Tag Archives: MBA

The MBA: It’s Your Ticket to the Middle

You’ve put a lot of time and effort into your job.  Yet, year after year, your performance reviews provide little insight into what you need to do to gain some upward mobility.  No raises. No promotions.  Eventually, you begin to realize that with little movement after 5 years or more, it’s unlikely that any real movement will be coming in the near future.  You’ve got to change your outlook and the MBA seems like the perfect credential to boost your career.  If you want to get into management, it seems like the ideal tool.  But can it really get you to the top?

When I was working on my MBA, I was just as optimistic as every other student.  I thought the MBA would propel me into management quickly.  I earned my MBA while working full time.  The managers around me didn’t have a lot of credentials themselves, so I felt that my MBA would have a huge impact on my growth in the company.  The only MBA in the company was a Harvard graduate and he was the CFO.  When he came in the company, he came in at the top.  He had considerable management experience at the top level and a MBA from Harvard.  This was my introduction to the two things that get you into top management.

Many believe that the possession of the MBA will push you to the top of any organization.  I wish it were true.  The challenge for MBAs entering the workforce is that there are too many MBAs for too few positions.  According to Statistics Canada data, 10.4 percent of all jobs were management jobs in 1995, but that has reduced to 7.8 percent today.  The recession has brought about change that will greatly impact your ability to climb higher in your career.  About 1 in 10 management jobs that existed in 2008 are gone.  Wal-Mart Canada cut costs by targeting more than 200 head-office jobs. After Tim Hortons merged with Burger King, the coffee chain cut 40 per cent of its middle managers. When Rogers Communications restructured its business under CEO Guy Laurence, it let go of several hundred middle managers and up to 15 per cent of its executives.  While the rate of MBA enrollment has not increased in recent years, it still remains high.  About 52 percent of students around the globe are exclusively interested in the MBA, indicating that the supply of MBAs is unlikely to decrease anytime soon.

If the reduction of management jobs and the large numbers of MBAs doesn’t deter you, then you’ll need to create value for employers to convince them that you’re ready for top management.  There are two things you must have to create that influence: a recognizable value and desired work experience.

The MBA is a faster ride to top management positions if you get it from a top program.  It’s not because they are considerably smarter than everyone else, it’s because they bring a perceived value that the company needs.  For example, if a company is preparing itself to be sold or seeking investment funds, bringing in top program alumni creates the perception that the company is well managed.  This makes investors feel more comfortable about the risk of investing in the company.  It’s little more than managing perception. It’s similar to reasons why professional athletes earn so much money playing a game.  They bring an inherent value to the organization, which for sports athletes lie in their ability to sell apparel with their name on it.  Do you think an MBA from an unknown university would create such perception?  If not, then it’s likely that the MBA won’t carry you to the upper echelons.  Even the ivy leaguers who start out with the Fortune 500 companies don’t start at the top.  Andrew Ainslie, dean of the Rochester University Simon School of Business, said “You’re reporting two to four levels below the CEO. That’s middle management, and that’s where most MBA students go and it doesn’t matter which university they came from.”

Another factor that will slow your rise to the top is work experience.  Companies looking for top level professionals will focus on the experience of the individual in the areas they need support in.  That could be mergers, acquisitions, startup, restructuring or dressing up the company for sale.  Company needs are often very specific and without such experience, you don’t have a chance.  Is experience more valuable than the MBA? I would say it certainly is.  Lynn Lee, managing director at Atlantic Research Technologies, a global executive search firm, says “Corporations typically call us in to help them identify people who are already in the upper management or middle management ranks. When recruiting these candidates, most companies, large and small, Singaporean and international, usually look first and foremost at the candidate’s employment experience, and at his or her achievements and management style. A person with a truly outstanding employment record can get a great senior management job without an MBA or other advanced degrees.”   How do you know what experience they want?  That’s a great topic for another post.  That’s coming soon!

After I earned my MBA and spent many years in middle management, I learned about another extremely important factor that can greatly decrease your chances in reaching the corner office.  It’s self-preservation.  Most managers at the top are focused on growing their own career, not limiting their employment by promoting someone else to take their job.  This mindset creates an environment that I call the “dark side of management” and I have an upcoming ebook that will dive into this topic in detail by providing real examples of situations that often happen that can limit your middle management career because someone at the top was trying to preserve their own career from poor organizational performance or create some organizational change that has great potential for personal financial gain.   I was really unsure about creating this ebook since the world wants to focus on all the happy stuff in life but it’s these unpleasant situations that damage and limit your ability to grow your career.  You will run into them at some point.

No matter where you earn your MBA, it’s all about value (i.e. perceived or real).  If you earned your MBA from a lower tier program, don’t expect it to have high perceived value that executives look for when they want to manage perception.  This will limit your upward mobility.  Therefore, you’ll be forced to develop specific experience that executives and boards are looking for if you want to draw their attention for any opportunities at the top.  Experience has value.  Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in middle management.  While that may sound exciting, especially when you consider where you are now, it comes with a big set of problems (which are covered in my upcoming ebook).  Then, when you consider the sheer quantity of competition for an ever shrinking pool of opportunities, you might just find middle management to be one of the toughest places in business.

I’ve Got An MBA – Where Are the Management Jobs?

You’ve finally earned your ticket (the MBA) to the executive ranks. Graduation is over, you have a diploma and now you need to figure out how and, most importantly, where to put your skills to work.  The job market for managers is fairly hot right now.  If you haven’t found your opportunity yet, here are some places you might not have thought to look.

New business.  Many companies tout their successes to the world, mostly in the hopes of winning favor with potential customers but you can use these press releases to identify potential employers.  Small to medium companies often win big contracts from the private sector and government sector for which they are not totally prepared to manage.  While they may have established some preliminary management strategy to win the business, they may get changes to what they were awarded that is outside of their proposed plan.  Change always creates opportunity for establishing vision and direction.

Your action:  Monitor websites in your industry to identify companies that have announced big wins.  Learn as much as you can about their new business and determine where you can help out.  Then, contact someone in their Business Development department to see if you can get connected with the person responsible for that new business (e.g. department manager).  You go to Business Development people because they like to talk and negotiate.  Pitch your knowledge, skills and abilities in a way that clearly articulates how you can help them manage that new business.

Mergers & Acquisitions.  Companies are always trying to find ways to make money.  One of these ways is through the acquisition of other companies.  Big companies buy smaller companies to expand into new markets, increase their intellectual property or simply to show growth to investors.  Usually these transitions are challenging and difficult to manage as larger companies are not adept at adapting small companies into their fold.  Often, they will select new management for the smaller companies to help them make the transition, and this is where you can help.  A word of caution: Most of these acquisitions only last a few years before they are spun off or shut down.  If you’re not afraid of change, this is the type of business to follow.  M&A is always happening.  Read about 2015 M&A activity here.

Your action: M&A activity is not a highly publicized activity, at least not until the deal has been made.  The best way to learn about these activities is to tap into the industry grapevine and listen for rumors.  Talk with Business Development people to learn about rumors of mergers and acquisitions in your industry.  Go to trade shows and industry association meetings and conferences to gather information.  Companies love to talk about these rumors, which often have a strong element of truth.  Get your information and strategy ready for how you can make that acquisition more successful. Then, maintain contact with your connections to identify when it will occur.  Send your resume and cover letter that explains how you are the solution to the success of the new acquisition.

Venture capitalists (VC).  Another great source of management changeover is companies owned by venture capitalists.  Typically, VCs provide funding to companies and try to grow the companies as quickly as possible in an effort to sell them in a few years for a large profit.  This process of buying and selling companies creates a need for exceptional leaders who can manage each transition.  Often, VCs will identify organizational leaders they like and will seek to work with them many times during their career.  But there are also opportunities to introduce yourself and how you can help make them more successful.

Your action: Search the web for venture capitalists in your industry.  It’s as easy as doing a Google search on the name of your industry and the words “venture capitalists.”  Click the links to identify numerous VCs in your industry.  Then, research them to find out what companies they invest in.  Create your business case for why they should hire you and send it to the VCs and the companies they own. But make sure you know which of their companies may be in line for a transition before you engage with them.

Having an MBA is great.  You do learn about business.  Unfortunately, business isn’t run anything like it was when the MBA was first created.  Constant change is the flavor of the day.  Managing in transition isn’t the same as steady state management.  My guess is that there are far more companies in transition than there are in steady state.  If you can create a compelling case for why you’re the best for transition management, then you’ll likely find an opportunity to prove it.

IAMPRO MBA Award Nomination

Well, it’s not often we are nominated for an award for our support of MBAs.  We’ve been blogging, publishing and working with MBAs on career development for a decade.  Considering I’m the only American among the International pool of nominees, I am truly honored to be representing the USA.

The IAMPRO MBA Awards celebrate MBA’s at the forefront of leadership excellence. To recognise the talents and contributions made by accredited schools and their students to the MBA arena and the wider community, the IAMPRO presents five annual awards to outstanding managers, entrepreneurs, non for profit managers, industry leaders.

The IAMPRO invites you to vote upon MBA students or alumnus/alumna for each category of the MBA awards. The winners will be individuals in each respected category.

Vote for me HERE.

I’m in Category 4. MBA ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT AWARD.

There is some real tough competition among these nominees and I’ll need all of the votes I can get.  Your vote is most appreciated.

MBA for Starting Your Business

It’s the latest craze and it almost sounds like a contradiction but many universities in the USA have quickly adopted an MBA program focused on entrepreneurship.  If the university isn’t adopting a certified program, they’ve instituted seminars, weekend training, networking events and more that address entrepreneurial needs.   It’s hard to imagine that academia would be able to show budding new entrepreneurs how to run a successful business.  The MBA degree was developed to help managers become better managers. Now, we are taking into a position that requires a broader set of knowledge, skills and abilities.  Many universities realize the challenge in providing such education so they often solicit the support from local entrepreneurs.  In fact, many colleges hire entrepreneurs to develop the new MBA program.  While the MBA isn’t really a requirement for anything, an MBA entrepreneurial program isn’t either but it might be helpful for your startup.  In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key elements of this type of program so that you can determine if it’s right for you.

Assessing business ideas.  If you want to be an entrepreneur but don’t have any idea what business you want to create, then learning to assess ideas is very important.  The ability to recognize and evaluate opportunities is not an easy task.  Most entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators recognize that only a small percentage of venture ideas actually represent viable business opportunities.  Such skills are critical as startups are usually plagued by high uncertainty, low information and the need for rapid decision-making.  Students are often introduced to numerous platforms for evaluating business ideas such as the Timmons Model of the Entrepreneurial Process, the New Venture Decision Making Model and the Opportunity Search Model.  These models help you assess potential opportunities by guiding your focus in areas of environmental attributes, owner characteristics, strategy factors, resources, economics, and product/service model.

Basic organizational structures.  Most programs offer guidance in identifying the various types of structure that might be suitable for your business, such as an LLC, C-corp, S-corp and so on.  The factors that are important here are usually the number of owners, tax benefits, liabilities, and record keeping requirements.  If you don’t know anything about these, then the knowledge you get will be helpful.  However, in my experience, spending a few minutes with a business attorney or CPA is just as sufficient.

Develop a sound Business Plan.  If you’ve been reading our blog, this should be easy.  We just saved you a ton of money.  MBA entrepreneurial programs will give you great support in building a good business plan.  The business plan serves two purposes:  (1) clarifies your value statement and revenue model, and (2) communicates sufficient growth potential and stability for investors.  Of course, the quality of plan is only as good as the experience behind the creator, so you might want to investigate the experience of your professor.   Ideally, you can create your business plan early in the program and implement it throughout the life of your MBA program.

Marketing Plans.  MBA programs concentrate more on analytical and strategic marketing, such as creating marketing plans and strategies for sales purposes.  There is potential to develop some powerful skills here, such as competitor analysis, market research, budgeting, branding, communication, marketing tactics and metrics for monitoring.  Marketing plans are very valuable for a startup as they will help you focus your energy.  If you don’t develop the skills yourself, you’ll likely be hiring them at some point. 

Funding.  Many programs offer courses on working with venture capital firms, banks and angel investors.  These sources are exciting as they often come with sophisticated investment analysis tools and models, as well as thoroughly researched and professionally prepared business plans.  The top tier programs also give you access to these fund providers.  Unfortunately, most startups don’t usually get to tap into such sources.  The more common sources of funds for new and smaller businesses are family, friends, informal investors and the entrepreneur themselves.  Much of what you’ll learn won’t be used right away but will be helpful later on.

Mock experience.  Most programs will tell you this is a huge advantage, as students are afforded the practice of key business skills in a safe environment.  You can basically work with a team of students to walk through the development and implementation of a business venture.  The intent of this mock experience is to help ensure decisions are made using sound business practices.  The hope is that you’ll fall back on your habits, developed during practice, when difficult situations arise.  Of course, you may have the view that there are many factors that can affect your decision making abilities that can be emulated in a classroom setting.  It reminds me of the scene in the movie Harry Potter:  The Order of the Phoenix when Harry asks Professor Dolores Umbridge “And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what’s out there?”  In this scene, the ministry felt that a “theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations.”  Unfortunately, starting your own company has real consequences that can be quite costly and theory ignores the fact that real businesses often deal with irrational people, both in your own team and the customer.

Identify new ventures.  To sustain growth of your organization, you must be able to identify new opportunities, including understanding, qualifying and quantifying the market.  Additionally, you must also understand your competitive advantage, build a financial plan, secure funding and build a team that can implement the plan.  These lessons may seem a little premature when you’re just starting up as you’ll be more focused on implementing your business plan, which usually doesn’t include changing course or expanding products and services right away.  If you don’t know what kind of company you want to start, this may help you understand how to assess any opportunities you find interesting.

Global strategies.  Most offerings are designed to help you develop leadership and strategic thinking tuned to the realities of today’s global economy, including topics related to operations, partnerships, product development, and legal contracts.  If you don’t plan on going abroad anytime soon, this may be a little premature and not a great deal of help for your more urgent startup needs.

Networking with other entrepreneurial minds.  Networking is a common theme for MBA programs.  Apparently it works for entrepreneurial programs as many students partner with other classmates to launch their business.  Networking is always helpful as it lets you bounce your ideas off existing entrepreneurs, professors and students who can help you evaluate your ideas.   Now, this can be done in many places, not just a college campus.

Startup acceleration.  This offering is usually dedicated to helping fundable startups with scalable business models connect with companies who might be interested in supporting the business idea through mentorship and venture capital.  If you’ve got an idea that requires considerable startup funding, this might be a useful approach.

While I’ve always thought that universities have become quite adept at jumping onto new trends, entrepreneurship seems to be more popular than the MBA itself.  The concern I would have in partaking in such programs is that you will be spending a lot of money to learn skills that may not be easily transferable to other companies should you decide not to start your own upon graduation.  Even worse, you could graduate from the program and your startup company fails a short time after.  That would be a huge setback.  Now, this is not to say that such programs don’t have value.  They do have value, especially if you have an idea of the business you want to start.  I’m not sure you’ll gain great benefit in these programs if you have no idea what business you want to create.  Just think about the challenge of any MBA graduate who finds themselves at the end of the program asking themselves “now what?”

In our next, we’ll give you a list of questions you should consider before enrolling in such programs.  We’ll also try to bring you real experiences from graduates to assess how well the programs work.

THE MBA: USE IT WITH CAUTION

Many professionals engage in this often expensive endeavor to gain business knowledge and skills that will hopefully improve their career mobility, either immediately or in the future.  Once the MBA is obtained, these freshly minted MBAs rush into the world to demonstrate their new found expertise.  The hope is that a clear demonstration of great knowledge will bring forth praise, reward and opportunity.  Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when utilizing your new skills and knowledge in your work place.

I now know what they know.  One common misconception new MBAs adopt is that the knowledge they gain in the MBA program is known by most managers and leaders in organizations.  With the MBA, they can now engage in the discussions with leadership or at least understand what they are talking about.  In most small and medium enterprises, you’ll find that many leaders are not highly educated.  They don’t develop strategies and plans for their organizations using methods taught in MBA programs.  These leaders use their experience and connections within their industries to figure out the direction of the company.  You should never assume what you know is what they know.  The importance of this fact will be shown later on in the article.

My new research abilities will be helpful.  It seems logical that being able to perform research to understand how the market trends, creating a thorough competitor analysis, or developing a roadmap for technology creation would be useful or desired by management.  It is important, especially if it is your job and leadership has requested this information.  If not, many managers and leaders may not understand the methods or the results.  The whole process of the research and developing these helpful results may likely be misinterpreted.

The MBA doesn’t make you a leader.  The MBA has become a science, not a journey into managing people.  No one believes it automatically makes you a leader.  Your individual personality has far more to do with you getting a leadership role than possessing an MBA.  In the book, The Ten Golden Rules Of Leadership, Soupios and Mourdoukoutas posit that leadership requires an unusual composite of skill, experience, and seasoned personal perspective, which include your personal values, priorities, and an ability to build and sustain a respectable quality of life.  I know you’ll want to lean very heavily on the scientific methods you’ve learned to improve business but the soft side will get you where you want to go much faster.

Your new knowledge doesn’t incorporate an understanding of management psychology.  The MBA teaches you about leadership, usually from an ideal perspective.  However, most companies operate far from ideal.  The way many managers and leaders function are known well to psychologists but not to the rest of us, as we believe they operate on a higher standard.  I wish it were always true but it isn’t.  They are just like the rest of us.  Learning these lessons in the workplace can be detrimental to your job, reputation and upward mobility.  Here are some key takeaways from some MBAs with such experiences in the workplace.

  • No acknowledgement. “My manager never even recognized the fact that I graduated with my MBA.  He viewed my MBA as personal development.  He didn’t think it was needed for my job, yet they still paid for my tuition.”
  • They just don’t understand. “After our company was acquired, I created a 20 factor cultural analysis to show our leadership how different the two companies were and how we needed to change to make it work.  I wanted the merger to be successful and I wanted to ensure I had a job for the future.  My boss said that I hated the company and shared my analysis with the General Manager, who I found out later used part of the analysis in his report to the leadership of our new parent company.  Two years later, we had lost so much money, we were sold off again.”
  • I’ll take that. “We needed to create some new technology to grow our business.   My boss asked me to figure out how much we should be charging for the IP we would create.  I did the research and came up with several methods.  He told his boss that he developed a method that was actually 10x the cost of what I had proposed.  We never sold anything.”
  • I’m the boss. “After I graduated with my MBA, a management position opened up. My COO tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to interview for the position.  I thought this was a good sign that I would get the job.  I didn’t even know a position was open.  I found out that there was one other applicant and he didn’t have an MBA.  Unfortunately, the other guy got the job.  The COO didn’t have an advanced degree either.  He was sending a clear message.”

There are too many stories like this to share in a single post.  The important thing to remember is that managers are people.  In most small to medium enterprises, these managers are not highly educated.  They have been put in power due to circumstances that probably weren’t dependent upon their use of a high degree of intellect but they do feel a strong urge to lead, even if they don’t know how.  They also don’t want to look bad in front of their boss, as they worry it might cost them their job.  Today, managers worry about that more than anything else.    While you’ll want to show off what you know, it does come with consequences.  If you’re in an organization that appreciates what you have to offer, the consequences will be good.  If they don’t need it or want it, you may find that the consequences hamper your upward mobility and you’ll encounter experiences like these that will clearly articulate what management thinks of your MBA.

GET OUT OF THE FAST LANE

In the last week of the year, my son and I took off down I-75 towards Tampa, Florida for a Lacrosse tournament.  Just a few hours into the trip, I noticed a common trend that lasted the whole 8 hour trip.  I looked over to my son and asked him to tell me what he saw.  He stated “everyone is in the far left lane.”  I reminded him that the far left lane is the fast lane and designated for the drivers going a little faster than everyone else.  But why would almost everyone flock to the fast lane?  As we moved over into the fast lane, we quickly noticed that traffic was actually slower.  The cars in the other lanes were traveling faster, with the exception of a few cars that forced drivers to work their way around them.  But they had two lanes to maneuver in so they didn’t have any problems getting around the slower cars.  The fast lane was a different story.  The only way to move forward was if someone moved out of the way.  Even though we were all going slower, we were in the fast lane and drivers remained there despite our speed.  Sound familiar?

fastlane

So many of us do this with our career.  It’s a sick version of the herd mentality.  We do everything people tell us to do but only seem to get the same results most everyone else gets.  That is, we are stuck in line waiting for the person ahead of us to retire, transfer, quite, get promoted or simply kill over before we get a chance to move up.  “Get out of the fast lane,” my son said.  “We’ll get there faster.”

Many people stay in the fast lane because it’s easy, doesn’t require any thought and you always know where you are (i.e. stuck behind the person ahead of you).  It’s like being on autopilot.  You’re moving but you aren’t sure if you’re getting there because you can only see taillights ahead of you.  Still, it doesn’t require much effort, so we drive on.

Scientists at the University of Leeds discovered that it takes a small minority (just 5%) to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95% follow without even knowing it.  I know, moving over to the slower lanes would require you to make decisions constantly because there are slower cars that you will have to move around.  It gets to be a lot of work moving in and out of the lanes.

Staying in the fast lane may just be your problem with achieving the success you desire.  Research led by the University of Exeter has shown that individuals have evolved to be overly influenced by those around them, rather than rely on their own instinct. As the fast lane slows down, so do you.  As it speeds up, you speed up.  You do what they do.  As a result, groups become less responsive to changes in their natural environment.  Let’s say that the fast lane is full of MBA aspirants.  They haven’t noticed that the corporate world is full of them already and many of them have gained no flexibility in their career by earning the MBA.  It does little to improve their upward mobility.  If only a few people in the fast lane aren’t paying attention to the population of MBAs in their industry, they’ll stay in their lane to earn the degree and fall into the same situation as the others.  Everyone else will follow.  While the fast lane population may have dreams of getting into management, the MBA isn’t the only way to get there.  Get out of the fast lane.

So why do so many think the MBA is the only way to get there?  Social learning may be the reason.  It is likely that many aspirants are surrounded by a few people who believe it’s the answer.  Of course, once you go on campus, everyone will tell you it is the answer.  With so much bias towards the degree, aspirants will forego any analytical processing and go directly to the analytical response.  This does happen and was proven in a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, which found that a strong social bias may very well decrease the frequency of analytical reasoning by making it easy and commonplace to accept without thinking.  Well, I do remember something about us all thinking the world was flat, until that 5% of scientists convinced us it wasn’t.

What are other ways to get into management?  You can always start a company or join a startup.  Small companies offer the opportunity to learn more about management, since there is less of it.  Outside of these options, you might find yourself waiting in line for a long time.  Of course, you might occupy that time by building a nice list of credentials that you can put on your resume. Then, when somebody moves over, you can hit the gas and move into a new position.  Or….you can get out of the fast lane!  Some say “success is a choice.” Well…this is one of those choices.

If you’re considering taking the entrepreneurial route, let us know.  We’ve got plenty of folks who can help you with your idea.  Contact us at info@blitzteamconsulting.com.

Ask Dr. Business – Do I really need an MBA to start my business?

In this week’s post, Dr. Business answers the question about the need for an MBA to start a business.

Here’s what Dr. Business had to say on the topic.

The more education in business that anyone can get before starting a business is always a good thing. However, getting an MBA is not a prerequisite for young professional entrepreneurs who want to start a business. While all the courses they would take would help them with one aspect of their new business or another, MBA courses are really designed for those middle managers who want to continue to climb the corporate ladder, not start an entrepreneurial new business.

The exception to that is the MBA course on Entrepreneurship & Innovation that I teach. It is an elective and as such attracts MBA students who have an interest in starting a business, or at least getting to know more about all that is involved in the process. The primary deliverable in the course is the development of a business plan for an idea that they have had for a business for a long time. The value of the course for these MBA’s is that it gives them an opportunity to see if their idea for a business is commercially viable, or not. More importantly, they get to see how all the other MBA courses that they have taken contribute to managing a successful business in one way or another. Every year several of my MBA students in this course actually use the business plan they developed in the course to start a business.

There are a multitude of sources for young professional entrepreneurs to get advice and support. One of the best sources is the multitude of incubators and accelerators that are available now at many colleges, or affiliated with universities in one way or another. Colleges and universities also have successful alums volunteering to be mentors for would-be entrepreneurs. Lastly, there are a multitude of books that have been published and continue to be published on entrepreneurship and how to start and manage a profitable business. Success stories are also published almost every day in the business press.

The best advice I have for young professionals is to watch ABC’s TV show “SharkTank” to get a first hand view of how NOT to do it!

Join us next week when Dr. Business breaks down another burning question in the mind of the startup entrepreneur.

ASK DR BUSINESS – What barriers do entrepreneurs encounter?

In this week’s post, we ask Dr. Business to identify some of the barriers new entrepreneurs encounter.

Dr. Business says:

“The biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs is not squandering their scarce start-up resources. Since most entrepreneurs have not developed a business plan before they start their business, they cannot anticipate the typical cash consuming pitfalls that could have been avoided by having a plan. This is followed by the need to find investors to begin marketing their unique value proposition. The majority of any entrepreneur’s start-up cash is usually consumed in the process of getting ready to do business. For example, starting a bagel shop, pizzeria, or developing an App, requires time and money before you sell anything.

Once these basic challenges are dealt with there then comes a host of other operating challenges having to do with: finding employees, attracting initial customers, accounting for the business, legal issues, and the time and energy required to convert their entrepreneurial idea into a commercially successful and profitable business. Not to mention the “buy-in” required from family members, partners, and others. “
If you have a specific startup problem, share your problem with us and we’ll have Dr. Business share his advice.   Send us your info at info@blitzteamconsulting.com.
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MBAs: Using the Summertime to make the SWITCH

You’ve just graduated with your MBA and are looking forward to your opportunity to get into management.  While we may want to use the summer as a time of reflection and a little job searching for that new leadership position we so desire, graduates should be taking just a little time to  publish the history of their transition to leadership before contacting potential employers.  While top tier MBA programs are connected to companies that will hire their freshly minted graduates, smaller to medium enterprises, as well as startups, need experienced talent.  If you’re in the market for this type of opportunity, painting yourself as a new leader won’t get you very far.  Let’s take a look at what the summertime should hold for your activity plan.

As an MBA graduate, you likely have high expectations for improvements in your career mobility brought about by your increased understanding of the operational aspects of business life.  But these aren’t the expectations you should focus on initially.  Employers want to know your value proposition.  They expect you to add value to their business through such things as helping identify and obtain global opportunities, developing products and services, finding unique solutions to problems, utilizing exceptional communication and leadership skills, and building high performing teams.  Is this the value you offer?

Making the switch, or changing careers, is normally a stressful activity.  If you’re thinking that the MBA degree will be enough to convince employers you’re ready for management, you might be in for a surprise.  Relevant experience is more important than the degree.  You will need to be able to prove that you already have significant relevant experience as an MBA.  Otherwise, you’re viewed as someone the company will have to train.  Oh, training budgets hardly exist today.  Most companies focus on hiring the “right” people, which means they won’t train them.  Your proof of value starts with your resume and social network profiles.  If your resume doesn’t communicate much because you don’t really have the experience you need, here are some things you can do this summer.

Volunteer.  Small to medium sized companies need help.  Why?  Well, not every business owner is highly educated, formally speaking, on the many aspects of running a business.  There are plenty of places to find companies who need support.  You can contact a city’s chamber of commerce, small business service centers, SCORE, and many other groups setup to help small businesses.  All of these can be found with a simple Google search.  Finding projects will help broaden your expertise and provide success stories that you can offer to potential employers.

Learn to speak publicly.  Toastmasters is a great place to learn to speak and is fairly low cost.  They also have branches everywhere.  The best thing about them is that you can develop and practice any speech.  More specifically, you could have an audience that helps you tell your stories.  Maybe you can develop the speech that articulates your desire to transition into management and all the steps you have taken to make that switch, the things you’ve learned and the value it has to an organization.  Can you imagine how well this will sound once practiced over and over?

MOOCs.  Yes, I know.  You feel you already have enough education, especially after spending two years working on your MBA.  Well, I’ve graduated quite a few times and am always finding reasons to learn more.  Online classes, which are mostly free of charge, are a great way to build expertise on a topic that you might be interviewing for.

Consult.  Gaining experience rapidly is best done by freelance consulting.  There are numerous websites that can help you find projects to work on.  Just do a quick search online for MBA freelance jobs to find a lot of them.  I’ve worked with MBA & Company and people per hour.

These are just a few ideas on what to do with your summer, assuming you haven’t made the switch you planned on.  The business world is moving at a fast pace, requiring MBAs to learn more and more, all the time.   Remember the old saying about competition in the marketplace, “if you’re sitting still, you’re losing ground.”  Get busy building evidence of the value you can offer as a manager to companies.  You don’t have to be a fresh graduate with no experience.  Experience is too easy to get.  You just have to do something to get it.