Debola Williams (Co-Founder, RED) with Bob Collymore (CEO, Safaricom) at the 2017 #LBSABS

Debola Williams (Co-Founder, RED) with Bob Collymore (CEO, Safaricom) at the 2017 #LBSABS

A year ago I penned this blog post for the 2017 #LBSABS. Sitting now in the library I’m wondering what to write about this year. Should I tell you about what it took to land the President of Ghana? Or what it takes to organize the largest Africa-focused conference at any business school in Europe? Maybe I’ll write about these in a future post. Today I’ll focus on the three words that guided our plans for the Africa Club during our tenure – BIG, BOLD & IMPACT.

BIG – #LBSABS has come of age. In its 17th year now, it has taken its place as the go to Africa-focused annual event in London for business professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, people in the arts and students. From its beginnings in a small room, club leaders in recent past have expanded the audience to over 400 truly pan-African guests, hosting them at some of the best venues London has to offer. This year is no different and the summit will hold at the 5-star Landmark Hotel in Marylebone.

BOLD – There are many ways we could have gone about delivering on this objective but what could have been bolder than landing the President of one of the fastest growing African countries today – H.E Nana Akufo Addo, President of Ghana. He will be joined at the summit by other notable speakers such as the Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank (Sola David-Borha); CEO of global phosphate group, OCP Group (Mostafa Terrab); Vice President and Treasurer of the International Finance Corporation (Jingdong Hua); CEO of the most profitable African airline and first to use an all-female flight crew, Ethiopian Airlines (Tewolde Gebremariam); Partner at the most prominent Africa-focused private equity firm, Helios Investment Partners (Souleymane Ba); Manager of Afrobeats King, Fela Kuti (Rikki Stein); Co-Founder of Celtel and CEO of Eaton Towers (Terry Rhodes); CEO of Africa’s largest indigenous beauty company, House of Tara (Tara Durotoye); Advisor to French President Macron on entrepreneurship (Karim Sy); Serial entrepreneur who once designed the world’s most expensive suit (Alexander Amosu); Africa venture capital head at IFC (Wale Ayeni); President of Olam Gabon (Gagan Gupta); Executive Director of the best insurance group in Nigeria, AXA Mansard (Tosin Runsewe); Founder of Themis Capital and ex-KKR Principal (Fola Aiyesimoju); the man behind Sony Music’s deals with African music stars Davido and Wizkid (Michael Ugwu); the fashion man himself, Ozwald Boateng; among many others.

The summit moderators include Bronwyn Nielsen, Executive Director CNBC Africa; Jonathan Rosenthall, Africa Editor at The Economist; Didi Akinyelure, Journalist at BBC World Service and CNBC Europe; Franklin Amoo, Founder & Partner at Baylis Emerging Markets; Andrew Fassnidge, Founder Africa Tech Summit; and Ade Olufeko, Chief Executive & Strategist at Visual Collaborative.

Some confirmed speakers at the 2018 #LBSABS

Some confirmed speakers at the 2018 #LBSABS

Basically, we’ve reduced the number of panels this year while ensuring that each seat is filled with high impact speakers representing organizations doing business across the continent. See all speakers at www.lbsabs.com and be on the lookout for more announcements soon!

IMPACT: If there’s one thing I’ll take away from my time at London Business School, it’s a significantly better appreciation of the word Impact. It redefined my life priorities and at the #LBSABS level, we pursued this along three verticals:

  • This year, we launch the Accel Awards, an annual business start-up contest organized by London Business School’s Africa Club in collaboration with club alumni and corporate partners including FTSE 100 companies, venture capital firms, entrepreneurship incubators and media companies. Top 3 finalists’ flights will be sponsored to London and they stand a chance to win from a pot of GBP15k.

 

  • There will be more time for networking at the summit, as we would like summit guests to form more meaningful connections from the high-quality network at #LBSABS. To facilitate this, guests will have access to Crowd Compass to facilitate connections and networking during the summit. These conversations will continue at the gala dinner, which ends with our classic after party, that promises to be another spectacular event!

 

  • To facilitate recruiting discussions, event and career fair sponsors will have stands on the sidelines of the summit to meet with summit attendees. They will also have access to the CV book of attendees who express interest during signup in exploring recruiting opportunities. #LBSABS attracts the best and widest range of professionals, students and Africans in the diaspora, which makes it a prime event to spot top talent. If your organization would like to be involved, please reach out to us via the website.

 

In summary, “Scaling for Impact” is about exploring the evolving realities of growing businesses at scale in Africa, as well as how to do this while making meaningful impact. The date is May 12. The venue is Landmark Hotel, Marylebone, London. And the event is the 17th London Business School Africa Business Summit.

See you there!

Adesoji Solanke

Co-President – The Africa Club

London Business School

A scene from the 2017 #LBSABS afterparty

The 4th word is: ‘FUN’ – A scene from the 2017 #LBSABS afterparty

 

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There are two things that happen when you catch a flu. One – you feel quite sick and miserable (and even more so if it is the latest bad Aussie flu strain going round). Two – you have a lot of time at your disposal that you spend doing nothing but cogitating. Interestingly, the flu hit me almost as soon as we had returned to our 2nd term at the LBS EMBA. The first term was just over and I presume we were all full to the brim and in fact spilling over with some newly discovered subjects and terms. The desire to outpour and apply these skills onto the first possible real-life scenario was intense. A flu was an easy target for me.

Economics of Flu: Economics is a very welcoming subject. It’s quite easy to start off most problems with what appears like a big cross (X) on a graph, and then use the right arguments to prove it right. Although mine hit at a fairly relaxed time, Flu inherently is an inferior product. However, it causes major supply and demand shifts in terms of sleep, food intake and peace. There are very few substitutes to it and in the flu market, consumer power is almost negligible and restricted only but to paracetamol. On a typical night of flu, the Nash equilibrium is usually achieved quite late in the night when the tiredness of body and mind finally take over and the body is just fighting a marginal cost battle of survival. The flu market is also quite elastic to seasonality and in the best market conditions, arbitrage presents a major problem too.

Accounting a Flu: The flu had a major asset impact on my household accounts. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen inventory has gone up significantly in the household increasing assets significantly. The plan is to capitalize these costs over subsequent flu’s. The cash flow effect is not significant and neither is the impact on P&L. However, provisions have had to be made to account for loss of work and social commitments.

Analytics of a Flu: The confidence interval of predicting a flu is quite wide. However, once you do get a flu, the significance levels of feeling extremely poorly are quite high. The mean recovery period is usually a week with about +/-  3 day variance. Certain strains (like this recent one) introduce high deviations though and skewness. Multiple hypothesis have been built around quick cures for the flu, but in most cases it has been quite difficult to either prove or disprove them. People do build up multiple regression models to find quick solutions from flu. Although honey & lemon, lemsip and good old paracetamol have all come up statistically significant in the models, whilst the cure model itself is quite weak with a low Adjusted R2. Assignments have been shown to have a highly negative correlation to the cure too.

Ethics of a Flu: Now this is a fairly tricky area to get into. You get a flu, because you catch it from someone somewhere. What is the proper ethical behavior in a flu? Are you really NOT infectious when you think you aren’t? Or is that a serious miscalculation of judgement. Do you miss a very important meeting just because of a flu or a class? There are no right answers sadly and at the end it is an ethical choice.

So there it is – a lot of the first term learning delivered via a flu. As they say, catching a flu is one thing, learning from a flu, quite another!

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“Is this school/program going to give me the exposure to network with top Investment Banking and Private Equity firms?” – is the question I kept asking myself after receiving the offer from London Business School (LBS) to join its Post-Experience Masters in Finance program. After all, as Keith Ferrazzi very eloquently mentioned in his book Never Eat Alone, in business relationships are all there is.

As a first year student concluding my first semester at LBS, I can say with conviction that by far LBS’s strongest asset is its networking opportunities. 1The school has not only given me the opportunity to learn from  world-class faculty and exposure to leading financial services firms, but it has also helped me enhance my leadership skills in the process.

Each year a group of 10 hand-selected MIF/MBA students travel to New York City during the fall break to attend an Investment Banking (IB) and a Private Equity (PE) trek. This year I was fortunate to attend both, and was selected leader of the IB trek –becoming the first ever Hispanic and/or LGBT student in LBS’ history leading a Wall Street trek.

Given that both treks were happening during the same week, LBS ended up having a total of 22 back-to-back meetings with top IB and PE firms, in addition to two alumni networking drinks. This was by far the most productive networking trip I’ve ever had, and also it was a lot of fun working with fellow MIF/MBA students preparing for the trek! Not to mention running across the city to make sure we were on time for each meeting.2

The IB trek took place during the first three days of the week, where we met with: Moelis, Deutsche Bank, USB, Evercore, Guggenheim, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Jefferies, Macquarie, and Natixis. The PE trek started on Tuesday right after the last meeting from the IB trek; I had a very “New York” moment running from Goldman Sachs’ office to Permira while reviewing the questions we had on the subway. The other PE firms we met with were: Cinven, Hellman & Friedman, MidOcean, Apax, AEA, KKR, TPG, Oxbridge (Recruiting), and Campbell Lutyens.

All in, while we had a very busy week it was such amazing experience learning and networking with top professionals in the industry, in addition to having the opportunity to build stronger relationships with fellow LBS students.

“Is this school/program going to give me the exposure to network with top Investment Banking and Private Equity firms?” – The answer is YES! LBS offers a very unique experience and gives you ample networking opportunities. I am ecstatic I made the right choice and I highly recommend future students to challenge themselves to participate & lead an LBS trek, it is truly an outstanding and very rewarding experience!

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One of the great things about LBS is that you can go to any country in the world and all of the best companies will welcome you with open arms. This year I was one of the three leaders of the Hong Kong Asset Management Trek. The trek caters for those who are interested in pursuing a career in asset management in Hong Kong or those who just want to broaden their knowledge. As the trek is one of the first treks to take place of the year, primarily due to the early recruiting season in Asia, we had only 6 weeks to prepare all aspects of the trip (companies, candidates, timings – the lot!). So the pressure was on.

The leadership team was represented by three programs (MiF, MBA, MFA). With a lot of work and coordination, including a helping hand from the China Club, the Career Centre and personal contacts we managed in a short space of time to put together a list of 17 confirmed funds. This included world-wide names such as Fidelity, Marshal Wace, Invesco, PIMCO, etc, etc (in fact, the whole list is impressive). Additionally, we had contacted and organised three social events with LBS Alumni based in Hong Kong – this included a lunch put on by a Hedge Fund named Optimas (the largest Hong Kong hedge fund launch in 2016), which was created and run by LBS Alumni! This is a testament to the far-stretching reach of the London Business School brand as well as the interaction between programs and Alumni.

HK1 HK2

With 17 funds to see in 5 days, the days were action packed. As we shuttled around Hong Kong, we could see first-hand what it would be like to work and live there. The skyline is one of the most impressive that I have seen and we were fortunate enough to be able to observe it from many different angles on our travels. The company visits were no easy ride. We were given the audience of division heads, portfolio managers, and CEOs of some of the largest managers in the world! If you are looking for a unique insight into the way that asset management works in Asia – look no further! The trek attendees consisted of 13 participants, ranging from post-university (MFA, MiM) to post-experience (MiF, MBA). This led to diverse and interesting conversation for all.

From an academic and a professional point of view this trip was priceless. There will be rarely opportunities to meet with some of the most pivotal players in asset management. With both China opening its doors to investment and expansionary regulation, Hong Kong is really in a unique position. I was able to make more connections in one week than I have ever in my life. Additionally, taking on a leadership role helped encourage further trust from the senior figures that we met which will be hugely beneficial for future relationships.

HK3HK4

As a newbie to Asia, the highlight for me was to experience the hustle and bustle of a new city. Many of the company visits were in high skyscrapers which offered fantastic views. Our travels to-and-from were a mixture of trains and taxis which gave a real overview of the city. Additionally, the night-time atmosphere was energetic and I particularly enjoyed my time on LKF which draws attention from all over the city.

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Dubai Trek

Posted by: Malak El Shishiny
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If you are reading this blog, there is a big probability you are contemplating becoming part of LBS family and let me tell you one thing, you won’t regret it!

Picture this, a group of 17 MiF and MBA students from 13 different countries travelling from London to Dubai to visit top major institutions within different industries such as Uber, Abraaj Group, Mckinsey, Bain & Company, Strategy &, Emaar and Majid Al Futtaim. What made this the experience of a lifetime was getting to know people from different programmes, creating life lasting friendships, networking and meeting  senior representatives from companies within diverse sectors including private equity, investment banking, oil and gas, real estate, commodities trading, technology and consulting.

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Dubai is a magnificent city offering a blend of traditional Middle Eastern culture and a modern culture with its ultra-modern sky scrapers. The companies were extremely welcoming and enthusiastic about our visit and have shared with us useful insights about the market. Acting as a hub for the gulf region and with a much diversified population of expatriate professionals working there, Dubai actually provides an attractive working environment for LBS Alumni.

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The trek was organized by the Middle East Club, one of the most prominent clubs at LBS, and with the support of the LBS Career Centre in London and Dubai. The teams had done a fantastic job in organizing and successfully managing to incorporate a lot of networking opportunities with LBS Alumni and EMBA students currently studying or working in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Aside from the academics and classroom experience at LBS, networking opportunities are numerous and joining such career treks just takes them to a whole new level.

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It’s never all work though!! Amazing dinners were organized at trendy restaurants such as Boca restaurant and Nola Social. Great times were had on the Trek with one another and the communal spirit is what truly distinguishes LBS students. Work hard, play harder is always the keyword. A magnificent trip with special thanks to the Middle East Club!

Malak El Shishiny – MiF FT2018

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One month into my adventure here at LBS seems like as a good a time as any to reflect on some of the things I have learned thus far.

Beyond the technical details learned in class, I think it has been an education in itself to simply observe the dynamics of the students here.

LBS attracts some of the best global talent; many of the people walking around here have 750+ GMATs and already have an eye-watering list of achievements on their CVs. Coming to the school I wasn’t sure what impact this selection-hurdle would have on the relationship dynamics. And I’ll admit I had some trepidation about whether or not it would create an individualistic and competitive environment.

However, it turns out the exact opposite is true.

It is recruiting season here for the second year MBAs and everywhere you walk on campus you will see groups of people huddled together: sharing ideas, helping each other with fit questions, and practicing for the ever daunting case interviews.

While this is awesome, it left me wondering, why is it so pervasive? Why are people with limited time so willing to not only help their friends, but to help people they barely even know? I think part of the explanation is just a spirit of generosity. But fundamentally I think people respond to incentives, and I suspect something deeper is at play here.

Having done some more thinking, I have come up with three reasons why avoiding competition is actually the optimal strategy to maximising outcomes for the individual.

  1. Research demonstrates that teaching others generates better outcomes for one’s self: Multiple studies examining the benefits of mentoring have found strong evidence suggesting that the mentor relationship increases job satisfaction and career progression, not only for mentees, but for mentors themselves. This is likely because research demonstrates people will actually prepare more diligently if they believe the are teaching someone else, than if they are simply revising for themselves. Furthermore, no one individual can hope to become an expert of all facets of life and reciprocation is one of the strongest phenomena in social psychology. So at some point you will need to ask for help yourself, and if you’ve helped someone in the past they are exponentially more likely to return the favour. The combination of these effects means that sharing your knowledge with others is not likely to greatly diminish your own special value, instead it is more likely to increase the depth of your understanding and expand your personal network.
  2. Relationships are more important than landing that next job, in the long term.It is easy to become overly fixated on the importance of the next step. While it is important to have optimistic goals, and I fully believe in the advantages of pushing one’s self to achieve a specific objective, this must not come at the expense of losing sight of the bigger picture. Trying to compete ferociously with those around you may improve your chances of ‘winning’ the next opportunity. But, what will this mean for opportunities three or four stops down the line? Ultimately, your current group of peers are the people most likely to be on a similar trajectory as you, and behaving in a manner that is likely to negatively impact your reputation can have long-term consequences. It is in this way that winning in the short term can actually mean losing in the end. Conversely, recognising the value of developing relationships with the people around you may have enormous benefits in the future and is therefore likely to be the more optimal approach.
  3. Growing the pie is often better than getting a larger share. Competition naturally arises when a game is zero-sum. Professional sports is often held up as the epitome of this concept, as when the siren sounds one individual or team is declared a winner. One strategy to achieve a win-win outcome, even in situations that initially appear to be zero-sum, is to redefine the parameters used to measure success. Let me give you an example close to my own heart. I am a bit of an AFL (Australian Football League) tragic, and every year I get a thrill watching my Geelong Cats play against their bitter rivals, Hawthorn. This rivalry has built up over decades of ferocious encounters between the two clubs. And while I’m certain the players and fans want to win every time, continuing the rivalry is far more important for the clubs themselves, as it means they will continue to sell out games and secure TV time. Similarly, if you are a business school student applying for a grad jobs, I would argue that you actually want your classmates to be extremely strong candidates. This signals the quality of the institution and incentivises employers to expand their hiring capacity, rather than trying to fit applicants into an every shirking number of openings. As such, helping your peers increases your slice by growing the pie – rather than increasing the share.

I believe some of these principles can apply not only to individuals, but whole organisations. So often the language of business is couched in terms like ‘winning’ or becoming the ‘market leader’ and it in turn fosters zero-sum thinking. Paradoxically, economists have known for at least the last hundred years that pure competition kills profits at an industry level. As such, I contend that companies are able to maximise their long-term profits by redefining the dimensions of competition, instead of getting sucked into a old fashioned ground war to claim share.

One might argue that the success of cost-leaders like Amazon refutes this. However, I suggest that Amazon has been successful exactly because of its ability to avoid competitive pressure. Amazon competes asymmetrically in the markets in which it is successful, that is, it exerts competitive pressure on many businesses but receives little in return. While it competes with ‘Big Box’ retailers, there are few other ‘Infinite Box’ retailers that are able to compete with it. This is precisely because Amazon has been able to define its own category, at least for the time being.

To summarise, in the words of billionaire investor Peter Thiel: ‘competition is for losers’. Instead, I believe we should be constantly exploring different angles to help us achieve our objectives, both as individuals and organisations, rather than simply competing along the same old battle lines that have been drawn in the past.

 

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Greetings, fellow graduate students!

Thinking back to when I packed my bags to travel more than 4500 miles away to be here, I’m not sure where exactly to begin to describe this journey. This last few weeks have been such a whirlwind, to say the least.

I realize how privileged I am, to be surrounded by some of the best talents in the world. LBS is diverse in every sense. I met investment bankers, doctors, engineers, diplomats, attorneys, army veterans, pilots and consultants, people from different nationalities, race, color, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, etc. I find this to be one of the most enriching parts of my LBS experience so far. The one common attribute that I see in everybody here is that they are all incredibly smart and driven, and incredibly humble. And everyone is here for this super transformative experience.

Having a bit of fear and dislike for the word “networking”, the most interesting insight of these past few weeks is that I am learning how moved I am by connections. I am pleasantly surprised with how collaborative, supportive and friendly most people are (especially in stream D!). We are all part of more WhatsApp groups than we’ve ever been. And it takes time, conversations and vulnerability to build genuine experiences and relationships. Obviously, things are not perfect. I feel lost some days, lack that sense of belonging. I’m shuffling between so many social groups stream, regional, career interest groups etc, and it sometimes feels like life is on “auto-pilot”. My calendar is crammed with too many exciting activities. I find myself grappling with how I should spend the next two years of my life. I hope to find out what matters to me while being an authentic person through the journey. With the program picking up speed, with one exam down already, the stress and the excitement is palpable.

For now, I’m just making new friends, enjoying Sundowners and so many other social events, going on weekend trips with friends and experiencing unhealthy levels of FOMO!

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Welcome from EMBA 2019!

Posted by: Satyajit Sinha
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EMBA 2019 Yes – we are back at school again! We are the EMBA class of 2019. Orientation week is almost a month old now – 7 days of pure exhilaration, positivity and completely new perspectives. And the next 20 months are going to be a fun, exciting, learning, enthusing and transformational journey. A journey we would remember and cherish for the rest of our life.

The journey started with that first decision – applying for London Business School. Your learning begins in the application process itself; finding your strengths, projecting yourself the best way you can, making you stand out and of course spend a few hours preparing for a GMAT or an EA test. And yes – you very well know and understand what you are signing up for. The application rounds, interviews and the thrill and excitement on receiving that admission email brings on that extremely positive spin to your life. Yes – you are joining London Business School! You already feel special.

Then comes the excitement of finding out who else is on the journey with you. Some of the earliest entrants in our batch spent quite a bit of time refreshing that EMBA LinkedIn group page, wondering where the others are.J Slowly, but surely they arrived. Your LinkedIn feed goes into a frenzy eventually and before you know you have a bunch of disparate, talented individuals who become your connections. For our batch, we were just so excited to meet everyone, we could not wait for orientation week. A WhatsApp group was already active and probably the most active social feed for quite a few of us – and this was in July! Someone came up with this brilliant idea of meeting up on a weekend and getting to know each other. About 20 of us turned up with food/drink from their respective culture/country – it was a brilliant way to meet-up!

EMBA lunch

 

But there was still a huge number of people which you just did not know yet. Eventually the WhatsApp group began to bulge – and the blinker was always on on your phone. And before we realized, Orientation week was upon us. Some people travelled half-way around the world, some took just a few steps to the hotel, and some missed special occasions. At 3pm on the 3rd of September, we were all at London Business School. The facilities @ the newly opened Sammy Ofer centre are simply brilliant. The best you can find anywhere in the world. And absolutely everyone was overawed by it. An absolutely fantastic way to begin our journey.

The first week was all about settling down. Most of us had probably never met a 120+ individuals who are so diverse, talented and motivated in the span of a week – a fantastic experience – finding that free diver, that ex professional rugby player, that martial art master, that capoeira enthusiast, that ex-infantry sergeant or that social jester and party animal. There was also the usual school formalities – Get that picture taken, get your ID card, figure out where the next lecture is, put faces to names who honestly look a lot different to their LinkedIn profile picture. And also figuring out what NOT to do in your EMBA by no less than one of your professors. The first few days of light socializing quickly turned into active class discussions about leadership and management. You quickly understand what you had been missing out all this while. There is just that little bit of an aside of finishing your assignments too. You also figure out your all-important Study group, get to know them, debate with them and socialize with them. The week just whizzed past and it was the Friday-night party! A great way to know and meet some of our EMBA seniors and get to know exactly what you have got yourselves into! By the time the party finished, everyone was letting their hair loose and what happens during/after the ‘after-party’ stays there.

EMBA 1

One lecture weekend has already gone by. A tonne of readings and assignments await us all in the next few weeks of first term. It is definitely going to be hard work, it’s going to challenging and it’s going to take a toll at times.  But we all know one thing for sure – it’s gonna be one helluva ride to enjoy!

EMBA-2019 have arrived!

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Going to business school is an important decision.

In many aspects, it is like buying a house. It is a milestone in your life and one of your biggest investments.

As every important topic, it is also a controversial one.

Many business people like Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss argue that doing an MBA is not worth the significant debt and the two years committed to doing it.

In spite of these ideas, going to business school is still well regarded in the corporate world.

It helps you get a nice job and boost your career. Overwhelmed by the number of candidates, recruiters use top business schools as a filter. So doing an MBA is often required if you want your career to move forward.

Top recruiters for the MBA of London Business School

Top recruiters for the MBA of London Business School

But people who want to start their own business cannot think this way.

Adding the stamp of a business school on a CV has limited value for entrepreneurs. Their professional successes are not the result of a manager hiring them. Entrepreneurs are only accountable to their customers and shareholders.

If you’re considering starting a business, the question you must have is: “Is going to business school worth the investment?”

(Going to business school is a lifelong investment. You should take more variables than I could explore in this article. So I am voluntarily reducing the scope of the article.)

 

Should a wantrepreneur go to business school?

From my experience coaching entrepreneurs, I see these two cases:

1. You are willing to run your own business. But it is obvious that you need more experience. You do not have yet the right network and business skills that will allow you to succeed.

2. You have wanted to start a business for years. You already know people who have done it but you have been too scared to take the risk and do it yourself.

There is a fine line between these two boxes.

But you should know where you stand. If you fall in the first category, going to business school can be the right decision.

The Sammy Ofer Center, the brand-new campus of London Business School

The Sammy Ofer Center, the brand-new campus of London Business School

To help you make the right decision, the best thing to do is to talk to entrepreneurs who went to business school. Getting to know how this experience impacted their entrepreneurial journey will provide you with more clarity.

So let me share with you what I learned from my experience going to London Business School.

1 Thinking More Strategically

Theory has limited value.

There are dozens great books that give you an easy and cheap access to business theory. (If you are wondering which ones, my reading list features a good selection.)

The real value of going to business school comes out of the connections and projects that are built throughout a business school programme.

Here’s a before/after business school comparison:

Before going to London Business School, I was already running GoudronBlanc, a brand of very high quality T-shirts. GoudronBlanc still exists and this is an opportunity for me to compare how I used to think about strategy and how I think about it now.

- So before business school, I had a basic commercial mindset: “buy low and sell high”. There was not much of a strategy at the time.

- Now, I notice that I make strategic decisions with more clarity. A good strategy requires to make trade-offs. You must understand your market, see where the competition is going, and learn how to iterate fast while keeping your focusing on your long-term mission.

It would have taken me years to reach the same level of thinking.

But going through many business cases, discussing with my peers and my professors, and meeting with speakers helped me get there much faster.

2 Getting Support (Even After Graduating)

As author and journalist Pro Bronson wrote:

“There’s a powerful transformative effect when you surround yourself with like-minded people. Peer pressure is a great thing when it helps you accomplish your goals instead of distracting you from them.”

Being surrounded by ambitious people pushes you to do more, especially after graduating.

You see them succeed and they’re willing to help you when needed.

I have had so many sessions thinking through the future of GoudronBlanc with my friends from London Business School. The thing with business school is that most people who go there are “business geeks”. They talk a lot about work but that is because it is something they genuinely like.

And trust me, seeing your classmates and friends on their path to success and having their support are great motivators.

None of my classmates will forget their trip to Shanghai

3 Broaden Your Horizons…

Even though everyone comes with a similar goal, going to business school opens your mind like few other experiences will.

At London Business School, students come from all of over the world. Some of my greatest friends are from China and India. Without them, I wouldn’t certainly not have learned as much about these two fast-growing countries.

Too many entrepreneurs do not think global.

Yet, adopting a global mindset matters more than ever. Having friends with people who come from other countries, it is much easier to learn about these countries and their local markets.

Going to the right business school and going on an exchange programme open the door to more global mindset.

4 Grow Your Network

It is astonishing how powerful networking can be when you understand what it really means.

Dale Carnegie, author and public speaking expert, summarises this very well:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Without my friend, David Duckworth, inviting me to attend an event with Y Combinator’s president Sam Altman, I would not have been able to meet this renowned investor, who invested in companies like Airbnb and Dropbox. And Sam Altman would have never become a customer of GoudronBlanc.

Networking is not just the ability to ask people for a favour. Too many people think that way– unfortunately…

Investor Sam Altman wearing a GoudronBlanc T-shirt

Investor Sam Altman wearing a GoudronBlanc T-shirt

Networking is the ability to stay connected to like-minded people you can help and who may help you too, though you should not take that for granted.

5 Doing Business Is More Than the Theory

One of my classmates, Nico Gerstmeyr, started a gourmet gelato shop in Munich called Gecobli. Far from the fame of tech startups, he is building a brick-and-mortar business that requires a specific set of entrepreneurial skills.

Inside Gecobli, a venture started by Nico Gerstmeyr (MiM 2015)

He believes that going to business school helped him by preparing the ground for his entrepreneurial journey. But as he told me:

“Honestly, you cannot learn about the problems you encounter [as an entrepreneur].”

He adds:

“A few lessons from b-school might apply later, like how to motivate employees, how to optimise taxes and overhead etc. But the main lessons I’ve learned since then are:

- Don’t try to do it on your own;
- Get a partner;
- Dream big;
- Start small and slow;
- Don’t do it for the money, do it for the vision/purpose;
- Work 24/7 but take personal time whenever you can.”

There are things you cannot expect to learn in the classroom, and not even working for someone else’s business. Being an entrepreneur requires some skills and behaviours that can only be learned by running a business.

The class of MiM 2015 going back together a year after graduation

Part of the class of MiM 2015 going back together a year after graduation

6 One Last Thing

Of course, there is the word “business” in “business school”. But not everything is about business.

This is also a place where you have a lot of fun, meet lifelong friends, and learn a lot about yourself.

It’s a school of life too.

You meet people who are in a transitional moment of their lives. Everyone is considering what they should do next and how to approach that next step.

Going to business school gives you the opportunity to take a real break, and get the time to reflect.

So Business School and Startup Are Compatible?

Business schools were designed to educate managers before they get a job in a large organisation.

There is no doubt that business schools need to keep adapting if they want to keep the interest of future entrepreneurs.

Today, their principal competitors are business books for entrepreneurs, accelerator programmes, and alternative education programmes like Udemy and General Assembly.

Whether going to business school is the right move is up to you to decide. It depends on where you are in your personal and professional journey.

But I sincerely hope going through these ideas is going to help you make the right choice.

Guerric de Ternay (MiM 2015) leads innovation projects at ?What If!, and runs GoudronBlanc and Blackwood, two e-commerce driven fashion brands.

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In Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

In Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

‘Meeting’ Warren Buffett: My trek to “The Woodstock of Capitalism”

 

It’s called the Woodstock of Capitalism. Others say it’s a gathering of Warren Buffett fans, wannabes, value investors and other finance professionals. However you want to describe it, the Berkshire Hathaway annual general meeting lies somewhere at the intersection. For me, attending was a bucket list event. I recall when I first discovered Warren Buffett. It was off Investopedia, during a college internship at Vetiva Capital, in Nigeria, subsequent to which my father bought me my first book on him – Warren Buffett Wealth by Robert P. Miles. Then, I was 17 years old.

Visiting Omaha was not a reason for attending London Business School (LBS) but I planned to cross it off my bucket list at some point in this life. It was my selection as part of a group of 5 out of 50 applicants to participate in Matthias Riechert’s value investing forum, that inspired me to make the 12-hr trip down. Arriving Omaha on a warm Thursday evening, after hours reading Seth Klarman’s Margin of Safety, all I could do was help myself to a good meal at one of Omaha’s legendary restaurants after visiting Buffett’s impressive house since 1958. Considering the  number of visitors to Omaha for this event (35-40k) represents almost 10% of this quiet town’s population, Air BnB and Uber were in very high demand.

Warren Buffett's house since 1958

Warren Buffett’s house since 1958

On Friday, I met up with Davide Conti, LBS MBA2017, who was attending the meeting with a few students from his exchange school, Wharton. We kicked the day off meeting with renowned hedge fund manager, Whitney Tilson. He spoke about the importance of studying failure as much as we study success, somewhat in echo of Charlie Munger’s saying: “All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there”. Sooner than later, he delved into the topic of marriage and divorce. We discussed the importance of accepting and dealing with our mistakes. He gave the example of how after taking the plunge and recommending an investment, he had to sell within weeks after a friend validly challenged his thesis. The ongoing disruption of industries was a topical issue (even throughout the trip), which follows on one of the major themes discussed at the recent GenerationE conference hosted by the LBS Tech & Media Club. We also discussed the role of incentives and compliance in controlling risk taking, when discussing Wells Fargo’s problems, as well as the importance of knowing and expanding one’s circle of competence.

After our meeting with billionaire Mario Gabelli, hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson and Wharton MBA students

After our meeting with billionaire Mario Gabelli, hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson and Wharton MBA students

We left for Centurylink Center, venue of the big meeting, to do some shopping, and unfortunately missed Warren when he swung by. We subsequently attended an investor briefing hosted by billionaire Mario Gabelli’s company, Gabelli & Company, and he had Q&A with us afterwards. Our next stop was the famous Yellow BRKers event, a gathering of long time Omaha visitors. To cap this day, we caught up with a big group of LBS EMBA alumni, many of which took the value investing courses at LBS and Columbia. We sought to spot Bill Gates and Charlie Munger at a far out location but to no avail. Nonetheless, it was a good evening, meeting more value investors and discussing their motivations to keep attending. We called it a night by 1:30am but needed to be up in 3 hours for the big day.

With LBS students (Davide {top right}) and alumni (Matthias Riechert {top middle}, Ninad, Konstantin, Melinda etc.)

With LBS students (Davide {top right}) and alumni (Matthias Riechert {top middle}, Ninad, Konstantin, Melinda etc.)

5:20am and we were alreaady on queue at Centurylink. Unexpectedly joined by a former colleague, we patiently waited for just over an hour to get in before sprinting across the hall to get seats on the lower ground. Suffice to say, organizers of the The Investors Podcast, Preston Pysh & Co., had shared a video recording of the sprint route to get the best seats. There were also strategic ways to game the Q&A session, with the hope of getting called upon.

With my 5am line-up crew (Davide Conti & Ildar Davletshin) outside the meeting venue

With my 5am line-up crew (Davide Conti & Ildar Davletshin) outside the meeting venue

Before the official programme kicked off with the funny video, I went to the shopping hall to watch Buffett throw newspapers with Bill Gates. While I couldn’t get close enough for a selfie, the Financial Times featured pictures of me in the crowd on its live event blog (see below). Overall, between Charlie and Warren, they answered over 50 questions from analysts, journalists and the audience. It was impressive to see the duo, who met at 35 and 29 respectively and are now 93 and 86, answer questions with such brilliance and humor. It was an endless flow of business, investing and life principles, some of which @LBSAfricaClub shared on its twitter page.

Caught on camera by the FT blog with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates

Caught on camera by the FT blog with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates

During the lunch break, we had drinks with the team from Robotti & Co, where we met even more value investors. After the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, we met up with another group of value investors (partly organized by Shai Darshati and his team at Manual of Ideas), then met up with LBS Value Investing Professor, Eddie Ransden, and ended the night at drinks with former Berkshire Hathaway employee and now investor, Ian Jacobs. As you can imagine by now, the quality of the network was truly impressive and I must say that for most people I asked, this is partly what keeps them repeating the yearly pilgrimage.

By Sunday, one could see that the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting is quite a big deal to Omaha. As people departed, the town gradually lost its buzz. Even at the peak of activities on Saturday, there was barely traffic anywhere. On the day, we first attended the annual meeting organized by Markel Corporation, an investing group structured similar to Berkshire but more willing to invest in areas Berkshire might consider risky. We then met with a diverse group of people partly attracted to the meeting by The Investors Podcast, and then debriefed with a group of LBS alumni including my value investing forum teacher, Matthias Riechert.

With founder of The Investors Podcast, Preston Pysh

With founder of The Investors Podcast, Preston Pysh

As I wrap this up, I’m on my way back to London, reflecting on what was nothing short of an impressive weekend. Some of my key takeaways from multiple discussions include:

1) Most value investors don’t use CAPM in establishing a hurdle rate for their investments. As Matthias puts it, “no billionaire ever got rich using CAPM”.

2) Reading and research diligence are absolutely critical to one’s success as a value investor. In today’s noisy world, independence of thought is necessary. As many, including Buffett, put it, a good investor shouldn’t delegate his research responsibilities.

3) In as much as companies trade at different PE valuations, growth rates should play a key part in making sense of the multiple while still seeking a margin of safety. As the debate around investing in companies such as Google and Amazon continues, it appears to me that the platformization of businesses will remain a disruptive force across many industries.

4) My best quote was from Charlie Munger: “fish where the fishes are”. Focus on the areas within your circle of competence as all you need to be financially well off are a few good companies that will compound beautifully for you over time. Value investing is simple but the diligence required lies beyond many’s reach.

Amidst all the interesting things I’ve done at LBS, some of which I’ve blogged about, attending the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting was indeed one of the most impactful. Although I unfortunately didn’t get to meet Warren Buffett personally, this trip brought to life for me our famous hashtag – #whyiloveLBS.

Outside CenturyLink Center, venue of the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting

Outside CenturyLink Center, venue of the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting

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