It seems a long time ago now that I studied for my MBA—er, and in fact it was over 10 years ago... how time flies when you're having fun!
The reason I decided to do an MBA is, while I loved marketing, I wanted to: a) know how all the other 'bits' of business worked, and b) double-check that marketing was the bit I loved the most (and wanted to do).
And as it turns out, marketing IS the bit I love most, as operational management, finance, HR and all the other 'bits' of business most definitely aren't my Thing. Admittedly this was an expensive and time consuming (it took me 3 years of study while working full time) way to find out marketing was my Thing, but at least I had a thorough exploration of my 'no Things'! Luckily for you, if you want to find out your Thing it won't need to take that long now I've worked out how to do that super-fast.
So while I did learn a LOT of theory and case studies of big business, and if required I can write out a cashflow forecast and balance sheet by hand, what I didn't learn was any of the actual practical 'stuff' that business owners—especially small owner managing solopreneurs like many of us doing our Thing actually need to know.
Here are some things I definitely didn't learn on my MBA:
- A case study is not a business plan: just because it worked for someone else doesn't mean it's going to work EXACTLY the same for your business. Take note if you follow formulas to the letter—if you don't leave room for YOU and your market and your message and personality it probably won't work for you.
- Not all business looks the same: see point above about following formulas to the letter. You know your business, and it's a very good idea to get the fundamentals of good business set up in place, but do leave some wiggle room to try things out YOUR way!
- Just because people are qualified doesn't mean that is their Thing: there were certainly people on my MBA course who weren't brilliant at business—they were just good students (or made to study by their employer!). And same goes in reverse: just because you're not 'qualified' doesn't mean you can't be brilliant at something—just be clear and state that it's from experience, not a course, that you know what you know. Your clients will make up their own minds if and when a qualification is important (obviously you want to get qualified to practice law or medicine, etc! but not everything needs a bit of paper).
- The world changes: what was working last year, last month—last week even, changes all the time. It's great to indulge in study but it's better to be a student of life and business forever. I am always learning. And the best things I've ever learnt about business are from people actually doing them now... there's no excuse not to tune in to webinars, teleseminars and go to live events (heck they even do the 'don't leave your office' option of livestream these days). Be a student, but don't think it's about graduating. I've learnt a LOT more about business since my MBA I can tell you.
- Be in business: theory is helpful, being in business is priceless. You cannot really know anything will work for you and your business until you do it! And it doesn't count if you've done it as a job either... I used to get paid to do marketing as a job, but it wasn't 'my' money I was investing in campaigns, it wasn't 'my' business goodwill, it wasn't 'my' Thing I was marketing, and while I of course I was committed and focused in my job, it wasn't the same. Until you spend you own money on marketing, hiring people, and buying anything for your business, you aren't as connected to the outcome (as ultimately you'll still get paid in a job!). Connection to the outcome is different when it's your business—for better or worse!
Here's something I did learn on my MBA though: know how the business puzzle all fits together. You might start out having to 'do' everything in your business, so it's a very good idea you know how it all fits together. You will need to know about finance and operations and HR, and business law and marketing and sales and systems. Business is a BIG topic and while you don't have to be an expert in every part of it, knowing what 'good' looks like is very very helpful.
That said, what I've learnt since is to outsource everything that's not your Thing in business as soon as you can! And that's definitely when knowing what 'good' looks like comes in very very handy.
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