The OTHER Online MBA

By September 15, 2011

Frustrated with your dead-end job? Not sure what to do with your career? Looking for a productive way to delay your introduction to the “real world?”

Why not get an MBA? Or better yet, get one online!

No, no, I’m not talking about the University of Phoenix or anything like that. I’m talking about the OTHER online MBA. The kind earned by many successful entrepreneurs before successfully working with venture capitalists and their mahogany framed Ivy League versions. Tuition ends up costing about the same as the accredited universities, and it takes about the same time to graduate too. The only differences are an infinitely diverse global faculty and the prospect of actually graduating with your dream job of running a company.

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, I’m talking about launching a web startup and the lessons that come with it, whether ultimately a success or failure. The internet is a classroom of boundless learning opportunities. Naive newbies are hazed mercilessly. Those that survive initiation usually flounder for years before finding their path. A few excel early and hog the majority of recognition. Others buckle under expectations and responsibility; shying away from the task by flunking out or withdrawing. I’m actually nearing graduation myself, and while traditional student loans can last for decades, I can’t help but feel my investment has paid off already.

The application process is a breeze. Simply submit an LLC request at the state business office and BOOM you’re accepted.

Here’s the mandatory curriculum:

  • Accounting 101: Learn to keep a general ledger and scare yourself silly with cash flows.
  • Strategy 121: Find the risk to your wallet and reputation behind every opportunity.
  • Finance 116: The joy of begging for money, and the burden of paying it back.
  • Human Resources 104: The art of selecting insurance, processing payroll and recruiting talent…because you’ll be doing it all yourself on a tight budget.
  • Marketing 102: Just because you built it does not mean they will come, and it definitely doesn’t mean they’ll pay.
  • Manufacturing and Production 109: To outsource or keep in house? Either way, it will take longer and cost more than you could possibly expect.
  • Operations 125: You always wanted to become a master juggler.
  • Technology and Information Systems 117: Beg, borrow and…duct tape. Band aids help too.

And for Extra Credit:

  • Case Studies 203: X-factors abound. Whether it’s FastCompany, blogs or PDF’d corporate analysis, the real world never goes according to plan.
  • Deal Structure 218: The pursuit of signatures to fill the void of empty promises.
  • Contracts 221: In-depth study of avoiding lawyers or reaping the overly complicated consequences.
  • Alliances 211: A thorough analysis of the difference between being a client and having a partner.
  • Networking 204: The entrepreneurial community will not be meeting in the courtyard. Bring a name badge everywhere.

The OTHER online MBA isn’t for everyone, especially those planning to wear a suit on their daily march to the corporate corner office. However, if entrepreneurial tech superstardom is your pot at the end of the fiber-optic rainbow, it’s the best education possible.

You don’t even need to shoot for the moon with an original idea. Never-been-done innovation is certainly more likely to achieve greatness than a copy-cat business plan, but there are many franchise-like starter kits in industries as diverse as health and beauty, financial services and travel planning that make mild success far more likely than failure. They won’t make you the next Facebook. But you won’t be the next debacle either. There’s no shame in training wheels when it’s your first time.

So go on. Take the leap. Get the OTHER online MBA.

[Image credit: dierken, Frank Juarez]