Summary of Roadside MBA

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Roadside MBA book summary

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  • Innovative
  • Applicable


While many economists analyze grand global trends and forces, microeconomists study individuals and organizations such as small businesses. Three professors in that field leave their classrooms, books and spreadsheets and hit the road in search of real-life business lessons from small-town entrepreneurs. Northwestern University’s Michael Mazzeo, Stanford’s Paul Oyer and the University of Utah’s Scott Schaefer embark on an entertaining, educational road trip across the United States. They set out to determine if “Mazzeo’s Law” applies as much to small businesses as to large corporations. Mazzeo’s Law says in part that the correct answer to any strategic business question is, “It depends” – if you can figure out “what it depends on.” They also wanted to know if the lessons they teach MBA students apply to real-world small businesses. The result is a fascinating collection of case studies and amusing anecdotes rendered in a down-to-earth, relatable tone. The professors make the fundamentals of microeconomics accessible by using plain language and illustrating their concepts with concrete, memorable examples. getAbstract recommends their lessons to business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone intrigued by the lives, characters and opportunities off the superhighways and down America’s rural roads.

About the Authors

Michael Mazzeo is an associate professor of strategy at Northwestern University, where Scott Schaefer, a business administration professor at the University of Utah School of Business, is a visiting professor of strategy. Stanford University Graduate School of Business economics teacher Paul Oyer is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.


Making a Small Business Grow

“Mazzeo’s Law,” coined by Northwestern University professor Michael Mazzeo, posits in part that the answer to any strategic business question is, simply, “It depends.” The “trick” to business success is discovering just what “it depends on” for your business. But does this axiom travel well when tested against the experience of small-business entrepreneurs across the United States?

For the Jonesboro, Arkansas, orthodontia practice Braces by Burris, what success depends on is growth and the practice’s ability to take advantage of “economies of scale.” Braces by Burris expanded to 11 towns by centralizing its administrative operations. It anchored its fixed costs in its Jonesboro office and embraced a system of satellite offices to serve the surrounding areas. Operating all of these locations from a central administrative hub means Braces by Burris doesn’t need new employees and fresh supplies every time it expands to a new office. Such streamlining keeps costs low while increasing services and expanding the practice’s customer base.

To build their businesses, entrepreneurs also must conduct sufficient market research to determine if...

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