Part of the beauty of running your own business is that it is ultimately highly meritocratic—the things responsible for the success of your business ultimately boil down to you and the marketplace. And the marketplace does not discriminate against well-run businesses with ingenious solutions to familiar problems.
There are no other requirements, really – you don’t have to prove yourself to the marketplace by working your way up the corporate ladder or by flashing a degree from some recognizable institution.
But still, many current (and future) small business owners make the decision to get an MBA. Why would an already successful business owner do this, if the marketplace requires no degree or accreditation?
Here we take a look at all the things an MBA can bring to you and your own small business. It may not be the best or only route for everyone, but it certainly has rewards it can offer to anyone who pursues it.
It can help stock your arsenal of business skills
Many MBA programs attempt to offer their students a well-rounded business education that helps them achieve competence and confidence in a vast array of business-related skills. Many of these skills help you bring sophisticated analyses to the financial and accounting side of owning a small business.
Other skills include marketing, programming, systems analysis, leadership, and many more. If you haven’t had an education in these things before, an MBA can help you bring knowledge and balance to your intuitive business sense and your entrepreneurial spirit.
And if you’re looking to increase any of these skills more than the others, many MBA programs offer specialties and particular emphasis on some of these skills above others.
Improve your cognitive flexibility
MBA programs are focused on a variety of business skills, each of which has its own subtle art and a way to approach challenges in these fields. This is why the GMAT, the test most programs will require you to take before you apply, tests your cognitive flexibility.
If you think about it, your business skills can improve while you prepare for the GMAT, which can be a year or two before you actually start your MBA program.
Bring a holistic, zoomed-out perspective to your small business
Aside from all the specific skills and techniques, you’ll learn on your way to getting an MBA, you’ll also start to develop a much more refined sense of how to integrate them all into the entire operation of your small business.
You will learn how to not merely exceed in one dimension of your business, but to ensure that all the dimensions of your business are working in harmony with one another.
Running a business really demands a lot of resources, skills, and different interdependent operations. The process of getting MBA should better equip you to analyze the big picture, to anticipate & prevent challenges your business might face, to streamline operations, and to be aware of new opportunities.
Be a better leader
One of the biggest challenges business owners (and executives of all kinds) face is learning how to manage relationships and other people. Because of this, virtually every MBA program offers significant training in management and leadership – with many MBA programs specialising in this end of the business.
Many small business owners are motivated in part by a spirit of independence. If you’ve started your own business, you probably know how frustrating it can sometimes be to depend on other people.
However, if you expect your operation to grow, you will likely need to learn to relate to and oversee other workers, to some extent. And you will increasingly come to find that, whether you like it or not, the fate of your business depends on other people and the relationship you have to them. An MBA can help you improve your leadership and management skills as you prepare to take your business to the next level.
Build and maintain relationships
As we illustrated in the last section, and as John Donne said almost four hundred years ago, no man is an island. This is especially true in business. However, working with other people does not have to be only a challenge. Other people also represent new opportunities – for collaboration, synergy, interdependence, and growth.
One thing that will assuredly happen in any MBA program is you will meet and learn to work with many other people – current and future business owners—who will ultimately be resources as you run your business.
These come in the form of other students, professors, and industry professionals who you will come to know on the way to your degree.
Also, one more important benefit to a business education is that it will vastly improve your communication skills.
Through classes specifically targeted toward teaching business writing, as well as the normal day-to-day work of communicating with peers and instructors, you are certain to become much better at managing your communications with people, which is an essential component to effectively owning and operating a business.
Learn unexpected things and improve weaknesses
We’re all only as smart as the ideas we’ve been exposed to. Of course, everyone would like to continue learning as they get older.
This is true of business owners especially, as learning new ideas can help you anticipate changes and challenges, and identify (& take advantage of) new opportunities in an ever-changing marketplace. However, as you get older, and especially after you leave school, it becomes harder to learn new things.
This isn’t because of any lack of resources available for learning. It has much more to do with the fact that after you leave school, you have much more control over what ideas and kinds of learning you expose yourself to.
When you’re the one choosing what to learn, it gets harder and harder to enlighten yourself. It also becomes much easier to overlook your ignorance and ignore your own weaknesses when you don’t have anyone forcing you to improve. Investing the time, money, and energy into an MBA will help you (by forcing you) to confront areas of weakness and ignorance, and you will expand your horizons.
What happens next?
Of course, there are successful business owners who don’t have MBAs. Also, the time is not always right for every individual to get one. But there’s no question that getting an MBA will help put you at a greater advantage for running a successful business in the long run.
If you decide the time is right for you before you apply to MBA programs you’ll have to take the GMAT–the Graduate Management Admission Test. This is like the SAT but specifically for business school.
Like the SAT, the GMAT isn’t the only thing that business schools consider in their admissions process, but it is an important factor, so you’ll want to make sure you take plenty of time to prepare for it.
See also: Why an MBA could be the right step for small business owners – Looking at the value an MBA can bring to your business management skills.