To do an MBA or not to do an MBA? Monash's Corne Meintjies weighs it up

If you compare entrepreneurship with what a traditional MBA entails, you tend to find a little bit of a contradiction, said Dr Corne Meintjies, MBA Programme Coordinator and Senior Lecturer at Monash South Africa, speaking last week at Finance Indaba Africa 2017.

In a room full of would-be entrepreneurs, Corne discussed the merits of completing an MBA programme in so far as it could give people an edge when they start their own businesses.

There was no definitive answer as to whether MBA graduates make better entrepreneurs, she said, because, while the qualification does give people critical knowledge on how to run a business effectively, it can stifle out-of-the-box thinking.

"Having an MBA is an advantage in the sense that, it's an eye-catching credential that will impress potential partners and investors. Also, when you do an MBA, your classmates become advisors, collaborators and future customers. Further to that, doing an MBA exposes you to the best blend of academic and industry leaders."

Fundamentally, an MBA gives one credibility and confidence, she said. However, successful business people such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson do not advise aspiring entrepreneurs to do an MBA because, while an MBA can give graduates a solid foundation, it's not going to be the magic wand that will suddenly turn you into an entrepreneur, Corne explained. Richard Branson believes that no matter how much you study the art of business or analyse famous entrepreneur strategies, nothing will fully prepare you for the journey that is running a business.

Corne said there was no right answer to the question of whether studying an MBA was a worthy investment for anyone looking to start a business. Rather, she gave attendees both perspectives and said it comes down to how far along they are in their own entrepreneurial journeys. For those who already know exactly what kind of business to start, what problem they are going to solve, and how they are going to do it, it was best to get started right away and not waste the capital outlay of an MBA degree, she said. But, for those who want to fine-tune their ideas, build their business competence and gain some confidence, an MBA might be the way to go.