If you’re planning to start your own business, you may think you don’t need an MBA degree. Look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, for example. They all dropped out of college and still achieved entrepreneurial greatness. However, those guys tend to be the exception. Most of the entrepreneurs who are changing the world — like Nike co-founder Phil Knight, billionaire investor Warren Buffet, and engineer and inventor Elon Musk— do have MBA degrees.
Business school provides entrepreneurs with a safe place to test out their most creative, ambitious, and outrageous ideas without any pressure or fear of failure. Failure can be a valuable learning tool for success because it allows you to figure out what went wrong and gives you an opportunity to revise your business model for the real world. Plus, an MBA program grants you access to experienced teachers and mentors who can guide you along the way and help you flesh out your entrepreneurial ideas.
Starting a company is the easy part. What comes after — running and growing your business — is more challenging. As a business owner, you’ll need to know how to do a little bit of everything and understand how all of the pieces fit together.
Whether you choose a concentration in finance, marketing, management information systems, or health services, or take the general track, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online MBA can give you the foundation you need for running your own business.
Setting Yourself Up For Success
The right MBA program can help you plan and shape your business model, and hit the ground running after graduation. It may help you understand business management theory, learn different ways of running your business, take your business global, write a proper business plan to attract external funding, and build a solid online presence, among many other valuable skills. Also, looking at case studies of failed businesses could better prepare you to avoid making the same mistakes.
Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia, a leading online real estate marketplace, started his company during business school before taking it public many years later. While he says entrepreneurs often ask him if an MBA will hold them back from being innovative and creative enough to be successful, he explains that, based on his experiences, an MBA can foster innovation and entrepreneurship in several powerful ways.
First, he says an MBA provides you with an opportunity to learn from role models, through case studies, frameworks, and peers. Second, he says you can benefit from the collision of different disciplines and cultures.
“Breakthrough innovation often happens at the intersection of industries,” he explains. “A standard approach in one industry might affect real, positive change in another. Areas like self-driving cars, where software meets auto technology, are very exciting to me as a result.”
Third, he cites the positive impact of gaining resources and a network. Fourth, he says earning an MBA gives you space to be creative.
“Taking a break, having perspective, and giving yourself time to think is critical,” he says. “To come up with big ideas, you need to step away from the day to day. The academic environment provides the opportunity to think big about solving big problems.”
Finally, he says business school is a safe place to fail. “Failure is an important part of every entrepreneur’s journey. Being in school provides an ideal environment to test ideas — and fail with less-harsh consequences. Over time, this type of learning helps entrepreneurs hone their decision-making capabilities and build confidence.”
MBAs And Women Entrepreneurs
An MBA degree can be especially helpful for female entrepreneurs because it strengthens their credibility with potential clients and lenders.
“What an MBA program provides you with is the ability to think and communicate on the same level as your potential investors, many of whom have an MBA diploma squirreled away somewhere,” says Kathryn Loewen, founder and CEO of Control, which helps businesses manage and track their online sales in real time. In her August 2015 Fortune.com article, “Why female entrepreneurs should get an MBA,” she continues: “For women, who don’t conform to the young, white male archetype of tech success, being able to connect intellectually is particularly important. An MBA armed me with the extra credibility I needed as a female founder.”
Loewen explains that Silicon Valley wisdom claims business degrees stifle innovation and that one should “just be successful.” However, she’d argue that the people who start a company without any training are exceptions to the rule.
“To discount the value of an MBA is a misinformed way of going about business,” she says. “The ‘If I could do it, why can’t anybody?’ mentality is an easy sell to generations of Americans who are disenchanted with the education system and hungry for startup glory. However, the reality for many — particularly women and minorities — is that more education means more money, more power, and more success.”
For Liliana Cantrell, founder of the organic baby snack food company Sweetie Pie Organics, an MBA degree provided the strategy, execution, talent, and skill set she needed to grow a successful business.
“My MBA education helped me personally put all of the pieces together in a clear go-to-market strategy and implementation plan: from an idea in 2014 to a product approved by 450 Whole Foods stores in 2016,” she says in an article on Entrepreneur.com.
All three of Sweetie Pie Organics’ employees are women, and they all hold MBAs. Cantrell says the degree makes them great problem-solvers, fast learners, and allows them to see the big picture.
University of Alabama at Birmingham Online MBA Degree
Students in the Online MBA program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham follow a curriculum that is based on a mixture of foundational business principles and practices, and modern technological and management strategies. Courses include accounting and finance for managers, management and organizations, strategic cost analysis and decision-making, information technology and business strategy, and marketing strategies, among others.
For more information, visit the UAB online MBA website.
Why entrepreneurs need an MBA https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/mba-admissions-strictly-business/articles/2016-08-26/3-reasons-future-entrepreneurs-need-an-mba-and-1-exception
How an MBA can help entrepreneurs and business owners https://www.intelligenthq.com/business-education-2/10-ways-an-mba-degree-can-help-entrepreneurs-and-business-owners/
Pete Flint’s experience https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130730193905-163104-five-ways-an-mba-can-make-you-a-better-entrepreneur
Kathryn Loewen’s experience http://fortune.com/2015/08/12/why-female-entrepreneurs-should-get-an-mba/
Liliana Cantrell’s experience https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/271089