People interested in becoming business coaches often ask, "Do I need an MBA to be a good business coach?"
The answer is a resounding, "No!"
I graduated from Harvard Business School in 1991, and left that place filled with knowledge about what makes businesses — especially huge businesses — successful. But I didn't leave with a concise, powerful, hard-hitting system to dive into any small- to mid-sized business and help them make serious gains in sales, profits, and the value of the company.
For instance, our Strategy class was based on Michael Porter's book Competitive Strategy, the theme of which seems to be: To have a good strategy, get power over suppliers, customers, competitors, and other participants in the industry. In other words, have as close as possible to a monopoly as you can get. That kind of teaching doesn't really apply to most smaller and mid-sized businesses, and I had to do a lot more research after business school to learn other models of strategy that made more sense for more dynamic, growing businesses.
Similarly, while the school teaches great content about marketing if you happen to be a brand manager at Procter & Gamble, it doesn't teach many of the Guerrilla and street-smart marketing tactics (let along social media and Internet strategies) that help smaller businesses to thrive.
Most importantly, the school didn't emphasize what it means to build and lead a team, authentically engage and mobilize employees, influence others, and resolve the people issues that come up every day in business.
HBS built up a great base of knowledge — mostly in the form of questions to consider. It did this by having us read over 550 case studies about business issues, and discuss them in class. However, after consulting with and coaching to businesses for years, I realized that I needed to create a specific, practical, results-oriented system to get to the heart of issues with smaller businesses and help business owners and their teams get even better. That system doesn't have much in common at all with what I studied in business school, but it gets rave reviews and works wonders, and now many aspiring coaches come to me to learn and apply it, too.
So….if you don't have an MBA, and you want to work with small- to mid-sized businesses, don't worry. You do not need to invest all that time and money in the hopes of finding a powerful system that they don't even have. The credential certainly opens doors (especially if you are blessed to have received your MBA from a top brand), I enjoyed my time there, I met great people, and I learned a lot. But I still needed to fill in the content gaps and create a simple system that distills what works into a practical approach to helping business owners thrive and solve their unique issues.
This is for sure a controversial topic, and I expect some vigorous disagreement. Thoughts?