Maybe you scrimped and saved for that moment when you could walk the halls of higher learning as a noble business student. No doubt you were reminded that the cachet of a business degree, with its accompanying prestige, knowledge and connections, is worth every dollar. At the very least, you just knew it would give you a leg up on the competition. But the real truth behind all of the platitudes is that what many students learn in business school runs counter to how business actually plays out in the real world.
In fact, with a measure of on-the-job knowledge, you can quickly dismiss many of the common business school clichés. Some business lessons simply cannot be learned in an isolated, sterile classroom setting. That’s because much of what is taught is formulaic and theoretical, rather than practical and born out of necessity. What sounds good in a lecture hall may just not work in your day-to-day business situations.
With that in mind, let’s look at what the universities are teaching and compare it to what’s really happening out there in the business entrepreneur’s world.
A Plan Is Just a Plan
Business schools are notorious for their endorsement of planning and outlining your ideas before ever acting on them. In theory that’s correct, but entrepreneurship is not always linear or straightforward. You can get caught flat-footed if you over-think and over-engineer everything. Sure, you need a plan, but instead of relying on your textbook business school examples, be prepared to deviate from the plan if a new, unforeseen circumstance – whether a problem or an opportunity – presents itself.
A Doctorate in Data
If you’ve been in business school long enough, you learn to love the data sheet. Soon you’re believing that you can analyze your way into a good idea. But the almighty spreadsheet doesn’t always push you in the right direction when pursuing a business vision. More important is your ability to connect with your creativity and intuition.
The Equity of Experience
Business professors are keen on stressing the wisdom of making some money first before chasing your passion. They’ll urge you to pace yourself. But the longer you wait to pursue your dreams, the farther behind you could be in bringing them to culmination. They’ll point to the advantages of “cutting your teeth” working in a big corporate environment first. But sometimes it’s more sensible to skip the flashy pedigree and focus in on your true business passion and objectives. Many successful businesspeople have learned first in a large corporate setting, but just as often that experience has been through baptism by fire, without the long grind of supposedly “paying your dues.”
Finding the Balance
Hard work is another trait that gets high marks in a business classroom, but that’s a given. Just as important for an entrepreneur is identifying outlets for relaxation and stress relief. Make it a point to search out like-minded friends and recreational pastimes that truly satisfy you and clear your mind from the worries and concerns of the business. You have enough doubters observing you, without allowing yourself the stresses of your own self-doubts. So sure, work hard…but play hard too.
The problem with business schools is that they teach with a set formula that rarely shifts away from the norm. Business owners, on the other hand, are free thinkers who see the world through an entirely different set of lenses. If you are the product of a business school education, that’s a nice accomplishment to have and you certainly have learned the basic tenets of how to pursue a successful career. But if that formal business education eluded your grasp, you pursued another scholastic major at the time or you simply dived into the business world with a great idea, you can still play the game on a level playing field.
Formal training is an excellent warmup for authentic business competition. But it’s your unwavering focus, your common sense and your ability to attract others who want to join a successful enterprise that will ultimately define the course of your career.