There are many, many success stories of entrepreneurs that created businesses and achieved great wealth without a business degree and, in some cases, even without a high school diploma. Popular examples are Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft who dropped out of Washington State to pursue his dreams. S. Daniel Abraham, another self-made billionaire, pursued a small company by the name of “Slim-Fast” and never attended college. Then you have “My Space” founder Tom Anderson, who is a high school dropout. So, the question is, “Do I really need an education to be a successful entrepreneur?” What skill sets does an education offer that is useful for your own business?
A beginning entrepreneur may not think about the legal actions that can take place against him when owning a business. Most degrees that have anything to do with business offer some kind of legal training, especially in the human resources field. Are you aware of current laws that revolve around discrimination? Do you know how to document and properly terminate a poorly performing person in your organization? Not only can legal courses during a college tenure educate you about how to best protect yourself against civil suits, but also how to ensure that your hiring practices don’t violate discrimination laws based on national origin, religious preference and age. Many employers openly break these laws without even knowing. By the way, the term, “ignorance is bliss” won’t get you far in a court of law. Further, an employer that does not keep good records of employee behavior and methods to correct that behavior prior to a termination could be exposed to higher unemployment insurance rates due to too many former employees erroneously collecting unemployment checks.
“Man, I hate those writing courses! Do I really need to know how to write an essay in order to start a landscaping business?” This one is a no-brainer. Do you think you may have to write a proposal to a prospective customer? You will constantly be in contact (hopefully) with clients in some form. While some view them as grueling, writing classes will help you communicate effectively with your customers (proposals, newsletters, emails, bills), employees (advertising for employment, establishing guidelines, reprimands, kudos) and governmental agencies (state and federal tax agencies, labor departments). Not to mention, you will need some type of employee manual to protect yourself. It may be slightly difficult to hire professionals to do things of this nature when starting a business on a shoestring budget. So, a good writing class and an example manual from someone in your industry will go a long way. Remember, improvise don’t plagiarize!
Make Sure You Are Profitable
Oh boy, here comes the math. “I will never use algebra in my field.” Ever heard that before? Perhaps, you know that person quite intimately. My first industry was trucking and logistics and within the first year I was writing formulas in order to measure performance of my local drivers. Math is there for a reason and classes containing qualitative and quantitative analysis can be extremely helpful. It is more convenient and cost effective to read a profit and loss statement and understand it than taking it to your CPA. Many entrepreneurs ignore financial data until they discover the bank account is too low to pay their bills. A working knowledge of analysis math can keep unexpected business losses from ever happening in the first place. In addition, it will aid you in forecasting, budgeting and sectionalizing smaller profit centers within your business as you grow.
“Sum” It Up
If you don’t have a college education, you can certainly be successful, obviously many people are. We have just examined only a few examples of how having an education can be of great use and can catapult you ahead in your industry. Taking it a step further and earning a master’s degree in business will give you additional momentum. Studying extremely successful organizations, fine tuning your leadership skills and high level management analysis are just a few of the attributes that a MBA can offer to give you the competitive edge in your industry.
By the way, I was a high school dropout and joined the military at age 19. It wasn’t until ten years later that I obtained my Bachelors Degree in Management. That education and working in my chosen field led to starting a string of successful small businesses. My four-year degree has enabled me to excel as an entrepreneur. Hmmm… wonder where a MBA will take me?