As the economy continues to huff and puff along, many would-be entrepreneurs and professionals may be debating the value of investing in a business-related degree as opposed to making their way in the working world or taking an entrepreneurial route without that big, framed certificate hanging on the wall. After all, there are countless people out there who managed to be successful, sometimes outrageously successful, despite having not attended college. A few well-known examples include: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, and Richard Branson.
Even if you already made the decision to attend a business school, be aware that the reality in the world of business is often at odds with the picture painted in your text books or course work. That said, here are six points you won’t learn in business school, yet they are fundamental to achieving business success.
1. You don’t need to be an expert in management, finance, and marketing to run a successful business. Possessing a fundamental knowledge of management, finance, and marketing is always a plus, but the majority of what you need to know you don’t need to get from a formal, business school curriculum. In fact, there are many, many workshops, seminars, webinars, and other programs that can give you enough business acumen- those business basics 101’s- and often this information is for free.
2. Financial models and formulas often fall away. These days with so much emphasis being placed on data collection and analysis, this point may seem counter-intuitive. Where the standard financial formulas and business models are used in real-world business, most of that process is automated. Businesses, especially the bigger ones, aren’t stupid (sometimes anyway). They’re going to assign you to those tasks that can’t be automated, and you may be surprised by how much energy they put into getting you to think outside of those very models and formulas you worked so hard to learn (or at least memorize for the test) while you were in school.
3. EQ trumps IQ. For those who don’t know what EQ stands for, it’s emotional intelligence. Basically, how much do you get people; how much do you understand yourself; and how do you act on that knowledge? A perfect 4.0 from the best business school by itself won’t get you very far when it comes to working with people, and today, in the golden age of Web2.0, relationships matter more than ever.
Which brings me to the next point…
4. It’s not just about who you are, it’s about who you know and what you’ve produced. It used to be that having the name of a prominent educational institution on your resume would turn heads and open doors. While this still happens today to a certain extent, it’s influence has definitely declined in recent years as employers focus more on other factors, such as a candidate’s reputation. Personal branding is where it’s at. What is your “personal brand”? It’s a blend of who you know in your social networks, and how you interact with them as well as what, if anything you’ve produced, such as the content in a blog. All of this is combined with your skill set and experience to create a picture of who you are.
5. Processes and rules will be broken. Though it’s important to have a sense of how things should go when it comes to the rules and processes of running a business, be ready to be flexible. There will be a lot of tweaking along the way. Individual businesses breed individual circumstances that need to be considered. So, go ahead, write that business plan, but realize chances are pretty good your business will evolve so much that it may look very different from the one you envisioned at the beginning.
6. It’s all about the sale. If you want to be successful in business, then you need to hone your sales abilities, and I am not talking cold-calling or being able to single-handedly create professional marketing campaigns. What I mean here is the ability to give over some of the enthusiasm you have for starting and running a business or working within a particular industry. It’s that enthusiasm, coupled with the ability to win people over to your side- whether those people are your employers, employees and co-workers, or customers- that can be a primary driver in your career.
All of the above are so fundamental and vital to running a successful business or catapulting your career to the next level, yet these very points are left out of the curriculum. If you do attend a business school, then look at your lessons with a grain of salt.