Many of us wish to own businesses someday, but not all of us are business majors. If somebody wishes to run a successful business, many important aspects must be covered. A strong business plan, a great product, a significant market size, and above all else, an exceptional management team. If you wish to run a successful business, then surely you must learn how to evaluate one. Evaluating a business combs over every detail that can affect the potential for success, which is indeed, every detail. So, does your major help with evaluations?

While most majors don’t focus or even touch on business, they all have a general mindset and thought patterns they attempt to impart on their students. For example, art majors will focus on creativity and thinking outside of the box. Law and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) majors have a logical workflow drilled into them by performing step by step analyses, and are often forced to take creative approaches as well. So with these thought patterns imparted on us, do they help us evaluate a company? As mentioned before, business evaluations have various criteria that must be covered. The criteria to analyze can be taught to anyone, but even then, most people will view each criteria a different way. So how can you leverage your major to aid in these evaluations?

Law majors, for example, tend to excel at identifying areas of risk for a business, even outside of the industry regulations. They are taught to consider worst case scenarios and absolve themselves of liability. These thought patterns will still appear in every area they observe. Questions like “what happens if this company’s materials supplier goes under?” or “what if another competitor comes out with a similar product?” may appear to them. Contingency plans and risk mitigation is the name of their game, even if it isn’t dealing with legal work in nature.

As an engineering student, I excel at analyzing complex systems as well as identifying and optimizing variables. For every one of my classes since day one, I have been taught to express thoughts and ideas through the purely logical language of mathematics. This skill translates to easily identifying quantitative elements in a business, but can even help with qualitative aspects as well. Many of the questions I consider will be seen by computer science, mathematicians, or law majors as well.  “What-ifs” are a critical part of my field. After all, nearly every law in math or physics, every design, idea, or invention, all started with “what if ____?”

I truly believe engineering or STEM majors lend themselves well to business because of this reason. These majors are trained to operate off of logic and brutal honesty because people’s lives and safety often depend on it. This translates well to business evaluations because we tend to look through any intentional distractors, sales pitches, and marketing techniques. Glamorous promises of riches and fame don’t stand up to spot checks in financial plans.

This does not mean, however, that you must be a law or STEM major to be great at evaluating companies. As mentioned before, art majors are made to think outside of the box and do things which have never been considered before. Surely if used correctly, this type of thinking can help tremendously with evaluating design or marketing ideas for companies. Even if a product or service is tremendous, will people be convinced they want it?

Apple is a great example of this. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak understood that two computers with identical hardware can generate two completely different experiences. It is often the experience and the emotion that a company’s product or service conveys which can lead it to success or failure. If it were only up to engineers, the world may still be using Blackberries, with iPhones never having even been considered.

So what degree are you pursuing? What are the strengths you can take, and what are the weaknesses you can fix? UNLV offers incredible resources and help for all of its students. Don't be afraid to speak with professors in other departments. Everyone is here to help each other grow and reach maximum potential. Don't shy away from challenges or doing things outside of the norm. Don't be afraid to reach for things outside of the scope of your major. Be realistic, be creative, and remember to watch for the sharks!


Grant Anderson is a business development consultant and engineering student. Grant has covered all areas of development including market sizing, competitive analyses, extensive research, coordinating R&D, and public relations. Grant aspires to create his own technology commercialization firm focused on in-house R&D.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RVF or UNLV. In addition, thoughts and opinions are subject to change and this article is intended to provide an opinion of the author at the time of writing this article. All data and information is for informational purposes only.