Today on the “Hire Education” blog on the Wall Street Journal, Veritas Prep co-founder and CEO Chad Troutwine questioned the conventional wisdom that business school is no place for aspiring entrepreneurs. Some would-be entrepreneurs see business school as an unnecessary (and costly) pit stop on their way to to startup success, while others actually think that sitting in a classroom and dissecting case studies could actually hurt them in their quest to start a successful company.
Is this true? Could two years in the classroom effectively neuter the world’s next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?
Not so. While it’s true that the most successful entrepreneurs contain drive and ambition that can’t be picked up in an eight-week business course, those important traits are only modestly useful if one doesn’t supplement them with the harder business skills needed to navigate a startup’s delicate early years. Managing cash flow, securing investors, identifying target markets to profitably go after… These are the things that even the most ambitious entrepreneur needs to be able to do at some level.
While business schools were slow to embrace the teaching of skills that can benefit entrepreneurs and their early-stage startups, that started to change in the 1990s (partly driven by the tech and dot-com booms). Nowadays its common to find a second-year MBA student whose time is spent almost exclusively in entrepreneurship-related classes, business plan competitions, and pro bono consulting work for local startups. Some of those students even stick around after they graduate, taking advantage of the school’s business incubator and related resources.
And, while you’re sketching out your business plan, your future leadership team might draw heavily from the people sitting around you in the business school classroom. According to Chad’s article:
Graduate business schools offer an unrivaled professional network. Top M.B.A. programs admit between 200 and 900 students each year. Members of the same class, particular those in the same smaller cohort, develop a close bond, one that can last for a career. M.B.A. graduates are privy to the shared experiences of an extraordinary group of professionals. A typical class includes former investment bankers and future venture capitalists (your source of capital), marketers (your brand guru), accountants (your CFO), management consultants (your chief strategist) and other types of industry insiders. Most business schools are also part of a larger university network, further expanding your business relationships. Alumni connections can also provide a source of evangelists for your product or service.
Entrepreneurship will always be a tough game. It’s not for everyone. But, by arming yourself with the skills and connections that come with an MBA, you will only increase your likelihood of success.
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