This is a guest post by Amanda Watson.
As a marketing professional or small business owner, you’ve probably, at least at some point in your career, thought about returning to school to complete a Master’s degree in Business Administration. You may be thinking, “Lots of people are doing it. And they end up being very successful. Why shouldn’t I do the same?” The truth of the matter is that MBAs can pay off, but only for some, and only if you know what you’re getting yourself into. While you’ll learn a lot of theory, do some practice, expand your network, and maybe be more marketable for certain positions, here’s what an MBA won’t teach you:
- MBA Marketing classes won’t cover disruptive and constantly changing strategies like social media.
Perhaps my biggest gripe with nearly all MBA programs, especially with the more traditional ones, is that they teach as though the Internet has yet to be invented. Of course, it makes sense considering technological tools change so quickly with the zeitgeist that it’s not really feasible to put such material in a textbook. Disruptive technologies can really only be learned by actually using them. Some professors are more cognizant of this than others, but, as I said, MBA programs are dinosaur-like when it comes to social media.
- An MBA won’t prepare you for the failure you must experience when starting a small business.
There’s nothing like learning from failure. In the world of small businesses, failure is almost always a given. Of course, you can receive failing grades in an MBA program, but you’re entire livelihood won’t depend on it. Don’t count on an MBA program to give you thick skin. Thick skin is acquired through experience, and experience only.
- An MBA won’t teach you personality and techniques of persuasion.
In order to succeed in business, there’s no getting around the fact that you have to possess a very particular sort of personality. You have to have a combination of charm, stubbornness, empathy, and relentlessness (some would say even ruthlessness). You have to understand the human condition and figure out how to use this knowledge to your advantage. There’s no class in any MBA program that molds the entrepreneurial personality. Some people are born with it, and some people acquire it once they understand the personal characteristics needed to make it. Either way, you won’t acquire it in business school.
- Completing an MBA is nothing compared to the hours upon hours of work you’ll have to put into getting your business off the ground.
I’m not trying to say that completing an MBA isn’t hard work, because it certainly can be. It’s just nothing compared to the work you’ll do in the process of starting and maintaining your small business. Many entrepreneurs found businesses because they think it will give them a flexible schedule. Of course, in some ways, it’s true, but a flexible schedule can also turn into a 24 hour nightmare. MBAs don’t prepare you for this reality.
Now, as someone who did complete her MBA, I can say that there is definitely value in this degree. I learned a lot. I made great and helpful friends. But I suggest that you work several years fiddling with your own ventures before even considering it. Experience is always a greater teacher.
What do you think? For those of you who completed an MBA, was it worth it?
Amanda Watson is well versed business blogger with a keen interest in how people earn their mba online. She believes that web entrepreneurship is critical to success in business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: opensourceway on Flickr