Posts Tagged ‘Electives’
As a MiF student, my elective horizon mostly includes materialistic side of things, so the closest I got to entrepreneurship was through Financing Entrepreneurial Business (FEB) and PE&VC. I will focus on the former.
If you need a sexy £1bn idea for a start up – FEB will not give it to you. The class will, however, nurture growth of the body parts* required to venture out independently. The remaining components of a successful businessman recipe (according to the CEO of Marks & Spencer’s) – brains and heart – you will have to provide yourself.
FEB is one of the hottest courses, offered to most programmes. And yes it can be “soft” and “situational”, and there is no recipe for success. It’s based 100% on business cases – all of which written in LBS – and every discussion followed by a leading character from a case briefing on what happened next and answering questions, which adds enormous value #ibetHBSdoesnotdothat!
One of the cases covered erecting a gas pipeline in Baltic Sea to compete with the mighty incumbent “Gazprom”. On the way to class I formed my recommendation to the start-up company along the following lines: “you guys are nuts – forget this suicidal idea, flee to an uninhabited island and pray for the serious men in black to not pursue your case”. I have then seen that very guy who came up with, what appeared to be, a very profitable idea – and he looked very fit, more than just sane.
These days B’ schools position themselves as essential for career growth acceleration (think consulting, investment banking and increasing number of industrial titans), with majority of graduates spending their lives looking after one side of business only. But essentially, borrowing some Shakespeare, “what’s in a name?” – a business school should teach how to manage company’s affairs throughout, from its dusk to dawn.
At the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and knew that sooner or later (rather later than sooner), I will definitely establish something with my name on it – like a coffee shop which my grandchildren will run. Talking about coffee shops – if you work in the City you probably know the place that has THE best coffee (and tea – served with a timer to ensure the real experience) and THE best atmosphere - Association on the Creechurch Lane. And you know what – the founder is an LBS alum – MBA 2004 graduate, investment banker in his previous life, who also took the FEB class. He was kind enough to share his curious experience, while his team was brewing an excellent flat white for me:
- Were you planning on being an entrepreneur before joining LBS? - ”Yes, I always wanted to build my own business and almost jumped into a venture prior to coming to LBS (but glad-fully didn’t because it was not a great idea). I have never been excited about a ‘career’ or been motivated to be an MD in a large organisation“
- Did you see LBS as a “tool” to increase your chances to succeed? – “Not particularly. LBS for me was a time to take stock of where I was and think about where I wanted to go. It’s an expensive way to take time out, but I felt it would be a more fruitful time than another two years in consulting (which was my pre-MBA job)”
- Did LBS inspire you? – “LBS confirmed for me my interest in entrepreneurship and at the same time my lack of enthusiasm for a structured career. Having said that, I spent the 6 years after school in structured environments (investment banking and then PE) – these were places to ‘park’ myself waiting for inspiration to come!“
- You mentioned that in reality it’s different from what you anticipated? How? - ”I am not convinced plans and strategies often work out exactly as put down on paper, which is fine because I don’t think that is the purpose of building a strategy / plan – the purpose is to educate yourself and generate justification for moving in one direction and not in another. Hopefully you get the broad brush strokes right, if not the details. For me, the specifics have turned out different than I expected, such as where I spend my time and the way customers have responded to our offering has been somewhat different than expected (some things more popular than I thought, other things less popular)”
- Any advice?
i) on starting up “Have enough funding to manage through your worst case scenario and strike a balance between listening to others and believing in your own convictions (that balance should be informed by your understanding of what you are good at and what you are not good at)”;
ii) on investing “Spend the most time getting to know the people leading the business you are investing in (in most cases it is the people you are backing) and make sure your expectations are aligned in all business outcomes”;
iii) on MBA’ing “Know why you are doing the MBA – tell the business school what you want, but be honest with yourself why you’re doing it – it’s too much time and too much money to be doing it for the wrong reasons”;
iv) “Starting your life as an entrepreneur has a wonderful honeymoon period, which is very novel and exciting, but after a few weeks this is replaced by a sense of responsibility that absolutely nothing happens unless you drive it. That is exciting and daunting – it’s good to have a business partner through this period so you can motivate each other. If you are all alone (as I was) you need to hold firm to your convictions in your business ideas and why you left behind perfectly good employment to do something so uncertain“
* guts / balls – pick your own
I have just come back from London where I attended one week long orientation for EMBA and I can’t tell you how happy I am.
I am not only happy with my decision of joining London Business School but also could see the enormous value LBS EMBA is going to add in my life in the next 20 months. I am ready for transformation, I told myself excitedly and I am proud to be part of LBS.
Looking back, few months down the line, it was beginning of September 2012 when I started my research of applying to top B school for EMBA. I started my research by creating a list of what I wanted from a school, apart from world class education and FT ranking of top 10. My list had few very important non negotiable criteria’s and few “good to have” criterias. I was looking for a school that could give me the most diverse classroom and international faculty as in the EMBA you not only learn from faculty but from your classmates too. The other things in my list were: more campus visits, a campus near India and once in a month study block. I also wanted the same MBA education and degree but in EMBA format.
I was also apprehensive about Middle East campuses of LBS and other schools but through my research I figured out that in LBS the faculty and education is the same in London and Dubai campus. By joining Dubai campus, I could do 3 core modules in London and a choice of doing electives (6 to in Dubai, London, Hong Kong University, or Columbia Business School. I chose London Business School because it had everything I was looking for and now after orientation week I can say that by joining EMBA and LBS I have taken the best decision of my life.
Happy New Year to all!
After a well deserved, much needed break to reconnect with friends and family from outside LBS, we are coming back to school with a refreshed mind.
Personally, I am still amazed with the amount I learned in the first term of my MBA. I learned about finance, strategy, management, accounting, statistics and modelling, economics… I learned both in and out of the class. I worked a lot and enjoyed it even more. And, importantly, I learned a great deal about myself.
The autumn term was particularly intense, but the good news is that we have done nearly half of the core courses. The spring term is lighter in terms of classes – leaving the necessary time for the recruiting season – and more focused on our individual choices, as we start to take electives.
The current week is dedicated to corporate partners presentations. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the companies who will be recruiting for summer internships and intensify our networking efforts. Over the next few weeks, other companies will come to campus and Career Services will be busy advising and coaching students to succeed in their internship hunt. And we will be busy too… LBS provides an amazing set of supporting resources to accelerate our careers, but of course, we still have to apply and interview ourselves!
First, My warmest congratulations for those applicants who already received an offer to join the next MiF intake. I am so jealous of you! I have only half a year until the end of my studies, while you a year and a half…
Second, I would like to apologize for not writing here for a while. I just had two crazy months, starting from the end of the first semester and followed by a short period of recovery.
In order to explain my crazy period I must first explain the structure of our programme, for those of you who are not familiar with it (yet, I hope).
The first semester consists of three core course, Investments, Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance. All three courses have the same length (12 lessons), but Financial Accounting taught throughout all the semester, while the other two are taught during half of the semester (Investment exam is in the middle of the semester).
These courses cover the majority of the financial subjects so my view is that for the many MiF students, whom all of them have a financial work experience, these courses play the following role:
One course relates to our previous experience therefore it serves as a good tool to refresh the memory on important topics on that subject.
The second course is associated with the subject that we are most interested on, we probably want to work in this field, so this course serves as an important instrument to complement our knowledge for our future career.
For the third course we don’t have work experience and ambitions to work in its field, but this course is also very beneficial for us as it provides us all the basic framework and definitions that we need in this subject for the rest of our career (starting from the basic questions in the next job interview…).
Anyway and back to my stressed period, the last two weeks of the first semester are quite demanding. We had to submit the weekly assignments and study for the exams of the two courses, together with preparing and presenting the final valuation project for Corporate Finance. In addition, there are the many other activities in the school, as usual. During this period the MiFs also had a one day negotiation skills work shop, which I enjoyed a lot.
We finally reached the evening after the final exams and everyone went happily to the end of semester party which proceeded the one month Christmas break. but I wasn’t relieved. Why? Because the day after the final exam I started a month with three block weeks (with a one week home visit in the middle). A block week is an intensive manner to study few specific elective courses, which are taught all day for one week. Therefore, taking three of them in a row is quite exhausting and challenging. At that time I was quite intimidated but I am definitely not regretting taking all these block weeks. I managed to survive this period and it turned out that I chose very interesting electives, each one of them is very different from the other (Strategy for MiFs, Understanding the World Macroeconomic and Financing the Entrepreneurial Business).
If you start to feel anxiety about the MiF programme, don’t worry, as my selection of block weeks is absolutely not representative. In fact, many students did not take even one block week during the Christmas break. These students will just need to take more course during the regular terms.
The luxury being a student is you have the chance to try new life that you’ve not experienced before, this became true for me during this summer…
With the admiration of entrepreneurship, I decided to choose one of the elective courses – “entrepreneur summer school” – during this summer, even the professors, John and Jeff, had stated clearly that it is a course with two courses of workload but only one credit.
The course completed last Saturday with students presented to the judge board of experienced entrepreneurs and angel investors, followed by a celebration with wine and champagne in the evening. Without any regret of the hard work, this is among the courses that I’ve learned the most. The reason is? Practice and the true experience.
With the intention to push out of the comfort zone, I chose to do a project which is completely unfamiliar industry instead of an industry that I’ve worked with before. The good thing of that is you have fresh eyes, and see new opportunities everywhere that insiders may not see. Well… things may look beautiful when you look from distance, but the reality is, the more you get closer and deeper, you may find out, things are not as good as we thought, the huge opportunity we saw before may not look as promising as it was.
I started my project with a very high passion and ambition, during the three weeks, I searched online marketing intelligence, industry report from the library, and talked to friends who work at those industry. the result was not as I had expected… First, it is not always easy to find data from public sources, second, even we find out the data/reports, it is not always easy to decide which is useful. Third, even the industry data looks promising, when I put together the industry report, I found out the “unique opportunity” actually have more competitions around. But what I did learned was always ask a question one step deeper, never stop and satisfied on the surface.
Do it yourself
Being a corporate manager for many years, I’ve used to delegate a lot, as startups, you probably won’t have the luxury having many resources work for you. So when setting up the team plan, always keeps in mind to ask if this is a redundant resource, every resource needs to bring the value. In the process of this experiment, I’ve learned to be down to the earth, and do it yourself. One memorable experience during the summer was the “long interview” with your research objects, who you don’t know.
Get your value proposition right
It is very important to ask the “right questions”, try to understand what your customers’ pain is, what solution your product can provide to solve this pain. And what your competitive advantage is and how long it will last… if you can’t find the answer that convince yourself, you probably can’t convince others either. Most of the startups fail is not because of execution, it is because they haven’t set their value proposition right.
It is a short experience over the last two months, it maybe just a start of building my entrepreneurship spirit. I’ve certainly learned that it takes hard work to be an entrepreneur, it takes more than hard work to be successful. The course has just finished, left me with an unforgettable experience and all the valuable friendship I built with the class, mentors and people I met along this summer.
It was such a coincidence that I read a book named “Designing Matrix Organizations that Actually Work” two years ago which used Procter & Gamble as the example, while in the corporate strategy class today, the case study we looked at was again Procter & Gamble on their evolution of organizational design over the years.
Some thoughts and key take away from the class and the case study today are the following:
Disruption after Major Re-organization
Similar to Mergers & Acquisition, a major organizational structure change can cause a significant disruption on organizational process, thus it will risk the employee productivity and efficiency. You might say, this sounds straight forward, why don’t you follow up with adjust your process right after? Well, I believe the answer is “yes, we should”, however, bear in mind the organization inertia, even we want to change the process, it will always take time to implement considering the organizational capability, and culture impact. A senior manager from one of the American fortune 500 company once shared with me their expectations on how long it will take to get the reorganization full implemented which was 18 months. Interestingly, Professor Ppuranam mentioned in the class today that research data showed multinational companies especially in mobile and telecommunications sectors averagely tend to change their organization every 18 months. Imagine the organization has not fully adapted to the new process and way of working yet while it changed again. Indeed, we have to keep in mind on the disruption impact of the re-organization.
No Organization Is Perfect, implementation is key
With the complexity increase in our business environment, as well as the context and condition will change, we won’t be able to get a perfect organization all the time, while many organization try to find the best fit for their business environment, they may not aware that most of failure can be caused by improperly implementation. I personally see the middle management is playing a crucial role in the implementation, making sure employees are clear with direction, the organization is transparent with information and communication, etc.
Matrix is unavoidable
Unless you work for a small, simple and mono business, you will inevitably work with matrix organization, particularly when we think about the forces will continue to shape the future – globalization, technology, carbon concerns, the business complexity is continuously increase faster and faster. The simple model of the reporting line won’t work anymore, we will have to face the 2nd and 3rd dimension. Even your organization may not look like a matrix on paper, the interface and interactions in business will force you to adapt into matrix formally or informally. This then leads to the next question – how the future organization should look like? What are the organizational capabilities we should prepare for our companies?
Informal Structure Matters
The world is going global and virtual. Informal structure is playing an increasingly important role. It is a double edge sword, which can help the organization amend the gaps, and may also hurt the organization’s formal structure. The key is how do we want to best utilize it – proper rotation, external hiring may help to balance it to a healthy level. But most importantly train your organization to deal with informal structure is equally import to prepare for the future.
A good HBR article you may want to look at: Harnessing Your Staff’s Informal Networks.