business, business school, higher education, marketing

Is Getting Your MBA Worth It?

You Be the Judge

In a word, no, it isn’t. I will qualify that statement I promise.

In a world where seemingly everyone and their mother has an advanced degree (my mother does not have an advanced degree) people can often feel compelled to pursue degrees just because everyone else has them. “I feel stuck and Suzy is really advancing her career, maybe this is what I need”.

It can be easy to daydream about what your life and career could be like, and how much easier getting your dream job could become if you had an MBA.

But it’s important to consider some other things first. I did this once and it really helped me to see the potential weight an MBA holds. I pictured myself as the hiring manager for the job I wanted.

I then pictured how the MBA (with school and graduating class) would look on my resume and on my LinkedIn profile. And I thought, would I hire me for this highly competitive job that I’m unqualified for today if I had my MBA?

And the answer wasn’t so cut-and-dry. I didn’t go to a name brand school and haven’t worked at any name-brand jobs. People like what they know (whether it be people or brands they’re familiar with) and if you have one or both it certainly a step in the right direction. Since I have neither, I thought an MBA (leaving out the Ivy League and similar upper-echelon MBA’s) would help, but still not push me to the top of the pile.

That being said, let’s get more specific. The rates of people applying to business school fell drastically this past year, for many of the reasons that I will lay out. Some of the hardest hit schools, like Rice, had applications fall by over 27%. In the articles I read, they cited strong job growth and steady wages as the rationale for this trend. I see it differently.

The real thing that people weren’t seeing is the value. No, the quality of an MBA education hasn’t deteriorated (sure, there wasn’t always the for-profit University of Phoenix money-suckers way back when), but rather the cost of an MBA has drastically risen with no clear reasoning or value proposition behind it.

Universities at the undergrad level had remained virtually unaffected by this up until the last few years, where college alternatives have become more palatable to the ever-rising rates of college well above inflation.

The truth is, MBA programs haven’t become THAT much better at landing you your dream job than they were 10-15 years ago, yet the price increases suggest that they have. Nor have they become THAT much better at creating entrepreneurs or helping you make millions.

Rather, along with the universities at large, they’ve become adept at creating mountains of student debt loans that will affect the economy for years.

This brings me to my main point. The value of an MBA comes down to one word: justification. Can you justify what you spent on your MBA compared to what you got out of it?

This is where it gets even simpler to me. If you have an employer pay for some (or all) of your MBA, then there is your answer.

You are paying nothing, or next to it, and if you don’t get insane value out of your MBA and it just boosts your resume/profile enough to land you another job, or maybe not even to that extent, then you will still sit content knowing that you are better off having it considering what you had to put into it.

However, that is not everyone’s reality, and more realistically it’s not the vast majority of job seekers’ realities. They have to do a much more thorough cost-benefit analysis.

The questions that surface are:

  • How expensive is this MBA on average
  • How much will my new college’s network help me to land my next job (relative to another school’s)
  • How much more will I make as a result of my MBA, and how far will it go to off-set my debt

These questions are very difficult to answer, and even with the right data can be impossible to know for sure. You can find stats about the percentage of graduates that find a job within six months of graduation, and also the average starting salary of graduates at your school’s program.

However, no one else is you and no one has your exact job (or maybe they do I work at an extremely small company). The point is, you haven’t done it yet, and assuming that one person’s experience will be yours isn’t fair or rational to assume.

Unless you go to an Ivy League school, throw all of this advice out the window. Is it worth every penny at those schools if you can get in (even with no discount)?

I don’t know, but my gut says yes due to the life-changing litany of decision-makers you can become on a first-name basis with.

Even then, tread lightly and know exactly what you want and who you need to know before making such a life-altering decision.

Let me know what you think, is an MBA worth it? Did you get one? Are you satisfied with the return on your investment?

business, marketing, telecommuting

How to Establish a Fair Working from Home Policy

Working remotely is an issue that has many schools of thought around it, older generations simply not believing in it and maintaining that everyone should be in the office every day for peak productivity. Younger generations yearn for a more flexible workplace, which has produced a drastic shift in companies nationwide and worldwide.

There is no doubt that working from home has come to a head in the last year or so, with massive companies like IBM requiring remote workers to either find an office to go into or move to within an hour of an existing IBM office. Some studies have also shown that working from home doesn’t prove to be as productive as many were led to believe.

It is certainly the new normal, as 70% of the global workforce now spends at least one day per week working remotely.

Working from home means many different things to different people and I think it’s important to always get as specific as possible with what it is that you want and what you think is the most fair and productive.

I don’t advocate for anyone to work from home EVERY day. Yes, there are positions where that can be perfectly acceptable (like a webmaster/IT position). However, for most people this doesn’t equate to peak productivity.

Rather, there are a few factors that should be looked into. What will be gained by certain workers coming into the office? What kind of work does your company do and how much of it can be done from home/how much can only be done in the office?

Once you get past these factors that are more company-wide and give you a better sense of the working from home picture, start personalizing and customizing your approach to fit your individual employees. Do any of your employees have very long commutes? What about kids or other needs that require constant attention? Do they have any sick family members that may require more visits than average?

You could also take some of these factors back to the company-wide level. Do MOST of your employees have very long commutes or complicated home lives (from what you know)? Then you may want to consider using that information to refine your working from home or sick time policy.

I work at a company where MOST workers have an hour or more commute both ways, however working from home is simply not an option. Something that has to be considered is the employees’ daily life. How much worse is their day and stress level compounded by not being able to work from home?

In companies where most workers have short commutes (if it’s a job in the city and most workers live in the city, etc) then there is no need to worry. However, you have to be wary (when it’s the reverse) of how this is affecting your employees.

Measure the burn-out rate. If you work at a small company, and new employees leave after an average of 4-6 months, something needs to be rectified.

Also, consider the full benefit picture in addition to working from home. If you give 30 days of vacation, you may not have to be as lenient with remote working. But if your vacation and sick time is subpar or just average, and workers have long commutes, something has to give.

When working from home isn’t on the table and the overall benefits package is no good, it sends the message (intentionally or not) that you do not value your employees. I think a lot of companies fail to realize the message they’re sending their employees.

Flexibility is really the goal. Even if you don’t allow working remotely, or simply don’t have an established policy (you should), making efforts to work with your employees goes a long way. When a worker needs to leave early to visit a sick family member, let them take off and don’t ask them to reciprocate with staying late another day or working on a weekend.

If they respect you, they will work extra hard that day before leaving, and maybe take-home work after the work day is over in an effort to catch up. Telling them to make up work can send the message that you don’t think they work efficiently enough and/or don’t trust them.

Which gets me back to working from home as a general policy. Not allowing working from home for anyone sends the message that you do not trust your employees. This was the thought process in the baby boomer generation, but it isn’t anymore.

People hire people because they think they are competent and learn to trust them over time by being reliable and responsible. If you can’t learn to trust your workers, you shouldn’t hire them.

branding, business, Entrepreneurship, home gym, marketing, Startups

How Home Workout Solutions Tonal and Peloton Are the Gyms of the Future

Tonal and Peloton are two new home gym alternatives that allow you to bike, run and do other cardio and strength training from the comfort of your own home.

Tonal offers a lot more in terms of being a viable substitute for an actual gym membership (if you lift weights) while Peloton is more cardio-based.

Peloton has a bike or treadmill option complete with interactive workouts featuring instructors from all over the world. They also have some options for strength training, but appear very limited in the range of exercises you can actually perform.

Tonal offers a digital weight system that allows you to tap a screen to add or decrease weight, complete with cables which make it possible for you to perform most exercises.

As a full-service home gym, it should come as no shock that Tonal isn’t cheap. The system goes for $2,995, or you can pay in a series of monthly installments.

Neither company does a great job of explaining what you can and can’t do nor do they go into much detail about their products.

Both are very new startups, and Tonal purchases outside of California require you to make a reservation. It’s not available when the expected delivery is, or how long the waitlist is.

From a quick look at both sites, neither seem totally worth it.

The only one I could see being worth it (after paying off a mountain of bills) would be Tonal.

Peloton is basically a REALLY expensive bike or treadmill. Yes, they have instructors, but you can get that at any gym.

Where Peloton makes up some ground is by allowing you to stream workout classes, however that is not included with any of the bike packages. Peloton’s streaming package is $39 per month.

It sure beats the hell out of your normal gym alternative, but doesn’t do enough to replace your workout (if you do more than ride the bike or run) to justify the hefty price tag ($2,200-2,700).

I guess these are products for the rich, but they’re certainly not marketed that way.

Tonal is more of a product that you could legitimately consider and be able to wrap your head around from an ROI perspective. A $50 monthly gym membership would put you out $600 per year.

So, if Tonal could meet all of your gym needs, you would essentially have a home gym for life while only paying a gym-equivalent fee for five years.

In the wild west of home and virtual gyms, I’d rather wait and see how these things do for a few years before getting tied down with a pricey investment.

Besides, in a world of vastly evolving technology, who knows what will be around in 3-5 years.

Unless you’re rich, I’d keep the gym membership for now.

business, Entrepreneurship, guidance, marketing, self-help

New Year New Me?

I don’t think there is a better example out there of a holiday you shouldn’t take seriously than New Year’s. And I don’t mean the celebration itself. Go out, go nuts and have yourself a day.

But when you wake up, (likely hungover) on the first and reach for the water, it shouldn’t be in an existential funk.

We put far too much pressure on ourselves to create New Year’s resolutions that are a far cry from the people we can actually become. If you’ve hardly worked out in your entire life, then in what scenario will you start hitting the gym five days a week?

For some reason, New Year’s is designed to make us think that we have to become drastically better versions of ourselves each and every year.

This rarely happens, simply because we set the bar too high. The goal shouldn’t be to suddenly become an amazingly fit person or have an amazing relationship or business success out of the blue.

Instead, there should be more of a subtle, daily approach to improving yourself.

Like writing a sentence a day journal on what you accomplished that day, or as esteemed blogger James Altucher swears by, write down ten ideas per day.

Maybe a workout goal could look more like doing 20 push-ups or riding the bike every day.

But in addition, I don’t think the goal should be for a set time-frame, like 30 days or one year.

I think it should just be to do it. Every day. You shouldn’t even give your mind the chance to consider a date where you get to give up. Especially if you’re enjoying the success and reaping the benefits.

The 30 day challenges kill me. What happens on day 31? It’s not that these challenges are bad for you. They’re very good for your health and overall well-being if you stick to them. However, you need to have a plan in place. If there is no plan in place, then as expected on day 31 you will simply stop working out (especially if you were someone who had no regular workout regimen before the challenge).

If the plan is simply to do it EVERY DAY you won’t allow for this drop-off, not to mention it will just become part of your routine. Besides, a broad goal like 30 minutes of cardio means that you don’t have to do p90x every day, you can substitute with running or an elliptical.

The worst-case scenario in any New Year’s resolution would be to have a goal so specific that it not only gets monotonous, but also doesn’t allow you to consider a substitute when you are far too sick of the specific task.

Whether it’s working out, starting a business, becoming more creative or just working on yourself, keep it simple and stick to it.

Oh, and one more thing. If you can’t for the life of you, bear the idea of putting more into an aspect of your life, you aren’t unmotivated, you just need to fix it (i.e. you probably hate your job/career or boyfriend/girlfriend).

branding, business, marketing

When A Re-Brand is Necessary

Companies change names, but they shouldn’t

Every so often, you see a company “re-branding” with a different name.A few in recent memory include Ernst & Young simplifying to become “EY” and Dunkin’ Donuts dropping the “donuts”, one of their main offerings outside of coffee.

Why brands choose to change names can at times be a mystery, and also involves a lengthy process of hiring a naming consultant and recurring board meetings and approvals. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

My opinion is that more often than not, it doesn’t work. And the reasoning doesn’t have so much to do with pursuing the wrong name change or alienating customers, as it does to do with why the name change was initiated in the first place: not enough customers or profits coming in.

If you have a shortage of consistent customers or are having difficulty selling, sometimes the name is the problem. “People don’t know what we’reselling” or “our name doesn’t make it obvious what we do” are common gripes.

It is fair to say that if your customers don’t know what industry you’re in or what you sell, that a more relevant and recognizable name change could help.

However, I would argue that the reason people don’t know what you do is because you don’t have consistent messaging in your marketing and advertising efforts, and as a corollary you aren’t reaching your target audience.

Finding your target audience on the channels where they consume content and advertising to them (social media sites, industry sites/publications, etc) are a good place to start.

Another reason a name change doesn’t work is because of branding itself. They are not fearing a lack of customers or profits, they’re just getting greedy (see: Dunkins).

This is entirely opinion and speculation, but Dunkins’ name change to me is an effort to get away from their coffee-and-donut-on-the-run specialty that they’ve made into a monopoly.

Instead, it gives them the right to go in different directions, like a wider lunch menu and a more diverse offering overall. Before, a premium-priced frappe or avocado melt would’ve seemed absurd for them considering their target demo and breakfast chain brand.

Now, they are free to go after whatever they want without repercussions. Not a terrible move, and I don’t think they’ll lose many (if any) customers over it, but in an industry like theirs my advice is simple:

Do one (or a couple things well) and stick to it (the whole coffee and donuts/breakfast sandwiches thing satisfied that).

In an era where everyone wants to be everything, you’re better off just being yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being the industry leader, and being nimbler isn’t always better.

What about EY? My thoughts are that was an effort to appeal to a younger demographic and create the image of an old-school company willing to shake things up (and to become less nauseating to say).

So whether you’re EY or Dunkins’, whether you lack profitability or feel like you’re missing your niche, don’t change your name. Go back to the drawing board, make it clearer what you’re selling and meet your target audience where they are.

Oh, and maybe create a better product. If your product sucks, your name change won’t save you. Then, if all else fails, change your name.

What’s Next?

  • Tonal Profile: The Smart Gym Start-Up
  • Is Getting your MBA Worth It?