Stepping Into Greatness with Donna Bonaparte

Talking to Donna Bonaparte, you can almost feel her energy. The Chief Human Resources Officer at Babson College is understandably proud of the achievements the College has made—Babson has been voted number one in the world for Entrepreneurial Education for more than twenty consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report—and wants the world to know about it.

“People have the wrong idea about entrepreneurs, that entrepreneurs include only people out to start a business,” Bonaparte explained. “We work from a different mindset. Yes, we want to help people realize their dreams of entrepreneurship, but we also teach them about using their talents to help make social changes in their community and in the world, too.”

As the Chief Human Resources Officer, Bonaparte’s role is making sure the faculty and staff have the support they need to do their job to the best of their ability. She also lectures in the school’s Human Resources classes to teach the entrepreneurs of the future how to perform such tasks when they complete their education.

“We aren’t looking for people to simply agree with the status quo; no company wants that,” she said. “The best way for an organization to be successful and for a school to teach their business students is to teach them to challenge the way things are done to see if there is a better way. That is the entrepreneurial approach, a mindset, or a way to addressing problems. Don’t just accept something because ‘it’s always been done that way,’ ask why it is done that way.”

Of course, not all the ideas an employee or student may have are going to work, which is why Bonaparte passes along a few simple words of wisdom for anybody trying a new idea, whether it’s a new business or just a new way of thinking about an existing operation.

“Whenever I hear an idea has failed, I always tell the person whose idea didn’t work that FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning,” she said. “Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Learn from it.”

As for measuring the success of an employee or student, they can learn from their mistakes, but Bonaparte says it should not be measured in dollars and cents. Success to her doesn’t mean getting to a point in your career and staying there; it means constantly striving to improve while at the same time making sure you give back to the community as much as you can.

“That’s the mindset of a successful entrepreneur,” she said.