Opinion

Do you really need a degree to start a (successful) business?

6 min read

01 March 2018

What do Richard Branson, Simon Cowell and Anna Wintour have in common? Their wealth, business prowess and entrepreneurial talent comes to mind, but a less known uniting factor is that none of them have a degree.

You can argue that they are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to education, business success and becoming a billionaire. However, tere is a message to take home; higher education and studies aren’t the only path to becoming a brilliant business owner. After all, if you look at the definition of entrepreneur in the dictionary, the word degree isn’t mentioned once.

Research has also recently proven that nearly 60 per cent of SME owners and founders in the UK don’t have a university degree. So if they don’t have a degree, then what qualities do you need in order to springboard into business success? Whether you’re a manager, CEO or hopeful founder, here’s what to keep in mind.

The beauty of entrepreneurial spirit

Entrepreneurial spirit isn’t something you can learn after reading one book or writing an essay; more often than not, it’s simply down to character. If you’ve got it, and by “it” we mean business flair and charisma, then you’re already on your way to starting up your own business – with or without a degree.

You’re responsible for making your business work, so do you think you’ve got what it takes to make it a success? To get a better insight into whether you have the aptitude to become a successful entrepreneur or not, ask yourself whether you really are comfortable doing tasks such as delegating fairly and effectively, taking action and constantly seeking ways to improve everyday operations.

The lecture hall vs. real industry experience

The debate over what is more valuable – education or work experience – is an ongoing topic in the media. With 80 per cent of employers stating work experience is essential it’s clear that, although the lecture hall is useful for learning how accounts are managed and marketing strategies are created, industry experience is what will give you the edge.

Carrying out real work in the field you want to thrive in, and interacting with as many people as possible, will provide you with valuable experience and a greater understanding of the industry. Dealing with obstacles is a huge part of working life and what you learn from these challenges is what will set you up to become a successful business owner.

With your time and experience being invaluable, what’s the use in waiting three years or even three minutes? Create a strategy that you can start today.

Think before you invest

Degrees are infamously expensive. However, it’s also important to remember that startups and SME can be costly too, with 77 per cent of the funds used to set up small businesses relying on personal savings and 82 per cent of startup funds coming from entrepreneur themselves. To manage your own business, a solid understanding of finances and the ability to budget is critical, and remember to factor things in such as insurance fees.

Over 50 per cent of small businesses fail in the first four years – don’t let yours be one of them because of failure to balance funds. Consider the stage you’re at, will investing in a degree be worth your while or could you be putting this money towards reaching your business goals?

A true entrepreneur will never stop learning

We never stop learning and for business owners and entrepreneurs, this notion is critical for success. You should never stop seeking opportunities to improve your business, your products, your services or ways that you can continually meet the needs of your target audience.

With the money that you would otherwise be putting towards a degree, why not consider using it to enhance your knowledge of the industry? Use social media and online courses to enhance your expertise, and visit conferences to network and educate yourself.

Ways to get up and running today

Learn to market yourself – Getting yourself online is one of the first steps you should take. Even if you’re a novice when it comes to technology and social media, there are multiple guides available online to help you set up your own social networking accounts and a blog or website, on a platform such as WordPress.

Find a mentor – Getting in touch with successful business owners in your industry is immensely beneficial as a way to gain invaluable tips and advice, which you can then apply to your own business.

Go freelance – This is a fantastic way to get to know your market better, and ease yourself into being your own boss whilst building a client base.

Andy Brownsell is commercial director at Protectivity