The School of Hard Knocks MBA Program
Ok, here’s the pitch: Create a program / form of certification called the “School of Hard Knocks MBA.” Plenty of people say they have “an MBA from the School of Hard Knocks” in the metaphorical sense, but what if they could actually get one, i.e., a real certified School of Hard Knocks MBA?
I won’t get into the various circumstances that might lead one to saying, “yeah, I’ve got an MBA from the SoHK.” Suffice it to say, you’ve got all these people out there — and not just entrepreneurs — who followed a non-MBA route and attained some good real-life experience in business. Some of these folks may feel that getting a traditional MBA at that point in their career would be a redundant and expensive exercise… and yet on some level they know they are missing some of the wider opportunities that having an MBA provides.
Personally, I’ve got a few SoHK MBAs under my belt, but nonetheless, I feel that I could benefit from a “real” MBA too… and I think the investment would be worth it for me.
However, depending on their circumstances, other people will look at the investment of time (a 1-3 year opportunity cost) and the out-of-pocket expense (typically $40-60k+ for a good program) and they might decide that it’s a bad deal.
Why get an MBA? There are three main reasons typically given:
1) It’s a great networking opportunity.
2) It’s a good career qualification to have, a kind of “seal-of-approval” for the corporate and VC world.
3) You might actually learn something while you’re there, big shot.
Most folks will stress the importance of getting an MBA from a “top tier” business school. Depending who you ask, this means one of the top 5, 10, 15 or 20 peer-reviewed and rated schools published annually in U.S. News & World Report magazine. No matter if you prefer a different publication or percentile group. However you slice it, there is an exponential value associated with getting an MBA from one of the schools that are perceived to be at the top of that list. Remember that, at least in these matters, the only difference between perception and reality is that perception IS reality.
The message here is clear: Although it’s nice to go to a school where the faculty is excellent and where the course content (case studies, original research, etc.) is top notch, the real benefit of the business school comes from its overall reputation. Here’s another way to look at it: With respect to the primary benefits of an MBA (items 1, 2 and 3 listed above) it seems to me that the importance of a school’s name cachet is highest in terms of benefit #1 (“knowing the right people”), slightly less important in terms of benefit #2 (receiving a professional qualification), and slightly less important yet in terms of benefit #3 (gaining solid academic knowledge).
Now for the School of Hard Knocks folks, there’s a good chance that they already have a decent network that they are engaged in, so to a certain extent, they’re covered on item #1. As for item #3, even though these Hard Knocks lifers may feel they are self-taught, hopefully, they’ve wise enough to read stuff and keep current in the latest business literature / b-school lingo. One hopes that despite all their experience to date, they continue to invest in their own professional development. Alas, one can only hope. In any case, it seems then that, while an MBA would help them with items #1 and #3, the only thing these people are completely missing at this stage is item #2 — the qualification — the Brand Name Business School Seal Of Approval.
This is where the School of Hard Knocks MBA Program comes in.
For (let’s say) half the price of a regular private grad school / executive MBA degree, you, the SoHKMBA™ candidate can join an elite mentorship program — a “Big Brothers Big Sisters” of the business world — and fine-tune your knowledge of business under the guidance of some of the biggest brand name leaders of industry who, for the most part, never got MBAs themselves. Think Bill Gates. Think Donald Trump. You won’t neccessarily need to quit your day job. There would be an entry test of some kind, to screen out the would-be School of Hard Knock-ers, and there could certainly be a loosely defined “curriculum” as well. There would be plenty of networking of course, as the organization would give you customized, V.I.P. access to the biggest players in the field of your choosing (eg, a contract electronics entrepreneur might get paired up with Michael Dell.) . However, in terms of brand name lustre, you, the SoHKMBA™ graduate would come out of this program with some serious street cred.
Plus, when you graduate with your SoHKMBA™ certification in hand, you won’t be forced to make a 10+ year career regression as corporate recruiters lump you together with all those fresh faced, recently graduated MBAs.
The School of Hard Knocks MBA — Where Credibility Meets Respect ™
Statement of Risk: This pitch contains many outlandish, forward, backward and sideways-looking statements. There is no guarantee that anyone in their right mind would sign up for such a thing as a “Certified School of Hard Knocks MBA,” nor would any household name of the business world, such as Michael Dell, Bill Gates or Donald Trump, put their name within 10 feet of said program (well, Trump probably would do it.). There is also the matter of dealing with a vicious, flaming, tearing-you-a-new-one lawsuit, the likes of which has not been seen before, from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) for the use of the protected term “MBA.” But no matter, all these challenges can be overcome. They don’t call it the School of Hard Knocks for nothing.