Get The Answers: MBA study can lead to both corporates and small firms

By Gill South, Fran Olsson

Small business and big companies benefit from degree's breadth. Photo / Thinkstock
Small business and big companies benefit from degree's breadth. Photo / Thinkstock

MBAs are still a popular qualification for aspiring business people. Many of these graduates go into the corporate world or return to it afterwards, but studying for this qualification can spark an entrepreneurial spirit to go off and create a business or join a small enterprise.

What sort of training does an MBA student receive which can make him/her well-qualified for running a small business?

I think the MBA graduate gets to work hard and build confidence and often see new angles that they may not have seen before.

Most MBAs are adults with at least five years' work experience.

I think what they have in common is that they study for life and not for school.

And when you bring many such people together, they have a great opportunity to network.

They also learn from each other as much as from any of the lecturers.

What can an MBA graduate bring to a fast-growing small business which will help it grow?

I think an MBA can bring overview and a broad approach.

Small businesses are often run by someone who has a great skill in a very narrow field and an MBA can add insights into areas which the founder may not be so familiar with.

They may also help in talking to funders and bankers in an intelligent way so as to ensure that the required funds are made available.

A brilliant inventor/founder may be so "off-the-wall", enigmatic or eccentric that he may scare partners off, whereas a well educated MBA may assist in making funders feel like it is less of a risk to enter into some kind of support or co-operation.

What are the rewards for an MBA graduate working in a small entrepreneurial business rather than a corporate?

To start your own business I think you need to work hard, for instance, 75-100 hours a week and love what you are doing.

You may be well rewarded financially later. But the most obvious reward would be that you learn a lot and perhaps can try again if what you are doing is unsuccessful.

We all know that statistically new ventures have a very high failure rate - and an MBA is of course no guarantee against failure - but it can often be a great asset and complement other skills you may find in small business.

Do you need a degree to do an MBA?

Many who do an MBA don't have a degree to start with, and in these cases I think it's particularly useful to get an understanding of academia, yet do it in a very business-oriented way.

If you already have a bachelors degree, it isn't immediately obvious that you should do an MBA - but what it always does show is a great commitment and dedication to hard work and that is usually a good asset.

However, we also know that many of the crooks in American corporations are well educated, with MBAs etc, so education is not enough.

You need to understand and espouse the values as well.

I always argue that philosophy should be mandatory in all business education.

You need to understand human beings, what motivates and moves them, otherwise you are not fit to lead anything.


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Frank Olsson is a former chairman of the AUT advisory committee on the MBA programme and is now on the advisory committee for the AUT business school.

- NZ Herald

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