I’ve even suggested that if you work for, or are interviewing for a job with an entrepreneur, that you play down any association you have had with big business. Much as an FBI recruit might want to hide a last name of Gotti or Gambino.
But today’s column in Canada’s The Globe & Mail takes my point to a whole new level.
Today, successful entrepreneur and author John Warrillow wrote that entrepreneurs should weed out any job applicants who “wasted their time” getting an MBA. He says that a resume with the letters MBA on it, should simply be tossed.
“To me, an MBA is a sign of a candidate who worries too much about what other people think,” writes Warrillow.
He calls the need for this degree a form or arrogance, and compares it to cufflinks.
It’s a shocking position. There was a time, not so long ago, when companies like Coca-Cola wouldn’t even interview for certain mid-manager level positions unless the candidate had an MBA.
I may have just made Warrillow’s point.
The Knowledge of Power
However, in an entrepreneurial environment, some business knowlege is critical to survival; critical to being able to communicate with your entrepreneur boss. And it’s not always taught in undergraduate classes.
It doesn’t matter if you were hired for marketing, product development, or any other non-financial role, in an entrepreneurial environment you need to know the difference between revenue and cash flow. You need to understand the difference between margin and net profit. May sound like basic stuff, but I know a lot of smart people with undergraduate degrees that have never needed to understand the difference to excel in their jobs. That’s not the case in a startup.
The Widest Shoulders Hold the Biggest Chips
The comments following Warrillow’s post were heated, and it was pretty easy to decipher the MBA holders from the entrepreneurs.
This comment was submitted by “A McLaughlin.” You decide what camp he falls into:
While MBAs are to be avoided, it is much more important to screen out anyone with a professional HR designation, and anyone who’s ever worked as a “management consultant”. This applies to any job, not just to entrepreneurial positions. Such people should never be allowed near your organization. Don’t even interview them. They are cancer.
Hmmm, tough call, but I’m going with entrepreneur.
Glimpses of Wisdom
Though I can’t fully support Warwillow’s stance (I know quite a few entrepreneurs that would benefit greatly from a little business discipline and planning), I do think the flip side of his argument is valid.
If you are an MBA, an entrepreneurial environment might not be the best place for you. Unless, of course, you are the entrepreneur. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for frustration and heartbreak.
A few more tips to avoid job-related heartache and to keep the corporate out of your career with an entrepreneur:
Avoid the Buzz:
Want to see your entrepreneur boss roll his eyes? Want to know the fastest way to lose his interest in a conversation? Toss a few of these buzz word gems in your next meeting:
- “thought leadership”
- “triangulate the information”
- “touch points”
- “close the loop”
(Want to add to this list? Drop some buzz words in the comments section)
Note: “Cash is king” is not only an acceptable buzz phrase, it’s a mantra. Learn it. Use it.
Forget the Facts:
Don’t reference past research conducted in prior over-funded companies. And don’t recommend it! Even if you do get budget approval (Budget? What’s that?) your entrepreneur boss may not believe the results because it wasn’t witnessed personally. Get used to the fact that your focus group participants may never grow beyond your entrepreneur’s inner circle of family, friends and associates.
Working for Wonka? Interviewing with Wonka? Know This: Most entrepreneurs will be more impressed with the guerilla tactics you used when you were 10 to move boxes of Girl Scout cookies than they will be that your last product concept had good Top 2 Box scores. (In fact, most won’t know what Top 2 Box scores are). So know your audience!