What's one thing about building a business you won't learn in business school? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
As a serial entrepreneur with an MBA here's my two cents:
You won't learn anything about building a business in business school.
MBA programs are designed to turn engineers or functional specialists into mid level managers and junior executives at established firms. They assume you'll enter an environment with other executives that will continue to teach you the ropes over the next 10 years. You might learn to grow a business, but few will teach you how to build one from scratch.
Here are a few glaring entrepreneurial gaps from a typical MBA program:
- How to hire: Building a successful team is one of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur. Interviewing techniques are not taught in B-school. Instead you'll learn the labor laws that cover what you can't ask in an interview.
- Sales: The core function at the heart of every business is not taught at all in business school. There were a few electives in Sales techniques in my Undergraduate program. MBA programs assume your company will put you through a sales training program.
- Building out a physical space: If you're planning on building out an office, retail space, factory, restaurant, etc, an MBA program will teach you nothing about the process - negotiating lease terms, working with contractors, regulatory inspectors, city planning commissions, or facilities planning are simply not even discussed. This process is filled with frustration and pitfalls. Some examples:
- Is a really standard?
- My building is up to code, but the fire inspector would "feel better"if we spent an additional $15,000 to move the wall a few inches and won't sign off until we do - is it cheaper to fight that or just make the change?
- One month after we opened a retail space, the city tore up the street in front of the business eliminating all street parking for three blocks for the next 6 months. Now what?
- Hyper-growth: scaling a new business quickly is tricky and keeping a hold of your firm when you're doubling in size every few months is not a scenario MBA programs typically talk about. But scaling too fast and imploding actually kills more companies than not scaling fast enough.
To be fair, an MBA program cannot teach you everything you need to know about business. Most programs lay a foundation of common skills, usually teaching a class for each of the core departments in a typical business: Accounting, Finance, Legal, Marketing, HR/Organizational Behavior, Supply Chain, Operations, Information Technology, and Strategy.
If you want to start a business, you may be better off looking for focused workshops and seminars from other entrepreneurs that are specific to your interests. (retail, manufacturing, product versus service, online vs brick and mortar, etc.). A few undergraduate business classes in accounting and business law may be helpful.
As your business grows, you may find pursuing an MBA to helpful. Entrepreneurship is a constant learning process, and you have to be ready for that. The skills that will take your business from 0 to $1 million in annual revenue is not the same as those that will get you to $5 million, and then $10 million and beyond. The good news is you can always hire talent with MBA's to help you.
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