Last fall, I announced that I was retiring from teaching to step into a new role as MnSOM’s first principal. The goal was to get away from the day-to-day tasks and start looking at the big picture. I focused my energies on the human resources side of the business, figuring out how we could recruit, hire, train, and retain the best people.


That all went well, but unfortunately, my absence from the daily rhythms of the business took a toll. These issues are prone to crop up whenever a company is scaling. But they were exacerbated by the fact that I had stepped away from the daily operations both metaphorically and literally. I was working from home and visiting the school much less. Expenses started creeping up; not all tasks were being completed with the same urgency or care as before; and the pandemic began to pinch our bottom line. Suddenly, our finances didn’t look as good as they once had.

It would be easy for me to blame other people for the setbacks. But in truth, I had handed off responsibilities that should have stayed under my purview. This dawned on me as I sat in my office off-site, looking over our budget. How often do you go into your child’s school and find the principal working remotely? Probably never. To stay engaged, a principal has to be present and available.

So, these days I’m back on-site. Since doing so, MnSOM has reached more than 400 students for the first time, showing that my presence here ultimately benefits the entire school. I realize that my job is not just shuffling paperwork somewhere in the background — it’s commanding the ship and being immediately accessible and accountable to our customers. Now, you’ll usually find me at the front desk, getting up close and personal and into the nitty-gritty parts. But I’ve also unretired from teaching, and I’m back in the classroom teaching our students.

Taking some time away to relax, learn, and strategize was precisely what I needed half a year ago, but in the end, I believe I was meant to fill this role. As much as it became clear that my business needed me, I realized that I also needed my business. I enjoy working with the students and need that interaction in my life. I also realized that if it’s my job to train people, I couldn’t be an absentee boss. A company’s owner needs to engage with the business daily and work alongside their employees. Doing so presents countless leadership opportunities I would otherwise miss.

I’ve already learned a great deal from being back, and though I’m still navigating some challenges, I’ve managed to right the ship. I’m also looking forward to continuing to grow the school. With my renewed presence on-site, we’ll be able to launch more big initiatives and keep the school operating at the highest level.

During your next visit, feel free to stop by and say hello. I can’t wait to catch up and see what I’ve missed — and I’ll be ready and waiting at MnSOM’s front desk.

–Eric Nehring