There is a debate amongst entrepreneurs and business people whether a University education is relevant in today's super-fast moving information economy. So I pose a question - Do you support traditional University Degrees as the best start to a career or entrepreneurial courses and work experience? I assess my Masters of Entrepreneurship versus one of the leading entrepreneur courses Become a Key Person of Influence (KPI).
To be transparent, I have been on both sides of the camp. I have a Bachelor in Business (Marketing), Graduate Certificate in Management and a Masters in Entrepreneurship. All up I studied University for 15 years part time and that's not including all of the Tafe and short courses. I also lectured for several years, so I am a little bias towards formal education.
I have also worked on Startup Weekend (bringing the first session to Australia), been a judge for the Key Person of Influence course for three years plus attended numerous entrepreneur courses over the years. Plus, I run my own start up currently in Social Star. So which is better?
When I attend KPI as a participant or judge, the belief is that University doesn't teach you the skills to run a successful startup. It takes too long, is too out of date and not practical enough. All meaningful points. However, most giving me that advice haven't completed University degrees so how would they know what the alternative is?
When I speak to business people or at University they favour formal education. Mainly as it is predictable. From my management experience, people who have attended University have a stronger grounding in general business principles. They have better communication, team work and written skills. They learn more easily, stick to deadlines and have a more professional approach, honed by numerous team assignments, reports and presentations. But does that help you be an entrepreneur?
The answer really depends on you. University or KPI can't guarantee success as an entrepreneur. They both provide essential information and tools on how to start a new business. The best choice really depends on your long term goals. Before deciding I have a few words of experience to share.
To start a business right now KPI is the best choice. It will fast track your business to critical mass. This presumes you already have a great idea and have the basic business skills to run it. But consider the long term future of your business. Let's say you start your business and manage to scale it to a position where a business might want to buy it. What then? Most companies will want you to work for them for several years as a handover. Are you prepared to work within a larger business environment? Or if you are in the majority of small businesses that fails in the first few years and you need to get a job will you have the skills to do so? It's not easy to get a reasonable paying job to hold you over until your next big idea. A degree in this case definitely helps.
If you don't have a brilliant idea, plus strong existing work experience to help you get a meaningful job in between ventures, I don't believe you are ready to run your own business. In this case I highly recommend University to gain the strong base skills in finance, accounting, marketing, communications and legal. You will develop essential people skills and be better prepared for the entrepreneurial world. One reason KPI asked me to be the judge of their pitch fest in the first place is all of my corporate experience and education!
If your personality is high risk and your value on money is low, then you can choose the entrepreneur lifestyle. However, if you want stability and enjoy the creature comforts, hedge your bets and get both! Your career is long, over 40 years, surely you can spend a few of those to better prepare you for your whole career. One of a thousand entrepreneurs will be financially free after their initial business. Most fail once or even twice and struggle financially in between ventures. Plan for success, but be prepared for failure and the potential of working for others at some stage.
In my own journey I started out working in a small business and soon realised without a Degree I was unable to advance. I studied, I advanced. Then I felt the calling to be an Entrepreneur and am living that dream. It is hard work; I earn what I did 20 years ago but work twice as hard. However, the pay off in lifestyle and potential capitalisation of my business is worth the risk. Honestly, I love it. However, if it doesn't pan out, I know I can easily return to high paying corporate work. It's a good choice to have, but one that is rewarded only after the hard work has been completed.
My advice is do your research. Read the KPI book and attend their one-day event, it's a valuable use of your time. In fact, here is a free copy of their book my friends at KPI gave me. Click the link and they will send you one in the post. Also attend open days for the entrepreneurship and business degrees. Talk to the previous students, I run a Facebook group for my University which you can seek out previous graduates. Then once you have the data, make your decision.
If you liked this blog don't miss out on the next one! Subscribe now to get them in your mailbox each week. What's the worst that can happen, you can always cancel and you just might learn something valuable :)
As an added bonus all my visitors can download a complimentary copy of my book 'Creating a Powerful Brand' by clicking on the book menu button or here. Tell your friends we have load of eBooks! It will change your life or your money back. Enjoy!
(the link is http://www.andrewford.com.au/book/)