The Teeny Weeny MBA

Is a mini-MBA right for you?

By Duncan Kinney – Illustration by Colin Spence

The financial rewards of obtaining an MBA are high.  MBA graduates earn more over their lifetime and typically ascend higher and faster within organizations. But MBAs aren’t always the best fit. They’re expensive, they’re time consuming and they come after you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on your undergraduate degree.

If you’re not interested in the whole MBA process but still want to understand the principles behind it, there are options out there. Unofficially called mini-MBAs, there are a variety of workshops, programs and continuing education classes that help people working full-time jobs embiggen their business brain with MBA principles. Click here for a directory of mini-MBA programs in Canada.

While you won’t be able to put “MBA” on your business cards, you’ll have an inside track on the knowledge and principles that people with MBAs use to solve business problems.

Rick Harcourt is the president of executive placement firm Harcourt Recruiting Specialists. Harcourt , 39, has been the president of the family owned staffing firm for the past 18 months.

He grew up listening to job and recruiting discussions around the dinner table. He started his career filing and when he was old enough to drive, his parents sent him out to the nastiest, temporary industrial jobs. “I think to encourage me to go to school,” says Harcourt.

With a background in broadcast communications and an honours degree in English, Harcourt figured that while he knew the operations side of the equation he needed to brush up on the business administration side of things in order to credibly run a 12-employee business. He completed his mini-MBA, officially called Management Essentials, through the University of Alberta about three years ago.

Classes were held once or twice a month, taking up a full business day, over a nine-month period. Harcourt didn’t mind the schedule.

“The busiest, most involved people I know are those who most recognize you have to take a day to develop,” says Harcourt. “I can’t actually think of anyone who has such a crunch on their time that there’s no way they couldn’t take a day a month for professional development.”

Harcout believes that that these types of programs can be useful for people looking to transition from worker to manager.

“It’s a really strong fit for emerging managers; people who are moving from production roles into management or leadership roles. It gives you an understanding of concepts you might not be familiar with,” says Harcourt.

After all, it’s unlikely you’ll know where EBITDA might be useful if you’ve never taken an accounting class.

Alex Brown approached the mini-MBA from a different angle. As a media consultant, she’s worked for everyone from Facebook and Ebay to Canwest and Alliance Atlantis.

Brown does not have one but the she is surrounded by MBAs. She has family members with MBAs, her husband has one and she works with people who have the degree on a daily basis.  She took her mini-MBA program through the University of Toronto last fall. Her particular program was called MBA Essentials for Managers.

“I think it gave me an appreciation of the depth of knowledge that they have acquired. It also made me doubly even triply realize what I’ve learned through street smarts and the school of hard knocks. It validated the value of the MBA but it also made me realize how incredibly valuable my experience was in the business world,” says Alex Brown.

That is an incredibly important point to make. Click that link above, it will take you to Brown’s LinkedIn profile. She has an incredible breadth of experience that an MBA will never be able to replicate.

The mini-MBA is an interesting piece of the pie as you advance in your business career. It might not always be the best fit but for mid-career professionals but it would be unwise to discount the option.

While the two I interviewed were extremely positive and enthusiastic about their experiences, there was one major downside, learning the accounting side of things.

If you want to find out what participating in a mini-MBA is like, Janice McDonald is blogging after each of her sessions in Rotman’s MBA Essentials for Managers Scholarship program. The serial entrepreneur is the president of and she’s already started some great discussions with her posts.

One Response to The Teeny Weeny MBA

  1. Pingback: Mini-MBA and EMBA Canadian Directory « Unlimited Magazine

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