In order to talk about how to start a successful business, let’s look at how to start an unsuccessful business. The top 20 reasons why people fail is shown in the figure below- take a minute to look at it before we discuss.

 

startup-failure-post-mortem-top-reasons

 

Surprise surprise. The number 1 reason why start-ups fail is because they do not listen to their customers.

Rule number 1: Before you even start developing and putting loads of money into your product, get a cheap prototype/idea and ASK PEOPLE WHAT THEY THINK.

Imagine you’re developing a first person shooting game. Go and ask people who play games like Call of Duty and Halo what they think of your idea. Don’t get feedback from Facebook friends whose favourite games are Pokemon and Mario Kart and think, well these people like it so I must be doing alright.. they are not your target customer!

First, figure out WHO YOUR customer is, and second, LISTEN to them. If they think the game is rubbish, then its rubbish. It doesn’t matter how cool the graphics are or the whether or not you can drive spaceships or what have you. If the people you want to sell the game to are telling you it is rubbish, go back to the drawing board and pivot.

Second, I won’t give an example of every mistake, but I will highlight some important points.

  • Get good co-founders: If you plan on developing a technology venture, then it is preferable to have one co-founder who is a tech guy, otherwise every time you need to make a change to the product (which at the beginning will be all the time), you will be relying on someone who doesn’t care about it.
  • Think of a business model and how you plan on making money.
  • Get investors on board so you have enough money to complete the product and don’t run out of money half way.
  • If the product is rubbish change it.
  • If you are only working part time, make sure some or all of the other co-founders are full time.

 

To conclude, the graph shows you how to start an unsuccessful business. Study it carefully, do the exact opposite of these mistakes, and you are well on track to starting a successful business.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about how to actually come up with the best business ideas.

Twitter:@umarahmed12

Instagram:@umarahmed122

Youtube: Coming Soon

Official Website: www.umarahmed.com

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We all want our business HQ’s based in Silicon Valley or Wall Street, so I think it’s about time I talk about how one goes about starting from an idea and transforming that idea into a multi-million dollar business.

 

wall-street-sign-pic

 

As you can imagine, starting a multi-million dollar business is not easy, so I have divided this post into 4 parts:

1) How to start a successful business

2) How to come up with a multi-million dollar idea

3) How to convert my ideas into serious money

4) Going from £millions to £billions

To answer the question “How do I start a successful business”, I will tell you how to start an unsuccessful business. Starting a successful business is simple- do the opposite. Next I will briefly talk about the best way to generate great ideas.

This is where most people do well enough by themselves. We all come up with great ideas, but can we convert these into serious bucks? The most emphasised concept I have learned at business school is that a great idea doesn’t really mean anything. Great ideas have no basis unless you can capitalise on them and transform them into viable businesses. We address this in part 3.

Finally once we have spoken about how to generate your initial £1m, the game begins. This is where people will see you making money and try to take your customers. In part 4, Going from $millions to $billions, we will talk about strategies adopted by players such as Apple and Google, that enable your company to remain competitive and invest in projects that will keep you ahead of the game, increase your market share, and grow your business.

Part 1 will be out soon- follow me on social media and make sure you don’t miss it!

Twitter: @umarahmed12

Instagram: @umarahmed122

YouTube: Coming Soon

Official Website: www.umarahmed.com

 

 

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Diversity, it plays a big role in the MBA. It is a powerful word that lots of companies play with these days, and they have a damn good reason for it. It has been proven – I would like to cite you the official source in the Harvard Referencing System, but I have no clue who actually did the study – that diverse heterogeneous teams achieve better results than homogeneous teams. You’ve probably all experienced it before. Talk to diverse people about problems you are facing at work and it’s sure you will get a lot of different solutions you could try out. If you are able to get these diverse people around one table, building towards a common goal, you have increased the likelihood of success and finding innovative solutions.

On a short side-note, you could even draw the analogue further. We had to read a book for Operations Management, ‘The Goal’, and this was also a key theme in there. Pulling you out of your traditional environment and taking a walk in your spare time, gives fresh ideas. You hear it so often that ‘while running I get the best ideas’.

Bringing in different perspectives, challenging traditional viewpoints and avoiding common biases, diversity does add a lot of value. Companies reach better results and therefore better performance, so business schools must then benefit from it as well. But how do they benefit? On many fronts the diversity adds value to the program. In class, you get to learn from people that see business problems in a very different way. The diverse experiences people have, guarantees relevant examples when discussing a theoretical business concept. Also you see how people cooperate in teams and behave in group.

Industry sector (pre-MBA)

Next to diversity in professional background, interests and targets, there is a high level of diversity in nationalities. Praising LBS for its international student body (65 nationalities in the MBA this year!), many people are getting important lessons in international and cultural awareness – so am I. Just as an easy example, I will never forget the first time I tried to kiss a Japanese or I was undergoing an intense hug from a Brazilian I barely knew. Those are only the basic aspects, so you can imagine what impact this diversity has on the experience of an MBA.

Nationality by region

If you have read the title, you probably think, when do we start talking about Belgium? Well in business schools, diversity means lots of fun as well! People are proud about their background and kindly share their culture. Everyone joins regional clubs, organizing activities like the Chinese New Year’s dinner party that is coming up next week. You get a privileged insight in how people celebrate and experience this. End of February there is a multicultural event ‘Tattoo’ across all programs and staff of LBS. People represent their country with a food stand and a dance performance. I really look forward to representing Belgium soon, although we still need a lot of practice on the dancing part. Another part is the diverse international treks people organize. I’m visiting Japan in the spring break, and multiple other treks are organized: South-East Asia, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Greece, Israel, etc. Be it professional or fun treks, they are all organized by locals, passionate about their country and eager to share it with their peers.

Coming closer and closer to the topic now J. We have 7 Belgians on the MBA program graduating in 2016, I think 5 on the MBA2015 if you count people with multiple nationalities. Combined with the MiM, MiF and EMBA program, there are about 20 Belgians at LBS.  We organized a Belgium trek, performing on ‘Tattoo’ and are looking forward to organize beer tastings and also probably a “cantus”, for those who know, a great piece of our student culture!

The Belgium trek in short: 25 students, 9 nationalities, 4 cities, 3 mini-vans, 2 company visits and lots of beers and fun!

We started our visit in Leuven with a walk past the Old market and the famous city council building. Beer being an important part of Belgian culture and AB Inbev a major recruiter of MBA students, we visited their headquarters in Leuven. After an informal presentation and touch point with senior management, we were taken on a guided tour around the factory. Ending the tour with a draughting course, everyone learned how beer actually should be draughted. Afterwards going to a bar serving more than 1000 different beers, you can imagine we had a great night.

AB Inbev

The walking tour or cycling tour discovering the great city of Brussels was followed up by chocolate workshop. It was a busy day as we went to Ghent in the early evening to visit a start-up. StoryMe is a young dynamic small company executing powerful promotion videos. They start from the principle that all complexity should be easy to explain. Afterwards, we enjoyed an amazing night walk through Ghent, which I would recommend to all of you if ever visiting Belgium. Our last day, op of the bill, we visited Bruges. Everybody was tired but still enjoyed the medieval breath of the city. We got a lot of positive feedback from satisfied travellers, saying it was a unique trek and view into Belgium and its culture. Mission accomplished!

 

Chocolate workshop

After having organized this trek early November, I understood the importance to visit a country alongside locals. You can bring an exclusive viewpoint and experience to your peers. There again, it is proven that diversity enables a superior experience at business school.

I’ll have to think about my next subject, but it might be about recruiting for an internship, as this is what everybody is currently concerned with. See you soon!

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When I heard this question I used to think, no way is someone going to give me a concise straightforward answer on how this can be done. I mean, it’s too good to be true. Why would someone tell me how to make money rather than just go out and do it himself?

 

how-to-use-the-internet-to-make-money

 

Actually I think there is a paradox- all of us know how to make money, yet very few of us actually go out and do it.

Back to the question, how do I make money? Well it’s pretty simple, you just need a couple of things:

i)                    Give customers something they want

ii)                   Make sure price is higher than costs

Now most people think it stops here. This is what separates those who make enough money to get by, and those who make a decent sum of cash.

Before I tell you what the third and final condition is, let’s consider an example. Imagine there is an empty place near where you’re favourite concert is being held. After the concert everyone is dead thirsty. This gives you an idea. You can set up a drinks stand and start selling water. The people need it, water is pretty cheap and you can sell it to them for more than how much you bought it. Both conditions are satisfied.

But what’s the problem with this? Just take moment to think.

 

thief-stealing-money

The problem is that someone else can see you doing this, and very easily set up a stand and do the exact same thing, taking your profits. Eventually as more people move into the market, your profits tend to 0.

But what if you had a SPECIAL type of drink that could quench thirst better than any of the other drinks available at a much lower cost? This leads me on to the third point

iii)                 Make sure what you give them cannot be provided by anyone else

This is the most important point that a lot of people forget about. Consider Uber. There were hundreds of apps that did exactly what Uber did when it entered the market. But now Uber is the market leader. Why? It’s a phone app like all the others. What is it about Uber that the others cannot do?

The answer is Uber’s pricing algorithm. Uber has access to data and can process that data with an algorithm that no one else can match. None of the other apps have such a good pricing algorithm and it is difficult for them to make one without a huge investment both in physical and human capital.

So whenever you’re thinking how do I make money and have a new business idea; before you start thinking into the business plan, model, details, etc. Answer the three questions first. Do customers want this, can I charge a price higher than costs and will someone else be able to enter and steal my customers.

Feel free to leave comments below, and follow me on social media:

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After a (very) long winter break, it is time to talk about the first term. We are now done with four out of the ten core modules in Dubai and I must say that time has flown by.

After the orientation week in London, the mood was jovial when everyone met each other in Dubai. Seating was assigned on a chart. With a class of over 50 students, it was a good way for our professor to remember names and measure class participation.

We attended a variety of core courses such as Developing Effective Managers in Organisations, Financial Accounting and Managerial Economics. Some professors were an instant hit, some grew on us. But overall I would say that the quality of teaching was excellent. Though some courses were more valuable for each person than others, overall the first term has definitely added a lot of value.

The first three modules were crammed into two months, and the pressure on time really tested everyone. Suddenly the euphoria of the orientation was over and we were down to business. Most modules started with an exam for a course from the previous module, and that did bring the realisation that we were indeed in a rigourous academic environment. Some of us hadn’t taken an exam in years! I think we are used to it by now. We also make sure that the harder we study, the harder we party afterwards. After the first three modules, the schedule has become more manageable with one module per month.

The social reps have organized a couple of great events so far. An authentic desert safari with dancers, amazing food (including camel meat!) and an exceptional ambience was a lot of fun, especially for the out-of-towners. This was followed up by a boat party with excellent music (provided courtesy of our classmate Omar), superb food and a mind-blowing view of Dubai Marina thrown in for good measure. The Student Association put up an excellent Christmas party as well.

For me, the networking was the most exceptional part of the first term. In addition to the events organized by London Business School, the countless lunches, dinners and cocktails enjoyed with my classmates will always be something to remember. I have got to know a lot of them at a personal level. I’ve met many spouses and children and had the pleasure of visiting some of their homes too. The warmth and feeling of bonding is what I look forward to the most when coming back to Dubai.

Though I can’t wait to keep coming back, I can’t help but think that we are almost halfway through our core courses. For most of us, this will be the last degree we undertake. The fact that such times may not come back again makes me want to absorb as much of what is there to offer as possible. Here’s to an exceptional second term!

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The moment of truth is here.

For those of you that have applied to do an MBA at LBS in Stage 2.

But also for those of us MBAs that are recruiting for the Summer Internship positions.

You interview, we interview.

Let’s talk about you first.

The second round is the one with the highest number of applicants (I myself applied on Round 2, just one year ago). You will soon know whether you are invited to an interview. And then what?

Well, someone that was in your shoes several years ago and that has something in common with you (country of origin, background, etc) will interview you. At LBS only Alumni interview you. And I think it’s great because in my case I didn’t know much people that had been at LBS before so it was a good opportunity to get a feel (with a sample of 1, I know) of who goes to LBS and which sort of career paths they get after. So make the most of it and ask about their story.

Key insight: With your application, they know a lot about your background, your achievements, your academic track record. The essays give them a feel for the type of person you are. There is one KEY question they want to answer in the interview, though: WHO are you really? And would you be the sort of person that would be nice to work with? Are you fun, interesting, engaging, open or are you immensely clever yet equally arrogant and closed?

Best advice I can give you? Be yourself and share YOUR story.

And if you want to know what life is like at LBS or what the moment of truth is for us, let me describe what January looked like.

5th January to 9th January: Corporate Partner Week. There are no classes. Just presentations of companies. McKinsey, Bain, BCG, ATKearney, Monitor, Roland Berger, Strategy& were there from consulting. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Nomura, Barclays, JP Morgan, Capital Group, Credit Suisse, Citi, Deutsche came from Banking.

The classes start on the 12th January. But the recruiting doesn’t stop. On the contrary. The list of company presentations continues throughout the month: Vodafone, Ebay, Facebook, Linkedin, Amazon, BT, American Express, Thomson Reuters, J&J, GSK, Google, LEK,Microsoft, L’Oreal … Even the Cabinet Office!

I have not followed all the different recruiting process because I was only interested in Strategy Consulting,but just to give you a feel I will describe the timeline for the MBB process (McKinsey, Bain, BCG):

Week 1: Company presentations. Applications at the weekend.

Week 2/3: Confirmation of invitation to interview.

Week 4: Interview 1st round. Interview Final Round in some cases.

Week 5. Some other Final rounds. Decisions (that’s today). If successful, special weekend prepared for all those with an offer.

Week 6: Some more 1st Rounds & Final Rounds.

So the moment of truth comes and goes very fast…

My key takeaways on it:

Being on a top school like LBS is KEY. Let me highlight it again. It’s KEY. Why?

  • Access to recruiters: The recruiters come on campus, have a relationship with the school, and have special recruitment channels (even a special webpage) for your school. I received e-mails from the big three even before applying inviting me to events because they had seen my CV in the CV School Book. The fact that the school has a relationship with them and the recruiter considers the school a target means they arrange coffee chats, they regularly come on campus,etc., which for you means you can visit their offices, meet some of their staff, do networking and get a much better picture of who they are. Don’t get me wrong. The competition is hard. There might be 200 applications from LBS and only 10 will get an offer for the summer so it’s a very competitive process but at least it’s 10! If it was in another school, maybe no-one or maximum 1. Imagine how much harder it is to get visibility if you are not here!
  • Support during prep: There is a significant proportion of students interested in the same things than you so the career services, the students from the year before, professionals coming from the area you are interested in help you prepare with case interviews and mock interviews.

Be ready for it.

But first things first and one step at a time.

Your moment of truth comes first so focus on that.

Good luck with your interviews!

 

 

 

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Today I finally understood what it meant by the journey is the destination. I have always contemplated the thought and rationally agreed with it but my actions were not always reflective of this notion.

Life somehow always seemed to be too busy. First it was about studying for the final years of high school to attain a good score for university. Then it was about doing well while doing masses of extracurricular while in university so I could go on to law school after (Something that I had thought I wanted at the time). Fast forward a few years, it became about applying for Masters programme. Last term it was about networking, job hunting, keeping afloat of my masters, playing touch rugby for the school, doing things for Impact Consulting board, pouring drinks as a sundowner crew member and the list goes on (these are some awesome things you can get involved with here at London Business School- I will be blogging about my experiences with them).

There never seemed to be a break.

And the truth is, for an ambitious person, there will never be a break. Once a target is reached, we just set a higher one for ourselves. The cycle persists.

For 2015, I decided that it was time I realised I needed to also ENJOY the journey. The journey was going to continue regardless of how I travelled and this applies to all of us. I didn’t need to travel first class but I just wanted to have a damn good time while travelling. I wanted to look back and not wish I hadn’t worried so much as I have retrospectively viewed parts of my youth. I wanted to look back and say I tried those things that interested me.

I wanted to look back and confidently think that I had given the journey my all.

That I wouldn’t change a thing and, heck, it was an AWESOME journey.

Yesterday I was reading an article about parkour and being the adventurous person that I am, I have ALWAYS wanted to try parkour every since I knew it existed as a form of sport. I never actually went and did it because I was always too caught up with the destination.

Today I changed that and I went to a parkour session. It was two hours of intense fun. With a looming marketing exam, the commute to and fro plus time there was a big ‘sacrifice’ but I am so glad I took that leap (pun intended). It was today that it hit me. The journey IS the destination. Or at least a very big and important part of it. What you do everyday for a perceived end goal (e.g. for many of us here and future students it would be getting our ‘dream’ job) has to be balanced with things you enjoy in life. Otherwise what is the point? If you live in blind pursuance of this goal, neglecting everything and everyone else that is important to you then you may reach that goal –great but you will look back and wish you had let yourself enjoy along the way. It might mean a bit less time spent on the goal but you had fun, you made meaning and you experienced life along the way.

I write this here because business school is an all-consuming activity. It is so easy to come to the London Business School and get sucked into the busyness of life here without allowing yourself some time to do what you enjoy, to make the journey here awesome. Absolutely me-guilty as charged last semester. This is especially the case for the MiF and MiM students who are only on campus for one year. It is definitely a tough juggling act to do all London Business School things plus make room for your own interests.

As someone who is now halfway through my Masters here, I hope you as readers, whatever programme you are thinking of applying for or will be entering, heed this advice. Remember to set time aside to enjoy. Enjoyment may come in different forms for you than your friends at school but be bold. Go spend time doing those things you are interested in or love. Of course, I am not saying drop the thought of business school and your career plans. All I am advocating for is that you make some time each week to do something you like.

Today I went parkour alone and left knowing a bunch of new friends with a determined goal of going back next week. I had so much fun doing something that interested me and has given me energy and motivation even for other aspects of life.

Be honest with yourself.

What do you enjoy? Will you allow yourself to invest time in it?’

 

Ps. if you do not know what parkour is, this video will give you a better understanding.

What I did was no where near as advanced, it mainly involved gymnastic benches, metal structures and lots of foam mats!

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Should I do my MBA at Harvard, London Business School, Wharton, or just carry on with my job and forget about this whole MBA business?

The 2015 Financial Times ranking came out today with the top three business Schools in the world being Harvard, London Business School and Wharton.

FT Rankings

 

Before I answer the question “Do I need an MBA”, I have a question for you. Why do companies value MBA graduates from these business schools?

Do you think it is because they have a good education? Do you think it is because they are clever? Do you think it is because they have demonstrated some sort of social skills?

Of course these factors are important, but you can also have all of these things without an MBA.

I mean let’s take a step back and ask, what is the point of an MBA? You can pick up Josh Kauffman’s book ‘The Personal MBA’, do some online courses and get the material off a friend and you are pretty much learning the exact same thing right?

Well there are many arguments for an MBA, one of the main ones being the network you build, but the most interesting one I will focus on will be something I didn’t initially think of before having this conversation with one of the leading Strategy professors at London Business School.

Before I tell you what our discussion was about, I first need to explain the concept of a firm’s signalling policy. If a company like Facebook has a great project that they think they can make money out of, (e.g. the Occulus Rift), they can take on some debt to finance and invest in this project. When a company that size takes on the right amount of debt, the “markets” usually react positively. This is because people in the “market” are considered as “clever” and know that well established companies are only going to take on debt if they are sure they have a good project. In other words, they are putting their money where their mouth is, rather than being all talk and just make an announcement saying “we have a great project coming up that will make us a lot of money”.

In the same way an MBA student is kind of like a company. He/she takes on debt to pay his/her MBA tuition fees, which can take on numbers such as £60k+. Firms see this as a signal and place their trust in an MBA student’s abilities. They are thus willing to pay them six figure salaries as the signalling concept shows how strongly the MBA believes in his/her potential.

A lot of the world is based on beliefs and expectations of the future. This is just some food for thought for those who hear about how much it costs to do an MBA and think “Do I really need an MBA”..  “I mean Wow, that is a lot of dollar”.

Posted 26/01/2015

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Sooo …. I’d planned to blog last term. Once a month or so. How hard can it be, I figured. Won’t take long to type out a few stream of consciousness thoughts. Errr … yeah. Here we are, my first blog post – two weeks into term 2!

What happened? First term of the MBA, that’s what happened. It was hectic, it was fun, and in many ways it wasn’t what I had expected. In December, a second year asked me what had surprised me about the MBA, and it made me think. Quite a few things had surprised me, which in turn surprised me some more – because I know London Business School very well. I worked here for 6 years before my MBA, and my boyfriend started the EMBA a year before me (you can check out his blog here). I’d spoken to plenty of students, perused this blog, and even read some books written by MBAs from other schools (yeah I know, I’m a geek). So I thought I knew exactly what was in store. But I still learnt quite a few things, so I thought I’d share them here.

Lesson #1 – You will doubt yourself, but that’s ok

I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do career-wise (consumer goods/retail), what treks I wanted to go on (Japan) and what activities I wanted to get involved in (touch rugby). But as everyone will tell you, the MBA makes you question things. Should I try consulting? Maybe I want to work in pharma? Was I right not to buy a ticket for Snow Trek? Do I go to the Corporate Finance tutorial or to Sundowners tonight?

Of course, it’s all wrapped up with the ever-present FOMO (fear of missing out). There are just so many interesting, fun, challenging, career-prospect-improving things to choose from, and I, for one, need sleep – but even if you didn’t, you still wouldn’t physically be able to do even a tenth of everything on offer.

Because I had it all planned out, I didn’t think the FOMO would get me, but it did – and the times I found the toughest last term were probably when I had to make difficult choices about what to get involved in. Because your time is so limited, you’re always trying to make sure that you’re going to the club event that will give you the best networking opportunities, or the trek that will be the most fun, and so on. Trying to figure out what to spend your time on can be tough – juggling academic, social, club and career activities with making time for friends and family is not easy. But of course, it’s a luxury to have so many things on offer. And I think it’s worth trying things you hadn’t planned to do, or thought you’d ever be interested in. When else will you have that opportunity?

This brings me onto my second lesson – but since I’m not the most succinct person, and I know you don’t want to read a huge long blog post in one go, I’ll cover the rest in my next post. Time to write some cover letters and applications (the joys of term 2 – more on that in future posts!).

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How can I start a company that is going to be the next Google? Is it even possible for a normal person like me to do such a thing?

For me personally, no. Well now it might be, but if I asked myself these questions 3 months ago I would have said definitely not. I mean, I wouldn’t even know where to start, where to get the money from or who I should work with. In fact, I just had a bunch of good business ideas and thought “I’m going to start a business” without having a clue what my strategy was, who my customers were or even how I planned on making money.

So what has changed in these last 3 months? The answer is Business School. Three months ago I accepted my offer to start my Masters at London Business School and it really has changed the way I think. I mean, I didn’t even know what the Time Value of Money was. I literally thought if I sold my car and put the £5000 in a bank without touching it, that £5000 is still going to be £5000 in two years’ time when I buy new one. This isn’t actually true. In fact, when I got home after learning this I was like:

 

Surprised

 

For quite a while.

So I guess the question now is, should you go out and spend £28,000 per year (Masters) on business school fees to learn these important concepts? Well yes and no. If you can afford it, yes, I would highly recommend it – London Business School has been one of the best experiences of my life to date. If you can’t don’t worry. Over the next 6 months, I will be posting about every important concept I learn that I believe is essential in recognising how to become as successful as a Fortune 500 Business Leader. As long as you read all my blog posts, you will pretty much be learning everything I am, but saving yourself £28,000 per year . Stay tuned, follow me on social media and keep up to date with my blog.

Twitter: @umarahmed12

Instagram: @umarahmed122

Youtube: Coming Soon

Official Website: www.umarahmed.com

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