Unlike becoming a doctor, lawyer, or CPA, there is no formal education requirement to start a business in Canada. The country boasts successful entrepreneurs who barely scraped through secondary school, others who have advanced degrees, and everything in between; in business, your vision and your relationship-building skills often take you further than the letters that follow your name. That isn’t to denigrate higher education, though; some business owners can benefit greatly by going back to school, while others’ energy is better focused elsewhere.
Degrees and Certifications
Perhaps you want to expand your business into a new field that requires a certain degree or certification to do business legally. For instance, you have a tax or bookkeeping firm and want to offer a particular service that requires a specialized designation. If you do market analysis and determine that the long-term benefits of such a move outweigh the short-term costs of returning to school, then it makes sense to do so. Alternatively, you might consider adding a new team member, one who has already obtained the degree or certification needed, and putting that person in charge of the new venture.
Institutes of higher education confer benefits beyond learning and obtaining degrees. They are also great places to network with other professionals and make connections. In your area of study, you are bound to meet other students who own or manage businesses in fields tangential to yours, thus they are not direct competitors, and you can refer business back and forth and bounce ideas off each other. That said, you can get many of the same benefits joining a local networking group, and probably for a much lower cost. However, if you need a degree or certification to boost your career, the networking opportunities are a definite fringe benefit.
Think Price, Though
Higher education is pricey in Canada. Costs have risen by 45 percent in a decade and are still climbing; the yearly tuition increase is several times greater than the inflation rate. Before committing funds, likely a large bundle of them, make sure you do your research, conducting a thorough analysis of the costs involved, your expected return on investment, and how long you expect it to take to realize that return. If the return doesn’t justify the risk, you should hold off.
Remember: some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, such as Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg, either forwent college or left early to pursue their venture.
A Possible Compromise
It’s never a bad time to soak up knowledge, and fortunately, today’s technology makes it possible to learn from distinguished instructors in a structured environment without the tuition and time commitment of returning to a traditional school. With websites such as the Canadian Virtual University Consortium, you can take college and even graduate-level courses from the comfort of home, paying a fraction of what tuition costs or even nothing at all. Some free online classes are taught by faculty at elite universities, such as the University of Toronto.
For a business owner, going back to school is not a choice to be taken lightly, as it has both benefits and cost. However, if you map out your goals beforehand and analyze your expected return on investment, you can arrive at a decision confidently regardless of which option you choose.