Education vs. Experience

Posted on January 31, 2013 by Benjamin Patton No Comments


When it comes to being successful in business there is a very interesting debate about education vs. experience.

I was fortunate enough to get some of both, and while both are invaluable; I’d take the experience when it comes to being successful in business.

As a Wharton grad, I can’t undermine higher education in the least. It was a privilege to attend one of the greatest learning institutions in the world. Business school taught me many things, not the least of which were discipline and responsibility. Also, the connections I made there have turned out to be some of my most lucrative business partners.

But when it comes to being an entrepreneur, there are a few things you can’t learn in the class room.

Without undermining the value of higher education, I think work experience trumps a diploma when it comes to being an entrepreneur. A degree will earn you an interview in the field that you study. But if you are looking to be an entrepreneur, you might not be looking for too many interviews anyway.  I’ve met many brilliant finance and engineering majors, but sometimes their education has curbed some of their entrepreneurial skills. Skills like cold calling, pitching an idea and just the concept of learning from failure don’t always accompany traditional education.

For example, as a teenager I started taking care of my parents rental properties. I started with the maintenance and landscaping and by the time I graduated high school, I was handling leases, rent collection, etc. basically the entire operation. When I was 19 years olds I knew enough about real estate to recognize a good deal and buy my own income property. From there on, every real estate class I took was enhanced by the fact that I had experience in the field getting business done.

My advice to a budding entrepreneur would not be to forgo education in the least. But to carve out some time to get some real life experience. Hone your people skills just as much as your classroom skills. Practice communicating and negotiating. Working at a young age, even if it is for little compensation (or none at all) will be priceless in the future.