Should an entrepreneur get a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree? There are both advantages and drawbacks to pursuing an advanced degree in the business field. If you do decide to pursue an MBA, when is the best time to get one? The typical graduate school candidate has already been in the business world for a few years.
According to Statista, 37% of MBA students go part-time in the evenings and on weekends, keeping their day job or business running the rest of the time. Probably far more critical than the actual degree is the skillset developed on the side, which helps an entrepreneur run their business more effectively and better understand the changes coming to their industry.
What Will I Learn in an MBA Program?
According to U.S. News & World Report, an MBA usually covers finance, accounting, organizational behavior, marketing, management, business ethics and economics. Many programs are very hands-on, and various projects and case studies help students gain a deeper understanding of how business practices and methods work in the real world.
There are many entrepreneurs without an MBA who’ve been highly successful.
Some insist the information learned in graduate school is helpful, and others say getting an MBA ruins you as an entrepreneur. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Having more knowledge is never a negative. You can learn a lot from experienced professors and different management models. Make connections with fellow entrepreneurs.
However, you also should never forget your real-world experience. Don’t lose touch with the basic abilities that make you successful as a small business owner. Structured settings may steal your creativity, so keep trying new things outside of what you learn in the classroom, but apply your analytical skills to see how effective they are.
Which MBA Is Best for Entrepreneurs?
Some schools offer an MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship. Taking courses in something you already do is likely a smart use of your time. You’ll enhance proficiency you already have. However, the best program for you is one that works with your schedule. Many universities offer flexible online classes. For someone trying to run a business, where you might have an emergency at any time, the freedom to study when you want is priceless.
Look for a program with the following features:
- Flexibility in when and how you take courses.
- Experienced professors who are successful in their line of work.
- Hands-on training opportunities.
- Ability to speed up or slow the pace of coursework as your schedule allows.
You also should consider the cost of the degree. Since you’ll be using the MBA for your own business, the quality of the content matters more than the school’s name. You only need a big-name school and the costs associated if you plan to seek outside employment at some point and need to impress a potential employer.
Some of the wealthiest people in the world didn’t go to Harvard or Yale. Warren Buffett, the third-richest man in the world, holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree from the University of Nebraska.
When Should I Pursue an MBA?
There is no perfect time to start your MBA degree. However, if your business is struggling financially, you may want to put it off. The cost of attending graduate school, even a local college, adds up quickly. Another idea is to take just a single course or two until you have more cash flowing. You’ll still make progress toward your degree and learn new techniques without going into debt.
Consider where you are in the growth of your business. If you’re still in the building phase, taking precious time out to study for classes may put a dent in how quickly you can grow. It might be best to wait until you can delegate more of your responsibilities and focus time on classwork.
How Do I Juggle Running a Company and Going to School?
Even if the timing seems almost perfect, you might wonder how you’ll juggle all your responsibilities while seeking an MBA. Even going part-time is a time investment. Something will probably have to go to make time for your schooling.
Perhaps you have a hobby you can set aside until you finish your education. Maybe you need to hire someone to do menial tasks for you, such as running errands or cooking dinner. Think about where you spend your time each week and keep only the essential items.
Learn to use your downtime wisely. Every business has a busy season and a slow season. Take advantage of the quiet months by picking up an extra class. During busy times, you can take fewer courses. Carve out time in your day to consistently study. Instead of taking a break to play golf, stay away from sports for the semester and use the time for learning. Use time in waiting rooms, drive-throughs or even your child’s soccer practice to study. Get your texts in an audio format if possible, and listen to chapters in the car as you commute to the office.
Are There Reasons Not to Get an MBA?
An MBA can give you an extra edge as an entrepreneur. You’ll have the knowledge to perform against current and future competitors. However, there are some reasons you might choose to set the dream of a graduate degree aside:
- An amazing mentor may teach you as much as you’d learn in the classroom.
- The cost of college is continuously rising, and the payback may not equal the output.
- Time considerations are a significant factor. If you run a business and have a family, something may suffer if you spend time on school. You may not be willing to give up time with your children right now to seek a degree.
Assess how much you feel you need the knowledge you’d learn in business school for your line of work. An official degree may not help you attain the skills required to do a good job.
Whether you choose to get an MBA or learn from life experiences, you should constantly strive to better understand your industry and your goals as an entrepreneur. Seek to know yourself as a business owner, understand your customers and their needs and keep a pulse on the industry. Learn from conferences, other business owners and your own mistakes. More knowledge is always a plus, but there are many ways to acquire business insight.
Lexie is a digital nomad and graphic designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.