Last year, I completed my Master in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. MBA programs have often been in the news lately, especially around discussions pertaining to the return on investment for education and job attainment.
So what exactly does the MBA do? For some, it's to help unlock higher earning potential as well as to open up possibilities for obtaining an executive-level position at a company. For others, it is to get advanced training in business management that will help them be able to start a business. I enrolled in graduate school because I wanted to unlock additional career paths, including the ability to teach in higher education.
Having spent six years in two different colleges (for both my Bachelor's as well as Master's), I have a clear idea of what business schools aim to do. However, I also found that there are several things that they don't teach even though they really should.
Here are four areas MBA programs lack in and where you can learn the appropriate skills:
1. How to Write: While there is no shortage to research papers, essays, and reports that you'll have to write in the program, universities always require MLA or APA formatting. This works for the academic world but it doesn't always translate to the real business world. When was the last time you submitted a sales proposal in APA format?
It would be great if business management programs required a business writing class: how to communicate professionally. Many of the classes require presentations, including the dreaded Powerpoint team presentation), but there weren't any classes on delivering speeches effectively, drafting memos, or copywriting an ad. I believe that every business school should require a one-credit course on writing a decent email.
Where You Can Learn It:
This book: Writing That Works: How to Communicate Effectively in Business by Kenneth Roman.
This article: 7 Ways to Improve Your Email Response Rates
2. How to Sell: One of the oldest truisms in business is "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." Manufacturers can't manufacture, accountants can't count, HR can't process paychecks unless there is money in the account. No matter what position a person has in the company, they should always be able to understand the point of view from those in sales.
Additionally, one should simply learn the art of selling. Anyone working in business should develop their skills of negotiation, cold calling, pitching ideas, reaching decision makers, and closing a sale. Knowing how to sell is often the quickest way to get noticed in a company. If anything else, one should at least learn how to sell their own skills and value -- that's the skill that will get you the job to begin with.
Where You Can Learn It: A
Any book or program by Jeffrey Gitomer; I especially recommend The Sales Bible.
Zig Ziglar's book, See You at The Top, also is classic resource.
3. How to Start a Business: In the program, whenever students were asked about their future goals, a good number would answer that they wanted to start their own businesses. However, the majority of classes in MBA Programs focus managing an existing multi-million dollar company (usually something in manufacturing). The reality is that very few people in the classroom will ever reach management in a company of that size -- and if they do, it's because they've worked their way up, learning critical operations skills on the way. Which Fortune 500 company is going to hire a fresh MBA graduate with no experience to run their company? None.
MBA students are usually quite entrepreneurial; many work and attend school concurrently. They have the drive but they need the kind of education that can fuel their passion to success.
MBA programs should include courses on starting a business: how to get financing from a bank or venture capitalists, how to network and partner up with other organizations, and lessons on managing the legal paperwork required from the state and the IRS.
Where You Can Learn It:
Most community colleges have small business development programs where you can direct mentorship from local business leaders. Not only will you get the skills required (at a fraction of the cost of grad school), but you can also network with entrepreneurs as well.
This book: Start Your Own Business by Entrepreneur Press has critical startup essentials.
My book, How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, teaches you how to build strategic partnerships to get financial and community support.
4. How to Create a Niche Market: In today's business market, it's more important than ever to separate yourself from the rest of the pack, to create your own niche. Not only does it help you tap into new markets (giving you things like first mover advantage), but it limits competition as well. Yet, MBA programs teach you how to run the average company in an average manner. You spend more time learning what others have done rather than investing time developing your own ideas or how to oversaturated markets.
MBA programs usually focus on the basic, generic approach to marketing: appealing to wide demographics, the four P's, etc. That's the same information that's taught in undergraduate programs. They should really teach more advanced skills, such as developing product ideas that fulfill unmet needs in the marketplace, integrated marketing channel budgeting, and viable market analysis.
However, they should teach students how to hone in on a target audience, how to develop a skill or product that can fulfill unmet needs in the marketplace, and how to test or measure potential, viable markets.
Where You Can Learn It:
Read these books:
Own Your Niche by Stephanie Chandler
Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
It's a common assumption that MBA students are entrepreneurial, are future leaders, and have great potential. However, many of these same students will need to learn critical skills about business management that simply are not included in a program entitled "Master of Business Administration." Hopefully, a new generation of business professionals will realize this and begin incorporating more of these ideas into MBA programs