Personal MBA - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
By Josh Kaufman
Here are some common questions readers ask me. Click on the question to view my answer.
Re: The Personal MBA Book
Portfolio/Penguin (my publisher) manages and controls translation rights for The Personal MBA. In order to protect the copyright of the book, Penguin/Portfolio will only grant translation rights to established publishers.
If you are a translator interested in bringing The Personal MBA to your country or region, you should contact established local publishers to discuss the project. Once the publisher has acquired the necessary rights to publish the book via Portfolio/Penguin's rights department, they may hire you as the translator.
Re: Personal MBA Training
Good question. Some readers find the 99 books on the Personal MBA recommended reading list a bit overwhelming. In general, my advice is to browse the list until you find a book that jumps out at you as once that would help a lot, given your current situation.
To narrow down the list to books that are applicable to entrepreneurs / small business owners, managers, and corporate individual contributors, check out the Personal MBA Business Book Recommender.
Due to the volume of requests, I can't provide free individualized book recommendations - otherwise, I'd never get anything else done. I've found that the current recommended business book list covers the vast majority of things you need to know, so I recommend starting there.
Probably not, but you're welcome to send me a copy for review. I'm an independent-minded fellow, and I rely on my own determinations of the suitability of a book when updating the Personal MBA reading list. Sending me an e-mail that says "you should put my book on your list" is a quick way to start off on the wrong foot.
That said, I welcome review copies of books as long as you understand and agree with my Book Review Policy. No need to contact me - just send me the book, and I'll decide what (if anything) happens next.
Fair warning: if you're a publicist who decides to put me on your mailing list without my permission, I immediately set a rule to permanently mark all incoming messages from you as spam, which is reported to every major email service every time you send.
Opportunity Cost. For the first six years of running PersonalMBA.com, comments were enabled. While I enjoyed the conversations, managing comments had a steep time cost - fighting spam, moderating trolls, and trying to keep up with hundreds of conversation threads.
Managing comments made it more difficult to do what most readers of this site value most: teaching (and learning about) business. Time I spend moderating comments is time _not_ spent writing book summaries, essays, and finding new business education resources to recommend.
The web is now full of places you can use to comment on what you read. If you find something on this site interesting, useful, or provocative, feel free to leave a comment about it on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Hacker News, or your personal website.
I'm essentially a business teacher/advisor. I work directly with entrepreneurs, small business owners, and CEOs to improve their business systems. This teaching takes many forms:
- The Personal MBA Book is a curated summary of the most important business in business practice, regardless of market or industry.
- The Personal MBA Business Crash Course is an online training program designed to teach the ideas presented in the book in a thorough, structured way.
- The Personal MBA Masterclass is a three-day live training program held in Fort Collins, Colorado a few times a year.
I also make money via the Amazon Affiliates program if you purchase books from this website. Here's my full disclosure policy if you're interested.
I do not accept any form of advertising on this website. That includes banner ads, text link ads, search engine ads, and paid posts. If I publish something on this site, it's because I either really like it, or really don't - my opinions will be very clear in my post.
This particularly goes for MBA programs, whose representatives routinely ask to purchase advertising space without reading the website. I wouldn't recommend enrolling in an MBA program on this site for any amount of money.
Here's my full disclosure policy for reference.
Re: MBA Programs & Business Schools
It doesn't matter. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in a recent issue of The New Yorker, college rankings are mostly a sham, and are "optimized" (read: gamed) by colleges to bring in more students.
Universities are big businesses, and rankings are a marketing tactic. Credentials, particularly those financed with debt, close as many doors as they open. Highly-ranked schools tend to be the most expensive, and often leave students with the highest debt loads.
Do your own research before you sign on the dotted line.
I'm not against business schools per se. If business schools taught useful business fundamentals, and did so in a cost-effective way, I'd be a fan. They don't, so I'm not.
What I'm primarily against is large amounts of student debt, and business school is a very easy way to find yourself with an enormous debt load overnight. In the US, student debt has very few consumer protections, isn't tax-deductible, and is non-dischargeable if you have an unexpected event (like a health issue) that forces you to declare bankruptcy. Borrowing money to go to school is always a big risk, but few people consider all of the risks before they sign on the dotted line.
Since research indicates business schools don't do anything to make their students more successful, I believe business school is a poor choice for most people. The direct costs, opportunity costs, and risks far outweigh the benefits. You can get a better education at a fraction of the cost by learning on your own.
For more details on my research in this area, see these posts:
- IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com - Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don’t Really Need
- FreeMoneyFinance.com - Skipping the MBA and Questioning the Benefits of College - Why is it Uncomfortable?
- FreeMoneyFinance.com - Why (and How) Some People Succeed in Business Without Getting an MBA
No - I have never applied to any graduate business school program. I seriously considered it, did the research, and decided the costs far outweighed the benefits. I have no chip on my shoulder, and I have nothing to prove. My views on the value of academic credentialing are informed by research.
The Personal MBA is designed for those who, like me, want the benefits of a solid business education without the debt and loss of flexibility.
Absolutely not. Have you tried applying for business development positions sans-MBA? You may be pleasantly surprised at the response. Make them say no to you, instead of assuming they'll say no. I know hundreds of people who work for large corporations that don't have undergraduate or graduate degrees. Companies that automatically screen you out based on a checkbox don't deserve you as an employee.
This question has three answers, depending on the type of company you want to work for and the type of work you intend to do.
For companies that care more about your skills and abilities than your credentials*, constructing a portfolio of your research and experience can be very valuable. In your portfolio, be sure to make the following things clear:
- What you were responsible for / what you set out to do.
- What you actually accomplished.
- What results your work delivered.
Remember, nobody cares how many books you've read. Books are a useful tool, not an end result - you should use them to learn new skills, but you ultimately have to go out and accomplish something in the world for your investment to be worthwhile. The best companies care about results. Show them your ability to deliver results, and you'll find success.
Companies that place a high value on hierarchy and social status, or use credentials as a screening mechanism, probably won't care about your self-education. Companies that fall into these categories use credentials to (1) pre-filter applicants, so they don't have to do as much work to identify promising candidates; (2) ensure applicants respect the hierarchy, and are willing to do whatever their superiors tell them to do. I recommend avoiding working for these types of companies if at all possible. It's not worth it in the long run.
Often, you're better off working for yourself. Starting your own business means that the only person you have to impress is your prospective customer. The fastest way to become a CEO is to start your own business - no interview required.
Re: General Business Matters
Any honest business advisor will give you the same answer: "I don't know". Success in business (however you define it) requires a good idea combined with experimentation, determination, discipline, perseverance, and a non-trivial amount of luck. Even the best business ideas and opportunities can turn out poorly if one or more of these factors are absent.
To evaluate your idea, I recommend starting by reading my book and/or taking my live course or online course. These resources will give you an overview of the most important ideas in modern business practice, and it will help you determine how promising your idea actually is before you invest too much time/money/effort into a project that won't bear fruit.
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