Grow your small business with an MBA

women computerAs a small business owner, do you really need an MBA? Surely you can run your business without one, right?

Sure, you can, but earning an MBA gives business owners the hard and soft skills they need to grow a strong and sustainable business. You’ll learn finance, business strategy, negotiation, management and marketing skills that could be crucial for your long-term success. And you’ll form a valuable network of contacts that could help with everything from brainstorming new ideas to forming new partnerships to hiring new employees.

Thanks to the popularity of online MBA programs, you can even earn the credential without leaving the helm of your business.

Here are a few more of the biggest reasons you probably need an MBA more than you know.

Don’t risk your business in the School of Hard Knocks

Many small business owners learn what they need to know about running a business the way entrepreneur Stephen Greer did – through trial and error. Indeed, the School of Hard Knocks sounds appealing; it’s cheap, and they’re accepting everyone.

But there’s a lot of inherent risk involved in learning everything you need to know by making mistakes. Yes, experience is the best teacher, and you can definitely learn a lot from it, but you could end up encountering a setback you can’t recover from. Every mistake puts your company on the line.

You might wake up 20 years from now and come to realize, as Greer did, that your business would have been so much more profitable if you’d known what you were doing from the start.

Learn what you need to know efficiently

Many of today’s online MBA programs are designed with the needs of executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners in mind. If you have enough years of work experience, you might not even need to take the GMAT or the GRE.

You can enroll in an online MBA with no GMAT requirement and learn everything you need to know about running and growing a business in just one to two years – way faster than if you tried to learn it haphazardly from business books and articles or through trial and error. And, you can put what you’re learning to good use in the classroom as you’re learning it since you’re already at the helm of a business.

Why would you do that when you can just take massive open online courses (MOOCs) on finance, accounting, marketing and business from a company like Coursera for free? Well, if you’re like most small business owners, you already have a lot on your plate.

Many small business owners struggle to find the motivation to complete a MOOC; with no financial commitment, and no one watching, it’s easy to let MOOC coursework sit on the back burner until it rots.

For many small business owners who want to increase their business acumen, the financial commitment involved in enrolling in an MBA program is enough to hold them accountable to complete the coursework.

An online MBA program will also have more built-in supports. You’ll have professors checking up on you, classmates who depend on you to help with group projects and maybe even residencies to attend and study-abroad programs to enjoy.

Grow your support network

One of the biggest benefits of an online MBA for small business owners is the network it provides. You’ll be taking classes with other adult learners who also have their own years of experience in business.

Some will be other small business owners; others will be entrepreneurs, executives or professionals hoping to work their way up to management in their companies. All will be able to help you brainstorm ideas to grow and market your business more effectively. They’ll be able to bring their years of experience to bear on solving your business problems.

Most students in business school have business ideas they want to work the bugs out of or business problems they want to solve. It’s part of why they go to business school – to get the hard skills they’ll need to grow their businesses as well as to hammer out specific ideas and solve specific problems in an environment where failure isn’t as catastrophic as it is out in the real world.

You’ll be able to bring your problems and ideas to class and get input from peers and professors as well as a look ahead at how you can most effectively implement what you have in mind.

If you’re a small business owner, going to business school could be one of the best things you’ll ever do for your career. You’ll learn how to build a thriving business and emerge from your MBA with a solid network of contacts and a set of skills that will serve you well for years to come.

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