Making the Most of your Business Degree for your Small Business

degEntrepreneurship is one of those rare fields in which you don’t necessarily need a graduate degree – let alone a bachelor’s – in order to rake in the bucks, or even stay afloat financially. And for small business owners who do things like run restaurants or manage hardware stores, earning an MBA might seem totally irrelevant. However, this kind of thinking may be a huge mistake. While you may be highly knowledgeable about the product you sell, are you also skilled in the business of producing it, selling it, and handling the finances? Here’s why small business owners might consider an MBA, and how they can make the most of it:

Foundation is key

Ever tried to build a structure without a solid foundation? Entrepreneurs without solid backgrounds in business are doing it every day. Perhaps they have a significant amount of knowledge in one area – like finance – but are clueless when it comes to marketing. Eventually, that lack of preparedness will show up somewhere, whether it’s poor sales, scrambled finances, or mismanagement. These business owners have two choices: learn on the fly, or sink. And let’s face it – it can be tough to embark on a brand-new and intensive course of study while you’re already trying to put out fires! In contrast, MBA degrees offer a wide range of subjects as part of the curriculum, ensuring that you’ll have at least a passable level of knowledge in all of the crucial areas of business. And it’s crucial for small business owners to have basic skills in each of these areas – from marketing to finance to leadership to operations management. Stepping into a risky and creative venture such as entrepreneurship with all of the basic tools already under your belt is a route that potentially offers more stability.


Never underestimate the power of networking. Between fellow students, professors, staff, and colleagues you’ll meet at professional conferences, graduate business programs are often schmoozing hotbeds. More importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know these individuals over time, so you’ll see what they’re made of. Sure, they’re probably all smart, but spending one to two years together can show you who’s a generous and funny team player. Making connections opens up potential for all kinds of joint ventures, not the least of which is funding. If you start a business on your own without this kind of support system, you can certainly still succeed – you just might have to work a little harder on the hobnobbing front.

Hear us loud and clear: in no way do we mean to belittle those business owners who’ve decided to forgo the MBA and make it on their own. Of course it can be done – we all know of a particular pair of high school dropouts that prove this point. But in today’s culture of quick fixes, we’d like to plead a case for the old-fashioned route of in-depth, prolonged study prior to hanging out a shingle. Plus, those t-shirts from your MBA program will never go out of style.

2345115Mandy Fricke works for where she helps manage their online master’s programs. In her free time she enjoys biking, traveling, and reading in coffee shops.
Image courtesy Sean MacEntee

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