A professor known to all business students, David Swanston runs two businesses alongside lecturing in the management department at the University of Toronto Mississauga. This week, The Medium sat down with Swanston to discuss how he balances teaching with business, as well as the advice he would give aspiring business owners.

In 1997, Swanston founded Swanston Management & Consulting (SM&C), a company which provides support such as strategic planning advice and business operation evaluation to hospitality and foodservice organizations. In 2003, he founded Focused Industry Training Seminars Inc. which offers training seminars to help managers and owners of hospitality, food, and service industries. The seminars teach attendees interactive and practical techniques to improve operations and are led by professionals with expertise in the topic of instruction.

On how he makes time for three major commitments, Swanston explains that “the nice thing about working for yourself is [that] you have control over your schedule. I’m able to scale back projects and training when I’m taking on more teaching assignments, and when my teaching load is lower, like during [the] summer, I can take on more projects. Whereas if I was working for somebody else, I wouldn’t have that same flexibility.” 

Having joined the UTM faculty in 2002, Swanston has been teaching for nearly 18 years. He currently teaches MGT374: Operation’s Management, MGM200: Analysis for Decision-Making and Control, and the graduate course MGT1241: Operation’s Management. With his first-hand experience in operations, he has a lot to offer as a teacher.

For the many aspiring business owners at UTM, Swanston shares some valuable insights. He advises students to not “underestimate the amount of work that goes into starting up and building a business [since] with [one’s] other responsibilities such as school, it could become quite overwhelming especially if [the] business takes off.”

“If you’re actually looking at starting a business [and] if you want to keep going for a long period of time, then [during school] you [should be] laying the foundation to building your customer base, dealing with obstacles and challenges that come along the way, [and] focusing [your] time [on the business]. You have to consider whether you can afford that on top of [courses and extracurriculars].” For students who are doing business as a “side hustle and [trying to] make a few bucks…then maybe [it’s] more manageable.”

As to whether someone who is currently studying should consider starting a business, Swanston says, “I think it really depends on the person—their level of knowledge and experience and what kind of business they’re looking at starting. If you’ve had a good amount of work experience and you’re talking about starting a business in a field that you are very knowledgeable about, then it’s a little bit more feasible.” Running a business involves a lot of mistakes, risk, and learning, so “you don’t want to learn the hard way, especially if you put a lot of money and time and invested into the business. Sometimes coming out of school and getting some work experience [and] expertise and then starting a business in an area that you’re very knowledgeable about, can reduce some of the risk.”

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