the world. The winner of a second Fulbright award, the Colorado Mesa University professor will spend the fall semester teaching at a business university in Denmark. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Tim Hatten has taught entrepreneurship from the Russian Far East to Iceland.

Regardless of the location, though, the Grand Junction professor becomes a student of sorts himself in gaining a better understanding of foreign cultures and the way they conduct business. At the same time, he also gains a broader perspective of business back home in the United States.

“I go in with the expectation of learning more than I teach,” Hatten said. “I walk away with so much more.”

He anticipates the same experience during an upcoming trip abroad, this time to Denmark.

Hatten, a business professor at Colorado Mesa University, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to teach during the fall semester at the Niels Brock Business College in Copenhagen.

Established in 1881, the Niels Brock Business College is the oldest institution of its kind in Denmark and serves more than 25,000 students. The college is named after a man considered one of the greatest merchants in Danish history. Brock exported textiles and processed foods. Following his death in 1802, he earmarked a portion of his estate to open a school of commerce.

Hatten expects to teach courses in entrepreneurship, counsel students at a business incubator at the college and lead an online class in which students from around the world will work on together on the same projects.

The Fulbright award is the second for Hatten, who won his first grant to teach entrepreneurship at Reykjavik University in Iceland in 2001.

Named after the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, the international educational exchange program was established in 1946 to promote understanding between the U.S. and other countries.

Hatten initially applied for a position in central Europe to teach courses in Austria and present guest lectures at nine other universities. He said he’s pleased, nonetheless, with his selection for a position at a business college that emphasizes entrepreneurship. “The more I read, the more I’m excited to be at this special institution.”

Hatten said the position constitutes a good fit given his 16 years of experience at Colorado Mesa University teaching courses in business and marketing. Moreover, Hatten literally wrote the book on small business management with a textbook that’s used at a total of 300 universities and colleges in 30 countries. The book, now in its fifth edition, ranks among the bestsellers globally for the small business market. Hatten also is working on an interactive online textbook for introductory business courses.

Hatten brings to his duties a passion for the American brand of entrepreneurship. While other countries might have invented entrepreneurship, the United States perfected it, he said. “What we do best here is entrepreneurship.”

The infrastructure in place in the U.S. promotes entrepreneurship with a stable currency system, efficient distribution networks and incentives to take risks, he said. The possibility of failure also serves to motivate entrepreneurs to succeed.

Denmark, Iceland and other countries with Scandinavian cultures have a tradition of rugged individualism that extends to entrepreneurship, Hatten said.

In Iceland, Hatten said he talked to students as well as business owners about capitalizing on opportunities, including the crystal clear water and other natural resources available to them. Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to see advantages otherwise taken for granted, he said.

The concept of entrepreneurship is less familiar in other areas of the world, though, in particular the Russian Far East in the aftermath of Soviet communism.

For three weeks in 1998, Hatten helped would-be entrepreneurs develop business plans in Magadan, a port city of about 115,000 in extreme eastern Russian. For some students, even the notion of profit was foreign. Other students questioned why they should listen to a U.S. professor talk about starting new businesses in Russia.

Hatten said he reached an understanding with his students when he told them he wasn’t going to force them to adopt U.S. business practices, but only ask them to consider those practices that could work for them.

In addition to sharing his knowledge of entrepreneurship on his trips abroad, Hatten said he always returns with a broader perspective of U.S. business he applies in his classrooms at Colorado Mesa University. He compares the experience to viewing the same landmark from different vantage points. “The more places I go, the more accurately I’m going to see what’s essentially the same picture.”