Written By: Eric Nieves, Miller-Motte 2014 B.A. Graduate and owner of a Towing Service in St Louis, Missouri
As a business owner, does getting a business degree make good sense? It’s an interesting question and one I would often think about in the years since I first hung my shingle as a tow truck owner / operator in my hometown of St Louis.
After a few years in the towing and wrecking industry, a business degree just made sense, and I’m glad I did it.
Was it easy? No. Would I do it again? Yes.
But my situation is my own, and everyone’s is unique. So in today’s article, and with 6 years of college under my belt, I wanted to summarize the questions, the pros and cons, and the realities of a business owner that is weighing the same questions I did over 10 years ago.
Let’s start with the biggest benefit…
Pro: You’ll learn how to run a business by the books
Maybe you are a natural at running a business, or you learned professionally as you moved up the ranks. However, did you ever really learn the theory behind it? Were there gaps in your education that a formal academic degree could round out?
If you go in with an open mind, you can learn some really valuable nuggets on running an efficient business, not only from the information in the text books, but through the people in your classes. If you started that company and built it to the success that it is, then maybe you already know what you’re doing. On the other hand, if you inherited it or just bought it, are you truly ready? In any case, could you stand to become better as a business leader?
Question: When to hiring expertise vs. learning an expertise?
Some business owners like being very hands-on and involved in the actual day to day work of their business, leaving the dry accounting, management, and bookkeeping to others. Rather than spend time getting a business degree, you could just hire someone for such responsibilities that answers directly to you. The labor market certainly has plenty of business degrees out there looking for work.
Pro: You’ll lead by example in improving your skills.
Some NBA coaches love saying that if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. That applies to business too. Your business has to be getting better all the time if it’s going to keep pace with competitors, much less surpass them. This breaks down to an individual level too, and showing those that work for you that you’re personally serious about upping your own game will set a high standard that hopefully some of them will also aspire to.
Regardless of how you came to own a business before having a business degree, pursuing the education will leave you in a better position to be an effective owner and leader.
Con: Time management becomes more complex
When I started on my business degree journal, I had 2 kids, a growing towing business and spouse to make time for. The addition time investment for my two classes a semester left me with little time to do much else. It was hard, required good family communication, and even better time management.
When you own a business, it likely takes up a lot of your time and energy, possibly taking more away from your personal life and family than you’d like to admit. Chasing a college degree on top of this can be backbreaking work, and your relationships might not withstand it, even if you spread it out over years of evenings and weekends or online courses.
Question: Do You Love Learning?
Personally-speaking, I love learning. I love getting into the weeds and figuring out how things tick. The best part for me about a business degree is that the knowledge and skills you pick up in your business degree might just wind up being particular things that help you generate tons more revenue or savings out of the business you own.
Once that filters into your own pockets, you might just find that a business degree pays off big time for you as a financial investment.
Question: What are your goals?
Before applying for any learning, try to flesh out exactly what you are looking to gain. For many, a certification is all they need to check their particular box, or if you have ambitions of an MBA, a bachelor’s in business might not be a good idea.
Only a quarter of students accepted into MBA programs have a business undergrad degree, so something else might be a better choice, especially if it’s related to the field or industry your business is in. Also, economics majors are sometimes more effective educations.
Question: Are you OK with uncertainty?
While it might seem like a good idea to get a business degree once you’re an owner, if you struggle in the course load, you might suffer a crisis of confidence that affects you as an owner as you realize you’re already one but you’re not educated yet. Also, customers, staff, and business partners might not really believe in you if you openly pursue a degree after attaining ownership, as they might smell this as a sign of weakness you see in yourself. Pursuing a degree quietly is possibly the best move.
Whether or not getting a business degree when you already own a business is ultimately up to you. Only choose it if it is actually right for you and likely to be worth the time and money you spend (as well as the time away from your family, life, and business). If it’s something your family or parents are pressuring you to do when you already own a business, be firm but gentle in resisting their advice. It might be well-intended, but you need to decide something this big for yourself.
Eric Nieves is a Mille-Motte Graduate and Towing Service owner of Reliable Guys Towing, a full-service towing company in St. Louis, Missouri