I was a student with no idea what I wanted to do with my life. After graduating, I took the plunge and enrolled in an MBA program at NYU Stern. It has been one of the best decisions of my career.
My statement of purpose for my MBA was to help me thrive as an entrepreneur. I am a person who thrives on change and the MBA provided that change.
The startup community has a reputation for being suspicious of MBAs. There’s something frivolous about a professional degree that isn’t a requirement for anything in an industry that lauds performance metrics to continuously monitor growth.
Unlike medical school or law school, an MBA is not required to enter the business world. Many founders, investors, and engineers see a $200k, two-year program as an inefficient means to an unknown goal, given that much of the startup playbook is about learning as much as you can as fast and inexpensively as possible in order to achieve some key milestone.
My experience as a full-time MBA does not inherently contradict this viewpoint, but I believe there is room for a more nuanced discussion. Entrepreneur Cliff Oxford claimed in a recent New York Times blog post that, despite MBA institutions pouring resources into entrepreneurial programs, these programs still lead to classroom-centered teaching models that move too slowly to be relevant for start-ups, which often need to be up and running in months or even weeks. While Cliff believes that elite MBA schools like those at Harvard and Stanford are beneficial for networking, he believes that the academic approach to entrepreneurship has limited benefit.
Cliff is correct in that several of the courses I studied as an MBA student were not yet relevant to my professional path. In the course, though, I learned a few key lessons and got the support and mentoring I needed to incubate not one, but two company concepts.
Would I say that everything was worth the $200,000 asking price plus the opportunity cost? The easy answer is that determining whether or not it was worthwhile for me will not assist other people determine whether or not it will be beneficial for them. Personal financials, opportunity cost, and anticipated future income must all be included into the equation. For further information on whether or not an MBA is beneficial for you, I suggest reading this essay by Tim Berry. While many of the variables are very personal, I believe it is essential to highlight where I saw genuine value so that others contemplating full or part-time MBA programs may do the math for themselves.
With that in mind, here’s how I used my MBA to its full potential.
1) Some things can only be learned in a classroom.
I’m going to argue that, contrary to common opinion, my classroom experience was the most beneficial portion of my time at school. Following the premise that venture capitalists need both builders (engineers, operations experts) and sellers (marketing, sales, and business development), I concentrated my study on marketing, and some of these courses completely blew my mind.
Data is transforming the way companies function, and most of the successful start-ups I’ve seen rely heavily on consumer data. While data science is still in its infancy, understanding fundamental mathematics and statistics, as well as how they are used to modeling and forecasting, has altered my perspective on consumers. Because customers are at the heart of every company, this shifted my perspective. Period. There is no more to say.
Although not all MBA marketing courses are made equal, if you can locate intense, quantitative courses taught by renowned academics, you will undoubtedly receive your money’s value. (It’s worth mentioning that some of my finest professors are starting to give some of their courses via Massive Open Online Courses, but in my experience, the actual secret sauce is still being kept under wraps, and even if it were, this material is difficult to self-teach.)
2) They’ll Put Money Into Their Own Business
The second most important aspect of my time in school, after the courses, was having access to financing. Schools want credit for the businesses that their students establish, and although it’s difficult to link success to a classroom, following the money is much simpler. As a result, it seems that the number of contests offering significant financial rewards, such as pitch competitions, school-sponsored hackathons, and business plan competitions, is growing. Many programs also include chances to receive assistance money, which may be utilized to secure internships at start-ups that would otherwise be unpaid or to allow you to develop your own business initiatives.
I applied to approximately 11 different entrepreneurial contests or assistance programs throughout my MBA school, won five, and was given almost $25,000. If you’re thinking about obtaining an MBA, they aren’t terrible chances. The trick is to do your research and make sure you’re looking at a program that’s willing to back up what they say on their website with money.
3) Mentorship Is Invaluable
It’s difficult to locate mentors in the real world when you’re a lonely entrepreneur. Maybe it’s easier if you reside in a tech center like Silicon Valley, but it’s almost difficult to find individuals (outside of family) that are really engaged in your and your company’s success. That is why businesses have paid advisory boards—you generally have to pay for that sort of help and expertise. As a result, it appears acceptable for a person to pay for time in a classroom with someone who is then available outside of the classroom as well. Consider business school as lead generation with mentors and advisers: as long as you’re at a place where you respect the professors, you’ll gain a lot of value out of those connections.
Cliff writes at the conclusion of his New York Times article that you should only enroll in an MBA program that “provides real-world experience working with someone who is developing a company.” “It’s very much like having players watching game video but never practicing on the field,” he adds.
But here’s the thing: if you require your MBA school to provide you everything on a silver platter, you’re probably not made out for entrepreneurship in the first place. If, on the other hand, you discover and get accepted into a school with a strong marketing department, plenty of resources, and professors you respect, any competent entrepreneur should be able to recoup their tuition costs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does getting an MBA make someone a better entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is a very broad term that can be characterized in many different ways. Its difficult to say whether or not getting an MBA would make someone more likely to become an entrepreneur, but it is clear that some people are more likely than others to succeed in entrepreneurship.
Can MBA become entrepreneur?
Yes, MBA can become an entrepreneur.
Why should an entrepreneur get an MBA?
The MBA is considered the most valuable degree because it teaches you how to be an entrepreneur.
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