The jury’s still out on whether you really need an MBA in order to be a successful startup leader – and plenty of Silicon Valley types would argue that you don’t. If you’re debating whether or not you need an MBA in order to become a successful startup entrepreneur, you’re probably already pretty familiar with the success stories of those who didn’t go to business school, and in some cases, didn’t even finish college – legends like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg spring to mind. But for every Gates, Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs, there’s a dozen more startup leaders who did get an MBA. In fact, MBAs are the rule, not the exception, when it comes to successful entrepreneurs.
The School of Hard Knocks Is Hard
A big part of the reason why MBAs make better startup leaders is that the school of hard knocks tends to put people through a lot of hard knocks – it’s right there in the name. Plenty of startup leaders have made mistakes that could have been avoided if they’d gone to business school first. Take Stephen Greer, author of Starting from Scrap, who admits that he failed to grow his scrap metal business in a sustainable way and missed opportunities as a result, because he didn’t have the business savvy that he might have had if he’d earned an MBA.
You can certainly strike out on your own in the business world, counting on trial and error to teach you all you need to know about running your business and surviving in your industry. And, who knows – you might get lucky, and actually manage to build a thriving company in spite of your lack of formal education. But there’s a much better chance your business will fail. Even if it doesn’t fail, going to business school will accelerate your learning process, condensing years or decades of trial-and-error business experience into a year or two of coursework. You’ll learn from classmates, professors, and mentors, and leave your MBA with all the financial and leadership acumen you need to found a startup and guide it to success. If you’ve already started a business, online MBA programs in California and around the country allow you to build up the business skills you need without taking time away from your company.
B-School Builds Valuable Professional Networks
No matter what your walk of life, networking is important, and business school will help you build that network. The best connections are made not at conferences, or even at cocktail parties, but when you go through a difficult and rewarding experience with a group of other individuals. Think the military – or grad school.
When you enroll in an MBA program, you’ll be in a cohort with other entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs who will go through the whole experience with you. You’ll have classes together, learn to work in groups together, bounce your business ideas off of each other, and give one another feedback on the shortcomings and strengths of your respective business plans. You’ll get the chance to meet and build connections with other business leaders from around the world, widening your horizons and learning to think globally. You’ll also form a solid network of mentors as you work with faculty members in your program.
MBAs Benefit from Alumni Support After Graduation
Business school puts you in a bubble where you’ll eat, breathe, and sleep business for one to two years. You’ll have your mind opened to new cultures, new ideas, new experiences, and new possibilities in ways you can’t imagine until it happens to you. And even after you walk the stage and claim your degree, you’ll continue to benefit from the transformative effects and peer support of b-school.
You’ll see your old classmates succeed, and that will motivate you to work hard for your success, too. You’ll be surrounding yourself with a network of ambitious, driven, like-minded people who will empower you to reach your goals. You’ll benefit from alumni networks and, on a more personal level, from the support of peers and mentors when you feel discouraged or need direction.
It’s true that some of the biggest business leaders in the world didn’t go to b-school – but most did, and there’s a reason for that. Business school prepares you for leadership in a way that few other things can. Get your MBA, and become the leader you were always meant to be.