There is a lot of discussion in the business world these days about the value of an MBA degree to a startup company. All debate aside, the fact is that MBAs have founded many of the most exciting startups in the modern economy. OKCupid, Trulia, SparkNotes, and many other big-name companies started out with an MBA grad at the helm.
An MBA degree is excellent preparation for those who hope to start and sell businesses, and here’s why.
An MBA or EMBA program is an ideal place to make contacts. The average student is a very ambitious, driven person with ten years of real-world experience. These are your potential partners, management team, and clients. They may even start companies you will court when you’re ready to sell your startup. Besides your own classmates, you’ll have the entire alumni network of your school to draw upon, plus the instant respect of others who’ve completed MBA programs.
#2. Experimentation and Feedback
You can bring all your startup ideas into the laboratory of your classes. You’ll get feedback from the sharp minds of your classmates and instructors, and test your ideas against the cumulative knowledge of the business world. You’ll uncover errors in your thinking or processes without having to risk your capital or reputation in the real world, and you’ll absorb ideas that might have taken years to discover in the real world.
#3. A Backup Plan
Not all business ideas succeed, and many entrepreneurs don’t make it until after they’ve floated a few ideas that didn’t work out. What if your first few ideas don’t succeed, or you decide entrepreneurship isn’t right for you after all? An MBA degree will not only bring a strong base of knowledge to your own projects, but give you a fall-back career for financial recovery if you need to take a break from entrepreneurship.
#4. Hard Business Skills
Successful entrepreneurs move quickly, and don’t always have time to learn on the job. You’ll need the ability to scan data, select what’s important, and interpret it clearly. You’ll need the skills to project income and expenses, and you’ll have to know how to maximize marketing investments and lead your team. A good MBA program lets you acquire these skills in advance and allows you to make your biggest mistakes in the classroom where risks are minimal. A flexible program like the EMBA program at Washington State lets you complete your MBA online in just two years, while you keep your current job or build your business.
#5. Soft Skills Also Matter
A good MBA program doesn’t just teach accounting and operational skills. By the time you graduate, you’ll feel confident in your ability to lead. You’ll be a more persuasive speaker, better able to sell your ideas. You’ll have the vocabulary and skills to hold your own with attorneys, bankers, and consultants. You’ll be more certain of your own store of knowledge, and that self-confidence will help you win the confidence everyone around you.
#6. Thinking Skills are Critical
In addition to hard and soft business skills, a good program will train you to think outside the box. Your MBA classes will drill you in the processes of innovative thinking, and give you opportunities to develop and practice problem-solving techniques in the classroom that will save you from making countless mistakes in your business venture.
#7. Seeing the Big Picture
Even tiny businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. A good MBA program will give you the ability to see your business decisions from a different perspective, as part of a larger whole. Your decisions as a business owner will be influenced by ethics, by society, and by the global business climate, and in turn your actions will have an impact on the society around you. Understanding how business and society interact is an important skill for any entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is a very special career track that requires a lot of passion, a flexible skill set, and a very deep understanding of all aspects of business. There’s no better degree track for gaining a broad and deep knowledge of business than an MBA.
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