December 23rd, 2010 → 11:24 am
// No Comments
Norman Evans: You say it’s difficult to “teach a heart”, while conceding that an MBA programme gives an entrepreneur valuable skills. I’d like to reverse the question: can an MBA programme crush an aspiring entrepreneur’s “heart”, making them more of a conformist? ie Is there downside risk for an entrepreneur in doing an MBA?
Steven Greer: I don’t think an MBA will do that to you – but the more you know the easier it is to become scared of all the risks. I may never have expanded as aggressively if I’d known then what I know now. Not knowing how to analyse all the risk makes you more bold. This is an important characteristic for an entrepreneur. The perfection is to understand all the risks and still have the courage to move forward – you’ll never have absolute certainty in analysing a business plan.
Norman: Yes, in my book I describe the “accountant profile” – the reason they don’t build great businesses is they know too much!
Stephen: An MBA programme is a breeding ground for entrepreneurship. They are all chomping at the bit waiting to get out into the business world. A lot of great ideas have been born in MBA classrooms. The $100k MBA fee is seed capital for a business.
Norman: What do you think of the idea that aspiring entrepreneurs learn best by working with experienced entrepreneurs? The value is obvious, but does working with “the Master”, take away the need to face the personal risk factors which drive an entrepreneur to learn?
Steven: If you are the inexperienced [person] you are looking to the generosity of the more experienced ones to see you though. I don’t like to bet on others’ generosity.
Learning by doing is better than learning by watching. You don’t want to expose yourself to bankruptcy unnecessarily. Take smaller risks and learn by doing – understand your strengths and weaknesses. My overconfidence from early success and over-ambition meant we grew too fast and nearly lost the whole company because of it. Accumulate as many tools in your tool belt as possible on your MBA.
Norman: You say you would have benefitted from an MBA. But you succeeded without it. Would you advise an aspiring entrepreneur, who had plenty of “heart” but not much education, to seek more education, perhaps including an MBA, before building a business, or to leap into the business while the opportunity was still hot?
Stephen: Don’t be 100 years old and still acquiring tools. If you see an opportunity you’ve got to grab it. They don’t hang around. Everyone on earth has an amazing opportunity presented 2, 3 or 4 times in their lives. By the third time you’d better start grabbing because you’ll run out of them. You should go do it. If you think you can come back and do it later after your MBA, [the opportunity] won’t be there.
My friend has a book in which he wrote down ideas for businesses. Whenever he saw a problem he wrote it down… as any kind of problem is an entrepreneurial opportunity – he’s now 42 and hasn’t done any of them yet.
Norman: Many business schools are now offering both undergraduate and postgraduate entrepreneurship programmes as alternatives to an MBA. Do you believe such courses have the potential to both teach theory and give useful experiences? i.e. Is a business developed as part of such a programme likely to give the experiences entrepreneurs need?
Stephen: I have been speaking to a lot of universities and speaking to students.
Any kind of case study opportunity is great for potential business people – learn from successes and mistakes. But these undergraduate MBA programmes [are not good]. These people should have gone out and worked, and be learning on top of their work experiences. If all you’ve done is study business the learning experience is a bit of a challenge. They have a fine degree from a fine school but no work experience. That is not a compelling package.
If you have no intention of getting an MBA, get as much business study in as possible as an undergraduate. Once you have that the MBA would be a duplicate of the work.
Take as many business courses as you can. The entrepreneurship courses teach using case studies but learning about Coca Cola is hard because you’ll never have the marketing budget that Coke has.
Norman: Thanks Stephen