I’m back! I know, I know, it’s been a few weeks – but two posts in one term are better than none at all, I suppose, when there are so many things pulling you in different directions (term 2 has been as busy as term 1, but in very different ways – more on that later). It’s fitting to consider my blog posting frequency because this one is all about balance – juggling the many competing demands of the MBA and managing your stress levels. In my last entry I mentioned that I wanted to share three things that surprised me about the MBA experience with you, and this is the second one.
Lesson #2 – You don’t have to be stressed out – but it’s worth pushing yourself outside your comfort zone
Before the MBA I worried that particularly the first term would be horrendously stressful and exhausting. I had visions of study group sessions locked in stuffy seminar rooms hunched over Excel models at 3am (ok, I got that from those books I mentioned in my last post – must be what US business schools are like …). Actually, it was a lot less stressful than I thought it would be. Yes, it was very busy, but you can control how busy, to some extent. You have to decide what to prioritise, and to remember, as my boyfriend likes to say, that ‘perfect is the enemy of good’. Of course you probably have to do that in your job too, but the all-encompassing nature of the MBA means that it’s even more crucial.
I think a lot of people, spurred on by the FOMO I mentioned in my first post, signed up to anything and everything and then ended up insanely busy. I probably made the opposite mistake. I was very careful to only commit to the few things I definitely wanted to do (and some that, after some agonising, I decided were also worth my time). In a way, I limited myself – only doing what I thought would improve my career prospects (such as being on the Industry Club committee), help me make friends and stay fit (e.g. joining the Women’s Touch Rugby team) or would keep me on top of my studies (going to many a Corporate Finance tutorial, sometimes even forsaking the free drinks at Sundowners to do so). This meant I was a lot less stressed than many, but on the other hand I think I didn’t really stretch myself or try new things. And I think those two elements are a lot of what makes the MBA an amazing experience.
So this term my resolution was to sign up for a few more things, get involved with activities that simply looked fun or interesting, and enjoy the process a bit more, rather than just focusing on the end goal of getting a a great post-MBA job or passing my exams. And I must say it has been an even more enjoyable term because of it. I competed in the Nespresso Sustainability Challenge, consulted for a Fairtrade coffee social enterprise as part of the Impact Consulting team, am helping create the first LBS MBA cookbook, danced Flamenco at Tattoo, will be competing in the inter-stream football tournament this coming Saturday and went to a whole bunch of interesting events, from design thinking with Professor Julian Birkinshaw to the ‘TEDx factor’ student auditions for the upcoming TEDx LBS. It’s been busy, but it’s been great fun.
Now term 2 is nearly over – and four exams are coming up next weekend (yes, exams on weekends are one of the joys/quirks of LBS MBA life) followed by Spring break with its many treks around the world. I for one will be heading to Thailand and Cambodia for some well-deserved rest and sunshine – so you may have to wait until next term for lesson 3. We’ll see, maybe I’ll log on from the beach…
Today is 5 of March, time flies by! It seems just yesterday when Career Services urged us to think about what professional career we wanted to pursue. Literally the first week you are questioned about your aspirations and targets and it never stops. This early wake-up call is a great way of forcing you to thinking about what you want to do in the summer and in the longer term. Spending enough time on this important topic is necessary and with all the fun in mind, best to start early enough!
The Career Services team is on the one hand composed of Sector Managers with a sector focus inviting companies to campus and giving more insights these companies actively recruiting at LBS. On the other hand, there are the Career Coaches that offer all sorts of training across sectors. Career Services is a very effective machine in assisting you throughout this journey.
And they have a good incentive too, besides of course their enthusiasm for the job itself. The number of students graduating with a job in sight and even more, the pay increase students realize is an important driver of MBA rankings – bringing even more and brighter people to campus. This never-ending cycle can be seen in many topics, linking it to the brand strength of LBS. This could actually be an interesting topic for my next blog.
Workshops ranging from “Building your network” to competency skills interview training and from “What is your brand” to how to use LinkedIn are plentiful. There are even interactive workshops about how to physically approach people on networking event and you can use the leadership launch workshops I talked about before to know how to be convincing and powerful in meeting your potential future colleagues.
Some of these workshops may seem silly and you might not really like it either, but it is effective for at least one thing. They make you think about your future choices. Forcing yourself to say out loud what you stand for, what you want to be known for and how you want to use your skills is a great help in this process. Overall, you regularly take an hour to put everything in your perspective and build your thought process, something that is harder to do by yourself at night when London is calling ;-). So even if you are not fully convinced about ‘brands’ and the need for your ‘professional pitch’, at least these workshops force you to take that valuable time early enough.
Career Coaches help you with interview training, discussing personal questions and the above mentioned workshops. To make more valuable support available, Career Services ‘employs’ Peer Leaders. If you go to business school, you will certainly notice that nearly everybody wants to change jobs. Put bolder, 80% of MBA’s could just switch into the previous job of a peer – albeit on a different level. Consultants want to join a corporate in marketing, marketers want to join a consulting firm. So who is better placed than your peers to support you preparing you for your new career path? Peer Leaders are fellow students at LBS offering coaching sessions in their area of expertise.
I am a Peer Leader myself. I share my insights with fellow students on working at a consulting firm and preparing for the interview process, help them with case and fit interview preparation. It is rewarding as you help your peers towards getting their dream job, you network with different people and you learn how to coach, mentor and give feedback. The gratitude is inspiring and it is a way of giving back to the school.
Company presentations & recruiting on campus
As of January (for banking and consulting it starts even as soon as September) companies come to campus for their presentations and start the recruitment process. Looking for an internship is as relaxed or stressful as you approach it. The key is to have a clear goal and prepare accordingly. I must say your get the right support, the right opportunities and the right preparation to just nail it!
It is amazing to see from the first row how the battle for talent and human capital is raging. Many companies are investing a lot of time into this recruitment process. Company presentations, coffee chats, case competitions, workshops, invitations to visit the offices and recruiting days on campus (yes, students don’t even have to move themselves). People even get flown to other sides of the world to see if they are a good match for the opportunity.
Recruiting is very costly and mistakes are even costlier. The cost for a firm to recruit the wrong people is enormous; training, mentoring, severance and opportunity cost, etc. That is why interviews are performed carefully and genuinely test on capabilities but also on personality. It feels fair as well, if you get rejected because you don’t fit into the culture it is probably for the best.
Alternative way of approaching
To tell the truth, the previous comments differ based on what you are actually looking for. There is structured recruiting and non-structured recruiting. Structured recruiting is performed by consultants, banks and corporates with leadership programmes. The opportunities are indeed presented on a plate and the companies actively target to recruit MBA students. This means competition is high, but generally the internships are well-paid and well-structured in terms of process, projects and execution. This is a good way to gain high-level visibility in the firm and start building your network as a high-potential.
Non-structured internships are abundant as well. The big difference is that you get these more through personal networks and pro-active searching. This means less competition but less structured recruiting and internships as well. Firms that don’t actively recruit in big numbers and that are less main-stream would end up in this category. You are the main driver for getting recruiting and defining what you want to get out of it.
All of this to say that people are very much into recruiting for the moment. Most consulting and banking offers have been accepted by now, while many corporates haven’t even started their recruitment. Indeed, time flies by and next week is already the second to last one of the second term! This means holidays are coming closer, which for me will be a two-week trip to Japan, waaaaah!
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.
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.
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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.
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!
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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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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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!
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!
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.
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”.
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