Most real entrepreneurs blanch at the idea of putting their business venture on hold to pursue an MBA degree. Not only that, most of them realize in retrospect that they learned more about business in the six months of creating a new venture than they would have learned in two years in the classroom. That’s why this question to a panel of “MBA experts” during a forum in today’s Financial Times was really an objectivity test, one on which the assembled MBA advocates get highly varying grades:
A potential entrepreneur can deploy their cash to either start a business or finance an MBA. Is there any evidence that an MBA’s advantages outweigh the risk of losing a unique market opportunity?
Laura Tyson [Dean of LBS]: Timing is important, however you have to be equipped to bring your idea
to the marketplace. Here at London Business School we offer courses that cover the whole life cycle of a business – from financing your venture to managing your growing business. We also conduct an Entrepreneurship Summer School that has seen the birth of many successful ventures. A survey of alumni from top business schools has found nearly 80 per cent of former students have been a part of a new business venture in the first 10 years after graduation. Perhaps most importantly, business schools provide students with the networks that can make their business plans a reality.
Della Bradshaw [FT business education editor]: Ian, the Financial Times has collected a lot of evidence over the years that studying for an MBA at one of the top accredited business schools does give a substantial financial fillip to graduates’ salaries. But there is no data that I know of which looks at the relative success of start-up companies run by MBAs and by non MBAs. I guess at the end of the day it depends on how compelling the idea is and your own attitude
to risk. Good luck.
Rosemaria Martinelli [Associate Dean, University of Chicago GSB]: The MBA is a long-term proposition – providing you with tools and perspectives on how to manage resources. We teach you how to think as challenges arise. An entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily need an MBA to start a business, but having the tools to sustain and grow that business may not come as naturally as developing the idea.