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The MBA Debate: Is Management Savvy Impacted By Executive Education? Without endless curiosity, the willingness to be better and the aspiration to 'master' what you are naturally good at, no MBA or any other formal education will help.

By Hassan Al-Hazeem

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Lately, I've been hearing this question often, especially among young, aspiring entrepreneurs: "Is an MBA worth it?' While I don't think an MBA makes an entrepreneur, I strongly believe that an MBA gives an aspiring entrepreneur the conceptual and analytical tools to better understand how to operate a business. However, without endless curiosity, the willingness to be better and the aspiration to "master' what you are naturally good at, no MBA or any other formal education will help.

In my own case, I knew what I wanted the most was to succeed in my father's business, a company he founded 40 years ago. Working my way through the ranks, I took over the helm in 1999, when I was just 26. If anyone asks me if my MBA worth it, my answer is absolutely, yes. Studying in that environment not only helped me acquire knowledge and skills in areas that are crucial for running a business -from marketing research, strategic business planning, to business law and organizational culture- but exposed me to likeminded people, which for me was a great learning vehicle and an excellent networking opportunity.

Where do I see my MBA studies helping me in my current job? Definitely in my capacity to strategize, to think long-term, to solve problems more efficiently and to be a better manager. Intercoil has become a leading manufacturer, retailer and distributor of premium beds, bedding and bedroom furniture in the MENA region, with a presence in 23 countries and a team of 400 people. We have the manufacturing and distribution rights to premium global brands such as Simmons. Even though we operate in a very competitive industry, we have developed a "Made in the UAE" brand that instills trust and confidence and represents the highest manufacturing capabilities of this country. I don't believe that, without an MBA, I would have had the confidence to accept the challenge to take over the family business at the age of 26, let alone turn it around, develop it, and grow it to where it is today.

Image credit: Shutterstock.

Do all entrepreneurs need to have an MBA to be successful? No, probably not, but I strongly believe that formal post-graduate education offered through reputable institutions, will prepare them for the challenges they will face on their journey. In addition, it will make them more open-minded and receptive to knowledge and managing change, managing people, understanding the basics and fundamentals of the dynamics of the business environment. I have been an active member of the UAE Chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization since 2004- another crucial learning experience for me. We encourage entrepreneurs to be bold, dare to dream, trust and respect and above all, never stop learning.

It all comes back to being an avid learner with the ability and interest in learning deeply and quickly. The moment an entrepreneur stops learning is the moment he or she becomes complacent, and that's the beginning of the end. There are many young students today pursuing their MBA straight after university. I believe that, in order to maximize the value of an MBA, it should be done after having had a substantial amount of work experience and if possible, while working. This will enhance their ability to apply what they learn to real world situations.

With or without an MBA, business success and happiness in life can be achieved only if we love what we do. Channeling our commitment, dedication, patience and perseverance towards achieving our dreams will help us remain focused. This is something I learnt from my father, who was a visionary entrepreneur; he had the heart, passion, and vision and nothing stopped him from achieving his goals. Life gives us endless opportunities to learn, and formal education is part of the mix, but in the end it is our ability to make the most of these experiences that will make the difference.

Hassan Al-Hazeem

Managing Director, Intercoil International

Hassan Al-Hazeem, Managing Director and CEO of Intercoil International, succeeded his late father Abbas Ali AI-Hazeem, the founder of the UAE-based, family-owned business in 1999. Under his leadership, Intercoil International has become a leading manufacturer, distributor and retailer of total sleep solutions in the MENA region present in 23 countries. Prior to Intercoil International, Al-Hazeem worked for the Commercial Bank of Dubai for four years, acquiring comprehensive experience in finance and banking, and an in-depth knowledge of the UAE banking and credit system. Al-Hazeem has been an active member of the UAE chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) since 2004, and held the office of EO UAE President for the FY 2012/2013. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and an MBA degree in International Business Administration from the American University in Dubai.

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