Posts from our Masters in Management bloggers
John F. Kennedy — ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’
Having spoken and worked with admissions managers in recruitment, I learned that when they review applications, they often look for how applicants may bring value to the classroom and the wider LBS community.
The exact wordings of the essay questions on the application vary from year to year, but they are designed to help admissions managers to evaluate the following:
Are you bringing in experience, professional and academic, that is rare among members of the community (N.B. the community of current students, and not the application pool)?
When I was putting together my application for the MiM, I reached out to students in the programme via email and read their profiles (available online). I realized that what differentiated me from the pack was my experience in public service, combined with internships in varied fields (tech start-ups, government, and laws). Using that piece of insight, I started to develop a narrative for my personal statement.
Can you demonstrate that you have exemplified the core values (communal, courageous, engaged, ambitious and eclectic) of London Business School, and will continue to do so when you are here?
While LBS, just like all the other great institutions, celebrates diversity and uniqueness, it also appreciates recruiting prospects that can unify under some greater, esteemed values. They just wanted to know what drives your decisions and actions when under pressure. Over the course of my study at LBS, there had been moments that were stressful, and I was very fortunate to have colleagues that truly exemplified those core values. They made my life so much easier (and I hope I did theirs, too). I figured that’s why LBS is interested in the values that you uphold and embrace. Knowing why the School asks this question, I hope this gives you some ideas for which professional experience you’d like to share in your application.
Do you show, through your application, convincing motivation behind your application and your qualifications aligned to the requirements?
I personally find this to be the simplest and, yet at the same time, the toughest question to answer. Simplest because the answer could be as simple as “I want to be a consultant and studying at LBS would help me achieve this goal.” Toughest because it is very easy to see through it if you don’t have a strong case for it. My best advice is to take time and think through this most important question (I’ve briefly touched on this topic in my first post), then answer as honestly as you can (and should).
What do you add to the (London Business School) community?
Don’t overthink on this one. If you are an avid basketball player as I am, feel free tell them you’re interested in joining basketball club on campus and help organise events. If you have a knack of building connection with people and/or have an extensive network in a particular field, then the community might benefit from you when you bring in guest speakers in lectures or on-campus events. If you have spent the last five years studying a particular subject, the class certainly could benefit from your sharing of knowledge and in-class participation.
Write your application from the perspective of the admissions committee; include details that are relevant to them, and leave out things that would distract them from appreciating your uniqueness. The application should be succinct to a point that, when they are done with reading it, they should be able to identify you in your own category.
The ability to create and communicate your own brand is highly valued by the admissions committee, as well as prospective employers. It shows self-awareness, strong analytical and communication skills, and a healthy dose of self-confidence – skills that reflect problem-solving capability. Being able to communicate your brand in a way that emphasizes your value to the organization (e.g. London Business School) is even better.
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.
Youtube: Coming Soon
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!
YouTube: Coming 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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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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How can I start a company that is going to be the next Google? Is it even possible for a normal person like me to do such a thing?
For me personally, no. Well now it might be, but if I asked myself these questions 3 months ago I would have said definitely not. I mean, I wouldn’t even know where to start, where to get the money from or who I should work with. In fact, I just had a bunch of good business ideas and thought “I’m going to start a business” without having a clue what my strategy was, who my customers were or even how I planned on making money.
So what has changed in these last 3 months? The answer is Business School. Three months ago I accepted my offer to start my Masters at London Business School and it really has changed the way I think. I mean, I didn’t even know what the Time Value of Money was. I literally thought if I sold my car and put the £5000 in a bank without touching it, that £5000 is still going to be £5000 in two years’ time when I buy new one. This isn’t actually true. In fact, when I got home after learning this I was like:
For quite a while.
So I guess the question now is, should you go out and spend £28,000 per year (Masters) on business school fees to learn these important concepts? Well yes and no. If you can afford it, yes, I would highly recommend it – London Business School has been one of the best experiences of my life to date. If you can’t don’t worry. Over the next 6 months, I will be posting about every important concept I learn that I believe is essential in recognising how to become as successful as a Fortune 500 Business Leader. As long as you read all my blog posts, you will pretty much be learning everything I am, but saving yourself £28,000 per year . Stay tuned, follow me on social media and keep up to date with my blog.
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Being a Student Ambassador, I have been asked about advice regarding preparing for the GMAT a lot lately. I thought that it would be a good idea for me to pen down my thoughts out in the open for everyone’s benefit. Please take my advice with a pinch of salt as it is purely my opinion.
I believe that preparing for the GMAT is a three-part exercise – 1. Assessing your strengths and weaknesses, 2. Maximising your RoI w.r.t your score, and 3. Giving the exam. Let me elaborate on each of them in detail in the text that follows.
Assessing your strengths and weaknesses: This simply comes down to giving a couple of mock tests before you start your preparation. I strongly recommend GMATPrep for this as it is as close to the actual exam in terms of difficulty and format as possible. You could also take other mock tests freely available from sources on the internet which give detailed break up of your weaknesses such as Kaplan’s Free GMAT Test here. Whatever your test might be, that objective must be to figure out areas that need most work.
Maximising your RoI: Now that you have identified areas that require most of your efforts, its time to focus on them and nail them. Not all sources of preparation are good for everything. I felt that while Kaplan was pretty good for the quantitative and AWA sections, it was sorely inadequate for the verbal section (where Manhattan guides were extremely useful). That said, the most important sources for preparation are the Official GMAT guides of course.
Now that you are preparing well, it is always a great practice to see how much you have progressed. I believe that nailing the GMAT is all about adequate practice. Keep giving as many tests as you can. Some of the free resources I felt were incredibly useful were: VeritasPrep and the Economist GMAT Tutor. Take as many full length tests as you can so that you have an intuition about the time and format.
Exam Day: All you have to do is to remember all the work you put in and stay calm. If you are feeling that that exam is getting harder, it only means that you are doing well. Be cognizant of the time left and the questions left to be answered at all times. You will have a greater penalty for not attempting than getting some questions wrong.
Well, that about sums about the generic advice I can give on this topic. However, if you feel that I could help you with something specific, feel free to reach out to me or a leave a comment below.
London Business School offers all the students an incredible opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into the industries they want to work in by taking them to the industrial hubs. The student clubs also chip in with their own treks serving the same purpose – but in a more informal setting.
Global Immersion Field Trips (GIFTs) vs. Treks
- Organized officially by London Business School – So, a bit more formal
- Usually take place during the term vacations
- Take place all over the globe – are more dependent on emerging trends
- Organized unofficially by the student clubs – So, much more informal
- Usually take place during the term – so you have to ensure either that you have no lectures during the trek, or get the relevant permission from the program office
- Usually take place in locations in and around Europe
Both GIFTs and treks require interested students to apply to secure a place on the trek as they usually are in very high demand. The application process usually require you to write a couple of short essays (yes, again!). These essays usually try to gauge you on three core parameters:
- Motivation: Why do you want to attend the trek and how does it fit in with your future plans?
- Career objectives
- Industry cultural fit assessment
- What you bring to the table?
- Past experience in the field
- Network in the field of interest of the trek
- How do you plan to prepare for the trek?
As always, while you are writing your essay, ensure that you substantiate what you write with your background and experience, and more importantly be authentic.
- Munich/Milan GIFT – Industry/Supply chain management
- Paris GIFT – Fashion
- Shanghai GIFT – Asian/Emerging markets
- Silicon Valley GIFT – Technology/Entrepreneurship
Hope this was useful and feel free to contact me/leave a comment in case you need any further information.
As a Student Ambassador, I often get questions from prospective students around the world. They always go like this:
“My name is xxx, and I came from x country, and have done xxx. Do you think I have a good chance of getting in London Business School?”
That’s a fair question, but not the right one to ask if they really want to attend London Business School. For those whose profiles meet the minimum requirements, I would ask them:
“What do you want, and how would London Business School help you achieve that?”
Life is a journey without a clear path, and business school is only one pit stop along the way. The last thing you want to do is to chance the course of your career without an idea of where you want to go. Therefore, the question to ask is “how can London Business School help me achieve my goals?”
Your past reflects what your goals might be, and your achievements indicates the likeliness that you would succeed, but what really matters is where you are going from there. At London Business School, students are diverse not only due to their backgrounds, but also their purpose of coming here. Some are here to secure a job in prestigious corporate or professional careers, some are here to meet future business partners, and a (very) rare few came here simply to have a memorable learning experience. London Business School is such an unique place, because most of these people would find what they have sought.
Just a month into my MiM year at London Business School, I completed a consulting project with a technology start-up, started one with a fellow MiM student, took on executive roles in student clubs and became a Student Ambassador. Opportunities are abundant at the School, and it is easy to loose yourself in these seemingly hard-to-pass-on chances. To get the most out of your time at the School, however, you must know exactly why are you here. For me, I understand that my passion is in strategy and problem solving. I worked with these start-ups, not because I wanted to build the next Uber or Instagram, but because I wanted real-life opportunities to practice my consulting and execution skills. I am therefore seeking ways to do exactly that.
Once you understand your goals, then you would really have a chance to not only get admitted, but also succeed at London Business School. While the school life is fun, it is also demanding and could become stressful to those without a clear action plan. These students tend to sign up for too many (irrelevant) company presentations, join way too many clubs, and try to attend social events every week while attempting to meet the assignment deadlines. They obviously do not know what they want and where they are going.
Before asking the question “would I get in,” ask yourself:
“How would London Business School help me in my journey?”
In my next post, I will talk about the questions that we (and the admissions officers) ask when we review applications.
On September 4, the members of the Masters in Management class of 2015, the programme’s largest and most diverse group of students yet, first stepped on the LBS campus in central London as official members of the school community.
This day marked the beginning of an intensive twelve months course – and already the first two weeks of the program (orientation and foundations) have been truly intensive. Before the start of lectures and seminars, a lot of value is put on gaining the relevant soft skills relevant for the recruitment process and on building strong bonds with fellow classmates and students from the school’s other programs.
Orientation encompasses two days of a variety of events. Being guests in London’s City Hall, we were fortunate to listen to valuable insights from London Business School Dean Sir Andrew Likierman and Simon Hay, CEO of consumer science company Dunnhumby. Moreover, our first sundowners, LBS very own tradition of bringing students together for a drink on campus on Thursday nights offered the opportunity to get to know fellow students and alumni better and begin to build a network.
Throughout the first days on campus, new students are being welcomed by staff, current students and alumni who share their thoughts on how to profit the most from the resources of London Business School. During MiM Away Day, study groups - teams of five to six students who will work on group assignments together throughout the first four months of the journey – have to meet several challenges in an outdoor park to later on enhance group performance in the class room.
The fall term, for many students filled with application deadlines for positions in consulting and finance, encompasses four different courses: Finance, Financial Accounting, Leadership in Organisations, and Management Analysis and Systems. The curriculum is complemented with various workshops to enhance CVs, job applications and to work on one’s soft skills.
So far, two words come to mind, when I reflect upon my experience during the first few days here at LBS.
Diversity: The Masters in Management class of 2015 is diverse in various respects. Students from all continents and from undergraduate disciplines ranging from art history to nuclear physics come together in London to learn from one another and share their experience. Which is also quite exceptional for a business school is that 40% of the incoming class is female. Having studied business administration at a small German business school during my undergraduate years, the opportunity to work on group assignments and case studies with students from different academic and regional backgrounds was one of the main reasons for me to choose London Business School. Now, I am looking forward to learn from the experience of a civil engineer from Lebanon, an economics major from Bulgaria, a fashion technologist from India, a finance major from China, and a business student from Switzerland in my study group.
Proactiveness: Even though only a few weeks have passed since the beginning of the term, I am really impressed by the proactiveness of my fellow students. My classmates have given tours of the Tate Modern, helped one another when moving in, organized study groups to prepare for case studies and finance interviews, and set up weekly yoga classes. I hope that this proactiveness will continue for the upcoming 11 months to enrich the MiM experience of every individual class member.