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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

An Employer’s Perspective: On-line No Pay MBA vs. Traditional MBA?

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

I am fascinated by the market for higher education. My views of the market are shaped through the eyes of 3 roles I currently play in life:

  1. As a father of 2 youngsters (7 & 10) having the challenge of figuring out how to fund what will likely be north of a half million dollars, wow!

  2. As the writer of a leadership/business blog: Hustle Or Bust: Where Old School Meets New School.

  3. As CEO of LM Foods. A company that aspires to be one of the great little manufacturing plants in the USA.

In January of 2013 I wrote my longest post ever (1,500+ words) on Hustle or Bust:

If you don’t want to read 1,500 words, here’s the summary: The higher education market is showing all the signs of being in the middle stages of disruption. There’s plenty of reasons why they will avoid the fundamental shift to a new, more efficient model like the record industry, book industry all experienced (and didn’t end well for many in the “don’t change” mode).

To say that I’m fascinated by the movement towards MOOC’s (“Free on-line courses”), and in particular the structured approach profiled on No Pay MBA is an understatement. That’s from the perspective of a Father, and the perspective of a student of business.

But I play another role in life. It consumes 65+ hours a week. It consumes 90% of my mental “think time.” It’s that of company owner, CEO. And from that vantage point, the audience of No Pay MBA may be interested in my thoughts related to the following:

Can a MOOC education translate to employment opportunities the way a conventional degree can?The short answer:


The real answer?


Again, I’m biased, and you need to understand where the bias comes from. Here’s what I’ve banked my career on, and what I work towards everyday as a company owner.

  • Talent drives everything. There’s a problem however. As the final decision maker of talent coming INTO my company, it is flat out hard. Here are my thoughts from a recent recruiting effort: The Market for Talent & The Missing Element

  • Again, here’s the summary: There are plenty of credentialed people chasing opportunities. MANY have advanced, conventional degrees. Too many. More supply than demand. Few stand out. As a “buyer” of talent, it is a frustrating experience.

I call the missing element “HUSTLE.” I need to hire people that have not just accumulated knowledge, but have the inner drive to put that knowledge into practice. People not afraid to get dirt under their nails. People that find ways to solve big problems with fresh thinking. They take it to the game vs. let the game come to THEM.

What bigger economic problem is there in this country than a Trillion Dollars worth of student debt?

There may be a couple, but not many.

What personal characteristic in a capitalistic economy is rewarded more than an intense inner drive? There’s that Hustle word again….

If you read the “Market for talent” post, you realized quickly I am frustrated by the large numbers of credentialed sellers (job candidates).

It’s flat out hard to find someone that clearly demonstrates how they can step into my company, learn fast, accelerate our progress, and help build a winning team.

What if a candidate emerged that successfully completed a “No Pay MBA?” They didn’t just go through the motions and checked off the boxes. They actually understand the curriculum and can clearly communicate that knowledge. Maybe they started a blog on a business topic and have chronicled that journey. Maybe they offer to prove it to me by asking something like:

“Give me 3 potential burning issues, I’ll pick one and then spend up to 20 hours of free “work” to demonstrate that I’m the real deal that will return 10X’s what your willing to pay me………you think that this No Pay MBA candidate would stand out and motivate me to speak with them?

The answer is Yes.

Would I give this candidate the same “weight” as someone with a conventional MBA?

The answer is also yes, No Pay MBA will cancel out Conventional MBA, and the list of other characteristics will rule the day for comparison.

It just so happens I view the “Other” characteristics a lot stronger than where the degree was from. I’ve worked with Ivy League MBA’s. Some are great, and will create millions of dollars of wealth. I’ve also worked with some that can’t analyze their way out of a paper bag or deal with people in a way that lifts people up vs. tearing people down.

I would take my view as “Not in the mainstream” if you were to poll 100 business owners. That would not surprise me.

I would also think those same owners might not have a goal to go on a journey to be the “best little plant in America.”

My advice to the online learning audience?

Keep at it. Get the knowledge. Start demonstrating that you can apply it. Don’t worry about “measuring up” to the conventional MBA crowd. Embrace this key point of difference, and focus on making something happen with this knowledge.

Good Luck!

May you live each and every day of your journey with Hustle. Or Bust.

Mark Olivito


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