Becoming a business master

A Masters degree in business administration (MBA) could help you see the big picture for your venture

A Masters degree in business administration (MBA) could help you see the big picture for your venture

A Masters degree in business administration (MBA) could help you see the big picture for your venture

‘The short answer to the question: “Can an MBA help your business?” is “yes”; whether it will or not is another matter,’ says Mark Chadwick, co-founder of carbon offsetting company Carbon Clear, who studied at London Business School (LBS).

‘An MBA certainly isn’t a golden ticket to success – it takes a little more than that, but it helps. Maybe it’s more of a golden crowbar.’

There are some serious considerations for those thinking of starting an MBA. The first and most glaring is the cost. Tuition fees can be upwards of £40,000 at the top universities, a serious outlay by anyone’s standards.

‘For most people, it will be the largest purchase, other than a house, that they ever make, so it’s essential that you research the school that you choose very carefully,’ adds Chadwick.

This means looking in depth at the modules offered throughout the course, as well as looking at the alumni. What have they gone on to do? Are they successful?

As for the cost of an MBA, John Mullins, associate professor of management practice in entrepreneurship at LBS observes that ‘there is dramatic evidence that you will receive a significant return on the educational investment’. For his school’s programme, he has seen ‘tangible evidence of former students’ success’.

Chadwick agrees with Mullins, suggesting that you shouldn’t get too hung up on the economics of it as you’ll reap the benefits of fine-tuning your business acumen. He adds: ‘There are also different ways to study for an MBA; it doesn’t necessarily mean full-time study. I went for an executive MBA, which meant one or two days out of the office per week while still working.’

Beyond the classroom
Learning about entrepreneurship may sound counter-intuitive to some people, and Chadwick acknowledges that a classroom can only teach so much: ‘Like anything, you need to be able to use your initiative and relate what you learn in the classroom to real life. The theoretical side of the course can be very useful, like the areas in which you learn to deal with different personalities. As with all theoretical models, there is a semblance of truth there and you can take that with you into your business.’

An MBA should strengthen your financial management and marketing skills and, remembers Chadwick, you’ll have the opportunity to share the knowledge of your fellow classmates and potentially start businesses together. Other than that, you will gain an insight into communicating with investors using terms that they can relate to and, says Chadwick, be able to ‘speak to people from any business discipline in an informed way’.

The average annual salary in 2006 for MBA graduates in the UK was close to £60,000. According to the Association of MBAs, there are 120 schools in the UK offering the course, and competition for places is intense.

Obviously, the benefits an MBA provides will be meaningless if you don’t have the insight and instinct to generate practical ideas that people will pay money for. Adds Chadwick: ‘You might be taught how to manage a sales process, but not necessarily told how to generate those sales in the first place. Entrepreneurial activity demands that you can sell your ideas to your customers, which is something I had to figure out as best I could outside the course. You’re taught negotiation, but if you can’t get the sales you don’t get to negotiate.’

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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