Over my career I have taken business courses at Cranfield University, Stanford University and the London Business School (LBS).
In my opinion only one of them truly understood early stage business and the leadership credentials it takes to run one. That was Cranfield. I am not saying that Stanford and LBS were not excellent schools but they were almost entirely run by academics and attended by academic business people too.
Cranfield’s Business Growth Programme was different; it was built from the ground up for entrepreneurs rather than the top down and 100% of the attendees were entrepreneurs. The top down approach tends to use regurgitated MBA material.
So, what can these courses offer entrepreneurs and is it right for you?
Cranfield: Business Growth Program
This is a real “get it done” programme for early stage businesses and entrepreneurs. I would recommend businesses that have more than 20 employees and more than £3m in revenue attend this course.
My time at Cranfield taught me good basic discipline. It taught me the importance of financial control and it taught me to act bold, make difficult decisions and to think big. The course was bi-monthly for two days and three months in duration. The fee was £15,000 and worth every penny.
Stanford University: Executive Program for Growing Businesses
You need a turnover of at least $10m to be accepted on this course. I would personally argue, the entrance criteria should be moved to $25m and is probably best suited to businesses with over 50 staff.
My time at Stanford installed a confidence in me that only Stanford could. In part because of the stature of the University but also because of Silicon Valley itself. No one could spend three weeks in the Valley learning about business and not be inspired to succeed. At the end of the three weeks I cared and understood more about company culture and about working with the right team than ever before.
The fee was £25,000 which was expensive but if you need a confidence boost and fancy an inspirational holiday then I would recommend this course.
London Business School: Executive Master in Business Administration
This course does not discriminate against company size or value but that does mean its focus is wide. The fee was £80,000 and in my opinion probably the right value for the complexity of the course and stature of the University.
My time at LBS (which was only the first term as I quit) taught me that business administrators are not entrepreneurs. The course was too wide in its approach and the school spent a significant part of their time teaching and guiding the attendees on how to get a new or better job once they were qualified. Not ideal if 1. You are the owner of the business or 2. You have sponsored and paid for one of your team to attend the course.
LBS in my opinion let itself down in this area and any business thinking about sponsoring an employee to complete an EMBA should seriously consider this when choosing a school.
The course was complex and the learning material top class. I would not recommend existing entrepreneurs attend this course but have someone with an MBA in their team or as an advisor. This linear approach to business administration installs good discipline in a business at the right time in its growth.
There are obviously other schools that I have not attended that claim a great understanding of entrepreneurship. My advice would be to research well, attend at least 4-5 school briefings and then talk to at least three alumni (ideally not anyone the school recommends!).
Personal development is so important and on my journey, I can honestly say I learnt something from all three experiences. In fact, I am off to LBS again in November for a program in Private Equity Funding. I hope I get a warm welcome after they read this article.