Myths of the MBA

At some point entrepreneurs must ask themselves if an MBA is right for them. I have heard many myths about MBAs. Whenever I talk about mine someone inevitably makes a comment that makes me wonder if they really understand its purpose. The following are just four of the more frequent ones I want to address.

Myth 1: “An MBA is unnecessary, especially for entrepreneurs; there are other ways to become educated.”

Of course there are other ways to become educated! Is business school for everyone? Probably not. But there is more to an MBA than studying business subjects like economics, marketing or accounting. A good MBA program will facilitate the development of critical soft skills, such as business communication. It will connect you with industry professionals and strengthen your network. And above all, it will force you to take inventory of your talents and offer opportunities to develop new ones. Granted, these benefits are not exclusive to an MBA program, but they are all rolled up into a rather convenient package that can be attained in a relatively short period of time.

Myth 2: “An MBA gives entrepreneurs all the tools they need to succeed in the business world.”

This myth is driven by more than just the semantics of skills vs. tools. An MBA certainly gives entrepreneurs a lot of tools (and skills), but not all of them. The real value of an MBA is found in the application thereof. After all, experience is the mother of wisdom. It can teach students how to be resourceful, how to think critically and how to cope with the ambiguity of entrepreneurship. These are skills, not tools. Yet skills are used in the development of tools, such as presentations or business plans. And no matter how hard MBA administrators try to create a program that simulates the real business world, there will always be a difference. Once a graduate enters the business world, it is ultimately up to him to apply what he has learned.

Myth 3: “All MBA programs are the same since you get out of it what you put into it.”

Paying your dues and making a strong effort to extract the most from your MBA experience should be an objective regardless of the program. But having visited MBA classes in over 10 programs throughout the US and Europe I can say without hesitation that not all MBA programs are created equal. The uniqueness of each program is driven by the uniqueness of its students, professors, and course content. Can we really say that Occidental College offers the same entrepreneurial education as Babson? Although it has its unique strengths, that’s probably not the case. Or is it accurate to say the accounting program of Texas State will offer the same quality of education as that of Notre Dame? I’m not so convinced. It is safe to say, however, that no MBA program will be beneficial if you do not put in the effort.

Myth 4: “An MBA is meant to help you figure out which career you want.”

Whoa! I could not disagree more. An MBA program is the last place you should go to figure out who you are even if it will inevitably force you to take inventory of yourself. It should not be regarded as a proverbial crystal ball. Applicants should have a prior understanding of who they are, what they are capable of, what they want out of their MBA, and where they are headed. Knowing this will contribute to a richer and more profound experience in their program. This is why most MBA programs require prior work experience. Too often people find themselves in the middle of an MBA program wishing they had spent more time acquiring business experience, which serves as a basic framework that helps students relate better to their studies.

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