Here, graduates of some of the top business school in the country weigh in to bring you best-in-class advice on the benefits of a business degree and how to move forward once you earn it.
Q: What was the most valuable thing you learned in business school?
Strategic differentiation is key. “I read the book ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ in my capstone class and have kept it with me ever since. The long and short of it is that most of the things you read in B-school are true, but it’s not what makes you great. Finding a differentiated strategy, one or two key things that set you apart, is what really makes or breaks a company and keeps you out of price wars.” Jerry Nevins, Snow & Co
Connections are worth gold. “The people you meet in business school far outweigh whatever you’ll learn while attending. At Stanford, I learned to connect and work with other like-minded individuals. Help people as much as possible and it’ll always come back. It’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know.” John Rampton, Due
You need teamwork. “Business school classes have a lot of group projects, presentations and case studies, so one valuable skill students pick up throughout the coursework is how to work well with others. Teamwork and collaboration is a critical proficiency for business schools to teach because so much of the business world is about working with others to accomplish a common goal.” Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
Personal experiences lead to different viewpoints. “Business school taught me how significantly each person’s personal experiences color his or her perceptions. Five people can read the same sentence and interpret it five different ways, and their backgrounds play a large part in these interpretations. Whether you’re talking to your employees, vendors or clients, it’s important to remove uncertainty and make sure everyone is on the same page.” Brittany Hodak, ZinePak
Look for best opportunity cost. “You can’t spend a dollar or hour in two places at the same time. You have to choose.” Mike Ambassador Bruny, No More Reasonable Doubt
Communication is key. “Business school taught me the importance of effectively communicating messages. Group projects developed our communication skills with people while class presentations improved our public speaking skills. From Excel spreadsheets to PowerPoint presentations, we also learned which tools are used to best communicate different messages.” Nanxi Liu, Enplug
There is no growth in comfort. “On the first day at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, the dean challenged us by saying ‘there is no growth in comfort and there is no comfort in growth.’ It was true during my MBA and maybe even truer as an entrepreneur. The minute I get comfortable, I wonder, ‘What am I missing?’ It switched my mindset and got me comfortable with discomfort.” Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects
Confidence in numbers is important. “The things I am most grateful for out of all my classes are an understanding of financial statements and accounting and how to confidently make decisions based on the reports and numbers. One of my professors used to say, ‘If you don’t know your numbers you don’t know anything.’ I see too many business owners blindly make decisions because they are afraid of the numbers. Don’t make that mistake.” Natalie Macneil, She Takes on the World
Experience trumps everything. “I ran my company while attending business school. I used my business as the case study for every group project. This meant I got feedback about my business plan, financials and problems. I excelled past my peers mostly because I was applying my education to my actual business. You will never learn everything you need to know about business from school. Experience is everything.” Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals