“The perennial question [is always] is entrepreneurship taught, or are you naturally just born as an entrepreneur. I do know that entrepreneurship can be learnt, and I think one of the best places to learn that is within a business school,” Jonathan Marks, senior lecturer and director of the full-time Master of Business Administration programme at GIBS, told CNBC Africa.
Marks however explained that one of the driving forces leading MBA graduates into the corporate world, as opposed to starting their own business, is economic. Often students have borrowed money or used their savings to fund their MBA studies, and therefore need to pay back or replenish the funds.
The choice to entering the corporate world also has a higher return on investment much earlier than if an MBA graduate were to start their business fresh from graduation.
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“There’s another force at play here: that is that corporates are increasingly demanding MBA graduates that have some background, experience or knowledge with respect to entrepreneurship. The corporate world is seeing value in people who are ‘trained’ as entrepreneurs. There’s a real value in what they bring to the corporate world,” Marks explained.
“The experience in South Africa, particularly at GIBS, is not dissimilar to what we see elsewhere in the world. We have around a quarter of our students who finish an MBA that go on and start their own businesses. In the US this is probably closer to 10 per cent, but bear in mind that in the US they often do MBAs a lot younger. Our students have usually had a bit of experience in corporate life, so I think there’s a slightly higher experience of them going on and becoming an entrepreneur straight after their MBA.”
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Corporate entrepreneurship, according to Marks, was however the classic business oxymoron, but businesses that wished to strongly compete were desperately looking for candidates that can bring that innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking to their organisations.
“I think South African corporates are maybe a little bit slower to see the value in including entrepreneurs in their organisation, but I do see that there is a way albeit quite small, slowly coming to,” said Marks.
“Learning entrepreneurship – the skills, nuts and bolts of beginning a business – is relatively easy but building a spirit or mind set around entrepreneurship is a difficult thing. The sooner you begin the better. The experience of researchers mostly in the US and in Europe has shown that one of the important antecedents to entrepreneurship occurring is that you’ve experienced that in your home, you’ve been exposed to this idea of being entrepreneurial."