There’s a line of thought that’s gained popularity lately, that says that entrepreneurs really don’t need college… Despite what we’ve been told our entire lives. But what education DO entrepreneurs need? In pursuit of some clarity, we sat down with Imran Md Ali, a serial entrepreneur who has succeeded by many of today’s standards, such as speaking at the UN and leading several massively successful businesses.

As a three-time school dropout, we were interested to know from Ali’s perspective: Do you need an education? 

The Two Types of Education

Ali says that education is broken down into two components: formal education and informal education. Formal education is what you were raised in: standardized tests, professors, subjects like math and language arts – and it also encompasses life at college or university. The second type is informal education, which Ali qualifies as “after school” or “after hours.” So, if after class everyday you took a non-mandatory computer programming course, this would count as “informal education.” 

Informal education also includes what you learn beyond your graduation. Surprisingly, most people don’t finish even one book per year after graduating from school. The result is stagnation: “Which is actually no different from taking a few steps back every year simply because others are moving forward,” Ali noted. Stagnation isn’t just staying the same, as we’d like to believe.

Informal education and the art of applying it to your ventures require a degree of creativity. Whereas some entrepreneurs choose to quit their day jobs and pursue their business idea right when they feel they’ve completed informal education, Ali says that’s actually not a great idea. 

“The human mind cannot handle financial pressure and be creative at the same time,” he shared. The stress of needing to provide for yourself financially without the safety net of a steady paycheck obliterates the mental freedom necessary for true creativity. So instead, he recommends keeping your job for as long as possible, and to begin starting your business on the side in order to keep your creative flow.

The Three Skill Sets Necessary to Learn from An Informal Education

So, since formal education isn’t completely necessary, what components of informal education are? Ali says that the following three skill sets are non-negotiable in your success – and, surprise! None of them were taught in formal education avenues.

1. Persuasive copywriting. 

Persuasive copywriting enables you to sell to anyone, anywhere, at any time. How can you write in a way that compels your reader to purchase from you? Whereas formal education may have equipped you with the knowledge on how to write a great research paper, the persuasive style in a sales sense was certainly missing. Thankfully, there are many courses and books out there that can help you master this skill.

2. Traffic Generation 

Traffic generation is simply: How do you get eyeballs to your offer? How do you get people to know about all you have to offer? Without traffic, you won’t have any customers to convert. So, to get these customers, you need to learn how to run Facebook ads, Google ads, and youtube ads. Of those avenues, he recommends Facebook advertising because of the low barrier to entry and the low budget that’s required to get started. 

3. Sales Conversion 

Finally, sales conversion is the third non-negotiable skill set. You must master the art of extracting dollars from your prospects: in other words, “sales closing.” How do you frame a call or meeting so that your potential customer says, “Let’s do this”? Brian Tracy once said that deal-closing can be learned, the same with all business skills. It’s not something you’re either born with or not. While some may seem to have the talent, there are many resources available to help you learn this. 

These three skill-sets in tandem present the foundation of closing deals – which means you can run a successful, profitable business with this knowledge under your belt. Again, Ali points out that these three skill-sets, despite their obvious benefit to everyone, were never taught in school (formal education.) The best entrepreneurs take control of their own schooling by adding skill sets like these to their tool belts. 

In sum, Ali says that you certainly don’t need a formal education – those degrees or a full college course load – in order to succeed in entrepreneurship. Rather, it’s these informal components that must be mastered first and foremost. The good thing is – you can master these concepts at any time – no tuition necessary!