Do You Really Need an MBA to Launch a Successful Business?

Do You Really Need an MBA to Launch a Successful Business?

Simon Jenner

Saturday, 14 December 2019

MBA

You might be considering completing an MBA. We look at what skills a successful founder needs and whether an MBA will help.

Posted in:

Startups

First of all, there are lots of good reasons to do an MBA (that’t a Master of Business Administration to the uninitiated). For instance, if you have only worked in one area or industry you are unlikely to have the breadth of knowledge that an MBA delivers. Getting an MBA helps you develop your career, increase your earnings and gain credibility. If you fancy taking a look at an MBA course there’s a good list here:



https://www.prospects.ac.uk/postgraduate-study/mba-courses/best-mba-programmes-in-the-uk



However, MBA courses take time, can be prohibitively expensive and are often populated by excruciatingly dull men in ill fitting cardigans called Alan. In truth more successful businesses were started because the founder owned a nice van than they ever were by people with MBA. It turns out you might already have the skills you need and if you don’t you can: 



  1. Focus on learning just the bits you need; or

  2. Find a business partner or employees that can fill in the gaps. 



So what skills make you a good founder? Let's find out...



Leadership Skills



There are lots of ways to be a leader. Everyone is different. However, there are a handful of behaviours that are common to all the best. Leaders take responsibility for their decisions and communicate their vision clearly and in a way that motivates the people around them. Good leaders engender trust through integrity. The best leaders are good at delegating to the people around them and listening when that team has feedback.



Strategic Skills



Setting the grand strategy for a business and the plan required to achieve it comes naturally to some people. The rest of us have to force ourselves to stop getting distracted and actually think about what we want to achieve from time to time! 



A good strategy has a clear objective that everyone understands: “We are going to take 10% of the American ice cream market!”. 



The plan should set out how you are going to achieve that goal and why you think the plan will work: “We’re going to put bigger chunks of tasty things in our ice cream because people like big chunks!”. Of course you then need to set out how you will make, deliver and market your product or service to deliver that strategy in a profitable manner.



Marketing Skills



I worked for one of the greatest marketeers of 90’s and he told me that the key to marketing is understanding who your customer is, where to find them and what it is they want. Everything else is a distraction. 



If you can identify a clear customer group and find a way to put a product in front of them that they want you’ll have a successful business. That might mean using multiple different channels, building trust through brand positioning, using every modern tool available to you to manipulate data and execute comms. It might mean driving to a customers office and offering them a good price. 



Selling Skills



Selling is at the heart of being a success in business. You have to be able to sell your idea to investors, you have to be able to sell yourself to everyone and, of course, at some point you are going to need to sell your product or service. 



Despite the fact that sales is a critical skill in business people can be a bit sniffy about salesmen and women. A lot of businesses fail because the owners felt that selling was in some way demeaning. If you find yourself thinking that way… stop now. 



If you want to test your selling skills go out and sell something! In fact the best thing you can do to test if you can be a founder is to go out and try to get people in the street to buy a product. It’s tough, but if you can overcome the embarrassment and knock-backs you’ll overcome most anything. 



Technical Know How



You need to know how your business works and I mean, really works. If you don’t understand how the technology that delivers your product or service is delivered you run a few scary risks:



  • You might be held to ransom later by the people that delivered your technology in the first place;

  • You might be providing a product or service that puts your customers at risk in some way;

  • You might not be able to deliver your business plan in the future because your current technology prevents you from doing so; 

  • You might not own the intellectual property that you think you own. 



If you are going into business you need to be able to roll up your sleeves and get involved with the engineers.



People Management and HR



One of the biggest risks to a small business comes from its own employees. One bad apple can bankrupt a startup. 



Being a good people manager means being able to hire people that are qualified, experienced and driven. It means being able to motivate a team to pull together and deliver. Sadly it also means being able to manage the process of discipline and exiting underperforming.



In the UK the process for managing and firing underperforming individuals is very strict and is built to protect the employee. Failing to follow the proper process was lead to a costly tribunal and fine. Business owners that discriminate against employees on the basis, faith, age, gender, disability or sexuality can find themselves facing personal fines. Some risk can be managed through insurance and legal services but this is always an area to take very seriously!  



Financial Skills



If getting sales is the first thing you need to do when you start a business, getting people to pay you comes a very close second!



Knowing how your income and expenses, your assets and liabilities affect the day to day flow of cash through your business is incredibly important. Let me give you some examples of pitfalls: 



  • You sell a huge contract to a customer but it will be months before they pay you and the cost of delivering the service until then ruins your business!

  • You didn’t realise that a supplier was going to bill you at the end of the year and when it comes time to pay you don’t have the cash to settle the bill!

  • Your customers have all been saving up tokens for free coffees and all cash in their loyalty cards at once. You hadn’t realised quite what that was going to cost you…

  • You borrowed some money from a bank but failed to meet the terms of your agreement, now they want the money back and you don’t have it!

  • You hadn’t properly been putting away money to pay your corporation tax and now it’s due! 



Managing the money in a company is a balancing act, but it’s also common sense. You don’t need to be an accountant to make sure you put enough money aside to pay your taxes and make sure you know when money will come into and leave your account. If you can manage your personal finances, you can manage a business. 

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