Ben Yee Shares Why You Don’t Need an MBA to be a Successful Entrepreneur

There’s no doubt that a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from a top-tier business school is valuable in the right hands. But they’re not for everyone. They cost a pretty penny for a start. Then you have the opportunity cost of spending two years in another country or state while you put your career, social life and family on hold.

While an MBA is a necessity to join a consulting firm, an investment bank or a fast-track career in a Fortune 500 company, Ben Yee shares why entrepreneurs don’t need an MBA in the first place. As the founder of three successful and profitable businesses in apparel and technology, he is well qualified to tell us why experience — and not paper qualifications — matter in the race to build the next billion-dollar startup.

Ben Yee

Take a Good, Hard Look at Yourself

Ben says be honest, take a step back and put aside pressure from your peers, friends and family. Then ask yourself sincerely: “Are you a Doer or Follower?”. People and their personalities fall broadly into these two camps.

Young man reflecting on himself

You’re a Doer if you flash pack on a whim. You literally fly by the seat of your pants. Rules and regulations don’t matter to you as you bend your mind around a roadblock or towards a goal in life. You want to know what they don’t teach you at business school.

Followers, on the other hand, prefer to book their flights and accommodation months in advance. They enjoy poring over countless reviews from travel sites. In fact, they read these in their spare time! Planning, order and succession are their personal mantras. Business school is a logical extension of that.

Your Startup is a Business Case Study

Business school case studies talk about other companies. Most of them are too large and too old to be relevant for startups. You want to talk about today’s fast companies. In particular, you want to talk about your company.

Managing your company

From the time you register the legal entity for your startup, you’re creating and living your own business case study. It might fail miserably with a whimper or it might soar. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, the decisions you make will decide the next step for your business. Remember, you’re not able to peek ahead here!

Nothing Beats the Thrill of Experience

When recruiting, look for life experiences and not paper qualifications. When Ben was looking for someone to head his China efforts, he largely ignored what and where the candidate studied. Instead, he was more interested in what the person did in the years since graduating, and what they learnt so far from their life experiences.


Entrepreneurship, startup life, highs and lows will all be shaken up and served to you. You’re expected to roll up your sleeves, take responsibility and troubleshoot. How did it go? What could have been done better next time? Ben ended up hiring a candidate who worked extensively with international NGOs. This person’s broad outlook, overseas experience and soft skills set him up to take on various responsibilities in China.

You Will Network Far and Wide

One big draw of business schools is their extensive networks and alumni. There’s no denying the attractiveness of a respected CEO, founder or wunderkind coming back to congratulate the year’s graduating class. In fact, this largely sets apart one business school from another. But is the high price of an MBA worth the entrance fee to this exclusive club?

Business networking session

It’s a lot easier today with social and business networking sites. When looking for investors and talent for your startup, you will cast far and wide. Software startups, in particular, will have an edge here as the nature of software development and their business model allows for remote co-working.

When Ben founded his latest inventory management software startup, he didn’t have access to a mature startup ecosystem like those enjoyed at Stanford and MIT. But what he did do was to network extensively during his travels and market his startup with strategic press releases. This effort has largely paid off as he has been recently approached by several respected funds from Silicon Valley.

Get more tips for SMBs struggling with inventory management issues by following Ben’s blog at