Business school graduates are taking the small business world by storm. Not only are more companies hiring MBAs in 2012 compared to 2011, but small companies account for the largest proportional increase in demand for MBAs and graduates with specialized business master’s degrees. This is according to the 2012 Corporate Recruiters Survey of the Graduate Management Admission Council or GMAC.

“In graduate school, MBAs are compelled to apply business concepts they have learned,” said Michael Raanan, a University of Phoenix MBA and owner of Landmark Tax Group. “In the real world, the ability of an employee to apply concepts is what owners need for their businesses to flourish.”

Small businesses want to hire graduates of MBA programs

According to the GMAC survey, 79 percent of companies plan to hire recent MBAs in 2012 compared to 72 percent in 2011. Small companies — those with fewer than 1,000 employees — led the increase in demand for graduates of MBA programs.

Compared with 2011, GMAC researchers found that about one-third or 32 percent more of these small companies plan to hire Master in Management and other specialized business master’s graduates in 2012. Twenty-seven percent more plan to hire Master of Accounting graduates and 20 percent more intend to hire MBAs. Growth among larger organizations was significant but at a much smaller percentage, they said. To come up with their data, GMAC researchers surveyed 1,096 recruiters representing more than 800 companies in 40 countries.

5 attributes business school graduates bring to small companies

But what exactly do MBAs bring to small businesses? Owners — who are also graduates of MBA programs — outlined characteristics that can make MBAs assets for small companies.

1. Knowledge

In business school, MBA students learn how a business works. Once they reach small companies, graduates of MBA programs can help in many areas. They can create business plans, cost-benefit analyses, budgets, and marketing campaigns.

“MBA students have training in multiple facets of business,” said Rockhurst MBA and LillyBit owner Lyssa Surface. “An MBA graduate would bring a well-rounded point-of-view and would most likely help out in different areas, since small business employees wear many hats.”

2. Experience

Throughout their personal lives and their previous jobs, graduates of MBA programs learn as well. They can also apply that experience at small companies.

Take the case of Jonathan Miller, a Northwestern MBA and self described “tinkerer” and “foodie.” Miller started making homemade energy bars for himself and later to distribute among friends and coworkers. He is putting into practice his passion for custom energy bars, as well as his previous work experience to grow Elements Bars.

3. Leadership

In business school (and from previous jobs), MBAs also learn how to lead. Once they reach small companies they can communicate ideas to influence teams to get things done.

“Communication and team work go hand in hand and enable MBAs to succeed in a variety of roles and situations,” said Rutgers MBA and Revelstone owner Mark Nelson. “Working with an internal team may require the ability to lead a meeting. Working with a customer may require the ability to collaborate…to solve a technical product issue.”

4. Problem Solving

Small companies are built to solve problems. They also thrive when their executives skillfully navigate around roadblocks. So having a staff with a knack for clearing hurdles is a benefit.

“MBAs are generally problem solvers,” Dartmouth MBA and Blue Star Bazaar owner Megan LaBant Abrahamsen said. “They are equipped to generate solutions in a changing environment – even if they encounter a situation they’ve never seen before. An MBA empowers someone to ‘get it done.'”

5. Self-Discipline

Graduates of MBA programs tend to have the self-discipline to persevere in the development of small companies. University of Phoenix MBA and Scandle owner Christine White believes MBAs coming into small businesses have already demonstrated that they have what it takes.

“The fact that they have had the discipline to continue their education beyond a two- or a four- year degree and to complete it shows that they are motivated and determined,” White said.

But there’s a catch…

Although small business owners are increasingly searching for graduates of MBA programs, the expectation of a high starting salary may keep them from employing them. So if you would like to make a difference at a small company, you may have to be open to negotiation.

“Our head of marketing has her MBA,” Miller of Element Bars said. “One of the other co-founders is going back to get his MBA part-time. We do plan to hire MBAs, but the starting salary is sometimes prohibitive.”

This article was originally published on