Is an MBA necessary for entrepreneurs?

An MBA student studying at home

There’s no one way to become an entrepreneur. Some people decide to start their own businesses after getting enough work experience. Some people get MBAs. Some start micro-businesses in high school, while others work their way up the corporate ladder to earn equity in an existing business.

In essence, an MBA is not necessary for entrepreneurs, but it can help you reach higher levels of success and give you a competitive advantage due to the skills, experience and connections you’ll gain.

While ‘fail often, fail fast’ is touted as a motto for entrepreneurs, the reality is that most people want it to succeed the first time.

It’s important for Australia’s economy that our small businesses and digital entrepreneurs succeed. According to a 2022 forecast, there could be “almost 3.5 million small businesses to be registered by aspiring entrepreneurs” in the next decade. This growth is expected to add over $60 billion per year to the Australian economy.

However, the road to business success is not always easy. For example, according to ABS, almost 50 per cent of Australian businesses launched in 2017 no longer operate.

But fear of business failure can be a problem for our economy too. According to its 2021 national survey, 60 per cent of Australians believe they have the skills and knowledge to start a business. Yet nearly 50 per cent of us would not start a business because of the fear of failure.

The good news is that “Australia is experiencing a small-business boom led by the newest wave of entrepreneurs. The latest cohort of small-business owners is more diverse with respect to gender and ethnicity and places increasing value on technology,” a 2022 survey by Accenture and Xero states.

What is digital entrepreneurship?

Digital entrepreneurs leverage the power of the internet to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. While big names like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk may immediately come to mind, digital entrepreneurship falls within many categories of business (e.g. marketing, sales, products, distribution, stakeholder management, operations) and is an increasingly multifaceted field. This transformational approach is what characterises digital entrepreneurship, as with ever-evolving tech comes ever-evolving ways to operate, market and lead your own business. 

So, if you want to lead the way in the new world of entrepreneurialism, read on for our guide on how to become an entrepreneur in Australia.

Three things every future entrepreneur needs

Mr Colin Anstie, CEO and founder of RD Consulting, one of Australia’s top independent communication and change management consultancies, says there are three things you need to be a successful digital entrepreneur:

  1. mentoring or coaching
  2. a clear vision or end goal
  3. the ability to embrace change

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

1. Mentoring or coaching

Mr Anstie recommends finding an effective mentor, as it has been key to his success as an entrepreneur.

“Get a mentor or a coach. That person must have ‘read this story before’. In that, I mean that they must have walked the path. Find an entrepreneur or someone who has run a business,” he says.

“There are a lot of people who can talk the talk, but unless they've walked the walk, it may not be helpful. It’s important to get the right mentor.”

Whether it be a former colleague, LinkedIn contact, family friend or even someone in your workplace that you look up to, don’t be afraid to reach out. This can be as simple as asking if they’d like to grab a coffee and then using this as an opportunity to learn about their experiences. 

2. A clear vision or end goal

If you’re a budding entrepreneur, Mr Anstie says it’s critical to success to have an end goal in mind for your business.

“You need to have a really clear view or vision of what you want to do and why you want to do it,” he says.

“Ask yourself what you want to get out of starting a business. It’s very much a lifestyle question. For example, do you want to have a thousand-person business in five years or just you and one business partner?”

Mr Anstie cautions that solely starting a business for financial rewards is a dangerous road to take.

“I talk to lots of people all the time, and they say, ‘Oh, I just want to make more money’. Those businesses often fail. Not always, but often. It's just not enough to drive you,” he says.

3. The ability to embrace change

Research indicates that successful entrepreneurs demonstrate high levels of ambiguity tolerance. Or, in other words, they have a strong ability to embrace change.

Mr Anstie says that successful entrepreneurs need to be able to pivot fast and hard. He gives the example of what happened to his business at the start of the pandemic.

“In March 2020, it was looking very bleak for a lot of businesses. I was feeling panicked, just like every other business owner or entrepreneur. We decided to pivot very quickly by approaching the (Australian) Government and said, ‘Hey, we can do COVID-19 crisis communications for you,’” he says.

As a result, Mr Anstie says they grew tenfold in that time by being countercyclical and embracing change quickly.

What makes a great entrepreneur?

According to Mr Anstie’s experience, a great entrepreneur is marked by their:

  • Resilience. “Mental toughness is essential. You need to be able to take a thousand hits and still keep going every day.”
  • Financial knowledge. “Ultimately, money dictates the success of most businesses. This means you need to have sound financial knowledge or a good understanding of numbers and figures to grow a business.”
  • Excellent communication skills. “I think it’s hugely underrated, but you need charisma or magnetism to attract clients, staff and that positive energy.”

How an MBA can help an entrepreneur succeed

Fortunately, the skills for successful entrepreneurship can be learned – the degree can teach you how to become a more successful entrepreneur.

From learning how to think on your feet, evaluate risk and delegate effectively, Mr Anstie says an MBA can help you improve your entrepreneurial skills and boost your confidence.

He says, “An MBA really helps in upskilling your finance and accounting knowledge. It is a huge personal confidence builder and helps with:

  •  public speaking
  •  building your profile
  •  crucial business skills, such as making human resources decisions and governance.”

If you have ambitions for digital entrepreneurship, RMIT Online’s MBA can also teach you the skills to become a successful digital business owner.

This globally recognised MBA will help you learn design thinking, authentic leadership and management of emerging tech, so you can lead the way in the new world of business. 

You’ll learn how to: 

  • embrace change by navigating emerging technologies to deliver value and growth
  • creatively solve problems and be countercyclical by using design thinking and a range of alternative models 
  • communicate authentically and establish vision, credibility and trust across teams and networks founded on ethics 
  • lead transformative business strategies across diverse organisations in a constantly shifting environment 
  • apply an innovative way of thinking that turns challenges and everyday events into opportunities 

As well as entrepreneurial skills, Mr Anstie says networking is another valuable benefit of studying for an MBA.

“Some of the people you meet are CEOs, senior execs and consultants from high-end consulting firms. You can get these really like-minded individuals. The people you meet are hugely valuable,” he says.

“Also, while I know it's very cliche to say this, I do have some lifelong friends I made while studying for an MBA. When I get myself into trouble or into bad situations, which is quite often, I can call them up and say, ‘Hey, I've done this. What do you reckon I should do?’”

RMIT Online’s MBA program has the added benefit of being 100 per cent online. This means you can study wherever or whenever you like. You might be wondering how an online MBA program offers networking opportunities?

The highly social online learning platform used in the program not only gives you access to current, industry-informed content but also connects you with academics and students across time zones. The program can teach you how to become an entrepreneur online while giving you the opportunity to build strong business relationships.

When asked if an MBA is worth it in Australia, Mr Anstie replied, “I think there's a huge benefit. It's probably the most valuable thing I've done in my life.”

Become a new world leader for a new world of business

The world doesn’t need more managers. It needs more leaders. And according to Mr Anstie, leaders and entrepreneurs might just be the same thing.

“For me, the word entrepreneur is actually more about a mindset or a way of operating versus a job description. It's someone who's constantly looking for opportunities, innovation and wanting to change the world,” he says.

If that sounds like you, RMIT Online’s MBA could help you become the entrepreneur you’ve always wanted to be, or alternatively, a C-suite executive.

To learn more, get in touch with one of our Student Enrolment Advisors or call 1300 701 171.