Do You Need an MBA to Run the Family Business? No, but It Helps

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Now that you’ve established yourself within the family business, you might have a few ideas about how to increase efficiency or improve sales. Making changes in the family business isn’t always met with open arms, especially when older family members are involved. As a relative newcomer to the business, it’s easy to be dismissed as an inexperienced youngster with newfangled notions.

But what if you held a master’s of business administration (MBA)? It could prove your worth as a businessperson and allay the fears of older family members. As an MBA grad, you’ll have the know-how to make savvy decisions and grow the family business.

Do I Need an MBA to Successfully Run a Small Business?

Prospective MBA candidates often worry that earning a graduate degree isn’t the right choice for their small family business. Although some graduates of top MBA schools go on to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, many continue to work at smaller corporations and family businesses. According to a 2013 survey by Graduate Management Admission Council, 34 percent of 2012 alumni stayed with the same company that employed them during their MBA program.

When making your decision to go for an MBA, think of three specific instances in which you felt you needed additional resources or training to make a smart business decision. Were those needs met by someone else within your company? Was that person your parent or older relative? If there is a business skills gap within the younger generation of business owners, getting an MBA is an intelligent investment in the future of your family business.

Stand out From Other Applicants

Some applicants planning to work for the family business worry that business schools won’t be interested in them. However, many high-profile business schools recognize that taking over the family business is a goal for a subset of their students. Business schools look for a diverse set of students who come from unique backgrounds. According to a 2012 Alliant University MBA graduate, “The program really thrives on diversity of the students and professors.”

To make your application stand out, begin by writing down specific areas of your family business that you think need to change. In your admission essay, highlight two or three specific goals (e.g., improving shareholder relations) and how the school’s resources will help you achieve these aims.

What to Look for in an MBA Program

Recognizing that many MBA candidates intend to manage a family business, business schools have begun offering specialized coursework in family business management. For example, Harvard Business School offers a course focused on encouraging change, managing family conflict, achieving professionalism and developing family members as managers.

When considering schools, look for coursework or programs specifically tailored to family business owners. Inquire with an admissions counselor about the resources available at a particular school. Even if a school does not have specific coursework about family business issues, many schools have student groups or alumni programs that explore issues in family business management.

by: Jesse Marron

Jesse studied business management systems and supply chain management. As the tech industry burgeons, he hopes to start his own company. In the meantime, he is happy freelancing.

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Real estate professional with an MBA in Marketing ~ writer and multiculturalist.