Back in 2002, after years as a powerhouse entrepreneur, Bob Voss began thinking that he was ready to pass on his knowledge. An expert in video production and duplication, Voss had founded two successful duplication companies in the Twin Cities. He had mastered the business of starting and running a business, but still wasn’t satisfied.
“I answered an ad in the Star Tribune looking for a business entrepreneur instructor at Dakota County Technical College,” Voss said. “I had no teaching experience, but when I walked into the group interview I knew immediately that I had the job.”
Voss beat out 50 other applicants that day and earned the chance to get a new program off the ground. As it turned out, the interview committee members must have known what they were doing.
Just four years later, Voss was named DCTC 2005-2006 Outstanding Instructor of the Year. In January of 2008, he was named the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship Faculty Member of the Year, a national award that included $1,000 in cash and $1,000 in matching funds to support the DCTC Business Entrepreneur program.
“I was 52 when I started teaching,” Voss said. “That goes to show that it’s never to late to find your calling in life. You can’t just say that you want to be something. You have to know that you are that something. In my case, I am a teacher.”
Voss revels in his duties as head of his program. He likes that his office at the college’s Apple Valley site is a former jail cell (the site originally served as Apple Valley’s city hall) that even included a built-in toilet when he first arrived.
“We have a standing joke that I’m going to jail when I get to work,” he said with a smile. “What I’m really doing is having the time of my life. Teaching is totally fun. I never want to retire. In fact, I would be happy to die in my classroom.”
Because his classes are held in the evening, Voss knew that he needed to keep things lively to capture the attention of students who were naturally weary from their workday activities.
“Food is a perfect way to draw people together and keep them awake,” he said. “I encourage my students to bring food into the classroom as long as they bring me some. Somebody is always eating on our campus.”
Voss also foregoes using textbooks in his curriculum, preferring to explore current affairs in the entrepreneurial community. He continually searches for articles and news stories that relate directly to issues his students will encounter in the course of starting their businesses.
“Everything my students experience in the classroom is geared to what they wish to accomplish in the real world,” he said. “When you’re in my class, you are always working on building and growing your own business.”
Voss understands that knowledge and clarity are key tools on the path to prosperity in business. The dream is just the beginning. “I will never tell one of my students that their dream won’t work. My job is to teach them how to make their business dream a reality.”
In his spare time, Voss serves as president of TV Trainer, a private firm that employs optical code technology to deliver culture-based training programs to Latino workforces. His heart, however, resides firmly in the classroom.
“My wife, Dianne, wonders sometimes why I want to keep teaching into my retirement years,” Voss said with a sparkle in his eye. “I have far more energy now than I ever did when I was starting my own businesses. I like this stuff. I really do. My job is to take national statistics on small business failures and beat the hell out of them.”