Monday, June 02, 2014 at 1am

Four Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask When Considering an MBA Degree

Four Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask When Considering an MBA Degree main image

by Jeremy O’Briant, graduate student at the Kellogg School of Management

You don’t have to look very hard to find polarizing opinions of MBAs and entrepreneurs around the web. On one side you have disciples of Peter Thiel who challenges the college degree altogether.  On the other hand, you have a track record of individuals with MBA degrees that have successfully launched ventures. But, the fact of the matter is that it is really a deeply personal choice. As with any major life decision, individuals should take time to mindfully reflect on who they want to be and make choices that will help them achieve those goals. Here are four simple questions aspiring entrepreneurs should ask themselves when thinking about an MBA degree:

1. Do you possess the entrepreneurial skills you need?

The everyday hustle of the entrepreneur requires them to wear many hats throughout any given day. Most MBA degree-seekers are pretty early into their career and have only had the chance to work in one or two companies/roles, and often in a similar discipline to their undergraduate degree. If this is the case, you should think about what entrepreneurial skills you might need to develop to round out your toolkit. If you have a financial/analytical background, maybe it is sales and marketing expertise? Or conversely, if you have sales and marketing experience, maybe it is financial and operational skills? It is important to take inventory of what entrepreneurial skills you currently possess and explore curriculums that can help you become well-rounded.

2. Will your professional network help you succeed?

There is a strong correlation between an entrepreneur’s success and their professional network. Whether you are looking for advice/mentorship, investment, professional services, or just early customers; having a strong professional network will often be critical to getting your venture off the ground. As a working professional, it is often difficult to get out and build a truly diverse professional network. The best MBA programs are those that bring together a range of individuals and build a broad community of students and alumni. Not only will you have the opportunity to build relationships with your peers, but as they take roles across different industries around the globe you often find you are just an introduction away from whoever you need to connect with, when looking to expand your professional network.     

3. What resources do you need to be an entrepreneur?

Aside from entrepreneurial skills and expertise, you should ask yourself what resources you need to be successful. For most early stage entrepreneurs, that is time and access to capital. You will certainly be busy as an MBA student, but you will have flexibility in your schedule. It is difficult to step out of the office at your job to make customer calls and manage the day-to-day activities of starting a new venture. Whereas during your MBA program you can often carve out the time you need for those things – without worrying about your boss catching you. There are also plenty of opportunities for funding through various programs and competitions (at Kellogg for instance, there is US$250k+ available for student entrepreneurs each year through the Zell Scholars Program, NUVC pitch competition, LaunchU program, and more).

4. Will an MBA degree help you develop your expertise?

Depending on the type of venture you want to start, it will be important to have deep industry knowledge in the function or industry it focuses on. Not only will it give you credibility with potential customer and investors, but will help make sure you can see around corners and understand the trends in your space. If you look outside the classroom in most MBA programs you can find ways to develop that expertise. Through experiential learning opportunities, internships, side projects, and club activities you have access to opportunities to build the expertise that is hard for working professionals to explore.

The MBA degree is not for everyone, but can certainly make a world of difference for many. In my case, I have had access to amazing resources that helped me explore entrepreneurship while a student. The recent Kellogg Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (KIEI) has also gained a lot of momentum in student entrepreneurship recently and will continue to pay dividends to future students. Taking time to reflect on the questions above will not only help you decide if an MBA is right for you, but also help you make the most of your time in whatever program you choose.

 

About Jeremy O’Briant

Jeremy O’Briant is a graduate student at the Kellogg School of Management. Prior to Kellogg, he worked in strategy, and merger and acquisition, functions in the healthcare industry. While at Kellogg he has held internship positions with Merrick Ventures, OCA Ventures and TechStars. He is also the founder of License Buddy, a platform for continuing professional education management. He enjoys technology, travel (25 countries, 49 states, and counting), cycling, and skiing.  You can follow his thoughts at his personal blog or on twitter.

 

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Comments

Lol, i was asked 2 out of these 4 questions when i was being interviewed at SOIL India.