The projects you undertake during your MBA can be an unexpected source of ROI. Anderson Hirst completed his 10 years ago and explains how it’s proved to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Why did I choose to do an MBA?
Like many others, my prime motivation for studying was to climb the career ladder and pay scales. As I paid for the studies myself, getting a good return was always high on my priorities. Like many others, I assumed that return would come from a better paid job. However, I was in for a big surprise! Indeed, I have had an excellent return from my investment, but in an entirely unexpected and amazing way!
The Project & Dissertation at WBS
To graduate from the programme, students have to complete a research project, which is a significant piece of work, and is normally done in a practical business setting, to provide practical, grounded results and recommendations. My own career plan was to try to get a job as a consultant at one of the big four firms, and I chose a research topic in sales and marketing as I thought that it would help me through the job interviews. With a background in sales, I was aiming for the growth and marketing roles in these companies, and I thought the topic of my research “How to ensure consistent adoption of a sales process in VW car dealerships” would be just the kind of specialist knowledge that could help me stand out from other candidates.
The job interview & the surprise
I went as far as applying for a role at Deloitte, my preferred company. It was looking good. I was offered a second and, then a third interview. At the same time, I was discussing my research project with my supervisor, who suggested that maybe I should charge VW for further work. This was the light bulb moment: why not commercialise my project and turn it into a business? The fact was (and still is) many organisations need help implementing a consistent sales process, and very few consultancies can actually help clients do this. So, the decision was made to stop the interview process and instead do a start-up project!
Research-led sales excellence
On reflection, the most important skills I learnt at Warwick were how to research business topics, perform evidence-based/objective analysis work, and make well-argued recommendations and implement them. So, I never actually stopped researching sales when I finished my MBA. That was 10 years ago, and our business, Selling Interactions, continually researches sales best practices, and applies the knowledge to help clients build world-class sales organisations.
Since starting Selling Interactions, I also started up a second business, Kojoacademy, with three other investors to further commercialise this sales research knowledge. Getting these two businesses up and running has given me immense satisfaction and most definitely a better ROI than if I had pursued a consulting career in a corporate consultancy. Yes, partners of those large consultancies can often have better remuneration, but that role was never for me: I love the autonomy of following clients, projects and the sales research that interests me. And besides, I love the flexibility of being my own boss and taking time out the business when I want to, which is perhaps the greatest ROI of all from studying at WBS.
The Warwick MBA is excellent preparation for anyone wanting to go into consulting, either to work in a large firm, or to pursue a niche form of consulting as I have. With this in mind, I believe it’s pretty hard NOT to get an ROI from your studies!