Q: When it comes to succeeding in business, which do you think is more important: education or experience? -- Regina M.
A: Regina, have you seen television show, Fear Factor? If you haven't seen it you've probably heard about it. Fear Factor is show where they put contestants through all sorts of pseudo-death defying feats like bungee jumping off a bridge over a pool of crocodiles and driving a car through a wall of fire (you know, stuff we did for fun in high school).
The contestant who overcomes their personal fear factor wins cash and prizes (usually at cost of their dignity, but I digress).
The highlight of Fear Factor is eating competition. That's when contestants are invited to partake of all sorts of culinary fare. Yummy stuff like monkey brains, all manner of live bugs and spiders, moose intestines, old fruitcake (the horror!), and my personal favorite, live giant worms. At this point competition becomes not so much who can overcome their fear actor, but who has lowest gag reflex.
Your question makes me feel a little like those contestants, Regina, because no matter how I answer I am opening a can of giant worms that I will undoubtedly be forced to eat later.
My highly educated peers will argue that education is much more important than experience, while my highly experienced peers will argue that experience is more important. Either way, it's worms ala carte for me.
Oh well, I've eaten more than my share of crow over years.
How much worse can worms be?
It's important to understand that success of an entrepreneur is not measured by how much education he or she has or how many years of experience are under his or her belt. An entrepreneur's success is measured by achievements, not words on a resume.
By definition, an entrepreneur is a risk-taking businessperson: someone who sets up and finances new commercial enterprises to make a profit. Entrepreneurs start businesses. The smart ones then hire MBAs to run them.
Let's start with education. Is a Bachelor's degree or better required to succeed in business? Of course not. An MBA from Harvard might give you a leg up in a job interview, but it certainly doesn't guarantee that you will succeed in business. Nor does it automatically mean that you will be a better business person than someone who didn't finish high school. Knowledge is a good thing - if you know what to do with it.
Perhaps it is academic environment itself that turns mere mortal nerds into budding entrepreneurs. The late '90s proved that college students with no experience beyond organizing a frat keg party could start businesses that would exceed all expectations.