Want to build a truly entrepreneurial team? Screen out the MBAs.
That’s my second piece of advice as I offer a six-part series on how to build an entrepreneurial culture.
My first recommendation was to scan résumés in search of candidates who display a competitive streak – the raw material needed for entrepreneurial drive.
Next is to eliminate those who hold an MBA.
Entrepreneurs learn about business by doing, not by sitting in a classroom.
To me, an MBA is a sign of a candidate who worries too much about what other people think.
An MBA is the educational equivalent of wearing cufflinks – something you show people so they take you seriously. Yes, there are people who take an MBA to learn, but many more have made a conscious decision to waste two years of their lives in a classroom so that others will be impressed, instead of actually doing something impressive. They think an MBA is the key to career advancement, which is the first sign they have an external locus of control – a corrosive personality trait I’ll discuss in my next column.
Not only does the degree telegraph a mismatch in personality type but the education itself teaches a way of thinking that quashes the instincts of an entrepreneur.
Most MBA programs teach students to look for patterns in past cases. They encourage students to set goals, develop strategies and execute tactics, which, as Saras Sarasvathy, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, has discovered, is not how entrepreneurs think.
According to Dr. Sarasvathy, true entrepreneurs think more like an “ Iron Chef,” sizing up the resources they have available and developing the best possible outcome based on what they have to work with.
Big-company managers – most of whom hold MBAs – by stark contrast, are linear in their thinking, in their goal-setting and in laying out systematic plans for achieving those goals, Dr. Sarasvathy has found
There is nothing wrong with hiring MBAs to manage an established business or to consult for you or to work for your bank, but if you want to hire a team of entrepreneurs, look for people who have proven themselves, not in a classroom but in an actual business of their own.
I love candidates who made pocket money as kids by mowing lawns, hawking T-shirts, installing sprinkler systems and painting houses.
Yes, I’m sure I miss out on some gems by immediately trashing the résumés of MBAs, but having hired a number of them in my time, I’m comfortable saying that eliminating them from your consideration is the single fastest and most efficient way to cull an unruly list of résumés down to the truly entrepreneurial.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Tomorrow: Why you should choose those who look inward, not outward.
John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, which will be released in April.