Got a Business Degree? Here's What You Weren't Told in School

Got a Business Degree? Here's What You Weren't Told in School

So you got a business degree? Great! Managed to earn an MBA from a renowned business school? Awesome!

Now you’re in the real world, and things don't seem as theoretical as they were. You were taught the steps in starting a business, but no one taught you how to upscale and grow your venture. You were taught the value of plan B in the event A fails, but no one emphasized how you would probably need a plan C, D, and G in the real world. You weren't dealt a fair blow, and this reflects the words of Mike Tyson, "Everyone got a solid plan till the punches come rolling on the face." Don't they say all is fair in love and war?

The first thing is to appreciate the fast-changing nature of the business world. It would harder and costlier for universities and business schools to always be at par with events happening in the ever-changing dynamics of the business world. Appreciate the basics taught and know that the degree can place you at an advantage or disadvantage depending on how well you maximize it.

That said, here are some of the things you'll probably never learn in business school but will have to encounter in business life.

1. How to Be You

You may have taken a business course on leadership and even learned the basics of customer psychology. As such, you can wear different hats to please the appropriate audience, whether it’s an investor, supplier, employee, employer, or client. However, the truth will always out at the very end. As Bob Marley put it, "You can fool some people sometimes, but you'll never fool all the people all the time."

Business-class cannot teach you how to maintain your character. It's upon you to integrate the values you've learned along the way into your persona without losing sight of who you are. Charm them with your personality, and if you cannot, disarm them with your honesty.

2. How to Build and Maintain Relationships

Every person you meet in business is another chance for you to build or cement relations. Your degree may have mentioned the importance of solid relationships in business, but do you recall being taught how to develop and maintain the same?

Small startups have an even bigger challenge in this area. The boss might also be the marketer as well as the HR manager. Your business degree never taught you how to hire or fire employees. You, therefore, have to make the tough decisions, having set your personal feelings aside. How do you go about telling an immigrant with five kids whose entire family depends on his income that he is fired?

You may have done a sales pitch in front of your class, but did your lecturer ever take you through the intricacies of artistic negotiations? How do you confidently approach an investor and take no for an answer in grace?

3. How to Make Tough Decisions

In business, whether employed or as an employee, there's one thing you always need to expect – the unexpected. No matter how prepared you think you are, it can soon become overwhelming. Hence, it becomes vital to develop springs and shock absorbers to mitigate the effects of the repercussions of your decisions. Having mentors who’ve gone ahead of you is just one simple way of lessening that burden.

4. Understanding Your Industry

Who are you selling to? Why do you think they need your product? What are their tastes and preferences, and what substitutes can they use effectively apart from your product/service? Don't be fooled by any market surveys you've conducted showing you the impressive response of your demographic. Statistics will not always be a representation of the actual events, especially as it concerns your industry. Embrace the data but be more ready to work with real-life experience as your best teacher. In other words, you ought to be in a progressive learning cycle no matter how good your grades were.

5. Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations and Curving a Strategy to Get there

Goal setting goes beyond setting targets of what you want to achieve within a specific duration. Your goals may be just fine, but do you have a strategic process to get you there? Perhaps you’re burning with this wild dream of disrupting your industry, but are you being realistic considering the nature of your industry? How reasonable and practical are the targets you set with clients or investors? Are you able to meet those deliverables with your team size at the appointed time? Disappointments on any front will paint a nasty picture on you – be real.

6. Conflict Resolution and Business Politics

Let's face it, anytime you have to deal with people, regardless of the nature of the relationship, you need to be prepared to deal with the aftermath of the politics. Handling office politics is not something most leaders fancy, but they have to be settled one way or another. Being an amicable leader, whether in HR or as a mere employee, is a skill you'll have to learn and acquire along the way.

7. Income Statements is a Small Piece of the Puzzle

Business degrees put an overemphasis on the numbers. Whereas profits and losses are a good indicator of the general well-being of your organization, other intricate details may not reflect in the short run but cause staggering impacts eventually. Has your company embraced innovation, or are you still relying on archaic methods of doing business? Do you have the expertise and skills to navigate the ever-changing technological world? Are your employees always motivated, or is the "always-on” phenomenon eating away into their productivity? Are you solely focused on profits at the expense of public reputation? Do your employees cower like scared kittens each time you walk into the office? Although this is not a comprehensive list, it's a good start to address issues that aren't typically discussed.

8. Get Microsoft Out of Your Head

Often in business class, we focused on the businesses that seemed to have achieved overnight success, such as Microsoft and Uber. Sadly, statistics show more than 90% of startups fail, and for good reasons. Instead of focusing on the 1% that succeed and thrive, more conversations need to be directed to the high failure rate and solutions.

Your business degree did not teach you how to make the best of failure. But like every child, you may trip and fall sometimes, but the question is, have you learned from it? You'll learn many lessons in the course of running your business. Make sure you maximize the lessons and put them into practice. Learn from other's mistakes as well as yours.

9. Humility, Patience, and Corporate Etiquette

Times have changed! We now have a generation of younglings who want to cross every other boundary in the name of acceptance. This sort of behavior may carry an undertone of pride, ego, and rebellion that may not author well in the corporate world.

One of the 'skills' employers look for that strikes a better impression than an MBA certificate is humility. Are you humble enough to be taught new processes? Are you patient enough to unlearn and relearn in your new environment? Do you bring street manners in the office, or do you respect corporate etiquette?

Corporate etiquette involves such things as corporate attire, formal language, grooming, posture, and even setting boundaries between personal work and relations and your employment. We can write a whole other article about smartphone users and corporate etiquette.

Winding Up

Think that’s all?


Your business degree was breast milk preparing for actual food in the industry. So what lessons have you picked up in life that would have made all the difference if you were taught in business school?