At some point in their lives, a lot of people will ask themselves whether they should get an MBA. The reason for this may be any of the following:
- They may be working for a small company or a large corporation and they’re looking for ways to become a greater asset for their employer and increase their chances of getting promoted.
- They have a business idea and they want to strike out on their own, but their lack of business knowledge is holding them back.
- They have a lot of technical experience and they want to know more about the business aspects of their work.
If you’re in any of these situations, you should be aware that going the traditional MBA route is not your only option. According to Josh Kaufman, owner of the blog, “The Personal MBA”, and author of the bestselling book of the same name, you can get a do-it-yourself MBA. Josh explains in The Personal MBA Manifesto that the process consists of the following:
- Read the best business books out there.
- Learn as much as you can from these books.
- Discuss what you learn with others.
- Go out into the real world and make great things happen.
There’s much more on getting a do-it-yourself MBA below.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Getting An MBA
Should you start looking into the GMAT and send away for business school brochures? Or should you embark on a self-study course of action? The first step in deciding whether or not to get an MBA is to brainstorm a list of pros, as well as a list of cons.
Here are some of the things in favor of getting an MBA:
- An MBA from a good business school is a status symbol.
- If you’re in a top 15 MBA program you’ll have access to recruiters from Fortune 50 companies, consulting firms, and investment banks.
- In this competitive market place, having an MBA could differentiate you from other candidates who don’t have one.
- In an MBA program you get to network with the potential future leaders of the business world.
- Many argue that the real value of an MBA is the discussion in the classroom: that is, learning from your classmates.
- If you’re in an MBA program you’ll have access to the school’s alumni association, which can mean job leads and other business opportunities.
- Some people consider that, today, not having an advanced degree is the equivalent of what not having a college degree was a decade ago.
Some of the reasons not to get an MBA are the following:
- MBAs are very expensive–upwards of $80,000 in tuition–and a lot of people pay for an MBA with debt. This means that it will take you several years just to break even.
- You’re taking two years off from work. This means you won’t be earning a salary, and you may be missing out on valuable work experience.
- While you’re paying back your tuition debt you’re basically an indentured servant: you can’t leave your job, even if you hate it and the hours are ridiculous, because you have loans to pay.
- Although having an MBA may give you a leg up in the job market, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a high-paying job.
- There’s the opportunity cost of all the other things you could have been doing with your time instead of sitting in a classroom gorging on case studies and listening to lectures.
- A lot of the things that you learn in an MBA program are outdated.
- While one of the best ways to learn is by doing, an MBA program is mostly just learning theory.
It’s up to each individual to weigh the pros and cons for themselves and apply the results to their own situation. But, in general, if all you want is to learn the stuff that you’ll need in order to do well in business, you’ll probably be better off by getting a library card and embarking on a self-study program.
How to Get a Do-It-Yourself MBA
If you decide to get a do-it-yourself MBA, or at least look further into the possibility, you should do the following:
1. Read Kaufman’s book, “The Personal MBA”, in order to master the fundamental principles of sound business practice. Kaufman calls these principles, mental models, and he lays out 226 of these mental models in his book. With “The Personal MBA” you’re going to acquire a solid core of principles to work from, and then, later, you’re going to refer to other books in order to build upon that knowledge.
“The Personal MBA” covers the following three areas:
- How Businesses Work: You’ll learn about the five business processes which are at the core of any business. These are value creation, marketing, sales, value delivery, and finance.
- How People Work: A business is created by people to service people. It’s therefore important to understand how people make decisions and communicate with others.
- How Systems Work: Businesses are complex systems with many moving parts, and you should understand how complex systems work.
This book won’t give you all the answers. What it will do is give you the knowledge that you need in order to ask the right questions. Then, by asking the right questions, you can gather more information.
2. If there’s a particular topic that you want to know more about, refer to the books that Kaufman recommends in “The Personal MBA”, as well as the recommended reading list which is posted on his blog (The 99 Best Business Books). Choose 2 or 3 of these books in order to learn more about the particular area or skill that you’re interested in.
3. Look through the speed reading books and courses that are available (I recommend PhotoReading), and choose one that appeals to you. Obviously, this is so that you can get through the material quickly. Also, get the classic “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler, which will show you how to read analytically and syntopically.
4. Create a mind map and/or summary of everything that you read as part of your personal MBA program. Make sure that you include your own opinions, interpretations, and conclusions in your summary. Come up with a plan of action based on what you’ve read.
5. Discuss your conclusions with others.
6. Apply your newly acquired knowledge in the real world. Anything that you do will have an effect; that is, it will generate feedback. By acting you’ll either have more information on what works, or you’ll have more information on what doesn’t work.
7. Once you’ve acted and received feedback, you need to analyze the results that you got. Ask yourself questions such as the following:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What could be improved?
- What needs to be done differently?
8. Based on your analysis of the feedback, decide how you need to modify your approach.
9. Act once again.
10. Keep going through this cycle–plan, act, analyze the feedback, and modify your approach–until you’ve reached the desired outcome, or until you’re happy with the results.
11. Then, move on to the next topic that interests you, and do the same thing all over again.
Kaufman uses quotes throughout his book to help illustrate the different points that he makes. One of the quotes he uses is the following by Jack Welch, the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric: “People always overestimate how complex business is. This isn’t rocket science–we’ve chosen one of the world’s most simple professions.”
A lot of people who have never been to business school are intimidated by business. However, as Welch points out, business is not rocket science. Go ahead and give it a shot: embark on the journey toward getting your own personal MBA.