Which is the better experience? Getting a MBA or actually starting and running a business? This is an excellent question and by no means and I even qualified to give an answer, but since this is my blog, why not, I will give it my thoughts.
Background: (1) I got my MBA from the University of Central Florida (August 2016 – March 2018) in their executive program, which means I went in-person from 8AM-5PM every Saturday for almost 2 years… Yes, my wife is incredible 🙂 And (2) I started my side business selling collagen protein powder (CB Supplements) in December 2017 and we received our first batch of product in April of 2018. So, I have done both – obtain an MBA and start/currently run a growing small business… Back to the topic at hand – which is better? Education or actually doing it?
Answer: Both… Let me explain.
My resume was pretty bland when I was 27… College education, 6-7 years working experience, mid-level manager, yay. That’s it. Google would for sure not notice mine out of the 50,000 they receive for each job…
I had to improve it. So what did I do? Apply for business school because that was ‘the thing to do.’ I choose the local school (UCF) because I needed to stay home with my wife and 2 kids (Vivian was 3, Finn was 1 at the time I started in August 2016), and I had to keep working during the week. Northwestern or Harvard was not an option, not like I could have gotten in anyway; they don’t let people in who say the word gotten in a real sentence. My choices were UCF, Rollins, or online. I choose UCF because I already had a degree from Rollins (wanted something different), and online doesn’t work for me.
Since my blogs are meant to be short, 5-7 minute reads, let’s cut to the chase. I followed a professor to UCF (named Ron Piccolo) and he ended up teaching 2 out of my 13 classes. What a treat. I credit him with motivating me to get an MBA in the first place, and the UCF EMBA program is the reason why I transitioned from Store Operations at ABC to running Human Resources. My MBA is a general one with no concentration, therefore, we took everything – finance, accounting, organizational behavior, statistics, internal business, law, you name it. And I learned a funny thing while in class – I was 1000% engaged in the classes that had anything people related… I would not have discovered this without getting my MBA. So I credit school with helping me find my passion – inspiring people help themselves.
Toward the end of my MBA, I was in the “build a business” mindset, like many are when getting their MBA’s. I hit on the idea of selling supplements, specifically collagen protein powder, to help people find health. This happened because I am a health nut and was actively trying to bring health to my kids, which I will talk about in another blog post. So in December 2017, CB Supplements was created.
The things I have learned while starting a business include all the things you would expect to learn in school – product design, website design, marketing, sales, doing the books, etc. But what school can’t teach you is reacting to real failure, actually losing money, hiring the right people, training them properly, firing people, going through a product recall and an FDA audit, dealing with pissed off customers, deciding what marketing to invest in, reporting a loss on the books for a year, and again losing money the second year, taking on partners, switching manufacturers, dealing with a bad tasting batch, experiencing 200% growth but still not pay yourself because you need to keep investing, presenting to 150 executives over zoom for 6 minutes, have I said enough yet? How can school possibly prepare anyone to do any fo the things I just listed. Straight up answer, it can’t.
But for me, there would be no CB Supplements if I didn’t go back to school for my MBA, so I can’t say one is better than the other. School was the spark that started the fire. But then starting CB Supplements was/is the gasoline added to the fire. I am learning new things by being a business owner every single day. It is thrilling.
But also, I would suggest that the skills you learn in school is vitally important – study for days, read boring things, get the work done, operate on no sleep, pass tests, grind. You will have to do all these things running a business, and more.
So what is the answer – school or starting the business? Either. Just work your ass off and grind. You’ll learn the lessons you need.
I know, I really didn’t answer my own question. But this is my blog, so I make the rules… Thanks for reading and would love to hear you thoughts!