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It’s OK to Run a Company Without an MBA

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I've met many women who are truly amazing leaders. I've followed many women who are top-notch and have amazing degrees. One of my best friends has a Masters degree in HR, and two others have their PhDs; one in metallurgical sciences and one in statistics. They are truly brilliant women.

Me? No way. In high school I held down 3 jobs, 2 lifeguard gigs in the summer, and I worked as a restaurant prep person all year. In college, I was a Resident Assistant, worked at Public Safety, and at the local tavern slogging drinks. I was the person who was sick of school the day it was over. I started my first "real" job the Monday after I graduated while the other kids were getting ready to backpack through Europe.

I have been labeled as what some might call a "scrapper." We fight fiercely to get the job done, whatever it takes. I tend to gravitate towards the types of people who don't mind rolling up their sleeves and diving in. That's how I've learned: on-the-job training. Even though I've hired MBAs at VerticalResponse, I'm very clear with them that they too have to roll up their sleeves and get scrappy.

Is there anything wrong with women who go to get their MBAs? No way. In fact the business schools are crying for us. From a recent poll, only 30 percent of the MBA students in the US were made up of women. Not only that, but we're doing it later in life, around the age of 29, right when we're in the middle of climbing some corporate ladder and are thinking about a family. No wonder there's such a low percentage.

Doors can open wide for these women, and depending on the school, we can literally fly past other qualified candidates because of the sorority we were in. Maybe the name of your alma mater gets a foot in a VC's door — but the viability of the business is what makes it successful.

So what are some additional reasons you may want an MBA? You might work in a large company that is very structured and the only way to get ahead is have a degree. And with so many more men than women getting their degrees, it's no wonder we also have more male than female executives.

All legitimate. But there's also nothing wrong with women who didn't go to business school. Perhaps we couldn't afford it, didn't have the time, or wanted real-world experience as soon as we could get it.

Maybe I'm not as professionally-trained as I would be if I did further my education, and it may have taken me a bit longer to think about how decisions I make impact the bottom line, but I do think as a business owner, you have to be comfortable surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you. And learning from those people is even smarter. Now that's the sign of true intelligence!

Will I ever be a Rhodes Scholar? No way. Will I get into a big time business school? I doubt it. For me, life is too short for two more years of school. I'd rather dive in and learn. This scrapper has her sleeves rolled up.

Last updated: May 29, 2009

JANINE POPICK

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and social media marketing tools for small businesses. The company was ranked No. 4,882 on the 2013 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick




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