How an MBA Helps in Entrepreneurship
MBA programs are designed to develop management and leadership skills that are essential for professionals in a variety of careers, from rising stars in multinational corporations to current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Students in MBA programs are given the opportunity to interact with like-minded peers and learn from seasoned experts so they can graduate with a global perspective that can be applied to meet their professional goals.
For entrepreneurs in particular, MBA programs offer access to strong alumni networks in addition to giving these students a space to develop an ethical and efficient framework for leadership that adds intrinsic value to their personal and professional lives. Furthermore, an MBA program that offers the flexibility of online learning allows students to refine their time management skills and increase their self-motivation.
So much of what it means to be an entrepreneur includes being a self-starter and a trail-blazer, so how can the benefits of an MBA program be applied to this adventurous career path?
Is an MBA worth it for entrepreneurs?
Aside from gaining in-demand skills like the ability to drive business growth, develop global perspectives and communicate with international and external stakeholders, earning an MBA has proven benefits that range from personal growth to increased earning potential.
Getting an MBA is also a great way for entrepreneurs to obtain the critical skill set needed to successfully launch and sustain a business. Seventy-five percent of start-ups fail, according to Entrepreneur, which states that a main reason for this is due to a lack of business domain knowledge in finance, operations and marketing — all core knowledge areas covered by MBA programs.
Consider this 2018 study by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) which states that of those who hold a graduate degree in business, 94% found their education to be personally rewarding, 89% found it to be professionally rewarding and 73% found it to be financially rewarding. Furthermore, nine of 10 respondents said they would pursue their graduate-level business degree if they had to do it over again.
While in the process of getting an MBA, entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to try their hand at designing and implementing new business capabilities with the added benefit of receiving feedback from their peers and professors, as well as gaining the core business domain knowledge that many new companies lack.
“Students get a course-based chance to develop and assess the potential of launching an initiative – perhaps a new business, perhaps a new project within an existing organization – against the backdrop of a broader degree designed for an array of career options,” says Elissa Grossman, the director of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Orfalea Director’s chair in Entrepreneurship and the associate professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship. “The primary goal in an online MBA is to provide skills useful across an array of organizational situations and to enhance our students’ entrepreneurial mindset.”
The best MBA for entrepreneurs will not only offer networking opportunities and teach essential business skills, it will provide students with a chance to explore and expand upon tactics that they already know to be successful.
“Challenging my own business instincts was not something I was doing on a regular basis,” says USC Online MBA graduate Raymond P. Scannell. “Today, I’m spending a great deal more time questioning my business instincts with reality. [The Online MBA] program gave me that gift.”
Benefits of an MBA for Entrepreneurship
As mentioned above, the networking benefits of an MBA are key for entrepreneurs. Having access to a global community of business professionals like Scannell, who has spent the last 30 years as an entrepreneur building a group of financial service companies, is paramount.
“The incredible network of alumni and supporters are there to provide advice, support, future jobs and business opportunities,” he says, referring to his experience after completing the USC Online MBA. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Scannell isn’t alone in this reflection. In fact, the GMAC study cited above also notes that over 90% of those surveyed said they would recruit a student from their alma mater. At USC Marshall, we’ve taken great strides to ensure that our Online MBA students feel connected, not only to peers within their cohorts, but to the network of more than 88,000 alumni.
Learning to maintain a culture and a set of criteria that stays consistent throughout business growth is another key benefit of an MBA for budding entrepreneurs.
Students gain both the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills needed to make ethical decisions and to uphold their social, civic and professional responsibilities, thus adding needed value to society while producing a profit.
“Each semester, I learned new ideas that I was able to [apply to] make changes to the structure, staffing and strategy of my business,” says Scannell. “The perspectives I gained from faculty and peers in USC’s Online MBA program let me break through my own preconceived misconceptions of what my customers want and make dramatic changes that have already produced higher revenue and reduced costs.”
Making dramatic changes amidst a thriving business venture can feel risky, but programs like USC Marshall’s Online MBA create a culture of support and engagement that consciously develops soft skills like communication and mentorship in order to produce quality leaders well into the future.
An Online MBA
For entrepreneurs, the flexibility of online learning is extremely beneficial. Developing managerial and leadership skills largely on a students’ own schedule is similar to the way an entrepreneur learns to manage their own time. These professionals have to be self-driven and self-motivated.
“Business professionals are finding it too difficult and time-consuming to go back [to school] for an in-person MBA,” says Scannell. “Interactive programs like [the Online MBA] allow students to manage their time more effectively and spend more time with family or other interests. It also creates the opportunity for international students and military personnel to be included.”
Like Scanell, most graduate-level degree holders are confident in their choice to pursue an MBA, but there’s a lot to consider when choosing the right program, and it’s important to understand when something like an MS in Entrepreneurship or an MBA for entrepreneurs is best.
An MBA vs an MS in Entrepreneurship
Ultimately, how an MBA helps in entrepreneurship is similar to an MS in Entrepreneurship in that students develop the skills they need to reach their professional goals; however, the coursework between the two degrees differs.
The MS in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSEI) from USC Marshall, for example, offers courses in venture initiation, founder’s dilemmas, leading innovation and acquiring businesses whereas the Online MBA courses have a stronger focus on management, leadership and other general business fundamentals.
Both programs seek to inspire and develop an entrepreneurial mindset; however, an MBA program offers a broader scope of fundamental business skills for professionals to learn and apply throughout their careers, whether they’re interested in starting a new business or advancing into leadership within organizations large or small, domestic or global. Students considering either path should consider where their passion is strongest and ask questions like:
- Do I need to focus on building personal leadership skills or gain a strong foundation of business expertise?
- Am I willing to take on the risks of starting a new venture?
- Do I need practical skills that I can apply to my work immediately?
Regardless of the business degree students choose, they should graduate with a stronger and more dynamic skill set than when they started.
“After 30 years as an investment and financial advisor, I’ve observed that the clients of mine who live the longest and are their sharpest to the end are those that use their minds every day,” says Scannell. “The brain seems to work like your heart, you need to use it or lose it. [The Online MBA] program has challenged me to use my brain every day and push it to its limits.”