Do you need education to succeed in business?

2 March 2016

2 min read

Many successful business founders left school early to start a company that suits their skills. Do entrepreneurs need a degree?

Do you need education to succeed in business? (Desktop)

There has been a massive shift in the way that society and the Government view self-made entrepreneurs who opt out of the education system to focus on starting businesses.

A decade ago, secondary and tertiary education was prized above all else. Apprenticeships were viewed as an option for dropouts rather than a bold career choice. And the young men and women who didn’t fit into the school system, preferring to create start-ups and focus on earning a crust in the business world, were dismissed as wheeler-dealer Del Boys.

Now the worm has turned. Young people are being encouraged to think carefully about whether academia is right for them – this trend has been fuelled by rising university fees and a global shortage of many skills that were passed over in schools in recent years, ranging from web development to sales.

Young people are required to stay in some kind of education or training until they are 18, but this learning may now take many forms. The Government runs its own platform to help interested youths find an apprenticeship that suits their skills and ambitions.

You can’t teach gut feeling on a blackboard. It’s all about experience in business

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s enterprise advisor, Lord Young, has spoken many times of his aim to encourage young people to consider starting their own businesses rather than feeling forced down the university route.

It’s an interesting development and one that has been noticed by many of those in the business community, who were previously criticised for choosing to launch companies instead of attend school – and are now being applauded for their entrepreneurial spirit.
Tom Hartley, who runs a high-end performance and classic car business based in Derbyshire, founded his first company at just 12 years old. “I had no school education,” he says. “Business was how I learned everything. I call it the Hartley University of Life.” His business, 43 years on, turns over £200m, and sells cars to high net worths across the globe, from Hollywood celebrities to foreign royalty.

Many years ago, Hartley was asked to appear on the This Morning programme to explain why he had chosen to be self-educated and why he had supported his son Carl in his decision to leave school and join the family business instead. “I got a lot of criticism at the time,” he says. “I tried to explain that you can’t teach gut feeling on a blackboard and that school is fine if you want to be a doctor or fly a rocket to the moon but otherwise it’s all about experience in business. “Now the Government is actually encouraging people to start businesses young in life,” he continues. “Everything I was told was wrong is now what the Government wants to happen.”

A record number of new businesses were created last year – more than 600,000 – and more young people are opting to create ventures than ever before. The rhetoric surrounding this choice has changed so much that these kids are now seen as rock stars, not dropouts. Overall, surely this must be seen as a positive trend. More young people will be empowered to make their own choices, without feeling constrained by society’s disapproval.

Let’s make sure that in the years to come we always give our children the chance to decide their own fate, without judgement.

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