Business School is for sissies.

I was looking around on LinkedIn for more connections to add this morning. I looked at the people I went to school with to see if there were any that I might want to add. A few observations about the folks I went to school with.

1. A lot of the guys I knew in college have lost their hair. That’s not a criticism but rather an observation of how old I’m getting. I now look at my college cohort and see a lot of people that look like actual adults. They probably all have families at home and “direct reports” at work. Man, I’m getting old. But at least I still have my hair.

2. There are a LOT of lawyers from my school. I think 1 out of 2 people I saw from my school on Linked In is an attorney somewhere. On the one hand, that isn’t surprising as my school was really good at preparing people for graduate school of some sort. Its also possible that the attorneys have gravitated to LinkedIn while the people from our school working on cancer research or spaceflight simply don’t have time for social networking, even if it is “professional” in nature.

Anyway, while browsing LinkedIn I saw that guy I didn’t like in college (and to be fair, he didn’t like me either) is an Associate Professor at a top business school. A quick view of his profile shows that he has basically been in school getting various graduate degrees, MBAs, PHDs, etc. since we graduated. ANd now he works at a really good business school.

So now I’ve made a note to never attend that school and to dissuade anyone I know that is interested in business school to avoid it like the plague. Not because he’s there (in my old age I’ve gotten over college disagreements), but because his lifetime in a classroom has not prepared him at all on how to run a business, much less teach other people how to run a business.

I’m sure that there is value to be gained by doing case-studies and learning to read balance sheets and things of that nature. P and L’s and tax filings ARE an important part of business and it would make sense to think that you could learn them in a classroom. But you can also learn them sitting in Barnes & Noble reading a book, so I’m not sure that I’d drop $100k at Wharton for some guy with a bunch of degrees to walk me through an income statement.

So, assuming the stuff that can be taught in a classroom can also be learned on the internet or at the public library, what are we left with? We’re left with the stuff that can’t be taught in a classroom. We’re left with the stuff that can’t be taught at all, but can be learned. Which is why anyone thinking they can learn how to start a business (much less run one) by getting an MBA is fooling themselves and wasting money.

Just like “you can’t get a little bit pregnant,” you can’t halfway start a business. The best way – the ONLY way – to truly learn how to sell things is to go sell SOMEthing. The only way to truly learn how to finance something is to go finance something. Same goes for accounting, banking, payroll, negotiation, term sheets, contracts, marketing, advertising, hiring, firing, collections, deadbeat customers, and everything else it takes to actually run a business. Learning those things from a professor or a text book is like playing poker online in the fake money rooms; you will NEVER know how people behave in business until your money is at stake and their money is at stake. REAL money.

When we started Signature Electronics, we had very little idea what was in store for us. But we have worked hard and kept our eyes open for new lessons and new opportunities. And that has paid off as Signature Electronics is now one of North America’s foremost providers of board level component kits.

Can you learn something in business school? Yes. Can you learn what you need to know to successfully run a business? No. If you want a business education, start a business.

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