Buying Your Way into Entrepreneurship

by Richard S. Ruback and Royce Yudkoff

MANY ASPIRING LEADERS take conventional routes to the top in business: They get on a C-suite track at a large company, climb the ladder to partnership at a consulting or investment firm, or launch their own start-up. But there is another career path that has become increasingly popular in recent years: buying and running an existing operation—or what we call acquisition entrepreneurship. A record number of such transactions occurred in the United States during the first three quarters of 2016, according to BizBuySell, an online small-business marketplace.

Every year, we teach a course at Harvard Business School on this kind of entrepreneurship, which dozens of students—and ...

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