In today's business environment, it's not hard to find an MBA graduate.  

There are over 4,000 programs in the United States alone. These intuitions are thought to be shaping the best and brightest students for our future. And while many business leaders have come from these programs, I've had a lot of people work for me in my 40 year career and I can assure you that the stamp of having an MBA doesn't make you a success.

It's better to find someone who's really smart, really has a desire to succeed, and is going to work incredibly hard to go above and beyond what is expected. And future entrepreneurs often have a burning desire to get into the working world ASAP. They have plenty of non-MBA role models like Jeff Bezos, Carl Icahn, Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame, and Bill Gates, to name a few.

I'm not saying an MBA is a bad thing. It's not. It's also not the holy grail of entrepreneurship.

When you don't have the benefit of the MBA degree opening doors for you, you're operating without a safety net. You don't have a fallback position or extra funds for a vacation when you graduate.

As one highly successful realtor, explains, "I grew up in poverty, so my motivating factor was simple; it was desperation."

Classroom Versus the Real World 

MBA students are smart, but not necessarily well versed in real-world situations. They can find solutions from similar examples they have studied, but they have not been forced to implement real-world solutions.

You can learn a lot by facing real-world adversity. Classroom education can only take you so far, take it from someone who left college after one year to take on the real world. And 40 successful years, running several businesses, I've never looked back. 

The reality is that business, especially today, takes on so many forms that no courses could cover the myriad of possibilities. There are companies starting in garages, basements and makeshift offices, and businesses selling products and services globally, some tangible and some virtual.

Technology has also opened up industries that need to constantly reinvent themselves just to keep up with the competition. You can learn more by putting out fires on a daily basis than reading a textbook about putting out fires on a daily basis.

The classroom experience does not prepare most students for the need to act and react quickly. It's kind of like taking a driver's education class. No matter how much you learn in the classroom, when you get behind the wheel of the car, everything is so much different--because now it's real.

Mindset

At the end of the day, it comes down to who has the right mindset to help your business the most.

The MBA student may come in with the idea that he or she is going to start at the top, so there is no need to work all that hard--they did that already in school getting their MBA. Often, they have determined their value to a company before joining the business. The "you'll be lucky to have me," attitude of some MBA graduates may be countered by the, "I'll prove myself to you" attitude by someone who didn't attend graduate school.

Much of what you can learn in MBA programs can now be learned through books written by MBA graduates and professors, as well as business books by leading entrepreneurs. These same people also teach courses and can be found on webinars, seminars, TedTalks and other learning platforms. So, those who are hungry for greater knowledge can learn while they are employed.

My recommendation to business owners is to interview both MBA graduates and non-MBA graduates. I look at the long-term picture when I interview people. Is your highly paid MBA graduate going to have one foot out the door looking for something bigger and better two years into their tenure? Is your candidate with less schooling ready and anxious to show you what they can do? Are they talking about problem-solving based on real-life experiences?

I like to choose that person. I've seen many of them accomplish great things.

Published on: Jul 2, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.