It’s been a while…
But as some 2nd years start getting back to campus and they find that they don’t know half of the people anymore, I thought I would take the opportunity to give a couple of tips for those 2017 that have just joined.
- FOCUS. The first year will fly by fast. There a million events, a million opportunities, a million treks and a million clubs that want your help. And there there are classes, and recruiting, and… So focus. Choose your battles.
- FOCUS. Now seriously. Even if your focus is exploring. If you look at the Event calendar, maybe there are something like 10 events a day. Which means that unless you have come up with a gadget that allows you to be in several places at once, you will have to choose.
- FOCUS. Remember it. You won’t be able to say I didn’t tell you
And to make it easier… I have compiled a list of all the trek invites I receive during the first year. I will not claim it’s 100% comprehensive, because I simply did a search of the work “trek” in my e-mail, but at least it will give you a start. And it will allow you to know what’s coming so that you don’t sign up to something without knowing what was coming, and then discover what was coming is what you really wanted to do.
So there it goes. There are leisure treks and there are professional treks (those in which you visit companies, network, etc). I have marked the professional ones (I know of) with an asterisk. Note that the dates were the dates of 2014/2015 but it will give you an idea.
*New York Banking Trek: 27/10-29/10
*Switzerland Industry: 27/11-28/11
South Africa Trek: End October
*China PE/VC/Tech Trek: 16/12-24/12
*Hong Kong Trek
Snow Trek – at the end of Term 1
Japan Trek – 29/03-04/04 – Spring Break
Brazil – Spring Break
SouthEast Asia: 28/03-05/04
Thailand – Spring Break
Africa – Spring Break
Ski Marathon Trek: 06/03-09/03
*Paris Luxury Goods: 25/02-27/02
*Commodities Geneva: 25/02-27/02
*Swiss Healthcare: 18/02-20-02
*TelAviv Tech & Entrepreneurship: 23/03-26/03
*Silicon Valley & New York: 23/03-04/04
*Italian Luxury Trek: 03/03-06/03
*Dubai Energy Trek: 07/03-10/03
*Singapore Corporate: 30/03-02/04
Greek Sailing Trek: 30/05-05/06
*Berlin Start-up Tech & VC: 09/04-12/04
And I am missing some… in summer there was the Colombia Trek and the Turkey sailing trek, and I know that there was also a Dublin Tech trek, although I don’t know the term.
Plus so many more! In Term 3 lots of ad-hoc treks pop up, specially among those that have already finished recruiting and have some more time off.
The point of all this?
FOCUS. And welcome to campus!
The key ideas and frameworks we will talk about in this series are from Steven Gary Blank’s award winning book The Four Steps to the Epiphany.
After a six-week summer break that just about allowed for everyone to catch up on the normality of life, it is the night before my first lectures of my second and final year of the EMBA experience. Elective year! Having had a year of preparing for multiple classes at a time, I would have thought I would have completed all of the pre-reading by now….nevertheless there is still time to wrap that up before bed!
Year One really was an incredible adventure that started with a class of 76 strangers and ended with one big happy family of friends from every walk of life imaginable. It was also a tough academic triathlon:
- Term 1: buzz and excitement in a theatre of unbelievable classroom discussions
- Term 2: carried through with the adrenaline built up
- Term 3: fatigue starts to kick in and you just want to be over with the exams, but you still love it!
Last week, a bunch of us went to the welcoming boat party to meet and greet the new class – it was at that moment you realize how fast time flies. Looking back, it is quite amazing to have packed so much in – considering that through all of this, everyone was still holding a demanding full-time job!
While I am blogging for LBS, I will also be using it as an excuse to self-medicate on social networking since it is an area I am clueless about. Therefore, feel free to follow the second year experience on Instagram or Twitter. For now I need to get back to ensuring I do not break the class cardinal rule: ALWAYS READ THE CASE and come ready for the class discussion!
Hello everyone! This is my first post here so by way of introduction, my name is Christine and I’m an MBA 2017 student. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get down to business. It has been one month (almost to the day) since we’ve started year 1 of the MBA at LBS. So here’s a list of LBS problems we love that we have.
1. When you really want to go to a club kick-off but it clashes with a Career Centre session and you end up going to the Windsor instead
This week has been incredibly busy. I spent the week running between classes, club kick-offs, Career Centre sessions, study group meetings and club meetings. At this point, everyone is suffering from choice overload but it’s a good position to be in. We get to shape our experience at LBS and decide what we want our next two years here to be like. Having this many options may be tiring so admittedly a pint at the Windsor does seem like a natural choice at the end of a long day. However, I feel the best way to avoid being overwhelmed by all the great options that we have is to impose our own constraints. Figure out what is important to you and prioritize.
2. When you haven’t been at LBS for one month but you’re already panicking about scoring a summer internship
I describe my experience thus far at LBS to my friends as living out my biggest career fears on a daily basis. Like many of my classmates, my career is important to me and I had spent a lot of time thinking about it before coming to LBS. What I had never done, though, is talk about my career plans. every day. to everyone I meet. During the past month, I’ve had people who I hadn’t met for five minutes challenge my career goals and everything I thought I knew about what I wanted to do after the MBA. Now I won’t lie and say that it has been a pleasant experience (I ended one particular conversation by saying: “okay, I have to go home now and cry myself to sleep”). These conversations have been uncomfortable and awkward but they left me with important questions about my career plan. Questions I had never asked myself. As a result, I have tweaked my career plan and adjusted my expectations and I feel more confident about my next steps.
3. When you think you know everyone in the MBA2017 class but you realize there’s an entire stream you don’t know anyone in
There’s 417 of us! We all seem to forget that it is very difficult to get to know 417 individuals in 30 days. Don’t take my word for it; we’re at b-school so let’s do some math. Each one of us would need to have met around 14 new people each day (including weekends) for the past month to get to know the whole class. That seems like a physical impossibility to me with our busy schedules! We have the most truly fascinating people in our class so we’re all very eager to hear everyone’s stories and get to know our classmates better. I don’t think it can happen in a month but hopefully it will eventually happen before we graduate. At least I hope it will!
Signing off for this week. Hopefully more posts to come as LBS pulls more rabbits out of its hat.
Hi! My name is Olly, and I’m privileged and excited to start writing this blog and sharing my experiences with you. Since this is my first post, I figured a bit of background would be helpful.
I’ve joined the LBS MBA 2017 class, one of 417 this year. I’m a US/UK dual national, (being born in the former, and working in the latter for the past 6 years). I spent my career at Deloitte in London, working on a variety of new initiatives, ranging from our CFO Transition programme to consulting in the social enterprise marketplace.
Term one has well and truly kicked off. I was debating what to describe from a fascinating first few weeks of Pre-term, but yesterday happened to attend one particular event that I think perfectly illustrates why it is so fantastic to a part of the LBS community. So I’ve got to tell you about it.
My thought process goes something like this: it’s 18:00. Wednesday evening. It’s raining. Not only do I have a surplus of H20, I’m innundated with options to spend my evening. Do I attend the Finance careers talk about networking? Or follow a couple of classmates to explore the retail and luxury goods sector? What about that club kick-off meeting? There is of course that old standby, the ever excellent Windsor pub…
Happily, I received a reminder to an event I had completely overlooked: LBS Shares. After almost a snap decision, I arrived at one of the cosier lecture theatres not knowing much more about the event other than three people affiliated with the school were lined up to speak, and one of them was about politics (which had sold me).
We started with James Covey, an MBA2016, who had chosen to share with us why he believed that we should be interested in Politics. James had grown up attached to the US Diplomatic corps, and convincingly painted a picture of his memories of the stark contrasts in living conditions in the centre of Washington DC, which ultimately led to his working on the Obama election campaign in several states, and eventually on to the US Department of Energy. James’ delivery had a penchant for dry comic timing, and his content was backed by both knowledge and passion. Given my burgeoning interest in the role of politics in the world, I was just saddened that there wasn’t time to turn the questions into a protracted debate!
However, James was ably followed by a member of the faculty, Professor Daniel Effron, who shared with us some of his research interests – specifically the ‘last chance to cheat’. Professor Effron questioned our assumptions about the most likely parameters for individuals to engage in dishonest behaviour. His fascinating experiment results clearly indicated that there was a propensity for cheating at the last possible juncture. It was clear that this sort of insight might be extremely relevant for general managers seeking to curb delinquent behaviour in their organisations.
Finally, one of my classmates, Farai Mwamuka, MBA 2017, regaled us with how Hip-hop was a driver for his success. In all honesty, I’d never considered such a unique motivator, but Farai’s account of his interactions with music, from being a regular listener of music growing up, to incorporating a budding rap career (cruelly dashed short) to producing and even touring, all while also earning himself a degree!
LBS Shares is a great way to meaningfully encounter the almost ludicrous diversity of backgrounds that the LBS community has to offer. The physical proximity of the speakers and the fact that they were part of our community meant that asking questions was easier and more fruitful than many of the speaker events that I’ve attended. It was a simple, powerful example of why being at London Business School is such a humbling yet exciting opportunity.
Thanks for reading – do let me know if there are any topics or experiences that you might be interested in hearing more about, as I’m rather new to all this (blogging and MBA-ing)!
Our biggest career choices hinge upon some key factors – money, interest, passion, security etc. Some more than others depending upon your own risk aversion, importance of work-life balance, ambition and so on. Whatever the motivation, the common outcome from an MBA is expected to be ‘change’ – accelerated change. “I’m doing my MBA to change nothing in my current circumstances” – said no one ever! If change is the goal, then the measurement of success surely has to be how far you move from your current state. But not every moment in life is ripe for change and an untimely MBA won’t pack the power of a knockout punch.
In my opinion there are three distinct stages at which an MBA makes sense. First, the full-time MBA when you’ve had a few years in consulting, banking or other professions and are eager to get ahead in the corporate world. And because they have no great obligations at this stage in life, the opportunity cost of losing two years’ pay is minimal. The second is when you’re trying to make a similar change, but are a bit further along in your career and life to give up your income. The Executive MBA students, typically with a few more years’ work experience, will juggle work, family and weekend classes to change their position, a team, a discipline or try out another organization.
The third stage, is when you’re an established mid-to-senior level executive with experience in leading teams and organizations with a proven track record. So the case for change at this level is not because you ‘need’ to, but because you ‘want’ to – perhaps because you want a new challenge or want something more stimulating than what you’re doing or perhaps you simply want to see what options are available. Whatever the reason, at this stage in life the single most driving factor is realizing your own potential and pushing the boundaries of your capabilities. Unexplored, this can lead to a midlife crisis.
Enter EMBA Global. When I started the course, I was doing quite well as a revenue strategist at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, but I decided it was time to look at possibilities ‘out there’. I loved the work I did but I also had begun to realize I could do better. So I naturally wanted to equip myself with the education and network to discover other options. Someone once said to me “An MBA is a lot of money to just keep your options open”. No doubt the case, but the reward when you pick an option can be life-changing. And so I found myself on a plane to London to start the 20-month EMBA-Global journey.
I remember sitting in class on the first day of orientation, being awestruck by everyone’s stories of how they got there, and thinking, “What am I doing here?” But as the year progressed and I got to know everyone, I discovered that we weren’t all that different. We had different backgrounds but still, being in the company of these smart individuals didn’t give me a feeling of competition, but of validation – that I could achieve whatever I set my sights on, like every one of my friends in class could. And so began a journey of self-searching, self-awareness, excitement for the possibilities and, of course, action. I can’t count the number of folks in class who have quit what they were doing when they joined to do something completely different – something they had always wanted to do. Many have chosen to change locations, professions and industries. Some like me, have taken the path of entrepreneurship, which wasn’t an option for me until I started the EMBA Global experience. With six months left to go in the program, I quit my job at Starwood and using that experience, I’m launching SuiteStory, the next best thing in online luxury hotel booking experience – one that will cater to a whole generation of affluent travelers looking for more than just a standard room and who’ve never made a booking on the phone in their life. My co-founder is a fellow EMBA-Global; the program seems to be paying dividends already.
All my classmates have similar stories to tell – a lull in the career, the desire to jump start again on to a new path, building the base of a Global MBA education, then, the leap of faith. Time will tell how the future unfolds, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single classmate who wouldn’t do this all over again. The success of an MBA program can be subjective and while many publications try to standardize it, my yardstick squarely measures how much you were able to do what you set out to do – which was change. EMBA Global has by far exceeded my expectations in that regard. It is the best way to gain knowledge, friends, networks and a new purpose to shoot for the stars. It is the perfect midlife miracle.
4) How to Establish a Long Term Multi Million Dollar Business
Right, so you have read part 3 of this series “how to convert my great ideas into cash”, and have started getting some cash into your business and raised somewhere between £10K-£1m from your first big Venture capitalist investment. What’s next?
A few things:
- Verify your product is exactly what your customers want and iterate if it isn’t. Ask your customers one question – would you implement this product in your organisation today/use this if it was free? If they reply “we will use it but right now we don’t have the staff to roll it out” or something along those lines, it means the product isn’t good enough and you’re not going to sell a single thing. It doesn’t matter whether you have £200k available for marketing or even £1m. No one will buy it. (This is a very important point and will be discussed more in my next post)
- Make sure you do this before you scale your company! If you don’t you will essentially have no clue whether people think the problem is big enough to spend money on solving it, and you would have pointlessly hired and wasted your investment money on a VP of Sales. The VP of Sales will definitely not meet his target when the product is shipped and get fired. The third time targets are missed the VP of marketing will get fired. When you miss the targets for the 4th time in a row the board will realise something went wrong in the company, and eventually you, the CEO, will get fired
- Finally, make sure you have a VRI and focus on it – more on this below.
VRI – Valuable, Rare and Inimitable resource.
- Valuable – it brings in loads of money/customers for your business
- Rare- it is hard for a business to get
- Inimitable – it cannot be copied or replicated by anyone else
For example, if you are a popular person at university and you know and have access to 100’s of university students, this in itself is a VRI. Think of how you might utilise this. A friend of mine utilised his popularity at university to start GradLancer – a company that gives employers access to students. Building on this network of graduates and employers is key to GradLancer’s success.
Another great example of a VRI is described by London Business School Strategy Professor, Aharon Cohen Mohliver. He says, 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 isn’t it? 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.
This concludes the “How to Start a Successful Business” series (parts 1-4) which provides an overview of the steps you need to take to go from having a bunch of ideas to a successful business. Note, the series does not go into detail in how each of the steps should be performed – it just lists the steps and the decisions that need to be made and provides you with some food for thought.
However, my next series titled “The Epiphany” will touch on things in detail, describing the exact processes that must be taken from having an idea for a product, to getting it into a position where you can get some funding (£10K-£1m) from a VC and acquire enough capital to start a proper company with your own office. I will be talking about concepts from Steven Gary Blank’s award winning book “The four Steps to The Epiphany”.
I finish this series with a sentence Professor Michael Davies, (Technology Venture specialist at MIT and London Business School), started every single one of our lectures off with:
“Anyone who is interested in starting a new technology venture should read Four Steps to the Epiphany”.
I cannot stress how much this book will help you with starting a business. Watch out for my next post on it and follow me on social media:
It’s been a while since my last post (How to come up with a multi-million dollar idea) so I will skip the introduction and get straight into the most important thing. The first thing you need to do to convert your idea to serious bucks is to figure out who your customers are and whether or not they want your product.
Customer discovery is the most important thing when embarking on a new business venture. Say you have a new app that is targeted at university students, go and speak to university students, get them to trial the app. If they end up deleting the app after a few days it means your target customers don’t want it. So go back to the drawing board and try again. The same applies to any other product. If it is a type of food or new recipe you have and no one is buying it, go back to the drawing board. This process should take a few weeks and should include surveys and REAL CUSTOMER DATA, not just market size estimates and market growth forecasts.
When you know customers actually want your product and you have market size and growth estimates, its time to think of a business model. Sounds complicated, but its actually just a model/plan which describes who your customers are, what your product is and why it is different to the competition, and how you plan on making money.
Once the business plan is done you can combine this with the customer data + feedback you recieved earlier and start making some initial financial forecasts to see if this is a business actually worth pursuing.
In other words check if revenue is greater than total costs in the long term. You obviously don’t want to be operating a business at a loss. If at this point it seems you will be breaking even or losing out, STOP. Don’t think of it as a waste of time, think of it as an investment you made to stop yourself on losing out on money and time.
Once you have your business model and you have produced some low cost prototypes and have real customer data purchases, it is time to make a decision. Do you iron out the bugs of your current product before you release or whilst you release it? This is a difficult question to answer and depends on what the product is so read up on past companies and case studies before you decide (e.g. Dropbox).
The reason this is very important is because these decisions will heavily influence whether or not you will pass the barrier which occurs at the early adopter’s stage and kills the majority of start-ups (See the figure below)
Most business dont get past the “early adopters stage” shown in the diagram as often their products require a radical behavioural change. If there is one thing entrepreneurs learn the hard way, it is that no one wants to change for your product or app or whatever you have. So find a way to make it convenient around people’s current lifestyles.
So once this is decided and you find yourself approaching or at the early adopter’s stage, you will be considering your second stage of funding and will be looking for investors, most likely a venture capitalist.
NOTE: Before even approaching a venture capitalist you need some customers, you need to show there is a demand for the product, it works, and your business model and projections are reasonable and can forecast some profits which are worth investing in. This isn’t forecasting profits of £1000 after a year. This is after you have really thought about your business model, what your sustainable competitive advantage is (what you have that is difficult to imitate) and when you have good answers to the following questions:
- What are the other technologies available that can achieve the same thing
- How much does it cost you to do this relative to competition
- What do you have that someone else cannot really imitate
- What are your projections for the next three years
So to summarise, we have covered a few things in this post. First and foremost is the importance of researching weather or not customers want and will buy your product- this takes weeks and sometimes even months. Second is the importance of having a well thought out business model, knowing the market growth forecast, knowing your customers, and using this information to make a reasonable financial forecast. Third is thinking about how you can get past the early adopters stage to get mass adoption of your product by minimising behavioural changes and tweaking your product to better suit customer needs. And finally once the above points are sorted, preparing yourself for standing in front of a venture capitalist.
Stay tuned for part 4 where we talk about what companies do when they have passed the early adopters stage and how they establish themselves as key players in the market. In other words, going from £millions to £billions.
Sitting in our last class of term, a lecture on sustainability and part of our ‘Business, Government and Society’ course, I was feeling confused by how quickly the first year flew by. Before the lecture our stream had gathered on the sunny front lawn for a celebratory picnic to mark the last time we would ever all sit in a lecture theatre together. Little did we know that this particular class was going to be even more memorable than we had anticipated.
We did wonder as we walked through the Sainsbury building on our way to the lecture theatre – what all the security presence was for. As the lecturer, Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics, wrapped up the first half of class, he finally shared details of the guest speaker who had been scheduled for the end of the lecture. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer – it was none other than His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales! Or Prince Charles, son of the Queen, father of Princes William and Harry, and grandfather of George and Charlotte, as he is also known.
The Prince of Wales began by asking us whether we had covered sustainability as part of our course. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to talk with the Royal Family! So I put up my hand and explained that as well as our Business, Government and Society course, we had also covered a case on The Body Shop.
His Royal Highness went on to talk about The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S), an organisation he set up over a decade ago to get the finance, accounting and investor community to support a real shift towards a sustainable economy. He expressed his concern that “we talk about the human economy in isolation from the natural economy” and stressed that we have to “encourage business to think more long term”. He asked us whether we had heard about the circular economy, which is something that I actually only found out about since starting the MBA, through the very interesting Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship which was promoted on campus last term.
The Prince of Wales went on to speak to a gathering of deans and programme directors from leading business schools, hosted on campus, to promote accounting for sustainability in their MBA and research programmes.
The timing was fitting, a day before the School’s Society.Economy.Environment Summit , which addressed he future of sustainable business with nearly 100 attendees and high-profile speakers from organisations such as Marks & Spencer and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as A4S. I co-organised the event so I hope you’ll forgive the plug!
All in all it was an incredible high to end the first year on, and campus was buzzing with excitement all afternoon, fuelled by countless student selfies taken with the Prince in the background as he left campus.
We didn’t even realise the second term had ended. We had gone through three modules of pretty heavy topics in the last three months. Maybe it was because of the last quarter of the financial year, which in India ends on March 31st.
After a month-long winter break, we kicked off the January module with an accounting exam. This was followed by three courses running in parallel – a first for us until now. Macroeconomics, Strategy and Decision Risk Analysis. We had exceptional professors for all three courses, but these are subjects most people have no experience with. We really had to focus to keep up.
The January module included an amazing boat party which I already talked about in my last post. One good thing is that the program team decided to do the February module at the Sofitel Palm. This is a gorgeous hotel right next to the Atlantis on the Palm in Marina. It certainly added a bit of glamour to the course.
The batch after us were having their first Dubai module at the same time, and they were at the same venue as well. We got plenty of chances to interact with the incoming batch over the week. We even had a mixer at the Sofitel. Alumni were also invited for good measure. The program team worked overtime to ensure a smooth experience, although a sandstorm brought in some drama towards the end of the module.
The March module was only four days long and went by quickly. The career-related events were happening in full steam with Mariam joining the London Business School team. Everyone seemed to appreciate it. Dubai was starting to heat up as well. We also went through some experimentation with catering vendors, and I was the de facto vegetarian club representative. Fun times.
The courses were heavy, but very informative and excellent. The quality of professors continues to amaze. I used the learnings from the strategy class and was able to significantly improve the working of my business.
On the networking front, the EMBA program continues to exceed expectations. I have actually been able to do business with some of my classmates and even have a couple of offers for funding my start-up. This has given me a lot of confidence in the strength of the network.
As the third term begins, I am filled with a sense of nostalgia and excitement. Nostalgia, because seven modules are over and we have only three left. How time has flown! Excitement, because it will be time for electives soon. I can’t wait to attend classes in London, New York and Hong Kong. Meet new people, learn new things and explore new cities. Here’s to an exceptional third term!