Sunday, July 27, 2014

What is your MBA?

I have had a handful of conversations recently where the term "MBA" was used figuratively rather than in the traditional academic sense.  I thought that this would be a good topic to discuss.  

My question is: who has the better MBA, the hard knocks trial and error ass kicking entrepreneur or the (conventional and/or unconventional) student/professional going the academic route right out of college?

Out of coincidence, I just spoke with an MBA candidate last night.   He hasn't quite yet gotten through his undergrad economics degree and has another major along side it too, Philosophy.  He noted that the double major is important to rounding things off.  I do get this.  But he was already getting in the mindset of an MBA, the summer after his junior year.  He is under the impression that, without an MBA, the remarkable achievement of applying for, being accepted, attending and paying for 4 years of undergrad college might be flat; not good enough. Flat in the sense of his own marketability.  Flat in the sense of his own distinction towards his classmates and other employment candidates upon graduation.  I can't really argue this, but there is another way of looking at it.    

When I asked him what he wanted to do after all of this school he said: "I don't know, but first I gotta get my MBA and then I will figure out what I want to do". Case in point.

Since when did this become the standard?  And why such a gap between academic success and figuring out what students want to do--especially in business?  Is it practical to sink funds into what "could be" versus that which is necessary for the target of tangible result?  At what point does practicality weigh in for our graduating seniors.  Let's consider the ROI folks.

There indeed continues to be a lack of practicality driving conformity into our educational system.  Is there not so much more to learn from starting and/or participating in the start-up of a business rather than investing in a degree on the come.  Is there nothing of value in the trial and error, success and fail journey of being an entrepreneur?  I would argue that everything represented and covered in most MBA programs might equal or run about the same cost.  While this might sound a bit lofty, I am living proof of education for the sake of education and the incremental use of funds for the purpose of generating other funds.

And since I mentor a handful of graduating seniors who all want to discuss what they should do next, I typically always get answers like:  "I don't know, I may get my masters, after I pay my debt down".  

The average debt of a graduating senior at the end of 2013 was $29,000.00, this according to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).  Seven out of 10 seniors graduated with student loan debt, and over a 5th of it owed to private lenders who charge higher interest rates. 

That said, the odds of getting a job are still in favor of the college graduate, CNN reported in 2012 that high school grads can expect unemployment rates of 17,9% compared to that of college grads at 7.7%.  I think these are awful figures and wouldn't attempt to spin it like CNN. While tuition rate increases seem to have tapered off, possibly due to future declining enrollments, if there is no return on this investment, nor any real and apparent tangible return in sight, is the debt worth it?  This is elementary.

I got my MBA by electing to go into business; by making mistakes and then work-shopping the results with others like me; business people with experiences similar to mine who have made similar mistakes like mine.  I got my MBA by going through a recession, by over investing in a housing market, by failing to provide my customers with increases while they were passing increases on to their customers, by going through an acquisition.  I got an MBA by experiencing the banking industry turn from a lending community to a checkbook facilitating community.  My MBA was written in the form of an Ode to the IRS (and that is a whole other story).

I am proud of my MBA.

Students, I am not knocking higher education, but consider your options.  Use some creativity, pay some dues instead of debt, and seek to emulate your heroes.  But don't fall victim to the debt by conformity.  Either way, get your MBA.  Which one is right for you?--ifyouknowwhatimtalkinbout.--rp


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