Do You Need an MBA to be an Entrepreneur?
MBA programs have become one of the most popular postgraduate degree programs at colleges all over the country. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Education, 191,571 people graduated from U.S. schools with advanced degrees in business, numbers which have continuously risen year by year.
The growth in popularity of the MBA is largely due to the widespread acceptance and usability by employers in a growing number of fields, making it a degree that has a remarkable return-on-investment.
Despite the relative success of students who graduate with MBAs, aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners may find themselves wondering if earning an MBA will prove to be beneficial in their future careers and deliver the same kind of value. More and more experts agree that while entrepreneurship can’t necessarily be taught, earning an MBA can be an invaluable asset for those interested in an entrepreneurial career path.
“A business degree remains one of the most predictable paths to success and financial stability and can provide the proverbial leg up from relative poverty to great accomplishment and wealth, Srilata Zaheer of the University of Minnesota tells Fortune. “In uncertain times, such as we have had since 2008, it tends to draw more students who make this connection. We have any number of alumni from our MBA programs who have come from small towns, modest backgrounds, often the first generation in college, going on to become immensely successful entrepreneurs and leaders of global firms.”
Entrepreneurship is typically a risk-filled career path filled with unforeseen challenges and uncertainty. But for those with an idea and a passion to start their own entrepreneurial endeavors, earning an MBA can be an invaluable investment in helping you to prepare for the unknown, giving you the confidence to achieve your career goals and earning potential, and aid you in becoming a thoughtful, compassionate, and confident leader.
Below, we explore several ways that earning an MBA can help you thrive in your entrepreneurial endeavors.
Earning an MBA Helps Broaden Your Business Acumen
Many entrepreneurs have spent years in their given industry, likely working within a single, specialized field. Their experience is highly valuable, as they quickly become experts in their field, but it can also prove to be a setback when they start their own business.
In order to run a successful business, entrepreneurs are often expected to be a “jack-of-all-trades”, Stanford Professor of Economics Edward Lazear argues.
Analyzing data from Stanford MBA alumni survey responses, Lazear found that entrepreneurs are much more successful if they are “generalists” with a variety of skills.
“Among Stanford alumni, those who go on to start businesses took a more general course curriculum when they were at Stanford than those who never start a business,” he wrote. Rather than taking eight courses centered around finance, for example, successful entrepreneurs planned their courses around a variety of disciplines.
MBA programs provide students with a solid foundation in multiple disciplines that will help students be successful in their entrepreneurial endeavors, and include coursework in leadership, marketing, and finance. These students graduate with a well-rounded set of skills that they can then use to launch and grow their business.
Entrepreneurs are known for their creativity and eagerness to see their ideas grow to fruition. But many entrepreneurs have failed seeing their vision materialize simply because they didn’t have the tools necessary that they would have learned in an MBA program.
“You have to be able to transition your idea into an actual business. It might be a startup, but you want it to grow–and last,” US News contributor Stacy Blackman argues. “More than many other business roles, an entrepreneur needs to know a little bit of everything. Even if you start a tech company, someone has to do the accounting, know how to market your product or service and act as a leader for the team.”
MBA Programs Allow You To Build Your Professional Network
Networking is an important facet of entrepreneurship. In fact, research suggests that networking could have a significant impact on the success or failure of a start-up.
“When I think about my own career, I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking,” writes Tom Farley, the President of the New York Stock Exchange. “Networking is crucial to succeeding as an individual, thrive in your industry, and have fun in your career.”
Whether you’re interacting with like-minded business people, mentors, or colleagues, making connections has the potential to make or break your entrepreneurial endeavors. In an MBA program, networking is built right into the curriculum.
Furthermore, MBA programs attract talent that you can utilize in the future, Forbes contributor and MBA graduate Stella Garber writes.
“MBA programs attract top talent–Just about every one of my classmates at Booth astounds me with his/her background,” Garber says. “Many have already started successful companies, have spent years abroad doing nonprofit work, have travelled the world both for professional and personal reasons…By taking part in [an MBA program], you’ll be exposed to people with experiences that will blow your mind. These people have the potential of becoming your future business partners, engaging you in intellectual debates that will open your mind, and becoming your future go-to network.”
Instructors serve as mentors who can be called upon for advice and recommendations throughout your career. Fellow students in the MBA program serve as individuals that you can learn from and build lasting relationships that will extend long past your graduation date.
As an entrepreneur, having good relationships with people of various skill levels in multiple industries is vital.
MBA Programs Provide Structured Support For Your Future Business Endeavors
The MBA environment is a perfect place to start building your business. Not only are you surrounded by top talent, but you’re also in an environment where students and professors alike are rooting for your success.
“You have access to research and top professors to gain feedback and help you plan and execute on your ideas,” Garber writes. “Making mistakes during an MBA program has a much lower opportunity cost than making start ups in the real world. As students, there is much more wiggle room to recover quickly than when you have constraints from the real world.”
US News contributor Stacy Blackman agrees, noting that business school is the easiest way to test out your “most creative, outrageous and ambitions ideas without the pressure and fear of failure if that company or those ideas don’t work.”3 Learning from these successes and failures allows students to tailor their business models in order to be successful in the real world.
In the MBA environment, students can adapt their course load in order to benefit their future entrepreneurial goals. From there, professors can then provide access to mentorship, and individualized recommendations based on the student’s objectives.
The MBA has proven to be one of the most sought after degree paths in the country, and employers all over the country are seeking MBA graduates to fill high level positions in their company. But the MBA is also sought after by entrepreneurs in seek of mentorship, networking, and the skillsets necessary to see their ideas come to fruition.
For those seeking an environment to help guide them on their entrepreneurial journey. Marylhurst University’s Online Master’s in Business Administration is a valuable investment in your future.