What is an MBA: What is its purpose and alternatives

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
5 min read

An MBA degree is a professional Master’s degree in Business Administration. The MBA curriculum has developed over the past century in response to the demand of complex enterprises for professional managers. As the industrial revolution progressed, enterprises became bigger and more complex and the stock market separated owners from managers of companies. The need for a professional management class became necessary.

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1881. This was the first business school, but didn’t offer graduate studies. The first school to offer an MBA program was Harvard University. It was established at the Harvard University Graduate School of Administration in 1908.

The MBA is a course of study that takes two years full time or four years of night school. This can be a daunting proposition. If you work during the days, hopefully you might have a job and an employer who will pay for your education. But four years of working during the days 40 or 50 hours a week and then going to classes say two nights a week from 6 to 10 and then studying on the weekends, makes for a fairly full schedule with not much time for leisure or serendipitous activities.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and Jill a dull girl.

And if you have a young family to attend to, it can be brutal.

Two years of full time school can be a breath of fresh air. Quit your job and just focus on self improvement by honing very marketable skills. This is an attractive alternative. But the costs can be pretty staggering.

Between tuition and living expenses and no income for two years, you are probably looking at digging yourself a quarter of a million dollar hole.

It can saddle you with a student loan debt burden that will follow you for decades.

Both of these options have their pros and cons, costs and benefits, including the opportunity costs of what you had to forgo in order to pursue either of these paths. Pursuing the MBA route simply on the notion that it is a ticket to be punched on the way to better paying jobs and more opportunity is a little cynical and maybe naïve. Use MBA ASAP as a way to gauge your interest in these subject areas before making such a propitious leap.

An MBA is an amalgam of many disparate disciplines that are valuable for running and overseeing a modern corporation. There are many aspects to planning and operating an enterprise large or small and the complexities increase with the size and scale of the organization. Over the past century, these areas of practical knowledge have been codified into a program of skill set acquisition to prepare a person to take over the reins and effectively and efficiently, and successfully, run a company.

More and more frequently, these skills are used to start a company from an idea and grow it into a sustainable enterprise. These are tools in an entrepreneur’s toolkit. MBA ASAP distills down and prioritizes the stuff you need to know to get going; fast.

MBA ASAP can be used as a primer, a starter, a refresher and a reference to the theories, disciplines, skills, knowledge, and practice of business operations, management, and leadership.

Entrepreneurship and Startups

MBA ASAP resources can be especially helpful to the lucky ones among us that have a great idea and want to make it into a successful money-making world-changing enterprise. I don’t use the money making description as a cynical goal or way to lure you to buy this book.

The best way to create a sustainable enterprise in order to have a large scale impact on problems we face in the world is to make it self-sustaining.

Monetizing your solution helps to perpetuate and grow its impact and also forces you to consider what is of true value in servicing the needs of your customers; the people you think are interested and need what you propose to offer.

This type of model can be more effective than trying to run on grants and donations. It also means you must focus and hone the value proposition so it is truly meaningful and useful and valuable to people; so necessary to them that they are willing to pay for it. This is not an easy proposition but it is certainly an effective one.

A business model is a great way, perhaps the most effective way, to marshal resources and create world changing enterprises. For a great discussion of this idea see the Michael Porter TED talk. Michael Porter is a famous business professor at Harvard and an expert in Strategy and Competition. His books are all worth reading as part of your continued endeavor of gathering business knowledge.

The past two decades have seen unprecedented changes in how we can communicate and in the computer power available to us. The barriers to creating a business, and growing it through effective awareness campaigns, have greatly diminished with the advent of computers, internet, websites, email, social media, mobile and cloud.

All these innovations and changes add up to an environment where one can take an idea and turn it into a business with relatively little startup capital and potentially grow rapidly.

These are opportunities available to us that were not available to past generations. It is up to us to take advantage of this remarkable novel world and help create solutions to our most pressing problems.

We are in the position to leverage the basic set of skills and knowledge of business administration and apply it with all these new tools and the now virtually costless entry into business.

Like playing a musical instrument or riding a bike, there are all the skills and then there is the act of doing where the knowledge and way of thinking become second nature and you use skills without over-thinking and in the right mix and proportion to address and fulfill the tasks at hand. The goal is to internalize this knowledge so you can effectively orchestrate and conduct an entire operation.

At the end of the day, it’s about getting things done: marshalling resources and assets and having people excited about executing your vision and plan. There is no more satisfying feeling than when things are going in the right direction, and your enterprise is running like a well oiled machine and it is because of the steps you have taken to get there.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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