Congratulations to me, I am now $50,000 in debt and have three letters after my name. That’s right, I did what many underemployed undergraduate graduates have done: I got a leg up by getting my MBA.
The experience allowed me to grow on so many levels and in ways that I could have never done otherwise. On an academic front I learned valuable material; however, hindsight vision being sharper than Reese Witherspoon’s chin, I now notice that there was something missing.
For a while I didn’t know what it was. Then one day I had to read a chapter for coursework that was talking about dealing with employees. The chapter outlined a person’s mood changes throughout the day… by using a graph.
At this point I realized that everything I was learning throughout the program was based in analytics, statistics, formulas, quantifying measures, etc. After all, that’s the way business programs are designed, and that’s the way business professors know how to teach.
So I can confidently say that I can quote you theory and formula (and also improv a presentation like I was on Who’s Line Is It Anyway?); but now I’m beginning to go through the motions of starting my own business and I realized something: I don’t know the intricacies of how to actually start a business.
Sure, I have a business plan, a logo, a website… that’s not what I’m talking about. Of course a business plan is where you start. I have even done a SWOT Analysis, something that I vowed if I ever had to do post-graduation, I would Jason Bourne it out the nearest window.
(SWOT is analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a business, for those of you who didn’t go to business school – or if you did, if you were sick the day they taught business.)
But the question is, after all that… now what do I do with it? What’s the next step? Where was the class, Starting a Business 101?
We had an entrepreneurship class, as any MBA program should, but it was more theory, graphs, charts and analytics. Granted, in an academic program you need some of this structure and basic theory, and in the business world it is also vital. But…
If I were teaching an entrepreneurship class I would do one thing on the first day: “Class, you will be starting your own business over the next 10 weeks… ready? Go!”
Where was that kind of practicality?
So as much as I did learn from this program, towards the end I started to think a little differently. When someone asks me what my key takeaways were from business school I won’t point at a book. I will tell them that I learned to question things. I will say that I now know it’s not about the time value of money, discounted cash flows or the statistical valuation of a company. It’s about taking calculated risks… but without sitting down and actually calculating the risk itself! It’s about taking chances, intuition and – most importantly – hard work.
Business school is a box. You learn from a book, with a syllabus, in a curriculum, in a school system. After that you enter the job box: resumes, cover letters, interviews and climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. I knew I didn’t fully subscribe to all that noise in undergrad, but it took me a higher education to learn how to take what I needed from within the box, and combine it with my risk-taking, intuitive, creative ideas from outside of the box. And voilà! I have made it as far as this blog.
So here we go. This is the new class. The new Matt Williams School of Business. Scratch that…
The Matt Williams Art of Industry Less Restricted.
This is about business-savvy out-of-the-box thinking, questioning status quo and being successful at it! And I promise there will not be one graph or chart trying to quantify what should otherwise be intuition.